Understanding things better

In this day and age I see, read and hear a lot of things I don’t understand. Back when I was a kid I think I was able to understand things better.

I understood trust better. Many people would give you their word that they would do something….and they would. If they didn’t, it would get around that “so and so” don’t keep their promises. If you were in a business of some kind, a couple of cases of that might ruin you. Politicians who were not ethical didn’t get re elected. Relationships were built on trust.

I understood helping one another better. Neighbors would actually really do things for each other. I remember my Daddy mowing our elderly neighbors grass many times. “I already had the mower running” he would say. I remember brown paper bags of fresh garden vegetables being given from one place to another. “We got more Okra then we can eat and more tomatoes…the neighbors across the street have more corn.” Out and back it went. People got together to help each other can vegetables for winter. A big mess of fish was shared, already cleaned. People…helped..each other. Look around and see if that’s happening now. Maybe sometimes…but most times not.

In my current neighborhood, I only know a couple of the neighbors. I’ve been here almost seven years, and I walk around here almost every day, and I should really take the time to try and get to know them, but I haven’t. My fault there. It’s just a harder thing now for me at my age. I’m becoming a bit of a recluse I guess.

I understood relationships better in my younger days.

There was only three TV channels and I had to go outside and manually turn the antenna to pick up one of them. Instead of constantly watching TV, we played. Baseball, football, hide and seek, freedom, board games galore, weekly Rook matches and so much more.

When I was a kid my cousins were my closest friends and playmates, along with our “neighbors on the street”. I could still name all of the ninth street gang if I wanted. There were a bunch of us. When it snowed during the winter, we cut up cardboard boxes and sledded all day. Didn’t even stop to eat lunch. We walked to the golf course with our clubs on our backs. We spent the night with each other. Does this kind of thing still go on? Do I just not see it anymore because I’m an old man?

I feel like sometimes we have lost touch with each other, and when I say that I mean real physical touch, not just being electronically in contact. Don’t get me wrong. I have enjoyed and bought into a lot of the new age of communication and interrelationships. “Social media,” they call it. It was easy to slip into it, and it does have its good points. But, I think not being face to face with real people, and actually seeing and experiencing their needs and their own personal mannerisms and emotional expressions has robbed us of a certain ability to properly relate with other human beings. Social media is really not too personal.

I see many people ask for prayer, and they get many likes and comments, but I bet one personal phone call or in person visit would mean more than 100 “likes” or even a thousand! I came to a stark realization just the other day when I was “texting” one of my sons. Texting is handy and necessary in some cases, but dammit there was no reason why I shouldn’t have just called and talked to him right at that moment…so I did. I have to say that all my three kids call and talk to me and Paula quite often, along with one of our granddaughters. We still use texting too much though, in many places.

I guess my point is that society is at an inflection point as far as “caring about others” goes. Worldwide. The pandemic hurt us badly as our personal communication and touch goes, and we haven’t nearly recovered.

Our politicians don’t seem to care the least bit about helping people either. Most of what they do now is stuff designed to just aggravate and alienate “the other side”. It didn’t used to be that way. I guess I just don’t understand anymore.


Once, I was a kid, a boy, a teenager, a young man.

Once was,… quite some time back. Sixty years ago, then fifty-five years, then fifty. Fifty five years ago I was 17, and looking to graduate from High School.

I was surrounded by people who grew up during the Great Depression, many of whom then went off to World War II to fight against some of the worst evil ever perpetrated against humanity….up until that time. People who then came home and became our parents, our aunts and uncles, our mentors, our neighbors, our preachers and teachers, our coaches, our city councilmen, our mayors, and many, many other roles in our lives. I knew hundreds of these people, perhaps thousands. They were good people, no…many of them were more than good, many of them were great people. While I am sure there were a few who were “bad” I can certainly, personally vouch for the fact that most of those people were good. All of them had one quality which I remember them carrying visibly in their hearts at almost all times for other people to see.

That quality was integrity.

These were people who did things they did not have to do, just because those things were right. Because they knew they were right. Because they knew right from wrong. Because they didn’t blur the lines between right and wrong. Because they did not fool themselves into thinking that they could do wrong and call it right. Because they did not try to bend the facts.They knew nothing about “spin”. To them, right and left meant in which hand you held your pencil.

