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 – 2019

Archive for the category “People”

Throwback Thursday from February 2016 – Wal-Mart Metropolis

Throwback Thursday from February 2016

Wal-Mart Metropolis

 

I WAS WANDERING THROUGH WAL-MART the other day and I was surprised at the number of people in there who looked like Hell warmed over. I’m not talking about the choice of clothing, if you could call it that, but their faces and the look in their eyes.

There is a line from an old Steppenwolf song about a man walking around, “With tombstones in his eyes,” and that’s what I was seeing in the aisles at Wal-Mart.

Maybe it’s a product of the mid-winter blues, or post-holiday letdown, but there were a surprising number of people pushing carts around who looked like they were ten minutes away from either collapsing or going zombie. They looked unfocused and exhausted with a look in their eyes that said, “Why bother.” I found it unsettling.

Not that I’m full of pep and energy, but these folks looked like I should try to recall my CPR training.

What caused this, and is this something new or have I just been out of the loop? It all reminded me of a scene from the classic silent film, “Metropolis,” with the legions of human drones slouching off to their next hopeless day.

I know that the economy is struggling. It is tougher here in Terre Haute (That’s French for, “Try again tomorrow.”) than in a lot of places and that can suck the life out of you. Is that it?

Not everyone in the store looked like that. There were a lot of other people there, dressed the same, filling their carts with the same items, who had Life just beaming from them. Seeing them all, side by side, made the contrast even sharper.

The idea that I was seeing a large number of people who were all stoned on drugs did cross my mind, but this was different. The eyes of the drug user have a certain agitated undertone that I wasn’t seeing in these folks. Here in their eyes there was a veiled weariness. I could almost hear a sigh of surrender.

When faced with bad times, personal tragedy, or a flat and empty future on the horizon some people fold up like a road map. I’m not saying that as a criticism of them, just as an observation. Others, faced with the same set of circumstances, find a steel that keeps them upright and moving forward. I think I was seeing both of these being manifested that morning at Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart is one of those places, like airports, sidewalk cafes, and sporting events, that is great for people watching. Just stay in one spot long enough and all of humanity will walk past. Unconsciously, I think that I was people watching as I walked through the store and I noticed the little differences in my fellow shoppers as they rolled past. Without urgent destinations or activities covering their facades the masks were down and how they were really feeling came to the surface. I got a peek behind the curtain.

What I’ve put down here is my interpretation of what I saw – or think I saw. Of course, however I might interpret what I saw is filtered through my own thoughts and feelings. Who knows what they thought when they looked into my eyes.

Here I am trying to describe what I saw there that day and it is not easy. At its root it’s a case of trying to describe what isn’t there rather than what is.

Paint me a picture of emptiness.

 

What Kind Of Class Is This

 

UH OH, HERE IT COMES AGAIN. It seems like it was just last week or maybe five years ago. I’m starting to get ticklers about another High School Class Reunion. Aren’t these people satisfied that I show up once every fifty years?

I do admit that I sort of skipped over the first forty nine years worth of reunions, but I had a good excuse: I didn’t want to go. I broke down when it came to number fifty and I admit that it was a pleasure seeing some of the kids (now Geezers) that I went through grade school with. The thing is that I don’t remember them from High School all that well. Either I was in a fog or they were. They looked a lot different than I remembered them from 1952-1960.

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Watching On An Afternoon

AH, YOUNG LOVE, WELL, MAYBE CLOSER TO MIDDLEAGE LOVE. The two people had to be in their forties, maybe a bit more. But looking at their eyes and body language they could have been teenagers

If there is one thing St. Arbucks is good for, other than filling up that empty lot on the corner, and the odd cup of coffee, it is that it is a good spot for People Watching. And that’s what I did yesterday afternoon.

I was out and about taking care of some errands and I stopped in at the Chapel on 25th Street for a nice iced tea. I sat over in my usual corner, the better to watch the world.

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Fiction Saturday – “A Conversation By The River” – Conclusion

Fiction Saturday – “A Conversation By The River” – Conclusion

Conclusion

“Some Monks pray while farming, some while cooking, or writing. I walk. I walk without a physical destination. Today I am here. I think I am here to talk with you.”

“And with the fish?”

“Yes – And with the fish. Walking is my way of praying. Each step is a prayer – a prayer for understanding and for thanks.”

