Being Lucky

I walked around town this morning since it was not too hot. I thought a lot while I walked. Forrest Gump said that’s what he did while he was running out and back across America. Thought about things.

I thought first about how lucky I am. I am luckier than 99% of the people in the world. I’ve never gone hungry or been homeless. I had good parents, I married a good woman and I have a good family. I’ve lived to almost 65 years now (thanks to modern medicine and some good heart surgeons) and most days have been good days. I’ve been free to read the books I wanted to read, and to get into my car and drive anywhere in the USA where I wanted to go. The creator of the Universe has given me the privilege and opportunity to live this physical life in this physical world, and the ability to experience all my human emotions. What a wondrous thing!

I thought about all of the bad things which have been taking place lately. My wife and I were discussing this just recently, and came to the conclusion that lack of respect for other people and their right to have their own opinions, lack of manners and politeness, and lack of love, are near the root cause of many of these bad things which are happening. Basic respect, which my parents taught me, and which I taught my children is sadly lacking nowadays. Respect for life, respect for beliefs, respect for different cultures, respect for personal space, respect for the opposite sex, respect for people’s property. On and on and on….

As Aretha Franklin sang: R-E-S-P-E-C-T!!

I have a problem with people idolizing people who have no respect for others. When it comes to something such as say…politics…I would vote for a respectful candidate who I didn’t necessarily agree with over a disrespectful person who I agreed with 100%. Yes, I am at that point. Respect and manners are that important to me now. As I have mentioned before, the scene from “Lonesome Dove” where Captain Call runs down the Scout who had just hit his young son with a whip and nearly beats the Scout to death, only being stopped from doing it by Gus throwing a rope around him. “I hate rude behavior in a man” he sputters to Gus “I won’t tolerate it”.

I guess that’s where we come in. We need to be intolerant of rude behavior, ranging from saying the “f” word in public at the local gym in front of a group of people including women, all the way to the ultimate rudeness of murdering someone in cold blood, to everything in between. We do…not…have to tolerate it. We do not have to tolerate the rude behavior of any religion which causes hurt or death to other people. We do not have to tolerate behavior from people who are supposed to protect us, which leads to the harm or death of other humans. I submit that we have essentially the same right as Captain Call to protest this rudeness albeit hopefully in a less violent manner.

I cannot cover all the things I thought about. I wish sometimes I had a little tape recorder in my head. I’ve forgotten some arguments over the years that would persuade Clarence Darrow. I’ve let some of the most winning of song lyrics float off through the air. I’ve solved the problems of the world many a night in my hot bath (due to the great circulation hot water causes to the brain) but they have slipped away on the fluffy towel as I dry off.

Anyway, I am thankful for this day and revel in the life it provides. I want to continue with it a while longer in order to help as many people as I can. I hope everyone has a great afternoon.

When Music Came in Cardboard Covers.

Circa 1965-1968 When Music Came in Cardboard Covers

I had the record player on a table in my bedroom. Just a square boxy old thing, which had a latch on the front, and a handle on the other end. Portable record player they called it. It was a beige brown color and had one speaker across the front with this mesh looking stuff on the outside. You could stack about 5 of the 33’s on the spindle and you had to have a “converter” to play a goodly stack of 45’s.

There was nothing more exciting than bringing home a new record album. You went to the store…Redford’s 5 & 10 most of the time for me, and you would stand over the bin where the albums were stored and flip through them. Once, twice, three times. Only enough money for one, but which would it be? It was mid to late 60’s…perhaps 1967, and a cool cover of guys dressed in the Blue and Grey of the civil war caught my eye. It was a group called “The Buckinghams” and featured a song called Susan. I liked it, and bought it and took it back home. There was always a ritual of removing the clear cellophane and easing the white “dust jacket” out. Most of the time there were graphics and other photos on these too…and I always enjoyed just pouring over the pictures, looking at the names of all the songs, the credits, who wrote the songs. It took time, and if was fun.

I’d put it on the bottom of the stack and add a couple of my favorites on top…most of the time it was late afternoon in the Summer. The most gorgeous of times, with the sun coming in from my West facing window, and shining in filtered rays through the shafts of fine dust I had kicked up from my activity. I’d lay down on the rug in my room right next to the record player and for the next hour or two I would listen to the music, feel the music, and live the music. Right there in a three square foot space, I transcended the normality of the moment and exceeded any expectations I had for the future. Then the music stopped.

