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

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?

My Childhood In The Distant Past

Reluctant as I am to say so I must admit something: I am an old man. My youth was in a Post-World War Two 1940s and 1950s.

I was born in 1946 in Cleveland and raised in a small town in the hills of Western Pennsylvania and, in many ways, I lived a childhood rooted in the 19th century. Whenever I tell someone of my daily life they react as if I was telling them a story about an earlier time. They find it hard to believe when I tell them that my mother bought her fruits and vegetables from a man with a horse drawn wagon, we had bearded hobos knocking on our door for a handout, and quarantine signs on our front door whenever a kid got one of the many childhood diseases.

When I moved from The Valley to go to college in The Big City people were amazed and amused when I told them about The Pony Man.

There were few times more exciting for the neighborhood kids than those days when the old wooden wagon piled high with fruits and vegetables and pulled by a pinto pony came down the street. The Pony Man’s name was Carmine and the pony was Tony. My mother would make her selections and drop her money into the basket that sat on the seat next to Carmine. Business concluded Tony would move on to their next stop. Tony knew the route by heart.

A remnant of the Great Depression were the Hobos who “Rode the rails” from coast to coast looking for work. Many of them had been wandering for decades unable to leave the life on “The Road.” Our house was just two blocks up from the river and the main railroad tracks that carried passengers and

freight up and down the Valley. It was not unusual for a Bearded Hobo to knock on our back door looking for a handout and/or an odd job. My mother was a soft touch and handed out a lot of sandwiches. I once found this symbol scrawled on a tree near the house. It meant that a nice lady lived there.

There were also “Tinkerers” who would walk through the neighborhood shouting out “Knives sharpened! Pots Fixed!” Tinkerers were itinerant repairmen, the original “Jack of all trades” workers. They would help the neighborhood Mothers by pounding out dents in their pots and pans and grinding the kitchen knives sharp again. Those were not throw-away items.

Given recent events in our world most people are seeing the word “Quarantine” for the first time. I grew up seeing that word a dozen times a year.

In the 1950s there were a number of highly contagious diseases that were often called “Childhood diseases.” Measles (3 different versions), Mumps, Chicken Pox, and others would sweep through every

year and the local Board of Health would try to control the diseases by posting “Quarantine” signs on our front door. It meant that no one got in or out of that house until the disease had run its course. My father had several bouts of staying in local motels while I and my brother were sick.

In the Summertime the Quarantine was sometimes violated on purpose. When the word got around that a kid had measles or whatever the neighborhood mothers would throw a “Measles Party” to deliberately expose their kids to the disease just to get it over with before school started again in September. It was somewhat perilous, but effective.

A child’s life in those days in my small town was certainly different. It was a much simpler time in many ways than today. However, it also had its own terrors that no longer exist. Every Summer there was the looming fear of another epidemic of Polio, a disease that is rare today thanks to two men names Salk and Sabin.

I could tell you more stories of my childhood in the time-warp Valley where the modern world collided with earlier days when everyone knew everyone else, your child’s milk came to your door in glass bottles and three cents would send a letter across the country.

Perhaps I will. Let me know what you think I should do.

Throwback Day After Thursday From 2015 – Let’s Play, “Spot The Flaw In This!”

What with all of the Fooferaw lately about the Postal Service  it brought to mind a Blog Post from 2015 about an old friend of mine. So, here is an encore posting of:

“Let’s Play ‘Spot The Flaw In This’.”

inverted JennyABOUT EVERY SIX MONTHS or so we get a piece of mail from the Postal Service touting their “Stamps by Mail” service.

This Postal Service program supposedly can save us time and gasoline by sending postage stamps directly to our mailbox on the front porch. There would be no need for us to get out of our jammies and drive all the way (four blocks) to the Post Office to buy stamps.

OK, I get the concept, but with the advent of the internet there are now millions of people paying their bills online, communicating with friends and family online, and sending birthday cards, etc. online. Currently I write an average of two checks per month that require me to use postage stamps.