I was getting confused with all of this.

“’Thanks? For what?” The Monk smiled at me and I relaxed.

“I give thanks for each step because I know that a time will come when I can no longer walk and the steps will have to be taken by someone else. Aren’t you thankful for something – your life? For your mother and father, for your home, your friends, and for this lovely spot by the river?”

“I guess so. I never thought about it before. Now that you put it all that way though I guess I do have a bunch of stuff to be thankful for.”

“Good. Now let’s be quiet so this fish and I can talk things out.”

The Monk and the fish might have been talking, but I didn’t hear anything. I stayed quiet because I know that you are supposed to be quiet while fishing and I didn’t want to scare the Monk’s fish.

It seemed to me like we were going to be there all day when the Monk broke the silence.

“That fish,” he said, “Makes a very good case for himself. Much better than me. Tonight I go hungry. My young friend I might as well be on my way.”

“You’re leaving? Where are you going to go?”

“Like I said earlier, I m going nowhere and everywhere as well, but I think I will start by going through your village. How far is it from here?

“The village is around that bend in the path and then an hour – less for you – you take bigger steps than me.” While I spoke he gathered together his things. He pulled his empty hook from the river, dried it and the twine on his red sash before carefully folding it and wrapping it around his body and over his shoulder. I wondered how many times he had done this before when a fish out talked him. When everything was in its place he stood up and bowed to me.

“It has been a pleasure to have spent this time with you and I wish you wisdom and happiness as you grow.”

He started across the grass toward the path. I hurried after him.

“Mr. Monk, can I walk with you awhile? My house is that way too, around the bend.”

“Of course, my friend. Let us both pray with each step we take.”

He was taller than me and I had to take more steps to keep up with him. He saw me trying to keep up and he slowed down to make it easier for me.

“What will you do when you get to the village?”

“I will beg. I am sure that some kind person will feed me and give me a place to sleep tonight. There is almost always someone in each village I visit. People are good.”

We walked on.

“This path goes on all the way to The Great Ocean they say. What will you do when you get to the end of the path?”

“I will turn around and walk back to the Monastery high up in the mountains. It is my home.”

“How long have you been walking?” He looked down at me.

“I began my prayer when I was no bigger than you. It is my entire life, my prayer.”

I was amazed. I could not imagine leaving everything behind and walking for such a long time. He was an old man compared to me – older than my father.

“I’m sorry that I ask you so many questions, but I’ve never really talked with a Monk before.”

“There is no need to apologize. How else can you learn? I ask questions all the time.”

We rounded the bend in the path and up ahead I could see where the path split. One part went on to the village. The other led to our farm.

“This looks like where we part ways. I go on to the village and you to your home. Again, I thank you for our time together.”

I had an idea. I had one more question.

“Do you have to go to the village tonight, a rule or something? I’m asking because my mother and father are kind people and I’m sure that they would be happy to give you something to eat and a warm and dry place to sleep. Would you come with me? I’m sure they won’t be upset.”

“Even your father who thinks we Monks are all wealthy?”

“Yes, I’m sure. He likes to go fishing too. You two could talk about that. But I don’t think he talks with the fish. He uses bits of bread as bait. Please come there with me.” The Monk paused. He looked at me and at the path into the village.

“Young man, every road that I walk splits, and I have often wondered where my life would be if I chose to take that other pathway. My prayer is in my step, not in the road beneath my feet. All roads go somewhere. This road,” he said, pointing off down the path, “It goes to your village and eventually to The Great Ocean. But this other path would take us to your farm and your family. The village and the ocean will be there tomorrow, but if I go that way today I will miss the gift of seeing your family. That chance is only mine for today, never to return.”

He sat down in the dust and looked at both paths.

“I need to think and pray. Give me a moment.”

I watched him close his eyes. He folded his legs like I had seen him do when he first came and sat by the riverbank. I said a prayer of my own that he would come with me.

After a couple of minutes the Monk opened his eyes. He smiled at me.

“My young friend, you prayed. I could feel it. It was a very good prayer. You prayed and I listened for the Wisdom to tell me what to do.”

“What did you hear?” I could feel my heart pounding in my chest.

I heard that you are an honest and truthful boy and that I am blessed by having this time with you today. Today is not done and there is more time to share.”

“Does that mean you’ll come back to my home with me?”