Because they had seen starvation as children, and unjustified death as young adults, and they had fought against those things, and because they had overcome those things. They had gone to War and seen and suffered unthinkable things. They had freed Jewish people from the death camps of the Nazis. They had freed prisoners of war from the death camps of the Japanese.

These were people who would give you back a quarter in change if you made a mistake and gave it to them accidentally. These were the people who would give you the extra food they grew in their garden. They were the people who would change your flat tire in order to get you off the road. These were the people who would literally give you the “shirt off of their back”

They were people who would arrive fifteen minutes early for an appointment, or to a meeting, or to church, or to take their kids to school. These were the people who tried to instill all of these values into their children.

Did they fail? How did they fail?

Integrity. They had integrity.

Somewhere, somehow over the last sixty years integrity has, for the most part, been misplaced. It’s been relocated. It’s in the closet. Up on the top shelf, where the old hats are kept. It’s hard to reach. Some people get their flashlights out and find it still. But it’s not easy to come by. It’s not convenient to use. It’s difficult to have integrity. More difficult still to maintain. I know some people who have it. I have some family and friends who have it. I’ve tried my best to have it, perhaps I’ve failed or simply have too high expectations for that old quality.

I saw integrity in action this morning over a dollar that didn’t have to be given to someone, but was because a man had integrity. A single dollar. It might never have been missed, but the old man who gave it back had that integrity. Shorten that word down and you get “grit” This man had grit. Our parents generation had true grit. Integrity.

It’s a small thing, but a big thing. I knew at that point, I had not failed totally. When I stop and think about it, I feel perhaps I have not failed. Integrity lives on perhaps. I see other examples of it in other places in which I live my life on a daily basis. I am very grateful that I see it. It is something which needs to continue to be passed on. Our politicians and leaders certainly need to find it. To many of them integrity is a dirty word.

The people in the generations who were alive when I was a kid, a little boy, a young man….they knew integrity. They held themselves accountable for doing the right thing. They didn’t have to have anyone else, or any other thing besides their conscious to guide them. They were not perfect, but their spines were straighter than many in this day and age, including our leaders in many areas. Perhaps especially those.

I’d like to simply just thank those people of the greatest generation for what they all meant to me. I’ve fallen short of their example, but I swear I’ve tried….and I will continue to do so until my last breath.

The direction the spirit may go

There is a spirit within us all, there’s no doubt in my mind. Everyone of us is a singular, living, breathing, contained Universe. So many factors dictate the direction our Earthly philosophy and the path we will take. It’s not worth it to take the time to name them, everyone pretty much knows what they are.

Many of the souls of humans become bogged down in the excesses which affect the bodies we are given. Drugs ruin bodies, which suppress the spirit. Ignorance and obstinacy steer the mind down roads which are narrow and populated with thorny bushes on either side. Once one gets on those paths it’s hard to get off.

The mind numbing indoctrination of intolerance and judgement which is so gently and sweetly injected into the minds of many by some religions at early ages taints the spirit and is extremely difficult to break free from.

I am no philosopher or authority with any great wisdom to impart. I only think that the spirit given to each of us is our own. We can make of it what we wish, free from the influence of others. We can believe whatever we want, and be what we were born to be by our own decision. It’s terribly difficult, however. It’s often a lonely journey, with very little support or encouragement. Just remember there are others out there like you who believe we are each our own entity, with the ability to decide on our own what is right or wrong for us, as long as we keep our moral compass pointed in the direction of that Greatest philosophy, which is to do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Cotton Town


The first thing I remember about Trion, Georgia is the smells of the cotton mill. I was somewhere between two and three years old when Daddy got out of the Navy, and we all moved into a little old house on sixth street, and Mom and Daddy “set up housekeeping”. I’d been living in Blue Ridge with my Mom and Grandparents, and Mom’s little sister who was 11 years old when I was born. Daddy finally got out of the Navy in ‘52, went to Riegel Textile and got a job, rented a house, and moved us in. We were officially Trionites.

But, back to the smell of the mill. I had no complaints as a three year old. I’d been used to smelling the smoke from a wood burning stove, the scents of bacon frying, cornbread baking, biscuits in the oven. I don’t know if I ate any of it, but I was used to olfactory stimulation. The smells of a cotton mill became familiar quickly. There was the slightly musty, but pleasant smell of bales of cotton. They had an earthy odor, accentuated by the pungency of the burlap they were wrapped in. I found out later how huge they were, passing by them sitting out on the open cotton docks like huge marshmallows that had been half way toasted in a fire on the end of a wire coat hanger.

