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!

Coal- My Life in a few Paragraphs

COAL- My life story in a few paragraphs…..and in relationship to coal….

I have lived, up until this past year,…and for the short number of years I was away at college, I had lived in a little Cotton mill town all of my life. It was a great place to grow up, with regards to my own personal situation. A wonderful place really. But, things change. Things go unnoticed by most people if they don’t pay close attention to what goes on.

I know when Paula and I first moved back to Trion in 1974, we moved into a little house on Ninth street. The first 10 years or so after we moved back were “thin” years. We got by….we did get by, but on a lot less than most people would ever think or know. Our dinners were populated with a lot of fish sticks, creamed chipped beef, tuna casserole, spaghetti, and salmon patties. Now, don’t get me wrong. I still like most of those things. I still fix them from time to time. Brings back old, good memories.

One of the things about living in a cotton mill town is smoke. As I previously mentioned, we moved back to Trion to 9th street, which had always been know as “Smokey row” or smokey road. The reason it was given that title was because it was the street that led right to the mill, which was only a block away. Actually, the “back end” of the mill, where the boilers and power generators were located was only a few hundred yards from our house. When they were burning coal, hard and strong back in 1974, we couldn’t leave the windows open for a breath of fresh air at night. If we did, we would wake up the next morning with a coating of fine black dust and tiny black coal crystals covering the areas inside the house near the windows.

Of course this was nothing really new to me, having grown up near that mill. We had never lived out of sight of those gigantic tall smoke stacks at any point during my childhood. Simmons street and eighth street had been our homes and you could see the smoke stacks from both places. You could hear the “work whistle” as it blew at 20 minutes before the hour, and the hour itself at 8 a.m., 4 p.m., and 12 a.m., for all the shifts. Many times those smoke stacks would be belching out smoke. Sometimes white. Sometimes gray and sometimes black…especially when the stacks were being “blown out” As a child, I don’t remember it being as “nasty” as it was in the 70’s. Perhaps there was a reason for that. As I recall, we could go by the big coal stack as kids, and the coal was actually beautiful. Large, shiny, almost obsidian looking pieces lay all around the coal pile. I collected some of them as a kid, and took them home. You could rub your hands on this stuff and you would get very little, if any, black on them. It also burned very clean. It was what they called Anthracite coal.

You see, back in the fifties, a lot of things were still being made in America. Riegel Textile had a lot of high end goods. Baby blankets, and cloth being made into all kinds of wonderful products. Government contracts making cloth for the DOD. Riegel had one of the best dye houses in the country, with men dying cloth who could make it look like almost anything. None of these people had been betrayed…yet. And times were pretty good in that small town, at that time, for those people. Not so much for some people in other places, but for those people…at that time, the fifties, the early sixties…perhaps even into the late sixties, things were good.

Jobs hadn’t been farmed out to China and India, or Vietnam and Mexico yet by the owners of the businesses, the soon to be millionaire and billionaire traitors who traded American jobs for money in their pockets. Some of the people who are still around today, and who still have that money. Some of the people….

By the seventies, I believe they were using Bituminous coal. The dye house was gone, and Riegel Textile had turned into Mt. Vernon mills. The big thing that was keeping the mill going, and the jobs there was denim. Blue denim. My Daddy and some more hard working men at that mill had gotten the mill switched over from running the cloth of the fifties, and the owners had switched the business model around to suit the fashions of the times. Everybody needed blue jeans, and things made from denim, and they were making the best denim in the world at that mill, at that time. When I went to work for them, and they were burning that Bituminous coal, and all I had to do was walk down the street to the mill, they were running seven days a week, 24 hours a day, 364 days a year. We got Christmas day off. They were making BIG money on denim, and they were taking advantage of it while they could. I can’t blame them. But I didn’t fit in that environment, like my Daddy and his Daddy had for so many years. I left working there in 1978 after four years of that seven days a week stuff. I never went back…except for a ultra short stent in the 90’s. But that’s another story for another day. Denim rocked on for quite a few years after I had gone. I continued to live in Trion, and work out of town. But I paid attention to the smoke stacks, and the coal. If you’ve been following me for very long on Facebook, you have seen some of my photos of those stacks. I may just attach one to this post if I can find one.

Now, the last time I looked at the railroad cars that were coming into the mill at Trion, the last time, before I moved out of town…before I stopped walking that little town and left for other places, that last time I looked they were using Lignite. The lowest grade of coal, the cheapest and the kind which burns the dirtiest. Denim was not king anymore and business was again changing. Some jobs had gone other places, outside the United States. But, some of them stayed, and they have stayed, and they still stay. And I admire them for that. One of the very few who could keep some jobs here, in the face of all the change, and all of the pressure of the years, and all of the temptations to put profit totally over location. They didn’t give raises, they hired the folks coming from down South, but they have kept the doors open. And they are still open, but things are not the same…and they will never be the same. From Anthracite to Bituminous to Lignite. The story of our country in coal. It’s just a story though, and I’m a poor story teller. I have not solutions. I offer no advice. It is what it is, and it will never be the same. And that’s the shame of it….that’s the shame..

What if God were one of us?

We are the gatherers of our experiences, no matter if we initiate them or if they are initiated by others, and through us, I believe God is able to experience all of that sum of those experiences.

Many believe in a creator who is all knowing, all seeing and all powerful…but that is not to say that our creator has experienced all things.

If you are the author of a fictional novel, it is much different than if you are the author of a biography.

Capricious the Pale Rider

It’s been a few days since I have walked around town, but I hope to go in the morning.

I need the fresh air to fill my lungs and reinvigorate my blood. I need the sunrise to refresh my spirit as it’s first rays peep over the crest of the ridge.

I need the solitude in order for my brain to reset itself.

More and more time is a blur, similar to standing next to the road very closely while a huge long bus passes by so very close….you can feel the whoosh of the air and brace yourself against the vacuum it creates as it tries to pull you into the road, under it’s wheels.

You feel like you are at fate’s carnival, watching the grim reaper throw darts at the balloons on the big backboard of life, trying to hit somebody’s brightly coloured existence and end it. He broke one of my high school classmates earlier this week. It got my brain to spinning thinking about that loss.

He’s relentless and random, that Father time. Doesn’t care a whit for any of us, rich or poor, low or high.

So I hope to go walk tomorrow and feel the wind on my face, and smell the grass people were out cutting today. I hope to see a hawk or a woodpecker, and smell bacon cooking. I know I’ll hear the local dogs barking but I won’t care. I’ll be busy living life and loving it.