The Monk held out his hand to me.

“It does. Now help me up and let me get this dust off my robe. I don’t want your father to think that I am there to beg.”

And so we walked together to my home and with each step I learned more of the power of prayer.

Fiction Saturday – “A Conversation By The River” – Part Two

Fiction Saturday – “A Conversation By The River” – Part Two

Staying up in the tree once he knew that I was up there seemed silly to me. I climbed down. The Monk had moved back to his spot – my spot – by the riverbank. He didn’t pay any attention to me. I stayed by the tree trunk not knowing what to do next. He told me.

“Come and sit down. It’s a beautiful riverbank you have here.”

I went and sat down next to him by the water’s edge. He ignored me.

“You’re a Monk aren’t you?” As soon as I said that I knew it was a silly question.

“Yes, I am. Are you a farm boy?”

“Yes, I am,” I said, but being here in the middle of all the farms around here and with me looking like I do, his was a silly question too.

“What does a Monk do, Sir?”

“There is no need to call me ‘Sir.’ And as to what a Monk does it is really very simple – we pray.”

“What do you pray for?” I thought that was a reasonable question.

“We pray to understand.”

“To understand what?”

“To understand why we are here and what we should do to be worthy of this life, this river, this conversation we are having.”

“You must pray a lot,” I said to him.

He began to fiddle with his red sash. He took out the twine and the fishing hook.

“Yes, I pray all the time.”

“You don’t look like you’re praying now. You look like you’re going to try to catch a fish.”

He tied the hook to the frayed end of the twine.

“Fishing calls for a lot of praying, my young friend.”

He dipped the hook into the water and sat quietly. At least he got that part right. After a few minutes I had to say something.

“You really are going to need to pray. You don’t have any bait on that hook. You won’t catch any fish that way.” For a man who looked so smart he seemed pretty dumb when it came to fishing.

He looked at me and smiled.

“I’m not trying to catch a fish. I am waiting for the fish to put himself on my hook. It has to be his decision. It is his life and I cannot take it. He must offer it up.”

I couldn’t help but laugh.

“That’s asking a lot of a fish, Mr. Monk.”

“Very true. I have a life and so does the fish. Our lives are of equal value. They both came from the same place – from The Creator. I want to eat to stay alive and so does the fish. My hook has no bait because that would be cheating, tricking the fish.

“The fish and I must negotiate and debate about whose need is more important today. If we agree that the fish is more important today – who knows what lies just downstream for him, then I will go hungry today. If what lies down this path is more important for me, then the fish will take the hook and I will eat. Do you understand?”

He turned back to focus on his empty fish hook and I looked at him and then down into the water. There was a fish looking at the hook, but he didn’t look convinced.

“That must be why my father says you Monks are always begging for food. You can’t talk a fish into biting on an empty hook.”

“Your father is a wise man,”

We sat there, silently, for quite awhile. It was a nice day and I was enjoying my time with the Monk even though I really didn’t understand him a lot. Before he came down the path I was just sitting here daydreaming. Now I am, thinking. I’m not used to that. He had me thinking and climbing a tree.

“I saw you coming down the path for a long time. Where are you going?

“Nowhere. Here.”

“What does that mean?”

To Be Continued…

Fiction Saturday – “A Conversation By The River” – Part One

A Conversation By The River

The banks of the river are my favorite places in the whole world. In the afternoon after my chores have been done and I’ve finished my studies too I go to the river.

The river is not very big, but it has come a long way. From high in the mountains the river has wandered down through forests and the hill country, by the city where the Emperor lives, and then to us and our farms. I have been told that, eventually, the river ends as it flows into the Great Ocean. Someday, when I am grown, I would like to make a boat and sail it down the river all the way to the sea. But now I just go to the river and sit by the water and dream.

Yesterday I was sitting on the grass by the river. I was watching the fish swim around in the water. The sun was still hot and I had found a spot underneath one of the big trees. Its leafy branches kept me from the heat of the sun and made it the perfect place to be.

From my place under the tree I could see down the dusty path from our village and, in the other direction, I could almost see the hazy shape of the mountains to the west.

As I looked up the path I could see someone, a man, walking slowly in my direction. As he got closer I could see the little clouds of dust that his sandals kicked up with each step he took. In the bright sunlight it looked like he was dressed in a golden robe. When he got closer I could tell that he was dressed in yellow with a red sash around his waist and over one shoulder.