I got up and stretched and carefully took my albums off the portable record player, and carefully held them, carefully put them back in the dust jackets and stored them back in the cardboard covers. I put them in a box carefully and lovingly, knowing I would listen to them again in a day or two. Never longer than a day or two.

Those were tactile days. Days when music came in an enjoyable, holdable, seeable packages. Wonderful iconic images came from those days. Wonderful memorable music which I remember to this day and can still sing every word of every song.

Today, I mostly just pick a song off of iTunes and it’s downloaded on my phone. I don’t have time, or don’t take time to lay on the floor for an hour and listen to music. Mostly now, it plays in the background at night to soothe our sleep.

I really don’t get as much pleasure from new music as I used to…….and it’s hard for me to remember the words. Maybe because I’m in the late 60’s now, and the world has moved on to 2017 and left me behind.

Take Time to Pay Attention to Life

I’ve had dreams. No, perhaps it would be better to call them ambitions. I’ve had ambitions. A lot of them were selfish, self centered and wrong. I had ambitions to be a rich and famous songwriter. I had ambitions to be a plant manager, with many people reporting to me. Self importance ruled my productive years. Self absorption ruined them.

You know what I really should have done? I should have tried to make people happy. That’s it. I should have helped more people.

If I’m honest, I guess it’s incorrect of me to say I was totally selfish. That first paragraph is a harsher judgment on myself than the judgment of people I have worked with, and who worked for me. I’m pretty sure I was actually better thought of than I realized. One incident stands out in my mind.

I had a pretty big group of ladies who worked for me back in the eighties. Whenever I would demo a new song I had written I would let them listen to the results. Of course they said they liked them, heck I was their boss, after all. Right before one of the ladies retired I made her a cassette tape of all my music. She said she really wanted one. Years later I got a call from another of the ladies who was related to her. It seems she had a stroke and was bed bound. She had worn out her tape and wanted another one. I made another one, found out where she lived, and went to her house.

Her husband met me at the door and warned me her condition wasn’t good. Her stroke had been severe, and she couldn’t move and could barely speak. I spent some time with her. It wasn’t good. She was agitated and depressed, discouraged with her life. She had been that way for several years. She was ready to die, she said. She was happy to have a new tape though. It perked her up a little.

I got a call from her husband a few weeks later telling me she had passed away. The last thing she listened to before she slipped into a coma was that tape of me singing. I didn’t know what to say.

I think back on that now and consider my ambition a success. Not for the reason which I had wanted, but for that one person who needed it, all the time and effort was worth it.

I’ve changed a lot in the years since then. I still wish I had made a better effort at helping people, at making them happy. Maybe I actually did more than I knew, but was just too busy being busy to notice. Damn, I wish I had taken the time to notice. All you kids out there take an old man’s advice and pay attention. Gratitude is a hell of a lot better than money sometimes.

Remembering

As I prepare for another surgery (albeit hopefully not as serious) on July 28th, I remember this.

I went into heart surgery on December 21, 2010 with the attitude that if I didn’t ever wake up…..it was ok. But, I got a reprieve. I had good surgeons, a wonderful caregiver in my sweet wife, and in about a years time I felt better….both physically and mentally. I continued to have some rhythm problems right up until this day, but I was better.

As I worked on my vast inventory of photos this weekend, I grouped them together by year. 2011…Eli and Rue came to our families. 2012, possibly the year I felt best since my youth. We took trips…our trip of a lifetime to Gettysburg, Washington, Mt. Vernon, Jamestown…and on to Tybee. I still remember my awe at finally getting to go to our nation’s heart.

Trips to the beach with the family….especially when we all went together. How very tender and special that was to me. A cruise…I’d never been on one, and it was lovely!

All the years were special. I went on all the way through 2015. I used Shutterfly’s app, and it’s wonderful.

There were many firsts. First birthdays for Eli, Rue, and then a bit later EVK. (And 2nd, and thirds, and so forth) Christmases celebrated. Thanksgivings thanked. Halloweens tricked and treated with so much fun! Fireworks at the Browns homestead.