I’d wager that since the demise of the Columbia Record Club (look it up) that the number of stamp bearing mail items has diminished greatly. Almost all of the mail that we get is catalogs and other pointless junk mail – and virtually all of that is metered mail with no stamps at all.

We still get the “Stamps by Mail” advertising thing, but let me tell you the real reason we don’t bother signing up.

About a year ago an old friend told me this story and I believe him.

He runs a small business and thought that the “Stamps by Mail” thing might be a good time saver for him. So- he signed up and anxiously awaited the delivery of his first load of postage stamps from Benjamin Franklin’s favorite government service.

A week or so later when my friend toddled out to his mailbox he discovered one of those little pink slips of paper telling him that there was a parcel waiting for him to pick up down at the Post Office.

He told me that this was not unusual, so he got out of his jammies, put on some adult clothing and fired up his car to go get his parcel.

Of course, when he got there he had to wait in line behind the usual collection of people sending sweaters to their grandchildren in Florida and manuscripts off to publishers who will never read them or will just slide them under a table leg to take care of that annoying wobble.

He had to wait about fifteen minutes to get to the head of the line. He presented the pink slip to the clerk who then disappeared into “The Back” for another five minutes. When the Postal Service clerk returned he handed my friend an envelope which would have easily fit inside the mailbox at his home. He took the envelope over to the empty counter out by the P.O. Boxes and tore it open. Inside was another envelope proudly announcing that it contained his delivery of “Stamps by Mail!”

What a time saver.

When my friend first told me about this I too was skeptical. It was just too – too – Post Office for even the Post Office to do.

He swears that it is a true story and as time passes and I read of other Masterpieces of Governmental Ineptitude my skepticism fades into a head-shaking “I’m surprised they didn’t send it to him “postage due.”

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!

You Have To Keep Active

I must admit that since I retired, lo these nine years ago, I have experimented with any number of ways to creatively waste time. There are many people who would say that this blog shows that I have elevated it all to an Art. I’m not going to argue with them. I don’t think that I could win such an argument.

So…(aside from this blog) some of my other temporal thumb twiddlings have included belonging to a Dart League for three years. I suck at darts but that doesn’t stop me from proudly displaying my three championship trophies. I was the worst player on the team, but that was my role – to lower the team handicap to balance the presence of a Dart Savant on our team. That guy couldn’t miss. He was scary good. I was just scary bad.

In another effort to fill my days with something passably interesting that would also get me out of the house before my wife, the lovely and patient beyond the statute of limitations, Dawn, started arranging kayak lessons for me, I began doing plays with the local Community Theatre. I did four shows with them before my endurance for late rehearsals wore thin. I’m a Geezer. I need my sleep.

Other avenues needed to be explored.

I think I may have found the perfect thing to occupy my mind that doesn’t involve sharp objects or driving home at midnight when the streets are filled with marauding raccoons. I am part of a Barroom Trivia Team.

Every Monday evening at 7:00 PM I haul my trivia loaded brain to a nearby Pub for a two hour long test to see who knows more useless information. My kind of game!

I feel that I’m there representing all of those Liberal Arts Majors who are still under-employed twenty years after graduation, but who can to this day name every major artist in 16th century Belgium. On our team I am far and away the oldest member. That gives me an edge when the question involves History or Early Television Programs. Most of the other players are under 30 years of age. They wouldn’t know Calvin Coolidge if he walked into the room or who played Tonto on The Lone Ranger . Of course, I’m totally in the dark when it comes to things like “Who was the biggest selling Rapper in 2014?”

I had a birthday recently. Which one is not important except to my Cardiologist and to the people who keep sending me junk mail peddling Hearing Aids and Cemetery Plots. I did receive one gift from my lovely and forward thinking wife, Dawn, who knows what I need even if I don’t.

She bought me a book – “The Ultimate Book Of Trivia.”

This thing is 349 pages jam packed with more trivial information than PBS and Congress combined! It is the ideal book to have with you when you are seated in the loo after a Twelve Course Taco Bell Banquet or entering that Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest I see on ESPN. You will have plenty to read.

