fallehuckinglujah

Fallehuckinglujah is my comment on the power of words; it's a bastardization of Hallef***inglujah, which I am wont to say in moments of joy but cannot because of the f*** part. If, however, I switch the f and the h it retains the same feeling but is no longer obscene. Same feeling, same letters, only two letters switched but one is verboten and the other is, well, not

Fallehuckinglujah is my comment on the power of words; it’s a bastardization of Hallef***inglujah, which I am want to say in moments of joy but cannot because of the f*** part. If, however, I switch the f and the h it retains the same feeling but is no longer obscene. Same feeling, same letters, only two letters switched but one is verboten and the other is, well, not.

The Divide

The divide seems to be complete: those who encourage, in fact love, inclusion of diversity versus those who are fighting it tooth and nail. “My way or the highway” seems to be the rallying cry. What purpose does that serve? Try as they might, they cannot prevent or undo homosexuality; there will always be homosexuals. Why is so much effort put into denying these people their freedom and livelihood? Again, what is gained? I picture fingers-in-ears-saying “lalala” as if not hearing reality will keep it from happening. Am I wrong in acknowledging the inevitable? Why is so much effort put into excluding so many people? We were driving downtown the other day and someone was on a loudspeaker announcing that there is only one way to salvation and he knew what it was. I wanted so badly to just stand in front of him and repeating “You’re wrong.” Fear of retribution stopped me. I mean, they have guns, after all.

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From East of Eden

“This I believe: That the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world. And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected. And this I must fight against: any idea, religion, or government which limits or destroys the individual.” – John Steinbeck

Words to live by on the 60th anniversary of the publication of his self-described magnum opus. “I think everything else I have written has been, in a sense, practice for this.”

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New Music

Well, I asked for new music and I got it. Listening to AFP’s Who Killed Amanda Palmer and Shawn Colvin’s A Few Small Repairs. Both good, but in very different ways. AFP is abrasive and heart-wrenching but very effective. Shawn Colvin is closer to the classic pop sound I’m more a accustomed to. I tried Concrete Blond with mixed success; Kate Bush sounds too electric; Drive-By Truckers is too twangy, too hillbilly; still have a few more to break open.

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Twitter

Getting back into Twitter (not that I was much into it) because I like their value system better than Facebook’s. Still working to see where it’s going, beyond “Following” alot of people. See how it goes.

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Writing

Been writing quote well now for a few weeks and feel emotionally drained. Writing The Wreck as taxing; hard to put yourself into the mindset needed to flesh out such a character. Forced to bring to mind feelings and angers that I don’t like to bringing to anything. Catharsis. Hope it helps; hope the writing is good.

Gave my friend a draft of The Wreck a few days ago and no word; not sure if he’s even read it. Frustrating. In major need of feedback at this stage, good or bad and he knows that. Fuck.

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Ctrl+Z

For those more associated with the keyboard than the mouse, Ctrl+Z is just one of many so-called “keyboard shortcuts” that we learned early on. Its function is to “undo,” as in, undo typing, undo delete, etc. The old version of shaking your iPhone, as it were. Ctrl+Z is one of the original “sacred” keybindings first referenced in the original Macintosh, meaning “keyboard shortcuts that would remain consistent across application programs.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keyboard_shortcut).

Imagine a story where our hero finds that he can “undo” events by doing Ctrl+Z on his computer keyboard. In similar circumstances, what would you “undo”? Some things, a few things or, worst yet, everything. Could the subject of said story “undo” too far? Some programs, like Photoshop, have a “step forward” (Shift+Ctrl+Z) as well as a “step backward” (Alt+Ctrl+Z) but there is a finite point when you can only “undo,” “step backward” and “step forward” so many times. Redo functions do exist (Ctrl+Y or Ctrl+Shift+Z in Windows, Command-Shift-Z in Macintosh) but are lesser known. Unix-users are in a whole other world with shortcuts, so we won’t go there.

Or, just spin off the idea of the iPhone undo feature. Imagine the character confronting a real-life danger and shakes his iPhone, for whatever reason, and the danger vanishes. Suggestion has been made that this is a variation of the Ring of Gyges. “It granted its owner the power to become invisible at will.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ring_of_Gyges)

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Youk Changes His Sox

Really hate to see him go, but sounds like it had to happened. Him and Bobby V. did not get along and Middlebrooks is on cruise control, so there was no room for him. You could tell that the fans and his teammates love him by the fantastic send-off he got. He’ll be greatly missed; but then again, I’ve always like the White Sox…

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That Which is Tom

I do not want to lose myself, what could be called That Which is Tom. At times, I feel as if I am being subsumed into another, unrecognizable entity that is That Which is Not Tom, created by others, or more to the point, an other. How much of Tom that remains may not be in my control, and it is always apparent that there is some of Tom that should not stay, but there is a core essence that identifies me to myself, charateristics that I feel are necessary, that are more than just wants and desires but represent all that Tom is, whoever Tom may be. Losing this is more than losing Tom but losing the right to be Tom.

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EtherWeb Support

Thanks for your interest in EtherWeb®! We combine state-of-the-art connectivity with top notch quality controlled manufacturing, supported by our bonded specialists to ensure that your sensor performs to its utmost under any circumstance! 24-7 monitoring guarantees zero downtime and keeps your business connected to your customers!

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All it takes is a quick, painless shot in the arm to allow the sensor to enter the body and the all-pervasive EtherWeb® tracks them and updates their data without them having to do a thing!

Thanks again for your interest and we look forward to keeping you in business!

A technician sitting at a monitor notes a red warning light for seat 22A, Universal Air flight 346, indicating an unbuckled seat belt and does not hit the “Takeoff” button but calls the plane’s flight aide.

“This is Dwight with EtherWeb support; my code is 6*7=2. Is 22A’s seat belt fastened?”

“Hold on, I’ll check.” Momentary delay. “Yes, I’m sure his seat belt is fastened.”

“What’re your UA credentials?”

“Dawn Gatwick, number 195049, code *28.”

“Thanks, Dawn; I’ll override the alarm, allow the flight to depart and mark the seat belt’s sensor for repair.”

A man completes the process of packing and prepares to leave. He removes a syringe from its protective case, wipes his forearm clean with alcohol and injects the contents of the syringe into his right arm. His taxi is waiting and they depart.

City bus number 389 lets a passenger on and the door closes. When the bus attempts to continue its journey, an alarm light comes on the main panel, indicating an open door. Passengers become irate.

“Jesus H Fucking Christ! Goddamned sensor’s busted!”

“Just push the alarm button!”

A red light appears on the tech’s screen, indicating a door that is ajar. He opens a line to the passengers: “This is Dwight with EtherWeb support; my code is 6*7=2. Can someone there confirm that the door is closed?”