Proms and graduations…Auttie’s and Chelsea’s. Wonderful days of walks around town, with the sunrises and sunsets, and the everyday goings on. The demise of the old Park Ave apartments, the changing nature and demographics of the city itself.

So, so many special moments flashed past my eyes in that pictorial history of my life. Wonderful moments. Precious memories. Six and a half years of grace and time borrowed from medical science. I wish I could share with you the feeling in my heart, because if I could there would be peace. There would be love and compassion for all.

There are still memories I want to make, but my body reminds me that for the good times there is payback. When feeling unwell stretches from days into weeks…and months, it takes a toll on the spirit and will of even the hardiest, of which I never claimed to be. Again, I’m depending on good old medical science, luck and grace to lift me back to an even keel again. Looks like next month, with tests and such coming up, maybe a solution will be found. I hope so.

Til then, I’ll keep on plodding forward and hope Paula can put up with cranky, bad feeling me. I haven’t done a whole lot on FB for the past few weeks….at least not much “new” so now you know the reason why. I’m not going into detail about me…because in the end it’ll probably just be something minor.

In All Things be Grateful

“In all things be grateful.”
I find that is a very sensible philosophy, don’t you?

Be grateful for this life, be grateful for each moment because as soon as one ticks, the next one is upon you…and soon our allotted moments here have ended.

I certainly realize I’ve been a little more sensitive to those ticks of the clock lately. Who wouldn’t be!?

After all, when I think back really far….

I can remember a time without even a television. Without air conditioners. I remember a time when walking from my house on eighth street to the triangle shopping center was an everyday thing. I remember Coke in bottles, with the city where it was bottled on the bottom.

I remember using cloth diapers on my kids, and then rewashing them and using them again. I remember the train coming into town at midnight, bringing a load of coal to fire the boilers at the mill, every night…

I remember writing all my school work with a pencil and lined paper from a wire back notebook. I remember when almost everything we ate came from our garden, even in the winter…with canned soup mix, and frozen veggies.

I remember having only three pairs of jeans for school, and five shirts…and one pair of dress pants and a white shirt for Sunday. I remember spending all afternoon on some weekends listening to vinyl records on a little flip top record player.

I remember fishing in the river with a big old ball of earth worms for bait. I remember when the creek running into that river was a rainbow color of dyes…

I remember so much more. It’s funny how these memories always seem good, and happy…but that wasn’t always the case. When we old people long for those “good old days” our memory tends to be very selective.

Now, our good days are tomorrow…and the day after.

Be grateful for what you have. Be grateful for your life and the good day ahead of you.

Most days it is more than enough to see us through.

Beliefs can change

When I was a young man my beliefs were different, mainly because my knowledge was self limited. Even a college if something an instructor said didn’t match what I had in my head as being “right” I just never let it sink in.

I was a know it all, who had ingrained dogma pumped into me. My values were shaped by the low number of years I’d lived. I was not “sticking up for what was right”. I was play acting life as I knew it.

I credit my wife for beginning my change. She taught me that women should be respected, and that their opinions counted. She quickly let me know that marriage is a shared endeavor, not a case of “this is the woman’s job, and this is the mans. By the time my first son arrived, we’d been through a good “practice run” with my daughter and were pretty much out of the bad fighting stage. Over the years I have taken on a big part of her love for animals, and have relied on her to tell me when I’m generally totally wrong about things.

I went on in my working career to be a supervisor in QA, which was pretty much populated by women….except of course by the supervisor. I always treated everyone of them with respect, and deferred to their knowledge in many cases. For over twenty years I had women working for me in various jobs and never, ever had a complaint of a harassing nature. There are a couple of FB friends on here who worked with me during that time, who can back me up on that point. I treated women thee same as I did the occasional man who worked for me. I very much regret not trying to go above and beyond to get a higher wage for them, but I just went with the flow of what the company paid. Wages weren’t bad, but the men were paid more per hour in the areas in which they worked. I always made sure that they each got good Christmas presents from me, and I always made them free copies of the song demos I recorded.

There was one lady who was an inspector for me, who really liked country music. I had given her a full CD of songs while we were working together. I got a call from a man about five years after that business had been sold out to a large carpet company. “I’m ——-‘s husband,” He said “She had a stroke two years ago and can’t speak well. She wore out the CD you gave her and desperately wants another copy. I tracked you down through another old worker from the plant”.

