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 category “Blogging”

And The Beat Goes On

 

While most of the world has been staying home this year we decided to not let it all tie us down to one place. We are, by nature, people who love to, want to, need to, travel. We are not going to let reality get in the way.

I can’t prove it, but there were rumors in the family that somewhere in the obscure and leafy branches of the Family Tree there were Gypsies. Gypsies who came and went leaving behind the gene responsible for Wanderlust.

It is Wanderlust that has people moving from one part of the world to another. It had some of my ancestors leaving Lithuania and ending up in Cleveland. Wanderlust did that and the fact that my grandfather was a deserter from the Czar’s Army. The Czar frowned on things like that in the 1890s. He didn’t like it when you stole his horse on the way out of town.

I was born with a double dose of Wanderlust and it has had me on the move all my life – and I never stole anyone’s horse (Don’t believe the rumors!).

Dawn’s ancestors must also have had a genetic run-in with those Gypsies somewhere along the line because she can match me Wanderlust for Wanderlust.

Unfortunately, with the current state of the world being a true mess, traveling is not easily done. My wife, the lovely and also Wanderlusty, Dawn and I like to travel a lot. We get to visit family in Texas several times a year and other trips both in the States and abroad have me frequently filling out those “Hold Our Mail” cards at the Post Office.

Not this year. This year we are forced to take mythical vacations.

I know that I posted a blog back a few months ago about this, but we have not slowed down. Our Pilgrimage has continued.

For example: In our minds and online we have traveled to china, Japan, Russia, France, England, and just about everywhere else. I think the only continent we haven’t been to is Antarctica and that’s too cold for me. Don’t believe me? Well, we have pictures to prove it.

Here is a picture of us in London visiting the Royal Family.

And the Pope. He has a nice view from his balcony.

Earlier this year we even managed to visit the International Space Station. It has the best views of anyplace.

This doggone Covid-19 virus has brought about some profound changes in our day to day lives. We have all had to make adaptations and this is the one that we have chosen. Putting these pictures together has required itinerary planning, Selecting the right clothing, and scheduling time to take our photos.

As our Around The World Journey has continued we had met some interesting people and seen some glorious sights. It was just a week or so ago when we were  in Italy and checked out the Leaning Tower. Its still leaning and so am I at the end of a long day on my feet.

Just the other day we flew off to Argentina because we had the urge to dance the night away and what dance could be better for that than the TANGO!

Can we dance or what?

Who dares to tell me that I have two left feet?

 

 

 

Summer is turning into Autumn but that is not stopping us. We have taken a short breather at the request of some magazine publishers. We are going to appear on a number of popular magazines. That one up at the top, the National Geographic, is pretty nifty looking. Don’t you agree?

Why have we done this? Why have we cut ourselves loose from the insanity around us? Why have we insisted on our Freedom? Here is why. The words of Sojourner Truth.

 

Murphy’s Law Theater

There is a well known aphorism called Murphy’s Law that warns “If something can go wrong it will go wrong.” We’ve all had times when it seemed that Murphy’s Law was the ruling force in our daily life – even more so if you ever worked in Theater.

A couple of weeks ago while deeply stuck in the morass of Virus Isolation and in desperate need of video entertainment (other than aged sit-com reruns) to keep me from doing something I might regret later I started plowing through our Cable TV listings.

Old movies and Australian Cooking Contests weren’t going to do it for me. I thought I might have a winner when I located those Pro Corn Hole Matches on ESPN, but I couldn’t handle the suspense. I needed something that combined Serious Culture along with a sizable dollop of Goofiness. That meant that I needed to head toward Cable TV’s Red Carpet – the BBC.

Downton Abbey may have had a good chunk of Culture about it, but it sure didn’t have enough Goofiness to satisfy me. I needed more. I needed a combination of Masterpiece Theater and the Three Stooges. I kept looking.

I thought I had a winner when I was on time for the BBC World News, but then they went and did the European Weather with all of the temperatures in Celsius instead of Fahrenheit. They lost me with that. I did not want to have to do math. I wanted entertainment – good solid and mindless entertainment.