There was that smell which was sort of like the one that occurred when Momma would iron blue jeans with a hot clothes iron. Kind of on the edge of burny, extremely hot cotton having the wrinkles pressed out. Found out later on, it was cloth being sanforized. I never really realized what that process entailed until many years later when I worked in the mill as a supervisor in the denim finishing department where denim was being sanforized. I learned that the cloth was run through this huge machine, wet down first then partially dried, and run under a gigantic rubber belt that was tightly pushed up against a steel roller. This process pre shrunk the denim, which kept it from shrinking once it was made into blue jeans and sold. It ran over a gigantic steam wheel to totally dry it out, and the exhaust fans above it carried that smell that I’d smelled so many years earlier out into the night air.

There was also the briny, and very stinky sulfuric smell of the bright dye runoff coming from the printing department. At the time I was a child, they just dumped that excess dye after they were finished into a little creek that ran under the mill and out into the Chattooga River. I used to stand at the little bridge above where the stream ran when I was little and marvel at how beautiful and colorful that water was. I had no idea it was polluting the river something awful, and killing the fish. Back in the fifties, it wasn’t that big an issue.

So, I played out on the front steps and in the yard on sixth street. In the bright summer sunshine and during the cold of winter with my heavy coat on, making roads in the dirt for my tootsie toy cars, and pretending to drive all over town. All the while smelling the smells of a Southern cotton mill town wafting through the air.

God is there

There are far, far too many children with cancer and other serious diseases in our world. Far too many young adults dying with “old people” diseases:

“There are far, far too many chemicals, poisons, drugs, in our water and food”

There is far, far too much hatred one for the other in our world. Far too much war and atrocities being committed by humans against other humans:

“Hate is not a hereditary quality, but a learned behavior”

There is far, far too much torture of our planet going on. Forests are disappearing, oceans are polluted, the air is filled with noxious smoke, the earth itself is being drilled into incessantly, pumped full of hot water and steam in order to choke out a gallon of black goo…:

“When the Earth dies, all humans will also die. As far as I know there are no outposts on Mars”

There are far, far too few children learning to put a pencil to a piece of paper and write:

“When the plug is pulled, how will knowledge be communicated?”

I used to be able to pull my car in my Grandfather’s yard and do just about anything to it which needed doing to make it run. I changed points and plugs, solenoid switches and alternators, starters, rings and pistons. Now when I open the hood of my car all I see are computer plug ins. The one thing I recognize is the battery.

I used to check books out of the library to read, or go to one of the numerous used book stores to buy a book to read, or to trade for one. Now, I buy a “book” online and they send a few bytes of information on the internet and I read it on an electronic pad. I still own lots and lots of physical books though…including a lot of instruction manuals and textbooks.

There are far, far too many people who think their God lives inside a big brick building:

“If you make room in your heart, God will be there. If God is in your heart, you have made room” You will know, there won’t be any doubt.


Life on the B side

Living Life on the B side.

When I was a kid, we had only record players on which to play our favorite music. For most of my early childhood, I played my records on my dad and Mom’s old Philco combination radio/phonograph. I think that old machine is still sitting in my son’s house. We only owned a few records when I was very little. Dean Martin, Sinatra, an Elvis album. All of them were 33 rpm records, or “albums” as we called them then. I wore the ones we had out playing them. I can still sing any of the songs on the ones we had word for word. The only time the radio was on was when my mother was listening to some radio preacher, or when my dad wanted to listen to a football game. Other than that, there wasn’t much “live” music being played. Maybe the “Grand Ol’ Opry” every now and then…. but not too often. My Mom had always wanted to be a “country singer” but never knew how to pursue it. She had a halfway decent voice but wouldn’t sing for anyone. Her childhood was challenged, to say the least. She had absolutely no self-confidence. None had ever been instilled in her. My Grandpa was not good to his daughters for some reason. My dad loved to sing though and would go around the house singing all the songs he had grown up with. I learned a lot of Al Jolson songs, and other various and sundry songs that a child of the depression would hear as he grew