I made another copy, and took it too her house in Armuchee. I spoke with her as best I could for an hour while I was there, about good old times at the plant, how hard the work was. She was almost paralyzed totally, but she thanked me very much for the CD. “You were the best boss we ever had” she said.

I wept as I drove home. The truth is, she’d been one of my least favorite workers. Always griping, but getting her work done. But she had liked me more than I had liked her. I never knew. I had always treated her the same, so she never knew either.

I never had much use for gay people when I was young. I thought they were all just perverts. That’s because I had never known one. When Paula and I moved back home, I started buying plants for our yard from these two guys who owned a nursery. I thought they were just business partners, but over the months I found they were also partners. This was still back in the mid seventies, so their relationship was still very frowned upon as a general thing. They didn’t have any friends, so we started inviting them over to our house for meals and card games. They loved playing with our daughter and our dog. They were intelligent, well spoken and well educated. They were out to bother nobody else, they just wanted to live their lives. We had the over for quite a few years, and we always had good times. One year, I noticed their relationship starting to crumble. Pressure was being applied by one of the guys family to quit the relationship. He gave in to his family, and the other partner moved back to Chattanooga. The one who stayed behind is an “old bachelor”

I never considered gay people to be abnormal or abominations anymore after that. I purposely opened myself up to knowing more gay and lesbian people, and the more of them I knew, the more I understood that they were as they were because it’s the way they were made. Many people still won’t agree with me. I don’t really care though. I do not see how we cannot be a society which is compassionate enough to just “live and let live”

Now we come to today.

Over the past several years I have had a Facebook friend who is transgender. I know that for sure now, although I have long suspected it. Over the past several months I have witnessed the hell he is having to go through….yes he, now she has had to go through to do something that could not help but be done. It was not a choice, but an imperative that had to be done in order that this individual could be complete. In order that she could be who she was born to be. I read as relationships crumbled, as extreme loss was suffered in those relationships. I cried as I thought, how I had been born with a brain wired to match my body, but that’s not always the case. That’s not always the case.

There was a man on America’s Got Talent who sang today. He was born in a female body, but always identified as a boy. He was tormented, bullied, beaten and abused. But I watched as he sang beautifully today on that show as a fully transitioned man and I openly wept. Oh, the things he has had to go through that I never had to. The things that my gay friends have suffered from family and peers that I’ve never had to experience. The travails of being a woman in a man’s world I have gotten a pass on because of my luck in chromosome placement.

Some will read this long piece, and think I’m dead wrong and disagree. Some will read, and as usual just won’t comment. Some will give it a like, some will just scroll on by as soon as they realize the subject matter. I don’t care, this is my opinion and mine alone. This the chronicle of my needed change, which didn’t come as soon as it should have. My shame along with a tiny bit of retribution. Take it however you want, or not at all.

After that song today, which my seven month old granddaughter stood and watched in rapt attention without so much as a twitch, it had to be written. It just had to.

There is a Pattern

There is a pattern:

When I was in school I took a pencil and paper with me every day. Right up until the day I graduated High School, and even my last year in college in 1974 it was pencil and paper or pen and paper. I never imagined any other way.

When the electronic age started, I was a Manager in a bedspread and blanket factory. I think I got my first computer in ’87 or ’88. Spreadsheets soon followed, along with emails and memo’s via the internet. I adapted to these things and I kept up. I had to, or have someone else take my job.

Back when I was still using pencil and paper in classes…often boring repetitive classes, I doodled. It was fun and it made the teacher think you were furiously taking notes. I did some great doodles that I wish I had kept. Some epic doodles. Most often I liked starting with a simply pattern and making it more and more complex as the doodle developed. I found patterns interesting, I found them fascinating. I began to believe there was something more to patterns than I knew, something more than I could even imagine.

I was never a good math student. I’ll admit I had a lot of trouble with Algebra. I really like Geometry however, and actually made B’s in that area. It seemed more pattern oriented to me. I took a course at Georgia in “Philosophy and Logic” which continued to focus my interest and belief in patterns. It was one of the most difficult courses I ever took. Try an advanced course in Logic sometime if you don’t believe me.