I hope that this book will help me on my Monday night Trivia contest. It couldn’t hurt…unless i drop it onto my foot. It could easily break a toe or two. Next week I am going to wow them all at the Pub when I toss out the fact that the shortest U.S. President was James Madison who was only 5’4″ tall. If they ever make a movie about him Tom Cruise will play him…in lifts.

Circling The Wagons

One of the things that I used to write about rather frequently in this blog (Pre-Virus) was my early morning Playgroup at St. Arbucks, AKA – “The Usual Suspects.” It was my wife, the lovely and always welcome, Dawn, who named this gathering of Geezers as my Playgroup. I came up with “the “Usual Suspects.” I think her choice is more accurate.

We are a bunch of mainly retired gentlemen who get together to get out of the house and give our wives some peace. Our ages range from early 60s up to the mid 80s. Some of us were teachers while others were Chiropractors, Store Owners, and Whatever I was. We have one fellow who is still working. The rest of us look down on him. We had one female member of our group, but she wised up and moved out of state.

Almost everyday of the week we meet over coffee to discuss just about any topic except politics. We have that restriction as a health measure to avoid heart attacks and assault and battery issues. If one of the crew does start to bring up something political I will loudly interrupt with, “How about them Cubbies?” just to change the subject.

During this time of restricted social gatherings and face masks our normal meetings inside the nearby Starbucks were seriously disrupted. An alternate solution was called for.

Fortunately our Chapel of St. Arbucks (Patron Saint of Jittery People) is located adjacent to the parking lot of a Strip Mall that can accommodate several hundred parked cars. Each morning we would get our coffee via the Drive-Thru Lane and then move over to the larger parking lot.  We circled our wagons (SUVs and Sedans), pulled some lawn chairs from the trunk, and carried on without missing a beat. On most mornings we had a circle of 5 to 7 vehicles. The only problems that ever arose with this arrangement were the occasional rain and swarms of gnats that found us much too attractive. 

Actually there was one other problem that plagued our Parking Lot Playgroup. One of our noble Geezers had a real hearing problem and maintaining a good Social Distance caused a lot of shouting of “WHAT?” It wouldn’t have been so bad if he had remembered to put in his hearing aids. His hearing was bad, but so was his memory. Too many mornings he would leave his hearing aids at home on the kitchen table so everyone ended up shouting at him over their coffee. 

A couple of weeks ago our prayers to Juan Valdez were answered and we were blessed when the Starbucks reopened the doors to their cafe. So far the weather has been pleasant and we have been meeting on their outdoor seating area. The lawn chairs are back in the trunk and the gnats haven’t found us. As far as I’m concerned this arrangement has an even better positive aspect: By ditching the Drive-Thru lane and ordering inside I am getting my iced coffee free refill once again. That’s all that is really important.

Life as we know it on this planet will continue.

At 5AM All Time Is Warped

Ever since I retired I no longer have to get up early to get to the office and solve the problems of the world. I can sleep in and start my day whenever I darn well please.

Well, that’s the theory anyway.

The reality is considerably different. I know that I’m retired. My coffee maker knows that I’m retired. The world knows that I’m retired.

My body does not know I’m retired. Or at least it is pretending to not know.

No matter what time I crawl into bed my internal alarm clock pries open my eyes at about 5 AM. Try as I might to roll over and sleep until later it just doesn’t work. Once my eyes pop open at 5 AM I am up. 

There is not a lot for me to do at 5 AM. No stores are open – not even Starbucks. The sun isn’t even up yet. So, I end up watching TV while I’m getting dressed. And there is not much of a selection at that hour even with 200 channels. That means that while I am struggling to figure out how socks work I am tuning into “The Cowboy Channel.”

At 5 AM I am treated to ancient reruns of “The Roy Rogers Show – Starring Roy Rogers, King of the Cowboys!”  It’s his show so he gets top billing. Second billing goes to his horse, Trigger. After the horse comes Roy’s wife “Dale Evans – Queen of the West.” She may be the Queen, but Roy’s horse gets better placement in the credits. She must not have had a very good agent that she lost out to a horse for all those years.