I got my first personal record player of my very own when I was about 12 years old. I had to be that age, because it was after we had already moved over on 9th street…. which was in the fall of 1962 I believe. I remember having to get out in the yard and move the 12-inch-high brown grass in the cool of that Fall. It was probably my Christmas present that year. It was a two-tone brown boxy little outfit that the top part flipped open to reveal the inner workings. The best thing about it was that it had a 45-rpm converter which fit down over the top of the spindle. This meant I could play 45’s …. if I could get them. Luckily, I had an uncle whose job was filling up juke boxes with new records as they came out. Every time we went to my grandmother’s house, my uncle would have a big box of old 45’s that he had taken out of the juke boxes and replaced with more current songs. I brought home dozens of great records. There was one problem with those records though. All 45’s had an A and a B side, where the A side was the primary release song. It was the “popular” song on the record. Most of the time on those used records, the A side was about worn out, while the B side was rarely played. Therefore, I listened to a lot of “B” side music. One record I can recall more than others was Elvis Presley’s 1962 hit “She’s Not You” That song was totally worn out, but the B side was “Just Tell Her Jim said Hello” which I grew to love as probably my favorite Elvis song. (Well, besides “Hound Dog” which was also the B side to “Don’t be Cruel”)

There were a lot of records where the A side was still very playable. I got to where I loved Billy Joe Royal, Tommy Roe, whose A side songs didn’t get played as much, as well as the B side songs of the Rolling Stones. (Of which a couple I cannot even name here)

I did keep on playing the 33’s also. I began to love show tunes, mainly because Redford’s 5&10 would put them on sale after they’d been sitting around for a while, and where I couldn’t afford the “popular” records of those days, I would pay 50 cents for the soundtrack of “My Fair Lady” “The King and I” and many others of that time period. I can still sing them word for word too, and in many senses, I love that music more than some of the Pop tunes of that era. I kept that little record player until I moved off to college in 1968. It was a little monaural wonder. The first time I head a stereo record player, believe me when I say, I was amazed.

I reckon the influence that music had on me during those days made me be satisfied with living life on the “B” side. I mean, I might have enjoyed being a rich man…. I might have liked being popular and well known for being a singer and a songwriter, but then again, I may not have cared for the consequences of being famous. I probably wouldn’t have. I’m entirely satisfied and happy with the way my life has turned out. Every time I think about it, I ask Alexa to play “Just Tell her Jim said Hello” or even “Hound Dog” like I did today. I also asked her to play “Dream” by the Everly brothers in honor of Phil Everly. Man, I love that song.

Bridge Over Troubled Waters was a B side to “The Boxer” too I believe.

Is it really a blessing?

I have read a lot of New Year’s posts, and even before New Year’s where people are always using the phrase “I am blessed” or “feeling blessed” I wonder.

I think a lot of times we humans don’t give ourselves the credit that we are due in life. Our hard work, kindness, compassion, generosity, our dedication to these things, all of this creates the success (or if you are lacking these things, the failure) of our lives.

If you win the lottery…you are lucky! If you get into a great college, you have worked hard, studied hard and fought hard to get there. If you survive a terrible accident, or a major medical crisis….you have been aided by science and by the education of the medical professionals and staff.

I think we should reassess our use of the term “being blessed” If you consider it carefully, in most cases we as humans are responsible for our blessings. If you get a great job you applied for, is it because of your qualifications and record…or were you blessed? Were the people who applied for that job and didn’t get it cursed?

Do we too often recognize the accomplishments and hard work of other people by saying they are blessed? Is that belittling them as a person to think that they have been given whatever it is that they are getting as a gift from God?

I believe in God. I know not the true nature of God. I don’t think that when I wake up every morning it is because God has blessed me with another day. You may disagree, and if you do…then I will not argue the point with you. I believe that God has given us the ultimate blessing. The gift of life on this Earth. The gift of being able to interact with other people, to love them. The gift of being able to enjoy all the things we have been inserted into with this gift of life. Live life. Enjoy life. Revel in it. This is our one time trip through it and we should not sell our humanity and the gifts of our humaness short. We create our own blessings by our actions and thoughts. Let’s create many of them this year.


…suppose the souls of all the women who were ever burned at the stake as witches, or for heresy, were to rise in anger from their graves and seek revenge on the descendants of those who murdered them or caused them to be killed?

…or if all of the ghosts of the Shamans and Elders, and the Chiefs of all the first people who lived in the Americas were to magically become zombies, like the ones in “the Walking Dead” and seek retribution for the diseases which decimated them, or the soldiers who cut down their woman and children left alone in their villages.