Then I found it.

“The Goes Wrong Show” is perhaps the funniest thing I have seen in a Sunth of Mondays! (Work with me here.)

The IMDB (Internet Movie Data Base) describes the show as “A series of brand new, handcrafted, half hours of theatrical catastrophes as The Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society undertakes more (overly) ambitious endeavours.”

I would simplify that to read, “Imagine the worst Community Theater production you have ever seen then multiply it by ten.”

Doing Live Theater is “Murphy’s Law” with better lighting. It is not a case of IF something will go wrong, but WHEN. “The Goes Wrong Show” takes all of those “WHEN” moments and crams them into thirty minutes of insanity before a live audience.

There are only six episodes available now but that is enough to give you a rollicking evening of television and possibly a hernia from laughing until you pass out. I’m sure that more will be coming. More better be in the offing or I may have to drive to London and raise holy Hades.

My favorite episode was entitled “90 Degrees”. The title referred to the temperature in the sultry American South where the action takes place, but the Technical Crew thought it was an instruction and they built part of the set at a 90 degree angle from the floor.

Chaos ensues.

There is a Christmas Special Show where Santa gets roaring drunk, a magical Snowman ends up in his undies, and an Elf gets stuck in the chimney. A Christmas Carol it ain’t.

I don’t usually review or endorse TV shows or movies, but “The Goes Wrong Show” is wilder and cleverer than anything I have seen in a long time. It may take you a bit of sleuthing to find it with your local cable TV outfit, but, trust me, you will not be disappointed…unless you’re a humorless sourpuss who thinks there is nothing funny in the world.

Bah, Humbug!

Guest Blog … Kindergarten Means “Garden of Children”

It is my pleasure to have a Guest Blogger today: Jennie Fitzkee – a Teacher who has helped make learning a joy for years of young children.

Thirty Years of Wonder

Kindergarten Means “Garden of Children”

Kindergarten Means “Garden of Children”

My garden is a new venture every year.  We bought an older home with an established flower garden in 2002.  When summer arrived I couldn’t wait to see what  would bloom.  It was a joy to discover new flowers.  Since then, we have watched and learned, occasionally adding new flowers to the garden.  Yet, the changes every year are often drastic, thanks to nature.

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These daisies were never there.  And now they are prolific.  Yet, no two are alike.  Big, tall, just budding, small… they’re all different.  

Flowers are much like young children.  They grow at different rates, have their own agenda, fight for the sun, take a backseat to other flowers… some are strong, some are weak.  I have watched our flowers grow and change for many years, like I have watched children grow and change over decades.

What have I learned?  Give them plenty of care, but don’t force changes.  Accept their beauty.  Be ready to help.

What children need and what flowers need to grow hasn’t changed.  I keep that in crystal clear focus.  Times might change, but children and flowers have not.  Kindergarten means “garden of children.”  They are nourished with stories, music, nature, and dramatic play.  The Arts are the roots to grow children.  Providing opportunities for unbounded creativity is the fire to want to learn.  I know this firsthand.  I pay attention to every child, nourishing them like I do my flowers.  Some need hugs, some need academic challenges.

The point is, every child is different.  Friedrich Froebel understood children and what they needed.  He established the first kindergarten in Germany in 1837.  It was radical at the time.

A Brief History of Kindergarten
Published by Redleaf Press, 2010

Friedrich Froebel, a German educator, opened the first kindergarten in Blankenburg, Germany, in 1837. During the 1830s and 1840s he developed his vision for kindergarten based on the ideas of the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the later Swiss educator Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi. These progressive education reformers introduced the concept that children were naturally good and active learners. At the time, this thinking was quite radical. The common belief until then had been that children were little creatures who needed stern handling to become good adults. Play was seen as a waste of time and proof that children should be tamed so they could be more productive.

