About Books

While there are still libraries which are open to the public, and book stores where you can go to buy real physical books….while there are still vintage books at yard sales and flea markets, and while one can still buy said books online, I recommend that people get them. Especially young people.

I know a lot of people will say that we no longer need those “clunky” books because we can download them online and read them on our kindles and iPads. To that I would say…yes we can….for now. But, I foresee a time in the not too distant future when we will not be able to get what we want, but instead only get what those who control the information want us to have. It honestly wouldn’t be that hard to accomplish.

I beg people, especially young people, to start a collection of books. Buy classics, buy instruction manuals, buy medical guides, prescription guides, save all the old Mother Earth news magazines, buy poetry books, political books, for God’s sakes buy accurate history books too.

One day, if every copy of “David Copperfield” or Platos “Republic” or “The March of Folly” or “The Bible” are gone….one day if or when there are no physical copies to be found, anything can be put online representing any of those books, or the many millions more…and you will have to take their word for it. Or it could just be nothing except for meaningless propaganda.

I know….you think I’m crazy. Raving lunatic.

All I know is that all of human existence from the time humans discovered how to write, has been based on the ability to accurately transmit certain aspects of knowledge from one generation to another…via books. (Scrolls, tablets, etc., you get the point)

There were the dark ages….when not so many books were being written, and civilization was miserable…..but out of that period came the renaissance.

I hate to see humanity degrade into a permanent age of darkness, fueled online by only these tiny pixels we now take for granted as being the written word. They aren’t written, they are pecked. There’s a lot of difference.

Go to library book sales, and start your own private library. Please.

Hope

My Daddy once told me that unless a man had something useful to say, he should keep his mouth shut. As most of you realize if you know me, or have read my writing it’s obvious that I should keep my mouth shut most of the time. I just can’t help it though, useful or not I have to say what I think.
What I am opening my mouth (or keyboard literally) to talk about today is hope. That’s right, hope. I have to have it. It has to be there, like a piece of driftwood in the vast ocean when you are drowning. Something to grab hold of and stay afloat. My hope is for the future. The future in which I will be missing, but my children and grandchildren and whatever descendants that I may be blessed with (who will never know I existed,) will know.

Right now, it kind of looks bleak, and that is why I have to have hope. I don’t think there is any way that the members of my generation, the baby boomers, can fix the mess that we are in now. It’s not just one mess, but MANY different messes going on simultaneously which make things so complex.

There are the changing demographics of the entire world. People of different races and cultures are traveling far and wide in this day and age and settling in places their ancestors would never have imagined. As they do this, they become familiar with each other and one thing leads to another and you have relationships being built between these members of different races and cultures. Some still try to stick with their own cultures, but inevitably I believe will fail. The children of the future will all probably look like Tiger Woods and Mariah Carey. I think at some point there won’t be any black, yellow, red and white anymore. There will be one color and one international culture at some point. I don’t know how far in the future that this may occur, and I don’t know if mankind can keep from destroying each other first with nuclear weapons but if they can then that’s one thing I think will happen. It will be a huge challenge for our descendants who are at the “transitional” stage. (Or maybe that’s where we ARE now?) It could well be that the future inhabitants of this planet will “ease” into this situation so gradually that no one will ever know it’s happening until it’s upon them. I don’t think it will be a bad thing either. One of things that continually breeds discontent, distrust and war is the difference between people’s race and culture. If there IS not difference then they will have to find something else to fight about. Maybe they won’t be able to.

There is the quickly changing face of technology. I would have NEVER in my wildest dreams as a child imagined the world as it is today. There have been so many advances in the last 50 years that it makes the 1950’s seem like the Stone Ages. What we take for granted every day now, would have seemed like a trick of magic back then. Computers will continue to advance and now that robotics IS actually taking off like Isaac Asimov thought it would, our descendants can look forward to a world where the physical part of living will become easier and easier.
There will be issues that come up, ethical issues, which will challenge the very core of the morals of our society. What about a computer program that can store the “essence” of a person on a program, and come up with a “virtual” person who is exactly like the person who is dying. Anyone ever seen the movie “Freejack” with old Mick Jagger? That’s science fiction still, BUT so was Jules Verne back in the late 19th century. It may not be that a person’s “essence” can be stored on a computer and then put back into another person’s body. I am not sure it will ever get to that point. BUT to create a “virtual” person with the knowledge and character of a real live person is but a few steps away from becoming a reality. You can “store” Grandma or Grandpa on the handy dandy virtual person program, and pull them up to talk to any time you want. How would you like that? Kind of a spooky thought isn’t it? Yet, right now people who play the high tech computer games that generate “characters” to play through (the avatar type games) are already interacting in a very close knit way with these “quasi-people.” You can give them character traits, physical characteristics, and other things which make them “almost” seem human. It’s only a few steps away until you can do the same thing with your dear Uncle Bob, believe me. Soulless, yes. Interaction there will be. There could also be a use for this type of program to reduce overpopulation, in that people who are not allowed, or don’t want to have a “real” live child, can have a virtual child which they can “raise” from a baby all the way up through adulthood. The cost would be quite a bit cheaper to raise this type of “child” too.