“Yeah, the fucking door is closed. Get this bus going!”

“All right, no need to get upset. What’s your name, number and code?”

“Holy shit.” Deep breath. “All right, John Prescott, number 812356, code @76.”

“Thanks, John. Unfortunately, this is an older model sensor and the only solution is to reboot the bus. It takes about two minutes. I’ll start the process from here and get you on your way in no time.”

“’Two minutes’ is ‘no time’? Who the fuck are you?”

The man’s taxi pulls on to the freeway and he places a call. He says “Yes, everything is in place and all is well.”

Call comes in to support. “This is Dwight with EtherWeb support; my code is 6*7=2. How can I help you?”

“Hi, Dwight. I’m calling from Mercy United Medical Care in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Patient ClarkE539’s heart monitor shows that he’s dead but, I gotta say, he sure looks ok to me.”

“I’m sure he does. I just need to confirm some info and then I’ll disable the sensor in him now and you can give him a new one. Can I get your credentials?”

“Sure; June Pascal, number 809917, code %78.”

“Ok, first step done – the sensor currently inside ClarkE539 has been deactivated. I’ve pulled a backup from ClarkE24601 that was taken on admission. Now I need to send a new sensor to you. Where is your nearest SensorMaker?”

“Let me check.” June puts her hand over the mouthpiece and muffled words cannot be discerned. “It’s on unit 92. Do you want me to find it?”

“Yes, and get the branding code.”

Long wait as June retrieves the requested info. “You still there?”

“Yes, June, still here.”

“Branding code is XL89KH4TRJ.”

“Thanks, June; I’ll be done in a heartbeat.”

“Very funny; hey, do you do this all day?”

“Yeah, different sensors and different uses but the same process.”

“Are they all this complicated?”

“No, only when security or safety is involved. If the sensor confirming a tag out or a home run in a baseball game malfunctions, for example, they just override it at the ballpark.”

“There are sensors in baseballs?”

“Sure, they’re cheap and don’t affect the flight of the ball.”

“Do sensors fail often?”

“No, thankfully, not very often. Okay, you’re all set! I’ve sent a new sensor to your SensorMaker. Please draw it up and inject it into ClarkE24601. I’ll wait to be sure it activates.”

Another delay as June fetches the syringe and sensor from the SensorMaker on unit 92.

“Ok, got it and it’s been injected.”

“I’m seeing data coming in now; the sensor has to assimilate its new environment. I’m running a diagnostic to confirm that it’s in the right body.”

“What a pain in the butt!”

“Well, you can’t put a freshly-restored sensor in any body. Ok, looks like the diagnostic is complete and it’s confirmed that it’s in ClarkE539, right where it belongs. Thanks, June!”

The man makes a final call to confirm his plan. The tech answers his personal phone and confirms the plan. “Yes, all is going as planned. I’ll be able to get you through security.”

The man arrives at the airport and dismisses his taxi. He enters the terminal, verifies his flight info at the desk and heads for security. As soon as he starts to take off his shoes, the security aide tells him to stop.

“That’s no longer required. We just scan your sensor.”

“Gotcha; old habits die hard.”

He is directed to the sensor scanner, which looks uncannily like a plump telephone booth. Somewhat nervously, he steps into the device. An alarm sounds; the scanner reads the sensor imbedded in him, indicating that he is a US citizen with no criminal record but there is an error. The man cannot board with this block in place.

The security aide calls support.

“This is Dwight with EtherWeb support; my code is 6*7=2. How can I help you?”

“Hey, Dwight, Bobby Jones here, at King District Flight Security. I’m getting an error BC6030ER on a passenger that needs to be cleared. What’s an error BC6030ER?”

Dwight sees the alarm appear on his screen, error BC6030ER indicating a counterfeit sensor and knows this is his caller.

“I see the error on my screen. Error BC6030ER usually indicates a flaky sensor. I’ll clear the error, unblock the passenger and send him a note to replace his sensor ASAP.”

The man boards his plane.

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Connectivity

Spoke with a teacher of European history, circa Reformation to the French Revolution, and I remarked the the similarities between the spread of information, via the printed page, and the Internet today. He added, “Well, and social media, as well.”

This made me think that it is not the Internet but connectivity, like a river of data flowing from one young mind to another. That young mind parses the data and sends it back out again, like a river flowing in many directions at once.

Governments who try to stop this will inevitably fail because the younger minds, nourished by the data flow, are figuring out the solutions before they can become hindrances.

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Malibu Subaru

A group of mechanics repair Subarus in real life but are also crimefighters in their “spare” time. They are not superheros, per se, but more like advanced mechanics who invent technologies that assist them in fighting crime.

Five mechanics: the leader (isn’t there always a leader?), a second-in-command, the leader’s love interest and a guy and a girl who do not go on many adventures but stay in the shop and actually fix cars! Well, somebody has to…

Some of the technologies: thought-controlled force field-like devices on hands (under their gloves) and feet (inside their boots; and, yes, there are holes in the palms and soles). Hold palms out and think of sending out the force field and, viola!, force field. Good for pushing enemies away but can also lead to unpredictable results.

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Careless≠Carefree?

Why is it good to be carefree but bad to be careless? Aren’t they the same thing?

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Les Miserables on Film

The first time I saw Les Mis I did not want to go; Nancy, who had read the book and heard the music, convinced me to go. I cannot think of another experience that went from “I don’t want to see this” to “I can’t wait to see it again.” The musical was transformative; oh my God how transformative. I cried. I still cry. I saw it again on Broadway with Nancy and her parents. Nancy’s mom was visibly moved. The movie looks remarkable; sung live. Thank you, Tom Hooper. I can honestly say that this is the most eagerly anticipated movie of my life; no reservations.

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Reading Only Some of Leviticus

In the category of “Finding What You Want in the Bible But Missing the Rest,” falls some guy’s effort to justify his prejudice against gays by quoting a Bible passage on his forearm, in the form of a tattoo (Leviticus 18:22 – Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable). Not having read the Bible myself, for no good or bad reason just never read it, I depend on someone else to note that a little later in the same book, Leviticus, there’s a passage along the lines of “Thou Shalt Not Tattoo Thyself” (Leviticus 19:28 – Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord). Kinda speaks volumes.

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The Wreck

John and Mary are driving down a lonely, two-lane highway at night.

“What a great dinner. Did you enjoy your wine?” asks John.

“Wonderful. One glass was enough, though,” replies Mary.

Cars go past. An oncoming car drifts into their lane, coming right at them.

“Look out!” shouts John.

Mary honks her horn and tries to swerve to the right but hits the railing, scraping the passenger side. The other car swerves back into the other lane and beyond, onto the shoulder.