Undaunted, Froebel argued that teachers should use music, nature study, stories, and dramatic play to teach children. He encouraged the use of crafts and manipulatives, such as small building blocks or puzzles. He also promoted the idea of circle time for children to learn in a group. Froebel proposed that children acquire cognitive and social skills by us- ing their natural curiosity and desire to learn. He believed women had the best sensitivity and qualities to work with young children in developing their emotional skills. Consequently, Froebel opened a training school just for women.

Froebel’s ideas were so new that the Prussian government closed all kindergartens in 1851, fearing a socialist revolutionary movement. Nevertheless, the concept spread quickly throughout the rest of the world, and by the end of the nineteenth century, many countries had started kindergartens for middle-class children. Then, between 1900 and the start of World War I, England and France began to establish free kindergartens for poor children. Kindergartens also reopened in Germany at the end of the nineteenth century, and they still serve children who are three to six years old.

The word kindergarten means “garden of children,” a beautiful metaphor for what happens there—children growing like flowers and plants, nurtured by a positive environment with good soil, rain, and sun, as well as an attentive gardener.

Today, Froebel’s words and findings are still spot on.  Yet, schools are more concerned with academics; they forget (or don’t understand) that young children need to experience – touch, build, experiment – before real learning can happen.  Frank Lloyd Wright attributes his success in architecture to the blocks he had as a child.  Yes, building with blocks.

I will forever champion children, give them opportunities to explore and ask questions, challenge them to do more when they’re excited, and give them support and love along the way.  They’re my garden of children.

Jennie

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.

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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Merry Christmas To You All!

christmas

 

 

 

Enjoy this day with your Family and Friends!

 

Fa, la, la, la, la.

We’ve Made It This Far

 

OH, MY GOODNESS! HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?

It’s Christmas Eve already? The calendar says so, but I never completely trust those calendars anyway. Those are the crazy things that claim that March 21st is the First Day of Spring and I can usually look out of any window and see a foot of snow.

No, I realize that this is Christmas Eve by looking around this old house in Texas and seeing all of these people (half of them kids) gathered about awash in gifts and wrapping paper. That, not a calendar, tells me that it is Christmas Eve in Texas.

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“Gramma’s House.”

 

WE ARE BACK IN TEXAS AGAIN. We come down here every Christmas as the entire family gathers at the Family homestead.

Everyone calls it “Gramma’s House.” Married in 1941 just before the start of the Second World War the house finally got built in 1947 when the chaos subsided. It was a small house, but when the first baby arrived it was obvious that expansion was needed. When babies #2 and #3 showed up in 1949 and 1954 it became time for some serious additions to the original floor plan.

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Feuding And Fussing

FAMILY FEUD? OH, YEAH, LET ME GET ON THAT ONE FOLKS. Heh, Heh, Heh. I’d make Steve Harvey lose control of his… Oh, never mind. It ain’t gonna ever happen. It sure wouldn’t be a pretty picture.

I remember when that show first appeared on the scene with Richard Dawson as the Host. He was a British Actor/Comedian best known in the country from his regular stint on “The Match Game” (another game show) and the TV show “Hogan’s FAMILY Heroes.” For you younger readers “Hogan’s Heroes was a rollicking Sitcom set in a Nazi Prisoner of War Camp – a place always known for its laughs.

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Throwback Thursday From December 2016 – “Welcome To Whine Country”

giphy-3IF THERE IS ONE THING THAT REALLY TICKS ME OFF about my fellow human beings it is listening to them whine.

When I hear a grown person whining about anything I just want to walk right up to them and slap them silly. That would give them something to really whine about.

I know I can’t do that, but I can dream can’t I?

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Flying The Crazy Skies

I FLEW BACK FROM FLORIDA YESTERDAY…and, boy are my arms tired. Not from flapping them like wings, but from dealing with a crazy person on the plane.

For some strange reason Southwest Airlines figured out that it would be good business to have a flight from Fort Lauderdale to Indianapolis at 6:30 AM. What??? I don’t get it either. At that time of day you are only going to have customers who have been drinking all night, an assortment of crazy people, and a few folks who are so strung out they don’t know what planet they are on. Oh, yeah, and then there was me just trying to get back to Terre Haute (That’s French for, “That woman is crazy.”)