Poor Dale lost out on another thing too. Roy (Real name: Leonard) had his horse named “Trigger” and a dog called “Bullet” – all rough and tough. Real macho for the “King of the Cowboys” even though dressed like a member of the Village People. Dale on the other hand, even though she is a Queen, has to ride around on a horse named “Buttermilk.”

“Buttermilk?” What kind of a name is that for a horse? I’ll bet that if she had had a dog it would have been called “Cottage Cheese” or something equally non-threatening.

That whole show was a collection of weird stuff and anachronisms. On one hand it was your classic western shoot-em-up with posses and outlaws. Their town (Mineral City) had wooden sidewalks and hitching posts. Everyone wore gunbelts and rode horses – except for one guy who drove around town in a Post-World War Two Jeep. I never could figure out that bit of business. In the confusing Old West setting of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans where did their “Comedic Sidekick”, Pat Brady,  get his gasoline? His Jeep always seemed to be possessed by evil automotive demons, driving off on its own. 

Was it a Cowboy show or was it a Sci-Fi  Western? Nothing made sense to me. I’ve been watching that show for years, since I was a kid, and I always found it to be one of the most confusing things on television. Even the Three Stooges made more sense to me. I’m hoping that there is a lost episode that might show up one morning where we might get to see Buttermilk kick Trigger’s Palomino butt.

L to R – Dale Evans, Trigger, Roy Rogers

 

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

News From The Police Blotter

Sometimes I wonder.

I wonder about the nature of all sorts of stuff. I wonder about Life, the Universe, and Everything (I know – the answer to that is 42), but most of the time I wonder about People. Of the roughly eight billion souls on Earth almost all of them just go from day to day taking care of business and struggling to put food on the table. They don’t have time to roll around in Stupid Stuff.

But there are those people who, despite their need for food, lodging, and Pay Per View still manage to find time to get into some truly dumbass trouble.

For example: I saw on Facebook this morning a news item from right here in Indiana – Home of Biscuits and Gravy for Sunday Dinner and where Auto Racing and High School Basketball are considered Religious Sacraments.

And I quote… “INDIANA MAN FOUND PASSED OUT NAKED ON A TRACTOR”

Now THAT is a Headline!

The Story unfolded with the facts – just the facts. The names will be changed to protect the unbelievably stupid.

“A 43-year-old Hoosier may have just accidentally inspired a country song.

Just 25 minutes North of the famous Southern Indiana town of Santa Claus you’ll find the small community of Huntingburg. This tiny town is now on our radar after a confused and naked man was arrested according to the Tristate Homepage.

43-year-old Michael Blithering was arrested after police responded to a report of a naked man passed out on a tractor in Huntingburg Monday morning.

The streaking suspect was able to avoid the police for a little white until he was seen running across US 231. That is where officers found the man in his birthday suit hiding in a wood line near some local apartments.

Michael Blithering was charged with public intoxication with a controlled substance and public nudity after he was discharged from the hospital.”

As I read this story I wondered to myself “When was it that this naked man realized that he might be in trouble and should run for it?” I suspect that it may have been somewhere between his 12th beer and his third Meth hit.

When somebody dropped the dime on him and called the police they reported that Mr. Blithering was both naked and unconscious as he rode on the tractor. Unless the tractor was in motion I don’t see where any harm was being done. He may have just finished getting his “Back Forty” plowed and was just taking a break. It has been quite warm here in Indiana lately and perhaps his decision to go “Au Natural” may have been based on his exposure of his John Deere. I doubt if he will remember much when he sobers up and or comes down.

This morning when I went to my daily Playgroup – a gathering of a half dozen Geezers who meet for coffee and chitchat – I asked if any of those native Hoosiers knew where Huntingburg, Indiana was located. I was not surprised when one of the gentlemen said, “I grew up there.

I read them the account of Michael Blithering’s naked run in with the Law. They shook their collective heads as if to say, “Not again.” It was implied. The man who had lived in Huntingburg, Indiana spoke up. “I know that man’s family.”

Indiana is just one big Small Town when it comes to stuff like this.