“Christ, what’s wrong with that guy!” says John. “Are you okay?”

Mary is stunned and confused. John sees that the other car has come to a stop and tells her to turn around to help. Mary numbly does what he says.

When they reach the car, the other driver has opened his car door and seems to be having trouble getting out of his car. When he sees them, he shouts “Get outta here! Leave me alone!”

John realizes that he is drunk and reaches for his cell phone. The other driver closes his car door and drives away. John calls 911, reports the driver’s number and describes the incident.

—-

Bob sees the flashing lights of a police car in his rear view mirror and swears. He pulls over and prepares himself for the worst.

“Sir, I need you to step out of the car.”

After a deep breath, Bob slowly opens the car door and steps out.

“Have you had anything to drink tonight?”

“Some.”

“How much?”

“I don’t know!”

“Were you in an accident tonight?”

“What’re you talking about?”

“We have a report of this car almost hitting another car. Did you almost hit another car?”

“I don’t know…”

“I’m going to perform a field sobriety test. Breath into the Breathalyzer.”

—-

My God, what do I do?

Bob sat dejectedly in his quiet home, trying to come to terms with the realization that everything may soon be gone: his license, his job, his home…his life. He might even end up in jail.

How did it get to this point? What went wrong?

He knew, somehow, that drinking was to blame but refused to allow that thought to surface beyond a dull murmur in his awareness.

If I had a decent job, I wouldn’t be in this mess. Dropping out of high school really fucked up my life. That was the start of a long road of bad jobs and disappointments. Why did I quit school? Was I lazy or did I just make a bad decision? That was the first in a spiraling series of bad decisions, one after another.

He takes a drink.

I’ve been drinking since I was 14. Or was it 13? Jesus, I don’t even remember. In those days it was cheap wine and they were much less concerned with who they sold liquor to. I looked old enough, I guess, but the clerk didn’t think twice about selling it to me. That and the drugs; pot first, of course. Who in the seventies didn’t drink and smoke pot? Clinton’s bullshit “I didn’t inhale.” Everybody inhaled; that was the fucking point. And speed. I only took speed because it was offered. I was as a curious teenager, that’s what you do; you do what adults seduce you with. And I was seduced. On slow nights at the burger joint, we did just about everything in the back room. It was part of the culture.

He takes a drink.
And we listened to Cheech & Chong and George Carlin, we watched Animal House. Fuck, everybody drank and took drugs. My brother had a bottle of whisky in his bedroom, for Christ’s sake! God, that tasted like shit; but I still drank it. Every chance I got, I got high or drank.

He takes a drink.

Then I moved, but I fell in with the same crowd. Different names and faces, yeah, but the same crowd. But instead of teenagers seduced by adults, we were now all adults and when we got together we all drank. Not one person at our parties was sober. People would go into the bathroom at my parties and snort coke. One guy got so drunk he threw up. And we joked about it for weeks. Didn’t anybody see that this was fucked up?

We’d drive drunk and high without thinking twice ‘cause everybody did it. We went from bar to bar, drinking and smoking all the way. Another move and I could no longer get high. Not because I didn’t want to but I couldn’t find a source. Oh, but I still drank. It was at the fucking grocery store. Couldn’t find a joint but found lots of ways to get high at Safeway.

He takes a drink.

I was married by then but my wife quit drinking. She never said outright “I wished you’d stop drinking,” but it was clear that it was understood. My father-in-law always backed me up; I almost wish he hadn’t. Nobody stopped me. Nobody tried to stop me. And no problem passing a drug test; they don’t test for booze.

Another move and wouldn’t you know it: I found a friend who smoked pot. Hallelujah! Back in the saddle again. Eventually it was too much for my wife. She never said it was because of the booze but it was pretty clear at the time. I’ve always told myself that my wife left me because I couldn’t get a decent job. Is that really why?

He takes a drink.

Everybody drinks. Why is my drinking getting me into trouble?

The group I spend my free time with drinks; well, probably not as much. I’ve got the habit of finishing other people’s drinks. “Are you going to drink the rest of that?” No one seems to mind. Man, I swallow drinks I would never have ordered. “God, how can Suzie stand that stuff?” But I still finish it for her. I even encourage her to order it, knowing she won’t finish it. Holy shit, that never occurred to me. I do; when she hesitates, I bully her: ‘Go on, you know you love it!’”

I’m not an alcoholic, I just drink too much. An alcoholic is someone who drinks to the point of vomiting. I’ve never gotten sick drunk, and I’m always a happy drunk. I don’t hurt anyone.

He tries to think of an alcohol-free life.

I enjoy drinking. It’s one of my few pleasures. I quit smoking pot, didn’t I? Isn’t that enough? I don’t drink at work, at least not much; just after work.

I know alcoholics; Henry used to keep a bottle of vodka in his desk drawer in the office. Henry preaches the joys of being sober: “I’d let the booze do my thinking for me. It told me when to drink, why to drink and why it was okay to drink. I watched my life crumble before I finally hit a wall; literally, I hit a wall and lost my license. I haven’t had a drink since.”

I didn’t hit a wall, but I did almost hit a car. What would have happened if she hadn’t honked? I would have hit her head-on, maybe killing us all. Christ, what do I do?

—-

In court, Mary is on the witness stand, responding to the prosecutor’s question.

“I saw the car coming at me and honked because I couldn’t get out of the way.”

“Why couldn’t you get out of the way?”

“There’s a railing on the side of the road; I swerved as far as I could and hit the railing.”

“Why did you turn around after the accident and go to the other car?”

“We thought there might be something we could do. We weren’t sure if he was hurt or not, I guess, and thought maybe we could help.”

“What did you see?”

“He was trying to get out of his car and he saw us and yelled at us. John said he looked like he might be drunk, so I stepped back. He closed the car door and drove away. John called 911.”

“What made John think he was drunk?”

“I don’t know. He just seemed to be drunk; he smelled bad and slurred his words. When he drove away he swerved all over the road.”

“Is the defendant the man you saw that night?”

“Yes, he is.”

—-

Bob had sat nervously in the court room, listening to the testimony of Mary and John and had grown increasingly angry. Afterwards, he stewed.

Why did they have to testify? Wasn’t the cop’s testimony enough? Yeah, I was caught driving drunk but that didn’t stop those two from piling on the evidence against me. “He saw us and yelled at us.” I was mad! Jesus Christ, I was mad, that’s all. “He swerved all over the road.” I was trying to get traction going from the dirt to the pavement! Anybody would swerve. “He smelled bad.” Christ, you’d smell bad too if you’d had the kind of day I’d just had.

He remembers the day.