I have seen men dressed like him before. My parents said that men dressed like that were Monks, holy men, who travel throughout the country. My mother said that they bring good luck. My father said that they were pests, always begging and wanting food for free.

The Monk was coming toward me down the dusty path. I wasn’t sure what to do. I didn’t have anything to give him, so I decided that the best thing for me to do was to hide. I climbed the tree and hid myself in the branches.

I could see the Monk clearly as he got close and, instead of passing by and going toward the village, he stopped and sat down under my tree in the very same spot where I had been. I watched him. He didn’t make a sound. He sat there with his eyes closed.

The Monk was bald. There was not one hair on his head and he was clean shaven like my father. He sat with his legs folded up underneath him and his hands rested in his lap/ I didn’t move either. I didn’t want to make any noise that would tell him where I was hiding.

After a few minutes the Monk opened his eyes and stretched out his legs. He took off his sandals and dipped his dusty feet into the water of the river. He sighed and smiled. He had a kind face.

He undid his red sash and unfolded it on the grass next to him. He had several things, but not a lot, that he carried with him.

I saw a spool of twine and a fishing hook, a small knife – not big enough to scare anyone, a book not much bigger than my hand, a flint, and a cup. That was all he had. He was not a rich Monk like my father said that they all were.

He took his cup and bent over to get himself a drink of water. Even though it was a hot day the water in the river was always cool having come down from the mountains.

He drank his cupful of water and then he did something most strange. He bent over again very close to the water. It looked like he was talking to the water, but I couldn’t hear what he was saying. When he finished talking he put his hand onto the surface of the water, like he was petting an obedient dog. That made no sense to me. It was like he was thanking the river for the water he had taken,

The Monk sat quietly by the water for a few minutes and then dried his feet, put his sandals back on, and stood up. I thought that he was going to leave and continue walking down the path. Instead he walked over to the trunk of the tree and, without looking up, he spoke.

“Why don’t you come down? I won’t bite.”

That startled me and I almost fell from my place in the branches.

“Come down and we can talk.”

To Be Continued…

Names, Nicked And Otherwise

 

THE OTHER DAY AN ACQUAINTANCE OF MINE moseyed up to me and asked me about the license plate on my car. What is on the car is called a “Vanity Plate” – a customized message for which I pay extra every year.

The plate on the Toyota reads: “KRAFTY.”

My acquaintance asked me what that meant, or to quote him – “What’s that all about?” If we had actually been friends he would have already known.

I explained to him that KRAFTY has been my nickname since childhood. It was a rational play off of my last name. Duh! He then asked me if I had any other nicknames. I didn’t know what he was fishing for, but I played along.

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A View From The Corner

 

WHO NEEDS TELEVISION? Who needs movies? Who needs any form of traditional entertainment when you’ve got people walking around? Every day, free of charge, there is a non-stop parade of the Human Animal passing by in all its variety. I almost said, “Passing by in all its Glory,” but Glory is rare in humanity. Variety is a better word to describe the people I see every day.

People Watching is more fun than Movies or TV. With the actors on the screen, who are always good looking and mouthing someone else’s words, they are following a Director’s commands. Their moves are predictable and rarely surprising. However, the folks wandering in front of my astigmatic eyeballs are anything but predictable and continue to surprise me on a daily basis.

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I Think I’ll Take A Nap

 

THE PAST FEW WEEKS HAVE BEEN TRULY EXHAUSTING.

  1. Traveling – Which always takes it out of me.
  2. Funerals – Never a fun occasion.
  3. Hurricanes – We are all in overload on that topic.

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Picture If You Will. ..

TO PARAPHRASE DOUGLAS MACARTHUR (Under 40? Look him up.), “I have returned from Texas.”

A visit with the Family is now checked off our summer “to-do” list and, like most trip to Texas it exceeded our quota of Airline Weirdness.

It seems that every time we fly to Texas the airline (it doesn’t matter which one – Southwest this time) manages to slip over into The Twilight Zone. This time they outdid themselves.