…imagine the fear which would fill the wind if the spirits of all the lynched slaves, all of the abused and tortured Africans and their children, could haunt the dreams of the offspring of those who caused that terrible and awful abuse.

..what if the Earth itself is silently plotting our demise because of all that we have done to harm her? The scars we have permanently left upon the land, and the species which no longer exist…many simply because they got in our way, or because we could easily exploit and manipulate them. Many died due to our greed.

why are we like this? At what point in human history did we decide that treating other humans as animals was ok, and that treating animals like dirt was our “right”, and that treating our home like it is disposable is even remotely wise? Why do those of us who do not want these things to be so, give power to those who have no remorse or conscience?

I believe that people who care about not letting the terrible things which have plagued our history happen again, should exercise our right to treat those who would do them as criminals and outcasts…. not as leaders. We don’t need destroyers as leaders, we don’t need the self-righteous as our teachers, we need builders of consensus and cooperation. We need people of compassion and love. We need healers.

Can we find them soon enough?

I look to the future generations and hope. I look to the babies who are crawling and toddling for wisdom. I dream of technology which is yet to come for assistance. My time remaining here is short, and my answer is that I am sorry that I have not done enough.

Many people say we should not worry about the deeds of our forefathers, what’s past is past, but every time I look out of my window into the deep woods behind my house, I hear the whispers in the wind, the soft crying in the breeze, the deep anger in the thunder and lightning, and I wonder if those people who want to forget about history are right or wrong.

Baby Boomer Fail

Our Fathers, and some of our Mothers went off to World War II, and then came home and created us. The baby boomers.

Our parents had hopes and dreams that we, their precious children, could change the world to be a better place. That we could change the world to be a world with no more war. That we could change the world to be more accepting. That we could change the world to be a happier place. That we could enrich the world with the knowledge and science that comes with a college degree….one which most of them did not have a chance to get.

Most of our parents, being children of the depression, wanted more for us then they we’re able to have. So they gave things to us. Our Christmases were like Ralphie’s in “A Christmas Story”. We had our ball gloves and our baseball games. Football became a major force in America during our lifetimes. Hell, all sports did for that matter. We concentrated more on being good athletes, than we did being good citizens.

We were expected to get good grades in school, and to be polite. We did….we were.

We owed it to our Moms and Dads to succeed in our quest to change the world. It has been changed, but we have not changed it for the good.

Instead, we became the “me” generation. We became the “lost” generation. We became the generation who’s motto was “make love and not war”. We were the generation who protested the “Vietnam” war.

We created wonderful music. We wrote great books. But in the space of all this time between the “then” of our birth and the “now” of today, we became divided. We diverged in the late 60’s onto two separate paths. Some remained liberal children of the flower power movement , while others made a choice to move on to more conservative norms.

I don’t pretend to be able to reduce all the complicated reasons we are where we are now into a few paragraphs. It’s impossible. But the gist of what I am trying to say is that my generation was many. We were the majority of voters at one time in this country…and we failed. We failed to do all the things we were supposed to do for our Moms and dads.

We failed to heal. We failed to unite, and we failed to erase hatred and prejudice. Now it is too late for us. Our time to effect change has been lost like the long hair we used to wear.

All I can say is “Dad and Mom…I’m so damned sorry I failed you, I am so terribly, awfully sorry”. I did not realize that my civic duty was more important than “feeling good”. By the time I have realized it……..

There’s millions more out there, Baby Boomers….who owe their folks the same apology. We let the chance to change the world into a better place for our children and grandchildren, slip away like sand through the hourglass of our era.

Now we reap what we sow….or more appropriately, what we failed to sow. We deserve what we get for betraying the sacred mission with which our parents entrusted us.

Make the world a better place to live. Leave more than you found.

Things I cannot see

I cannot see the wind, but I know its there and that it exists. I wonder often what it does look like to the ones who can see it. It must have dainty white hued hands, and powerful big red mittens to be able to do what it does.

But, I cannot see the wind that moves the things around us. The same wind that moves small things so cleverly but can blow away entire towns if it wishes.

And if I cannot see the wind, what else am I overlooking? What more things, both benign and powerful exist side by side with me that I cannot detect, because unlike the wind they choose not to make their presence known?