Got called into the office ‘cause my boss had reports of me drinking on the job. “Fuck, no, I don’t drink on the job,” I told him but he had reports and had to write me up. Who were those people? What business was it of theirs to say those things about me? So what if I had a quick shot every now and then; that’s not “drinking on the job.” Everybody has a drink from time to time; big fucking deal. Marty always has a bottle to take a quick shot out of but nobody told on him. What if I told on Marty? That’d show ‘em.

He takes a drink.

So I had a lot to drink after work; shit, who wouldn’t? Getting called into the boss’s office; that asshole, who does he think he is to believe lies like that about me? I never drink more than I should; just enough to shut it all out and get happy. What’s wrong with that?

He takes a drink.

If it weren’t for people sticking their noses into my business, I’d been fine. Those two in court, those assholes at work…if they’d just leave me alone, I’d be okay. What can I do? What’s done is done, right?

He takes a drink.

If only I could do something, if only I could stop them from talking about me. How can I stop them? Who knows who else they’re talking to: their neighbors, people in the stores they shop at? “We almost got hit by a drunk.” Jesus, I wish I could stop them from talking about me!

He takes a drink.

I’ve gotta stop them from talking about me! Everybody will know. I can’t let everybody know! It’s bad enough I lost my job; I could lose everything if they keep talking about me!

He takes a drink.

Wait! I know where they live! I’ll get them to stop talking about me. That’s it!”

Pretending to be delivering a package, Bob gets Mary to open the door. Surprised, Mary can’t scream and turns away. He grabs her by the hair, pulls her to him and holds a knife to her throat. John comes in and the other driver accidentally cuts her throat just enough to draw blood. As John approaches, Bob points the knife at him. Mary pulls out of Bob’s grasp and John grabs Bob’s wrist with one hand and his throat with the other.

“Let go of me!”

“Drop the knife.”

“No!”

“I know what’s wrong. This is the worst it’s going to get. You’ve got no place else to go. Drop the knife, stop fighting and start getting yourself out of this.”

Bob’s eyes widen. What is he talking about? What does he mean “the worst it’s going to get”? How can he know what’s wrong?

“I’ve been where you are right now and I know you can get out of it. Put the knife down and listen to me. I can help.”

Did he say he’s been there and can help?

“Stop blaming everyone for what’s happening to you, accept that it can end here and I’ll help you get sober. But you’ve got to put the knife down.”

“Who the hell are you to talk to me like that?”

“I’ve been just as drunk as you and I’ve tried to hurt someone; thank God I didn’t. You’ve got to stop before it’s too late.”

“But I can’t stop. It is too late!”

“Bob, listen, it’ll be too late if you hurt her; you know that. Stop now and get help. I can help. But if you hurt her, your life will only get worse. Driving drunk is one thing but hurting someone is much worse. Stop now and I promise you that you’ll get better. I know it.”

Bob drops the knife.

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Bad Message?

What lesson does “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” teach? It’s ok to ridicule the kid with a deformity until that deformity helps the boss and makes the kid a hero.

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Mind Power

My version of Descartes’ “I think, therefore I am” is “I think, therefore I fuck up.”

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That Which is Lost

Lots of things I’ve had and lots of them are gone: A George Fischbeck Fan Club certificate; not sure why that sticks in my mind but I sure want it back. He taught science to children in Albuquerque, broadcasting via KNME. I’ll never forget his signoff: “Adios, muchachos y muchachas!” A black and white print of an attractive woman – not because of the woman but because the negative was scratched and so a thin white line ran down the print, which I did at, I believe, 16 x 20. What made this so memorable is my brilliant retouching of the white line. It traveled through all shades of gray and I meticulously hand-retouched it, with a brush. Took me hours and made the white line virtually undetectable. Forgetting the name of the product I used, I did a Google search for “retouching” and every result was for a digital method. Sigh…

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Should Have Bought it at the Time

Nancy and I have a running commentary on this topic: for example, there’s a t-shirt she saw at Hallmark years ago that she wanted to get me and didn’t. It said “I fought the lawn and the lawn won,” a takeoff on “I Fought the Law” by the Bobby Fuller Four. Another example is a mug that I saw at Hallmark (sense a pattern forming?) that said “When the going gets tough, tell me I’m pretty.” Also, a gorgeous hardcover copy of “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.” God, I want that book. Lesson: buy it now.

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Lasts As Long As It Needs To

I’ve noticed my shirts increasingly have no tag at the back of the collar (for manufacturer, materials used, laundry instructions, etc) but instead have what looks to be printed information. After lots of washing, the printing fades; it becomes unreadable at about the time the shirt is no longer worth wearing, or at least, not worth worrying about who made it and where.

Reminds me of a few gardening parallels: one friend would start tree seedlings in old coffee cans. Here’s her thinking: the can would disintegrate by the time the tree outgrew it and the rust from the can would leave nutrients for the young tree. Smart. Another example is peat pots; seedlings are started in pots made of compacted peat that will decompose as the seedling outgrows it.

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The Catalyst

One morning, John and I go for a drive; John is driving. We discuss many things that are a mixture of easy for me to understand and virtually impossible for anyone to comprehend. I accept the latter and use the former to reaffirm my opinions. This works well for the time being, but I grow impatient with John and seek to better grasp that which I seemingly cannot grasp. He explains that I can never truly get what he means until I leave my worldview behind.
This makes me uncomfortable; it seems arrogant and selfish. “If you truly wanted to help, you’d find a way to explain it,” I say.

“How would you explain maturity to a child? The child can only grasp maturity by maturing. Children are usually told that they will understand when they grow up. But inside each seed is the knowledge of the potential that is built into the seed. The pine cone knows it can be a tree. We see the world through eyes that cannot connect to the future so we have to wait for the future to happen.”

Our conversation travels along these lines as we travel from one place to another. Knowing that he understands the power he holds forces me to see him jealously and with envy. He struggles to pass along the ubiquity of his power – anyone can obtain it. How I say?

“Seeing the truth is not something that one can gift to another; it must be arrived at. You can read a book and become knowledgeable on a subject but I cannot just put that knowledge in your head for you.”

We run into a traffic jam and John seems to become impatient. Knowing that he no longer needs to travel in such a seemingly inefficient mode as a car, he takes my hand in his and transports us instantly to our destination. As we leave the car, I catch a glimpse of a small child walking in front of the car and realize with a gut-wrenching panic that John left the car in Drive.

As soon as I can I scream “Do you realize what you just did? You killed that child!” John looks taken aback by this and explains that he can easily correct this event; his question is can I? “How can I ‘correct’ this? She’s dead! I can’t go back in time!” “That’s right; as long as you believe that you never will.”