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A Territorial Dispute

LIKE MOST PEOPLE I AM A CREATURE OF HABIT. I tend to want to do today what I did yesterday and I don’t like anybody to mess with that – and by extension – me. His morning I was faced with such a situation

Just about every day I start my conscious activities down the street at St. Arbucks. I get my coffee, as usual, and then I stumble to my table in the corner, as usual. Sip coffee. Take meds. Plug in phone. Write. That’s it – nothing fancy, but critical nonetheless.

Today everything was moving along swimmingly until I turned the corner and prepared myself to hunker down in the corner.

THERE WERE PEOPLE SITTING AT MY TABLE!

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A Walk On The Wild Side

I DID SOMETHING TODAY THAT I HAVE NEVER DONE BEFORE in all my 120 years. It was risky some people told me. A close friend pleaded with me not to even try to do it.

“You may not get out alive.”

Don’t you just love a little Hyperbole? At least I was hoping it was Hyperbole.

I decided to not take any unnecessary chances – so I took my wife, the lovely and ever so courageous, Dawn, with me.

On our first travel day, as we headed off to Georgia, we threw all caution to the wind and – brace yourself – had dinner at “The Waffle House.”

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She Was Here Somewhere

I JUST LOVE IT WHEN TRULY SILLY THINGS HAPPEN. I recently saw a story, datelined Iceland, which had me laughing out loud sitting there at St. Arbucks. I’m sure that most of the people who saw me laughing just thought that I had skipped my meds.

Nope, not this time.

What made me hit my Giggle Switch was a news item about a group of Japanese tourists in Iceland.

According to the news item the group was touring some of Iceland’s volcanoes and hot springs. Sounds like fun.

But wait! There’s more!

The fun really began when the group was ready to get back on the bus and leave. That was when someone noticed that one of their group, a woman, seemed to be missing.

Uh, oh – it’s bad form to lose the tourists.

A search party was formed and everyone started desperately looking for the missing lady. Everyone was given a description of the lady and what she was wearing. Hours went by with no success. There was fear that she may have fallen and was injured.

Finally, at 3 AM a member of the search party noticed that one of the other searchers bore a strong resemblance to the missing woman.

The kernel of this story is that the missing lady had, during the tour, gone back to their tour bus to “Freshen up,” and change clothes. When the tour group was ready to leave somebody spoke up, saying, “Where is the lady in the red jacket?” she was there, but now wearing a blue jacket.

And so the fun began.

For hours and hours the apparently “missing” woman took part in the search party’s efforts that were methodically looking for her. The description that was handed out didn’t ring a bell with her, she said. She had no idea that she was the “missing lady.”

I love stories like that. Nobody was hurt – inconvenienced to be sure, and maybe P.O’d to the max, but unhurt. If some scriptwriter had come up with that as an idea for a TV Sit-Com it would have been rejected. Fortunately, I don’t have standards that high.

While I would rather not spend a long time in a search party looking for myself I do think that it could be a chance to learn what people really think of me.

How many people are willing to look for me? How hard are they trying? Are they muttering about possibly missing lunch or are they singing my praises? When I am “found” are they saying “Thank Heaven we have found him,” or are they making threats?

It would almost be like being able to attend your own funeral, without the flowers and that slow drive through town.

Congratulations To Heather

I WAS DRIVING AROUND TOWN YESTERDAY, taking care of errands and chores – the usual stuff. As I drove past the neighborhood Taco Bell I noticed something on their marquee. It read

“Employee of the Month – Heather.”

Nothing really unusual about that except that Heather has been the Employee of the Month for two months in a row there. She must be something special. Perhaps she can make tacos faster than anyone else. I don’t know, and to be honest – I don’t really care. Anyway I offer my Congratulations to Heather. I just hope that her obviously superior skills don’t have a negative impact on the other employees. People can be so petty sometimes.

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Who Is Normal?

EVERY ONCE IN AWHILE I AM ASKED TO GIVE SHORT SPEECHES or presentations to civic groups or service organizations. I’ve done a few things for the likes of Kiwanis and businesses. Lately I have been asked to speak before an organization that serves citizens with special needs.

A couple of months ago I went downtown and spoke before both clients and staff of this same outfit about the value of writing down their own personal stories.

I said to them that, “No matter who you are you are a special and unique individual and you have a story worth telling.” I spoke to them about how to write down their stories and how, in doing so, they would be able to both learn and to teach. They would learn more about themselves and they would teach everyone else about their uniqueness, challenges, and gifts that they have to offer to the world.

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