Medically speaking, the people who can make it 20 or 30 more years are likely to be able to live practically as long as they want. With the research and discoveries in genetics that are now taking place, it won’t be long until the genes that cause “aging” as we know it, will be discovered and neutralized. People who are well off enough financially will be able to benefit from this expensive technology and beat “the system” Dick Cheney may actually still be here in the year 2100! Hmmm…?
I think that many diseases which afflict people such as cancer, heart disease, and all the big killers will be beaten. People will have to be run over by a Fire Truck in order to die. That’s about the only thing which will do it. However, I am sure there will be a lot of volunteers to be “uploaded” into the computer program which I mentioned in the previous paragraph. After all, who REALLY wants to live forever? And you probably will still have the old aches and pains that won’t go away. (Maybe not, they may have something for that too) Besides, you might be able to do things on that computer program you could NEVER do in real life, like fight dragons, or fly. That would be a hoot, right?

I wonder if people will still be able to go out and have a juicy steak or a lobster, or if everyone will have to eat those little pills like the one that Willy Wonka invented that turned Violet, well…purple I guess. Hopefully, he will have perfected them by then and we won’t have to go somewhere and have the juice squeeze out of us.

I kind of wonder too if space travel will advance to the point where we will be actually sending people out on missions to other galaxies. Will the episodes of Star Trek, The Next Generation be a reality or a near reality at least? If we can tear enough money away from the government’s efforts at exterminating people in other countries, we may be able to give some of it back to the space program and find out!

The Chestnut doesn’t fall far from the tree

I only had one Grandfather who I can remember. My Mother’s Dad, Jervis Stewart. My Dad’s Dad, Henry Bowers died when I was two. I don’t remember him at all, and as far as I know there are no photographs of the two of us together. All my great grandfather’s were long dead. So Grandpa Stewart was my one and only.

Nowadays as our culture has changed, a lot of times people have multiple Grandparents. Steps, and Greats. Not so back in the day.

Grandpa Stewart taught me a lot of things. He helped me immensely with my love of music. He played a banjo, and was a good singer. He wrote songs. I sat out on the front porch of his house, under the stars and listened to him play. I learned to appreciate the stars and the moon.

Grandpa taught me how to shoot a .22 rifle. We would walk a piece down the road and plink a squirrel or two for supper. Grandma knew how to fix ’em up good!

We fished. I listened nightly to the stories of his youth and young adulthood. Exciting stuff for a little kid.

We went to his old two story, tin roofed house every year for Christmas and I spent many a summer break in Blue Ridge. I had a pretty good childhood in spite of many, many issues with Mom’s health and well being.

Oh…and Grandpa taught me my first cuss words. He also had a temper too..especially as he aged and his memory and cognition started to go. I never got to tell him goodbye. He wouldn’t have known. He died in 1991 in June. He was 98 years old. Besides my Daddy, he was the most influential male role model in my life. For better or for worse, the chestnut doesn’t fall far from the tree.

I have a picture of him and Grandma sitting on the dresser back in my spare bedroom. All these years I thought he looked pretty old, but not really “old”old..

The picture was taken in 1958 when Grandpa was 65 and Grandma was 59.

I looked at it today, and he doesn’t seem anywhere near as old looking as he has in the past. I guess it’s all perspective.

The First Cold Winds of Autumn

I recall as a child, the Fall was my favorite season of the year. It’s entrancing beauty, the just right temperatures, the first fresh frost of the year, which made the ‘skeeters and other bugs disappear and most of all, fall as a prelude to the wonderful holiday season.

I remember the Halloweens when we could go house to house and never worry about having to check our candy….except for this one old lady who lived over on sixth street. She would hand out marshmallows with hot peppers stuck down in them! We always just threw them away, and sometimes we would come back and throw a roll of toilet paper around in her yard.

The peace officers patrolled the town and just kept an eye out to make sure nobody was throwing eggs at cars or houses. They didn’t have to worry very much about somebody shooting at them, or having to shoot somebody. The peace officers carried guns, but they seldom ever saw use.