He takes my hand again, transports us back to the car, before we left and puts the car in Park. He looks calmly at me and says, “Until you know that you could have done that, I cannot help you.”

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Pictures

Pictures can never capture the joy we witness but they may reveal some small part of it to others.

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Duckface and Dickless

We just saw two actors that we recognized, not by name, but by the pejorative given them in previous movies: duckface (“Fiona calls me Duckface.”) and dickless (“Yes it’s true. This man has no dick.”). Strange how they are branded with these titles years afterwards. I certainly hope they escape them (or will they ever; as long as they’re in my head that way, they’ll stay).

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Alex Rodriguez on Mariano Rivera’s Possible Career Ending Injury

“Mo means so much to all of us on a personal level. Obviously there’s a significance on the field, on the mound with his presence. The bottom line is we’re the New York Yankees. Nobody is going to feel sorry for us.”
That’s right, you whining child, we’re not sorry for the Yankees, we’re sorry for Mariano Rivera!
Just shows you that even the most-talented-heading–to-the-Hall-of-Fame players can be dicks.

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To Bank of America:

“We wish at this time to close our Bank of America account number xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx. We have been working to convert all of our automatic deposits and debits to Spokane Teachers Credit Union and have completed the process.
We felt it was more effective to send a letter rather than doing it in person, because the teller in the branch office is not to blame and we do not want them to waste time trying to talk me out of closing my account. Having worked in customer service, we know the best way to get a point across is to aim as high on the corporate ladder as possible.
For specifics as to why we are closing this account, please go to the following website:
http://bankruptingamerica.tumblr.com/whyboa
Please send any remaining balance to our home.”

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Perfect Game

To be filed under the category of “stop-complaining-and-just-watch,” put a recent Fox baseball game. As a Red Sox fan, I was grumbling about “having” to watch the Mariners-White Sox game and missing the Red Sox-Yankees (quick clarification: Fox gets 3 games to choose from and broadcasts them to the “appropriate” market. They then blackout the other 2). As it turned out, what at first appeared to be a Red Sox blowout turned into an embarrassing implosion by their pitching staff; oh, and the game I was “forced” to watch? Only the 21st perfect game in baseball history, by Philip Humber. Great game.

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“Stay by the Phone”

So many antecellphone phrases that seem odd today, like “stay by the phone.” Imagine a crisis, such as a missing child. Everybody wants to help, including mom, but she’s told to “stay by the phone” in case someone calls. This seems stupid now; hell, even the child has a cell phone.
Lonely, insecure young men would wait for a phone call from the girl of their dreams, sometimes wasting most of a day. And you couldn’t go anywhere ‘cause you might miss her call. Can’t even estimate the amount of time wasted anticipating that call. Seems silly now, but you had to be there to appreciate the importance of that call.

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Antecellphone; before cell phones, that is, not against cell phones

Years ago, my ’67 Mustang broke down on a nice, warm afternoon. Fortunately, it was in a somewhat convenient location, as breakdowns go: I could park for a while. As a typically cash-poor twentysomething, calling a repair ship for a tow was not an option. I had done a few minor repairs on the Mustang and felt I could give it a try but I had no idea what was wrong. A dead car can be a true puzzlement to those not well-versed in their operation. It wouldn’t start; millions of things, at least in my mind, could be the problem. I must first diagnose the problem and then, hopefully, fix it myself.
The closest phone was a short walk, so I left my car, walked to the phone and called by friend Tim, who was well versed in car repair and begged his assistance. He was entertaining at the time but gave me not only troubleshooting tips, it was the oil pump, but also walked me through the steps to repair it. Extremely kind of him. That makes it sound so easy but the reality is that I made numerous trips from car to phone to car before I was able to complete the process. Hours went by and Tim was, as far as I can recall, abundantly patient.

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Things I Have Done

Installed multiple toilets; Installed a chain link fence, with gate; Built a pergola (almost done); Planted dozens (literally) of trees; Built a truck gate; Installed a dishwasher; Installed a new countertop & Sink; Installed a garbage disposal; Built 2+ computers; Tiled many floors; Refinished a hardwood floor; Built and maintain numerous websites; Tiled over a fireplace; Installed lots of ceiling fans; Installed 2 garage door openers; Added new breaker to circuit breaker box; Wired house for Ethernet; Numerous repairs to ’67 Mustang; Fixed many computers and servers; Hung several doors; Built a workbench; Created a built-in shelving unit; Built an Adirondack chair and table; Refinished a buffet; Exhibited photographs in galleries.

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Thoughts on Tyler Clementi and the power of the internet

Most people either don’t realize or don’t care about the massive amount of information on the internet about them. Every message board post, Tweet, IM, etc, is saved. And a great deal of it is accessible by anyone.

Dharun Ravi was understandably curious about his future roommate at Rutgers and so looked him up online. He found message board posts on a site devoted to gays (“He’s gay”) and various posts asking for advice on asthma symptoms (“What a pussy”), discussing violins and fish tanks (“This guy is retarded”) and expressing concern about fixing his computer (“He’s poor”). The fact that he used a Yahoo email account also made him uncool. They had never met and yet Ravi decided not to like Tyler. When they did finally meet, they barely spoke to each other.

Ravi is from a wealthy family and is very computer-literate. He displayed no signs of homophobia; in fact, he later wrote that he had gay friends. He is very confident and outgoing; Tyler was neither. Ravi also found info about another Tyler, who was also gay but was a “cooler” gay guy. Perhaps he was disappointed that not only was his roommate gay but he was not a “cool” gay.

When Tyler asked for privacy one evening in the room they shared, Ravi was suspicious (“Why does he want the room all to himself?”). And when he met Tyler’s friend he became even more suspicious (“If he steals my iPad I’m going to make Tyler pay for it” and “…what if something else is going on?”). Between his suspicions and curiosity, it seems inevitable that he would spy on them.

The first time was very brief: a few seconds, but he saw them kissing. He tweeted about what he saw and gained a following. Tyler read the tweet and seemed initially unconcerned but then asked for a new roommate. The next time Tyler asked for the room alone two days later, Ravi sent out invites. Tyler saw this and unplugged Ravi’s computer so the “viewing party” never took place. Tyler committed suicide the next day.

Whatever you may feel about homosexuality, homophobia and teenagers, this brings to the forefront things about online activity that are worth noting: 1) Authorities were able to access all of Ravi’s and Tyler’s chats, even discover what entries Ravi later deleted; 2) Anyone with a computer that is connected to the internet can find all of the info about Tyler that Ravi found.

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Portrait and Column

The iPhone standardized a perspective change from landscape to portrait. Computer information was always displayed to us in landscape mode because we were already used to that style from TV and movies. Early phones broke ground with this because of the necessary form factor: the phone had to reach both the ear and the mouth, so they were elongated. The iPhone took this form factor to its rational end.