The more I look at our world, the more I see that patterns are in everything, from the macro photos of plants and insects that one of my Facebook friends so beautifully takes, to the posts which show galaxy after gorgeous galaxy. The more I study, the more I see repeated patterns. Similar patterns in nature. Similar patterns in all things, from the cells in our body, to our Universe.

There is a pattern.

There are patterns which were used to create all things.

There will be patterns which affect the future of all things.

Perhaps everything started off with a doodle somewhere by our creator.

Since patterns are repeated, perhaps at some point in the huge pool of time our existence will be repeated.

I am one that does not believe in an end to things. Call me crazy, a lot of people do, but that’s just the way I see it.

The Raging Battle

I am not sure about everything that is happening in this day and age of ever burgeoning progress….some days it actually scares me.

I will tell you that for certain.

At my age, a lot of the new technology is fascinating, but it’s like a double edged sword. I have lived through the birth of television….seeing Howdy Doody through a tiny black and white screen…all the way to being able to communicate with almost the entire world, and do almost anything comprehensible with my iPhone….but I have sacrificed my privacy, opened up the intimate details of my life and my private feelings in a way which never would have been possible in 1950. I have made available information now which anyone can access, which at many points in my life I would not have been willing to share.

I’m not always sure the trade off is worth it.

My spiritual self wants me to believe that the Universe is existential and beyond my comprehension, and created, but the scientist in me is in conflict with that theologian, and wants me to look at the physics of the way the Universe is run. Are they compatable, are they analagous?

The reader of the written word in me, the seeker of knowledge, wants to keep abreast of everything that’s going on in the world, but sometimes over analyzes or doesn’t understand the significance of what is being input and processed by my brain.

The realist in me knows that things can’t stay the same, but the dreamer wants things to stay like they are, or go back to the way they were!

The battle rages on within me every day, and some days spills out of my eyes…..

What do I stand for?

It’s pretty sad when it boils down to standing for Trade day. However, as trade day has become a culture over the years, a place of gathering and a place to pass some time with friends then perhaps it is not such a bad thing to stand for. I have passed many hours discussing everything from the mundanities of politics to the meaning of life at Trade day. I have made may friends and aquaintences there. The gospel is spread at Trade day, as well as the devil. There’s a man who gives away bibles, and a man who sells them. You see peoples treasures from years gone by. You see the things which people have bought at a high price that they didn’t need and they are selling it for a pittance. For centuries the centers of power in the world have been at markets. Maybe standing for Trade day is not such a bad thing after all.

Exclusive or Inclusive

I’ve been thinking about life and I’ve decided all things in our human culture can be defined by the two words above. Exclusive or Inclusive. Maybe really….all inclusive.

Think of humanity as one great big club. The club of humans. Now consider that the great big club is subdivided into a whole plethora of smaller clubs. All of those clubs will fall into one of the two categories I’ve listed above.

A person can belong to any number of subdivided clubs. Some are in many. Many are in some. There’s a lot of overlap. A lot of people belong to some of the same clubs, but not everyone belongs to them all. You play professionally baseball….exclusive club. Certainly not all inclusive. Your a Catholic ? Exclusive club….not as much as professional baseball by any means, but still beholden to a particular set of rules. Not everyone can be a Catholic, not everyone can be on the San Francisco Giants.

Don’t think things work that way? Take any “club” you belong to and try to think of it outside those two categories. Where do you end up?

Is America exclusive or inclusive. Russia? China? What makes them the way they are? What makes any “club” the way they are? Are there any clubs besides the club of humanity that’s All Inclusive?

I hope that in the future, humanity can work more and more towards inclusiveness towards all. Not matter what our beliefs. We cannot, of course allow lawlessness or violent actions of one person against another, or one group of people against another, but if we love and become more inclusive, I believe most lawlessness and violence would stop. Most.

Somebody once said: “It’s one big old club, and you ain’t in it”. When you find yourself excluded for reasons you cannot control, it’s not a good feeling. There are not good outcomes when people feel that way. Let’s open our hearts and learn to include. Let’s add and multiply, instead of subtracting and dividing.

After all, who wants to spend eternity someplace with someone who wasn’t “in your club here?”