Onward we went from the wonderful candy collecting day to Thanksgiving with Macy’s parade, and a ton of roasted turkey. Most of the time here in the south the dressing was “pan” made. I never even had any stuffing in a turkey until after Paula and I were married. It was a great day. Out of school for a long weekend, and lots of football games. Then on from Thanksgiving to Christmas.

I don’t have time to write all the things I would like to about that wonderful season, perhaps one day soon I will.

I think back now, over these 66 years. My memory is a little spotty, but still good. I think how much I have enjoyed all of the Autumns I have lived. I think how much I have loved all the people who I am so close to, who are on this wonderful journey with me through life.

I think our lives and the way we live them are like reflecting pools. We see in others the good we want to see in ourselves…the good we have in ourselves, and we act accordingly with love. Either that, or we look at others and see reflected back the hatred or dislike that we feel for ourselves, and act accordingly with something which is less than love.

I damn sure wish I could wave a magic wand and have everyone feel the love for life, the love for my family and my few friends, which I feel when the first cold breeze of Autumn rolls in….I wish…

I know I can’t, and I never will be able to do so. I cannot express myself well enough to change the things about myself I badly need to change, but…at least I can see those things and realize them. If I have a problem with changing myself, how can I impose my imperfect will, or my imperfect opinions on other people? That would be a sign of self righteousness which it is very too late in life to try and enter into.

Enjoy the first cold breezes of Autumn tomorrow. Try to show some love. I’m going to try, and that’s all I can do.

Another beautiful memory from Mentone-2014

It was a beautiful, flawless day today. One of those days which are as rare as diamonds…or better yet as rare as a sapphire, because the sky was sapphire blue with tiny white inclusions we call clouds.

Up at Mentone on the brow for Colorfest, an already beautiful venue turned into a cross between a carnival and a fair, with the magic smell of kettle corn and barbeque. Hustle and bustle as folks stroll the vendors looking for treasures. People walking their pups. Leaves starting to turn, and fresh smelling air.

Oh people, please forgive me for having a care about anything else besides the beauty this world offers, and the chance to commune peacefully with the people who
populate it.

I saw not a frown today among the people, I heard not a coarse word…except against the myriad of yellow jackets feverishly working their fall schedule, and I wondered, wondered really hard, what would it take for our lives with each other to always be this way?

What sorcery was there afoot today which was able to mix football fans from four different SEC schools together in peace, even though many were wearing their tribal garb? Was it an early Christmas with good will to all men?

I pray…yes me, I pray that God took a snapshot of today’s conflagration, and is pasting it in his scrapbook for future use….please.

Empathy, a writing from 2015, selling on the mountain.

I cannot remember how the time passed by so quickly. I felt the fall winds on the top of the brow today, and saw the leaves riding them like paper airplanes. I saw the color inside the leaves practically changing overnight. And I have changed with them. Overnight, over the days, months, weeks, and years of my life. I am old, but I am not. My mind keeps me as me, and only if I lose my mind will I ever be old. It could happen, but maybe not.

I gave a lot of things away this weekend. Some things I just exchanged back for money without making a profit. I gave several things away for nothing. One pretty little thirteen year old girl said she was going to be in the drama club, wanted to be an actress. She liked a little sterling necklace with the drama mask on it. I didn’t think her parents would buy it. “Take it” I said, “and wear it on the first day of your drama class, and remember the crazy old man on the mountain.” She smiled as she put it on.

I had many people say “This is a really good deal!” I told them that yes it was, but if it meant something to them, I wanted them to have it. I want a human being to wear a piece of my collection. Something they want and like. I collect things for the purpose of saving a special piece from death at the scrapper’s hands, and a new life of enjoyment for a person. I have a collection to share, I don’t have inventory. Mentone is my place to pass some things on. I can’t tell you the number of people who return every time I go there in the spring and the fall, and in August, and they will point to piece they are wearing and say “remember this”? And I think yep…and you remember me!

There is just some kind of cosmic payback in being nice to people, fair to people, actually liking people and wanting them to be happy and feel good about themselves. And these gatherings are so diverse, representing every segment of our society and culture of today. And so I treat them all the same no matter what. My philosophy is not to judge, but to pass on an inanimate object which can give joy for a period of time. And to do it with as much class as possible.

Down in the valley I never give deals to resellers (well hardly ever…there is one…)

So I have learned in the Spring and the Falls, and the Autumn of my life, that empathy is the best policy….and greed is a bitter dose of castor oil for the spiritually unwell and unhappy. They should try the brisk air, and the blowing wind, and the bright sunshine. Also a smile and really listening to someone when they are talking.