Computer users have long been acquainted with the mismatch of content and display in many ways, the most obvious in documents and the web. Word processor documents, such as those created by Word or Acrobat, are in portrait mode. This can present problems, such as the default in Acrobat being to present the document in full screen; this will inevitably crop the bottom of the page because the screen is in landscape mode. Web pages also are presented in portrait; while there are exceptions, the majority of websites present pages that require scrolling top to bottom to view all of the content.

These issues are resolved in the iPhone’s form factor of portrait mode. It also translates to the iPad; while both orientations are used, and the user can easily switch between the two by rotating the device, users accustomed to the iPhone’s interface tend to use the iPad in portrait mode. Video chatting looks more realistic in portrait mode; texting scrolls top to bottom; contacts also scroll top to bottom.

Navigation follows a precedent introduced in Mac OS X: column view. Moving through the file system can now done by moving left to right, rather than top to bottom (or in amongst a large open field with icons, as in the “Classic” Mac OS). Drilling down in an app is also down left to right. This works especially well when using the device with thumbs. Safari places all navigation and browsing controls on the bottom of the display; this is not happenstance, but designed for use. The next logical step would be to move all navigation and controls to the bottom.

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The wonders of “Find My Friends”

I was intrigued by the interface of the iPhone app called Find My Friends; it located a friend, sure enough, but this app was not designed for great distances. It shows the distance from me as “99+ mi” in a pretty green sign (think highway sign). At the bottom of the window is a “Directions” button, which I had to click. Thus began a strange, pretend journey.
Starting location: Spokane, Washington.
Destination: Beijing, China.
Travel time: 36 days, 13 hours.
Distance: 9,180 miles.
129 steps.
7 steps from house to freeway.
Steps 8 through 16 are Spokane to Seattle, then “kayak across the Pacific Ocean.”
To Hawaii. Steps 18 to 32 are traversing the big island of Hawaii, followed by
“kayak across the Pacific Ocean.”
To Japan, then traverse the island of Japan (steps 34 through 91, involving numerous turns and including a ferry), then “jet ski across the Pacific Ocean.” Oh, so now I’m in a hurry, am I?
This gets me to Shanghai and the rest is by road.
Turns out the same route is arrived at by just going to Google maps:
http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=spokane+to+beijing&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_qf.,cf.osb&biw=1024&bih=643&um=1&ie=UTF-8&ei=Un1iT7SsNMPRiAL9hYD2CA&sa=X&oi=mode_link&ct=mode&cd=3&ved=0CBYQ_AUoAg
There’s a disclaimer: “This route has tolls. This route includes a ferry.”
Nothing about where the fuck do I get a kayak!

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Steve Jobs

Just thinking of the stuff Steve Jobs touched. Without Steve Jobs, no iTunes, no Pixar (and no Buzz Lightyear), no Mac OS X (which is fucking huge), no iPad, no iPhone, no iPod, no AppleTV, no iMac, no iBook, no Mac Book Air, no NeXT computer (the first World Wide Web server)… I remember a question I was asked once: “What person would you most like to meet?” Steve Jobs moved from the answer to that question to the answer to: “What person would you have most liked to have met?”

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The Real Star Wars…None of This “Episode 4” Bullshit

Just watched it on Blu-ray. I know it’s not the same film I saw 34 years ago, but, hey, George Lucas made only one really good movie and it was, and still is, a truly magical piece, so if he wants to “fix” it, I guess he’s entitled. It does convince me to completely ignore the “prequels” once and for all; they do not exist.

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Dinosaur Robots

The dinosaurs have become sentient. Those that escaped from “Jurassic Park” have developed advanced intelligence and now control most of Latin America. They have enslaved a large portion of the populace, rich and poor, weak and powerful, forcing them to rebuild the larger cities to suit dinosaur needs. In order to ensure control, the dinosaurs are building robots.

There is a passive minority among the dinosaur population interested in peaceful coexistence with the humans, but an overriding distrust of man and a frightened view of their misuse of the planet has swept through the majority of the dinosaurs. The fact that man has virtually decimated the planet and caused the extinction of a large number of species has strengthened the militant dinosaurs’ position.

At the same time, a growing tide of human sentiment towards saving the planet from centuries of man’s abuse is at loggerheads with dinosaur power. The focal point of this swelling concern is Machu Picchu in Peru, where it is believed a center of energy is focused. This movement is a conscious attempt to evolve the human species into a society of pure consciousness, where love is the only prerequisite.

In order to save mankind, this new society of evolving humans must convince the dinosaurs that man is at a turning point in their history, where they will be willing to not only rescue the earth, but also co-exist peacefully with the dinosaurs.

As the minority of peacemaking dinosaurs grows in number, it becomes more and more apparent that an agreement and meeting of minds is possible, but it is also becoming increasingly clear that the robot builders were very successful, as neither man nor dinosaur can stop the robots…

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The Cartographer

An accomplished surveyor in pre-revolution America, George Washington saw vast tracts of undeveloped land and realized their potential, both in beauty and potential commerce. The future Father of Our Country speculated on thousands of tracts of land, building a massive holding of property and wealth. At the time of his death, he held title to over sixty-five thousand acres.

Gene Russell, master cartographer, in a videoconference with his boss, regional cartography manager, Bob Lauren.

“Gene! How are you?”

“Good, Bob, good. You?”

” Buried. Listen, I’ve got one last job before you retire. We’ve found an anomaly in the chart for the Southwest, near the New Mexico-Texas border. That’s your region. All I need you to do is fix the anomaly, approve the final chart and submit the job – that’ll finish the region until the next time.”

“What’s the anomaly?”

“A small piece of land that needs to be in Texas but for some reason is not showing on the map at all. Do you know what I’m referring to?”

“Yep, missed that one. Sorry, Bob, I’ll put it where it belongs, close this out and send it on to you.”

“Great! Hey, how many surveys does this make for you?”

“I’ve done this all of life and it’s my third and last. By the time the next one comes around, I’ll be gone.”

“Well, I hope retirement agrees with you; any plans?”

“Just want to fall of the grid, Bob, disappear.”

Screen of final map approval for the New Mexico-Texas border. A small square shows as undesignated; Gene clicks “Approve” and the following dialog box appears:
‘The selected map contains an ambiguity. By selecting “Approve” you are closing this map with an unresolved anomaly. Are you sure you want to continue? Yes or No.”

Gene clicks “Yes.”

Sun sets on Gene building a small, simple house on the New Mexico-Texas border.