A 6:30 AM flight boards at 6:00 AM. I had to return my rental car so push back my arrival time at the airport another half hour. We are now talking about Official Werewolf Time. Why do I do these things to myself? For a ticket that is half the cost of the flight at 9:30 AM that’s why.

So here I am at Gate A-4 at about 5:30 AM. Looking about I can see three other people; the Southwest Agent at the desk, and two young women who are getting ready to open up the Starbucks on the other side of the empty concourse. I’m the only one who looks like I’m planning on going anywhere.

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Are You Being Served?

 

HERE WE GO AGAIN. We are now in the throes of the Christmas Shopping Season. The online vendors are doing business at an astounding level and Shopping Malls are hanging on by a slender thread.

The Retail World is changing…Again.

For thousands of years the individual merchant did business one customer at a time, one sale at a time. The customer went to the merchant’s shop to find what they needed. Then in the late 19th Century we saw (Well, not me personally) the rise of the Department Store.

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Searching For High Quality Trash

 

HOW SOON AFTER GETTING UP IS IT ALLOWABLE TO TAKE A NAP? I think I may be pushing it a bit, but I got up at 7:30 this morning. It is now 11:10 AM and I’m seriously considering a little nappy-poo. I know that sounds nasty but…I don’t care.

It is now 3:37 PM.

It was a good little nap. I agree with you. A four and a half nap does border on a coma, but I felt it was also somewhat medicinal. Take a pill or two; lay down for just a minute…BOOM! Its late afternoon. I had plans. So much for them.

It is time to go on to Plan B. Get up, put on pants, and go buy a couple of souvenir T shirts. It’s obligatory in Florida. There is probably a law on the books here, “Don’t buy a cheap T shirt and we feed you to the gators.” People disappear all the time down here. They vanish forever or just show up at the Mayo Clinic. “I was standing in the buffet line when, all of a sudden, I blacked out and woke up in Minnesota.”

I’m going out to hunt for cheap T Shirts. Wish me luck.

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Those Days Are Coming

 

ONE OF THE FIRST THINGS I DID ONCE I LANDED IN FLORIDA was to locate the nearest Starbucks. No matter where I am I gotta have my morning coffee. My afternoon and evening coffee too, but that should be obvious. The closest Chapel of St. Arbucks to my lodging is about two miles away. I can live with that. I have to. But all Starbucks are not the same.

While the buildings vary little from state to state, country to country, but the clientele is unique to each store. On a college campus most of the customers will have just finished puberty, while in Midtown Manhattan the majority of the sippers will have high blood pressure and be paying child support. This week I am in sunny South Florida.

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Throwback Thursday From December 2016 – “The Name Game”

f0bf7e046eb40ca7200c68cb9f6c806bI TOOK MYSELF ON A LITTLE FACT FINDING MISSION the other day. It was inspired by seeing a picture of the actress Tuesday Weld. Most men my age remember her from the TV show, “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis.” She played the gorgeous blonde Thalia Menninger. After she left the show nobody cared about it any longer.

My research topic had little to do with the lovely Thalia, but more to do with Tuesday – and Wednesday and Thursday, etc.

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By The Sea, By The Sea

 

GUESS WHERE I’M AT? NO. NO. NO, NOT THERE EITHER. I AM IN FLORIDA -The Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood Area. What am I doing down there when there is a perfectly good winter going on in Indiana without me? Well, for at least a few days, that is the idea.

Ever since our five week visit to Ireland I have been cold – freezing even. I needed to do something or I was afraid that I would not survive to see another Springtime. The cold feeling exhausted me. I was empty Physically, Emotionally, Creatively, and even Socially. I felt like I was an empty shell with freezer burn. I hated feeling like that and I don’t think I was very good company for anybody. I was either silent or snapping at everyone – and that’s just not like me. Going to where it was still warm so I could thaw myself was the solution. So here I am in Florida.

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