The Band Years- 2013

The band festival today made me a little nostalgic. I’m there watching my two granddaughters, who are 15 and 16 years old. I’m looking around at the people with band shirts on from my home town and I realize….I don’t know a lot of them! I remember the years when my own children were in the band and we went to these festivals. Wonderful fall tradition of cool mornings and warm afternoons, of trees with leaves turning red and gold in all different shades. Memories of the hamburgers grilling on the gas cookers, smoke filling the air. The great festivals we used to have at home, with all the camaraderie, and all the work! All day long stuck in a soda trailer selling cokes, and snacks to hungry band kids from all over Georgia. Wonderful wispy remembrances. I wonder where that time went? Now it’s the turn of other, younger parents to do the things that need to be done. I see a young man sitting in front of me, pony tailed and sun glasses pushed up on his cap full of life grinning at the band and the girls. He’s probably seventeen maybe. I wonder, how does it feel to be seventeen? I don’t remember. Actually, I don’t remember feeling any other way than I feel right now. Funny isn’t it? I know I’m not seventeen, but since age overtakes you a day at a time, a month, a year, you grow older and you feel as if nothing has changed. Yet you don’t remember seventeen. I see the changing of the season and the colors of the leaves and the crispness of the air and I still enjoy it so much. I just won’t enjoy it for as many more times as those young ones out there on the field today. I’ve reached my Autumn and though I still THINK I feel the same as I did back in 1967, I know I’m getting a little tired, and the body isn’t going to recover and make the comebacks like it used to. And really, I’m ok with that. I honestly am.

Long Time Passing- 2016

Where have all the flowers gone? I thought about the Peter, Paul and Mary version of this song the other day as I was playing another one of their hits “Puff the Magic Dragon” on my guitar where Eli and I could sing it together. Eli had learned the song at school this year, and I wanted to do it with him. It’s always been a “magic” song for me, because I learned the three finger “picking” method from it.

That was in 1967, and here I am almost 50 years later…and can still just pick up my guitar, and with a couple of minutes practice, it all comes back to me…..

All of those fall nights when I was 17, and had all the basic normal dreams that any seventeen year old might have. Senior year, and trying to figure out what great and important things the future held.

I knew nothing. I still know very little, compared to the overwhelming amount of sheer knowledge there is in the world to accumulate.

What I mainly do know, and have learned in those fifty years is that it’s much more important to sit down in your bedroom and play and sing “Puff” with your five year old grandson (and granddaughters….since I repeated it with Rue and Evie on Friday) then it is to worry about things over which you have little or no control.

It’s better to read them books, and tell them how much you love them.

What’s more important to you?

After Eli went home, after we had finished singing “Puff the Magic Dragon” I prayed that he and Rue and Evie will see more days of happiness in their lives than they can imagine. I wished that their generation can find the answers to the questions that really need to be asked. There are so, so many of those questions.

Then I sat down and started singing: “Where have all the flowers gone, long time passing…..”

Have you ever had a gun pulled on you?

If you have never been in any particular situation, it’s hard to imagine how you would react.

Back in the early 70’s when my wife and I were living in Athens, Georgia I worked for a chain convenience store there on a part time basis. The store was located just across the street from the public housing area on Baxter Street, and we had a lot of African American customers. Some of them gave me a hard time, some were very friendly.

I worked mostly at night and on the weekends. I had never thought much about being held up at gun point…until it happened one night.
There was a friendly, young African American boy inside the store browsing the comic books. I had just pulled the register down…that is, if you are unfamiliar with the way those things work, pulling all of the big bills out of the cash register drawer and putting them in under the drawer. Then in just a heartbeat, a white guy with long hair and a hunting rifle walked calmly into the store. He pointed the rifle at me, and said “give me all the money in a bag, or I’m going to blow your brains out” He noticed the boy over at the comic rack and told him to get behind the counter with me. “I’m not going to say it again,” he said “all your money, or I’ll kill both of you”

I tried to notice details, but my heart was pounding in my chest. Here I was, a twenty year old guy with very little “worldly” training, no military training, and I had a gun right in my face, and the guy had his finger right on the trigger. I honestly never thought about pulling a heroic act. Maybe I could have knocked the gun away and jumped over the counter and beat the crap out of his skinny ass. Maybe…

I put all the money out of the register drawer into a paper bag and gave it to him. He never asked to look under the drawer where I had just put most of the big money. He told me and the young black guy to get down on the floor. Now….was this the time to jump on him? No. It was down on the floor for us.
Then he was out the door and gone. I picked up the phone and dialed the police. They were there in five minutes or less. I had a good description of the guy, the direction he had gone, his rifle…pretty much everything they might need to get him. The boy in the store with me gave them about the same information as I did, not quite as detailed since he had been very scared. He never came back in anymore to browse the comic books. They never caught the guy.