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Green Clouds

I remember having trouble falling asleep one night at a friend’s house as a kid and I think that’s when the green clouds started. I see them when I’m just about to nod off, sort of a prelude. Clouds drift around in a very distinct pattern that lasts for a few seconds then repeats – exactly the same pattern. The patterns change from one night to the next. I guess it’s my variation on counting sheep, being lulled into dreams.

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Traffic

Running a red light is a bad thing, especially if the car in front of you doesn’t. The only thing more dangerous than going through a red light is to do it very fast, which is, of course, how most people do it.

Nothing is more democratic than traffic. You can spend 100 grand on a Ferrari and you would still have to wait at the light as long as the guy in the beat-up Chevy.

No matter how wonderful or filled with promise you are, a drunk in a piece-of-shit Ford can still kill you.
It’s ok to piss people off while you’re driving, just don’t piss off someone more stupid than you are, or more willing to get even.

I cannot tell you how many times I have personally cheated death while in a car. More than once, I came this close (just how close is this close, anyway?) to dying, and taking someone with me, just to make it through a light or get to work faster (why would anyone want to get to work faster?). I can’t help but think of the lives I could have killed if I had not been blessed (if that’s the reason I/we survived) and all of the people I will never see again who upset me so much I would have killed them with my large, rolling piece of machinery. It’s amazing how dangerous those things are. We get so angry that we seem willing to fling these huge metal objects at each other, for the silliest of reasons.

Have you ever seen a really gruesome accident? I have. And I’ve been in one; almost killed my mother. It wasn’t my fault, they told me, but I still felt like shit and still think of it often. She’s gone, now, but I know it made her life just a little less comfortable with the injuries from that wreck. Drunk woman hit us, broadside, going very fast. Never even hit her brakes. I guess she thought our car would stop her forward progress. It did.

I used to have to drive from Prescott Arizona to Chino Valley, Arizona (if you lifted a cheek to fart while going through Chino Valley, you’d miss it entirely) and learned an interesting lesson: the shoulder is really the slow lane. You see, it was a 2-lane highway and if you weren’t going fast enough, the speed demons behind you honked until you got onto the shoulder, er, I mean, the slow lane. I figured this out when I saw cars going sub-light speed driving on a part of the highway I considered “off-the-road.” Silly me.

Have you ever seen those people who go, with no indication, into the left or right turn lane and then turn their turn signal on? My reaction: We know now that you’re turning; signaling now is redundant. Your move into the turn lane was the best possible indication of your intentions, well, except for using your turn signal, that is. I swear, if turn signals were optional equipment (but still free) most people wouldn’t get them. Most don’t use them. Hell, I use my turn signals on curving roads. Talk about redundant.

Don’t we all wish that everybody drove like we do? Isn’t that the secret wish? If you like hot-rodding, everybody oughta hot-rod. If you want to leisurely move from one place to another, why should everybody else be in such a hurry? This conflict came to my awareness when I wished the guy in front of me would just drive the way I wanted him to. Well, of course, he can’t and won’t. For one thing, how would he know he was expected to? If everybody drove like me, who would I piss off? Or, more appropriately, who would I be pissed at?

I learned to drive a stick the hard way – a little at a time. I got behind the wheel of my buddy Ernie’s Camaro (nice car) and listened to his instructions: “Keep your right foot on the brake and your left foot on the clutch. When the light changes, move your right foot from the brake to the gas, ease up on the clutch and move away smoothly.” Well, we were on a slight incline and I knew if I didn’t do it right, I would roll back into the car behind me, so I moved my feet real quick and peeled out across the intersection. Ernie reminded me politely that doing that was illegal. Oh, well…

My next experience at clutching was as the chase truck following a hot-air balloon. If you’ve ever watched a hot-air balloon fly, you know that they are unpredictable, to say the least. They tend to not follow roads and the chase truck needs to be around when the balloon lands, wherever that may be. So, there goes the balloon out across the desert and I’m in a Ford pickup trying to clutch-brake going up and down ravines and gulleys, through washes (dry, thankfully) and stalling about every 3 seconds. Ever try to steer, clutch and still follow a big, bright object moving relatively slow? Sounds easier that it is; in fact, it seemed to be moving faster the more mistakes I made. But I did get to ride in the balloon later. I suppose it was worth it.

The next time I experienced clutch-dread was when my friends and I went to the Long Beach Grand Prix. Formula 1 cars are a real treat to watch and we had good tickets. At least some of us did; I left mine at home. We had come in Tim’s car, so I asked Tim if I could use his car to go get my ticket. He said sure, can I drive a clutch? If only he knew. Of course I can I replied and hopped in. Well, it was not a pretty sight. As luck would have it, I didn’t hit anything but I scared the shit out of Tim. Needless to say, I never drove his car again.

Tim never liked the way I drove. I drove my ’67 Mustang like it was open season on speeding tickets. I was the asshole who would race through the streets of LA, enticing other assholes to drive like the wind. Huh. I’m lucky a whole lot of bad things did not happen. Tim said the purpose of driving was to get from point A to point B and that the streets were not my personal race course. He was right, of course, but did I listen? No. I knew the end was near when I attempted to race an RX-7 on the San Pedro Freeway and the old pony just didn’t have it anymore. I realized my wild and reckless days were over, so I settled into my wife’s Sentra. Not much of a hot-rod but it got me from A to B.

I’ve done my fair share of commuting and I would not want to do it again. Day after day, hour after hour, behind the wheel. My God, it was terrible. What do people do who do this for years? I knew one guy who used to buy a six-pack of beer before he left work and drank it on the commute home. An hour and a half drive for most people, but he did it in less than an hour and while drinking. He’s still alive. No, really, I’ve seen him.

I’m ashamed to say that I’ve done my share of drunk driving and can tell you how stupid a thing it is. We drove from bar to bar, narrowly escaping disaster at every turn. One time, I was riding with my friend Tom after a spell of beer and pot and he didn’t see the light turn red. Slammed on his brakes, skidded and hit the curb. No damage done, no one hurt and all we could do was laugh. They guy in the car next to us thought it was funny, too, not realizing, I guess, how close we came to hitting him. Sometimes I marvel at the things I’ve done and survived.

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Fathers

I really never knew my father, even though we lived together for several years. He seemed quite distant and removed, with very little to say. I was never really interested in him – we had very little in common. I found out a good deal about him after he died, mostly from my older sister and some from my mother.

He was brutally beaten as a child and had to leave school early to help the family. I don’t know what his “great expectations” were, his dreams. What did he want to be? I know he was a bad drinker, as Irishmen seem to be. My sister said he was an “alcoholic who didn’t drink,” meaning that when he did drink, he got very drunk, the “stumble around and vomit” kind. That’s why John Denver’s song “Please Daddy Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas” held a special place for us.