The Heat Is On

I will be the first to admit it. I am easily amused. You want to see me giggle – just start telling me “Knock -Knock” jokes. It doesn’t take much to get me laughing. I’ve been known to cut loose with a belly laugh even when it’s me who has slipped on the banana peel.

Laughter is a good thing. It is even therapeutic. Laughter has super healing properties. Those properties are enhanced tenfold if a whipped cream pie is being thrown. That’s a Scientific Fact. I saw it on my TV last Saturday morning.

For the last few months the world has been engrossed with contemplating it’s own navel and avoiding anything that might involve enjoyment or other people. I’m sorry, but that will never do. If I can’t slap my own knee at least twice a day I might get awful surly and start making bad puns. My funny bone needs tickling on a regular basis. Fortunately in the last few weeks I have found something that appeals to my 11 year old sense of humor.

What is funnier than seeing grownups playing a kid’s game and looking really silly in the process? Nothing!! That is why I am glad that we have discovered the #1 hit show on Netflix : “The Floor Is Lava.”

This show pits teams of adults against a room where they must jump from tables to chairs to sofas that are immersed in a roiling sea of Special Effects lava. They must try to cross the room without falling into the lava and disappearing forever into syndication. The team that completes the challenge and escapes the room wins $10,000 bucks and a $29 dollar Lava Lamp.

Big Time Show Biz this ain’t. It’s more of a combination of “Survivor”, “American Ninja Warrior”, and anything on “C-SPAN.”

I did a little research into this show, at least seven or eight minutes worth, and learned that if you want to be a contestant on “Floor is Lava” the producers want you to be in good physical condition. That leaves me out – something for which I will be eternally grateful. I guess they don’t want to have a contestant keel over dead on camera. Even with that fitness restriction we have seen some players take some serious head shots when they leap from a chair to a table and land face first and then slip below the surface of the “Lava.”

I don’t know how long this show will be on the air. They have only 10 episodes “in the can” as they say. It would not surprise me to learn that it will be picked up for another season. After all, “Gilligan’s Island” ran for three seasons, but they had Ginger and Mary Ann. “The Floor Is Lava” only has a “Host” who looks like the stock boy at the Dollar Store.

“The Floor Is Lava” is one of those things that has appeared on the scene at just the right time. This world needs something to laugh at that doesn’t require any thought or analysis. “The Floor is Lava” is nothing more than self-induced slapstick humor. It makes no sense. It has no real purpose. There is no “Message,” and who wouldn’t want to have their very own $29 dollar Lava Lamp?

Couch Potatoes need not apply.

Throwback Day After Thursday !!

 

OK, OK, OK! I will admit it. This old blog post from 2017 is considered by some people to be of questionable taste. They are entitled to their opinion. They’re wrong.

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

So there!

Let’s Hear It For Gluttony

THERE AIN’T NUTHIN’ LIKE A GOOD BURGER. It doesn’t have to be fancy (and probably shouldn’t be). It doesn’t have to be expensive. It sure doesn’t have to be in some high class restaurant. But it has to be prepared with gluttony in mind.

About a five minute drive or twenty minute crawl from home is a small neighborhood joint (that’s the only appropriate word) that does a burger right.

This particular watering hole has been around for about two million years. It is on its third or fourth owners now and doing well. It is probably also on the Hit List of the American Heart Association.

Over the years it has grown from a serious drinker’s bar, into a Punch Palace where the main attraction was drunken brawls, into a neighborhood friendly gathering spot. With each reincarnation the food menu has grown and improved. Today it has become a place for Breakfast as well as for Lunch and Dinner –with no brawling allowed.

It is more of a “Sports Bar” now. That means that there are multiple big screen TVs mounted high on the walls. They are generally ignored in favor of the food.

The Star of the Show – foodwise – is the “Tweety Burger.” It has nothing to do with a small yellow canary and Sylvester the Cat. “Tweety” was the name of one of the original owners back in the Dark Ages.