About six months later, I was in another one of the same companies stores a little further up the hill about the same time of the day. A very well built black man walked in the store with a pistol already out in his hand, and a bandana on his face. “I want to kill you, but I won’t if you give me all the money in the register” Again, the same pounding heart and sweating palms. The same paper bag. “Under the register too!” he said knowing that little trick. I pulled the register up and put that money into the bag. He was out the door and gone before I could blink. I hadn’t had any time whatsoever to think about heroics, or trying to stop the perpetrator. It was so quick. This one could have just as easily shot me and ran if he had wanted.

Again, I called the police and gave them a much less detailed description. I hadn’t been as scared as the first time, but there had been no time to BE scared. They never caught this guy either.

A couple of weeks later the store manager came in one evening and fired me for “not pulling the drinks up in the cooler” which I had done only about an hour before he came into the store. That last robbery had been too much for the company I guess. I think they suspected I had taken the money and made up the story about being robbed. The policy had checked me in both cases. They had checked my car too. There was nothing to find, because I was as honest then as I am now.

I went to work for Sears and Roebuck after that, selling shoes. I figured nobody would come in there with a gun and as far as I know, I was right.
I’ve never had guns pointed at my head since that early point in my life, but I remember it very well. I can still see the face of that first guy, etched in my memory. I could still pick him out of a line up.

I hope he and the other guy straightened up and got their lives together after nearly scaring me to death.

The Year of the Premonition-2015

I don’t usually pay much attention to premonitions, or thoughts of that sort. Not usually. This past week, a week ago today, we were driving down to Gulf Shores. I’ve been here quite a bit over the years with my family. Not too bad of a drive and a pretty nice beach. Somewhere along the way, I started thinking back. I thought about it being nearly my sixty fifth birthday, and I started thinking about the first time I had ever gone to the beach almost exactly 50 years ago, when I was fifteen.

It was a trip to Panama City Beach. Back in the days of two lane roads and long, long hours to get there. I was unprepared for the awesome vastness and beauty of the ocean. I loved it immediately. We spent a lot of time during that vacation in the water, body surfing and swimming. We went deep sea fishing and I caught the largest fish on the boat and won the “dollar pot” for the day. A thirty three pound red grouper. I still have the photo of me somewhere holding up that fish. I won 46 dollars and for a fifteen year old boy, that was a bunch of money.

We went to the beach with our neighbors the Browns. Michael Brown was one of my best friends from childhood and we hung out a lot. We had a great time that year. Met some girls our age, listened to music, danced. Now….that entire family is gone. Mother, Father, sister and brother. Mom and Dad are gone too. I guess out of all of the people who went on that first trip to the beach with us only me, my brother and my first cousin Judy are the ones left living. Many, many years under the bridge, but oh how fast they have flown. But I remember that first glimpse of the beach and the beautiful snow white sand, and the deep blue ocean. I remember it so well.

But back to the premonition.

As we were driving and I was thinking off this first time I had gone to the beach I was struck by the feeling that this trip we were going on now would be my last trip. I don’t know why or where the thought came from. It was just something out of the blue and I tried for a couple of hours to shake it off. I finally did get it out of my head and had a great time this year, a wonderful time with my family. Not all of them were there, but a lot of us. We had a wonderful place to stay thanks to Ted’s talent in finding great places. My sons were great to me and their Mom.

Eli and I had fun, heck Eli had the most fun of anyone I believe. And it was Baby Evie’s first vacation ever. So special.

So I shook off the premonition, but it came back to dwell over me on the way home, and after we got here, like Charlie Brown’s little black rain cloud which follows him around every where.

I think perhaps it may just be because my 65th birthday is fast approaching. Maybe because I had just recently visited Mom and Dad and taken Rue and Eli over there. Perhaps just my realization of how quickly the years pass, and of my own mortality. Perhaps it was just all of these things combined with a few more little factors which I have been brooding on lately which caused these thoughts to single in on me. I hope that’s just it. Because I really do love these family vacations and the time with my loved ones. These memories are what life is comprised of, and no amount of money could replace them in our hearts. They are our life.

I’ll be really careful this coming year, because come next October I want to prove these feeling wrong and go motoring down the road again to the beautiful white sands and deep blue ocean. I have this year’s memories to tide me over until then.