He talked a lot about World War II, that being the true highlight of his life. He served in the infantry in many campaigns, including North Africa. He used to say “it was 110 in the shade and there weren’t no shade.” I can’t even begin to imagine what all that must have been like.

He died at 63 from lung disease that began in the grain silos in Kansas when he was a kid and made worse by his almost continual smoking. 3 packs of Lucky Strikes a day. He was on oxygen the last few years, but right after his required time on the tank he would smoke some more. I remember his long, painful bouts of smoking. I wish more people who smoke could have seen him almost cough his lungs out. But I don’t know if that would stop anyone – it certainly didn’t stop him.

I can’t say I had a bad father, certainly a better one than he’d had. What type of man beats his children? My mom’s dad brutally beat her older brother. My mom said they were surprised he lived. In response, I was under disciplined. I feel like a much better person having been under disciplined than beaten, that’s for certain.

I won’t really know what type of father I could have been, because my wife has been unable to carry a child for several years. I knew that going into the relationship, but love won out. She is the best thing that has ever happened to me, children or not. That’s from the heart.

I did get to help raise her son. He was 13 when I started seeing his mother. I wouldn’t say I’ve been a father to him, more like an older brother or a good friend, but I think I’ve made his life better. I have missed the joy of having my own flesh-and-blood child, though. Maybe in my next life.

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Music

Music has the power to transport me. It always has. And I know I’m not alone. Music does something to us that little else can. Music can transcend time, distance, culture, race, ideology, ethnicity, or any other measure of difference. There seems to be no boundary that music cannot cross.

I was fortunate enough to have a friend in elementary school who got me into the school orchestra. A girl in my class and I were offered the choice of two instruments, a violin or a cello. I picked the violin and the girl ended up with the cello. She didn’t play very long (have you ever tried to lug a cello around?) and to this day I hold myself to blame. I should have taken the cello. Poor Yvonne; whatever happened to her?

I was not the best violin player, to say the least, but, boy, my friend Carl sure was. He could play any instrument he picked up. He wrote music, performed in concerts, even played in a band. Me, I just did the best my meager talents could produce and hoped my mistakes weren’t audible.

Growing up with music introduced me to many things I don’t think I would have experienced otherwise. Our school orchestra traveled to other cities for competitions, which we did rather well at. We played music that ranged from Burt Bacharach to Bela Bartok. I was much better at the former than the latter. Bartok wrote “Modern” music, whatever that means. I never much liked it.

Carl and I listened to quite a bit of wonderful music together and wrote a song or two, as well, although I can’t seem to locate any remnants of my lyrical wizardry, adolescent as it was. I don’t think I could have written a thing without Carl. What I gave him were little more than cloying, teenage poems, mostly unrequited love kinda things and he turned them into songs. I believe he recorded some of our compositions on to cassette tape but I can’t seem to find them. Or maybe I’m just not trying very hard.

I remember sitting on the patio in the center of our high school campus with Carl as he played various wonderful bits of music, songs he (and all of us) had heard, but he could recreate them, just from listening to them, a feat I still find awe inspiring; what a gift. He would listen to a song and pick out the bass line and then play it in his band. Musicians will probably say this is not a big deal, but to those of us who can’t do it, it’s nothing short of miraculous.

Mom used to tell stories about her father, how he would do just that, play any instrument and any tune, just from hearing. But she also told me that her father beat her brother almost to death. I’m still trying to reconcile those two images into one man, but haven’t had much luck.

What is it about musicians, or any talented person for that matter, who can create such great works and be such a terrible person? I think of my grandfather and also someone like Beethoven. Apparently, heir Ludwig was not the most pleasant person but what music! The fourth movement of the Ninth brings me to tears. Here is a man’s soul on open display, laid bare for all the world to see. He shows us his deepest despair and how it becomes his most profound joy. Joy is the end result but what pains he must have felt. Every note screams of torment turning into transcendence. What a wonderful piece of music. When I hear the Ninth, I thank God I can hear.

Hearing music is one of the great joys to me and I mean almost any music. Watching a great musician play is also a privilege. I had an epiphany while watching Clapton play, I don’t remember what (does it matter?) and I could tell that he was there. He was on both sides, the side we see and the side we don’t see but can visit on those rare occasions when we know why we’re here. I could see on his face why he plays – he is the music. Nothing else is happening right then. I can see why performing becomes like a drug for some. Who wouldn’t want to be where Clapton is when he plays? He brings to us a glimpse of the wonderment that music is.

Now, I know that we all get involved in our lives to the point where it seems nothing else matters, but do we enjoy the experience? Sunsets, children, love, music and little else, do that for us. Why else do we idolize those who can do these wonderful things? They show the true potential of our existence. I don’t take that lightly. I mean to say that Beethoven was put on this earth to write the Ninth. Can any of us claim to such a mission?

My brother would ask me to transfer his favorite songs from LPs to cassette tape in order to listen to them in his car. In the process I heard some really good music, from The Moody Blues to The Doors to Loggins & Messina. In fact, I still have one of his records, a Bread album (you really had to be from the 70s to know who Bread was). This theft came out recently while we were discussing our favorite music. He politely asked for his record back. This was not the only instance of brotherly theft, but that’s another story. We’re still on good terms.

My wife experienced sports and music in a unique way – as a member of a marching band. She played at Lakers games and had no idea who the players were. Oh, well. We didn’t play sporting events; can you imagine a half-time ceremony with strings? I love music but that just doesn’t seem right. She is trying to get me to play the clarinet. I tried piano and guitar but never got any further with those than I did with the violin. Maybe the clarinet will be different. If I could play some of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto, the one featured in “Out of Africa,” I would die a happy man. I plan on dying a happy man anyway but playing some Mozart before I go would be a nice touch.

I never played Mozart in school, even though a lot of his music is relatively easy for that level of musician. We did play Bach, Vivaldi and the aforementioned Bacharach and Bartok. Quite a range for a teenager, huh? We played “Raindrops Keep Fallin’…”which always seemed to me to be the least appropriate song for a movie. We never did play the hits I wanted to play, like Led Zeppelin or Neil Diamond.

Carl and I went to see Emerson, Lake & Palmer, a band that rather artfully mixed classical music with progressive rock; you really have to hear them to understand how that could be possible. As was required at the time, we were quite high. It was still a good concert but all I seem to remember was the onstage pyrotechnics and a very large cloud of smoke. The only concerts I go to now are more along the lines of Tony Bennett (a real treat) and k d lang. The latter was a very memorable evening. k d is openly gay and draws a large gay following. That is not a problem with me, but there was something intriguing to be in the minority at a concert – a straight man.

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