The current owner is a young (30ish) gent who is trying to turn the place from a “Joint” into something more socially acceptable – a place where you could take a date for a nosh without having to worry about a fist fight breaking out. The new Boss is also expanding the definition of the “Tweety Burger.” For the longest time it was just a very tasty ½ pound burger with fries – yumilicious to be sure. But now, the sky is the limit.

Every month now there is new version of the “Tweety” on the menu. Last month’s burger had Ghost Pepper Chiles and Creamy Marshmallow between the buns. I passed on that one, although it did sell well. I like spicy, but I don’t think that food should hurt.

This month the Special is the “All-American Tweety” – a burger that goes where no cardiologist has ever gone before.

Read the description for yourself.

 

I was in there last night and my wife, the lovely and ever tasteful, Dawn, suggested that each “All-American Tweety” should come with the business card of a good heart specialist. That is being taken under advisement.

I asked our waitress, Susie, who has worked there for years, if many people are ordering that monster of a burger. She shook her head and said, “More than you would believe.” She had a look of concern on her face. I think she was going to be expected to administer CPR if one of her customers keels over mid-burger.

The owner is counting on some seriously hungry (or deranged) people who will down that full pound famine-buster – and then want dessert. That is when Susie will trot out the “Fresh, Hot Donuts,” drizzled with hot chocolate sauce and powdered sugar.

Just what the Anesthesiologist ordered!

I think I’ll stick to my usual order – the Tweety Junior, which is more than enough for me. When it shows up at the table I tell Susie, “I thank you, My Doctor thanks you, and my Aorta thanks you. Pass the ketchup.”

It Either Is Or It Isn’t…Isn’t it?

I learned something new recently and while that isn’t Front Page News it does merit mention on these pages. What surprised me about this is that it had to do with the English language. I’m pretty good with my native language but this was something completely new to me.

I’m talking about: CONTRONYMS.

Growing up I learned about Synonyms, Homonyms, Antonyms, Paronyms, Pseudonyms, and even Acronyms, but I never heard of Contronyms.

Contronyms are words that have two contradictory meanings. They are really their own opposites.

I think I like Contronyms. They appeal to the rebel in me. They also may be an explanation I can fall back on when I don’t know whether I’m coming or going.

While they may be somewhat rare in the Wide World of Nyms they are not obscure words. It’s their usage that makes them unusual. For Example…

“Apology” – A statement of contrition for an action, or a defense of one.

“Dust” – To add fine particles, or to remove them.

“Left” – To Remain, or to Depart

“Bound” – Heading to a destination, or restrained from movement.

These words, literally, can have you coming and going, hither and yon, to and fro, or even this and that. 

I’m a fan of language. Without it I would have a really hard time writing this Blog. There would be a lot of blank space between the punctuation marks. It might be difficult to get my meaning across if my sentence looked like ”      “, –  ” !”

That might work if I wrote only on Monday mornings after a rough weekend and the readers had taken their vows of silence very seriously.

If I had never learned about Contronyms my life and my writing would not have changed all that much. When I am working on a Fiction Project it is usually a story with distinctively “Noirish” overtones. I try to create a shadowy mood and dialogue that is basic and to the point. Symbolism doesn’t get a lot of space on my page. I can’t imagine that my Fedora-wearing hero would be using very many Contronyms while skulking down the dark alleys down by the Waterfront. It might be a challenge though.

” I asked the night watchman if he’d seen the burglars.” He told me “I seen the men bolt.”

“Bolt I said? Was he telling me that the crooks had fled or that they were securely tied up?”

“Oh, No, Mister Detective. Bad guys left here.”

“He was at it again. They left or they were left here waiting to ambush me? What was this guy trying to do – confuse me?”

You see how using Contronyms would be an unneeded complication? If there is one thing I don’t need in my writing it is any sort of “Handicap.” 

“Handicap” – An advantage provided to ensure equality, or a disadvantage that prevents equal achievement.

 

 

 

Throwback Day After Thursday !!

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

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

So there!

Get Well Soon!

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

Such is the case of the picture to the right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Why did the chicken cross the road?”

Meat Me In Terre Haute

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“So, Here’s The Deal.”

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

 

Risk vs. Retreat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May you fly on wings of eagles!

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