The World of our Dreams

Last night I dreamed a lifelong friend of mine died. I’m not going to mention who…so don’t ask. The dying was sad, but then something happened. The body turned to clay, and the red clay mysteriously was shaped into the form of that person’s body, as they were…when they were young. Then, the clay body became human and came back to life. They smiled at me and then faded away from view.

I realize, at least I think I realize….that dreams are manifestations of our subconscious mind. As much as we’d like to believe they are real sometimes ( or hope they’re not!) they are for the most part meaningless.

Or are they?

Lately my dreams wake me up at night. Some recent ones were vivid, and caused a couple of panic attacks. I suspect it’s simply some changes in my aging brain. I fear the disease my Dad had, which was eventually the cause of his death, and hopefully won’t go down that road.

As for the dreams…I don’t really mind them. They give me something to think about. Something to consider. We spend about a third of our lives sleeping, and according to what I read, normally about 2 hours or so dreaming every night. Over 50 hours a month. It’s a different world than the one we experience while we’re awake, but not one of less importance. Perhaps we should pay more attention to them and see if they can guide us towards better understanding of ourselves.

Dream on tonight!

My Mom and the Dreary Day

“Dreary” my Mom would say as she looked out the window, “such a dreary day.”

Mom used to look out the windows a lot during the Winter, and she hated the dreary, rainy days like we are having lately. She didn’t much like winter at all after Christmas was over and done with. I have to admit, I’m much the same.

On sunny, warm days Mom might go around with her dust rag, polishing the coffee table and end tables and hum some country tune she heard as a child. She could sing on tune and in key if she wanted to, but would never let anyone hear her if she could help it. She would clown around most of the time, and act silly with it when she sang.

She once told me she wanted to be a country music singer when she was a little kid, but her Daddy had made fun of her once when she was singing, so she never sang for anyone after that. It was a shame, because in the unguarded moments when the sun was shining outside, I could hear a spark. I loved it when the sun was shining as a child, and Mom was happy. It didn’t happen too often, because Mom’s personality became dark very early on due to mental illness, and stayed that way off and on until she died.

As far as the singing goes, she had done the same thing to me when I was little also, but probably hadn’t realized it. I had heard Elvis singing on T.V., and stood in the doorway of our home on Simmons street and belted out my version of “Hound dog” Mom burst out laughing at me. I think it was because she didn’t know before that moment that I actually could sing. I was embarrassed. I wouldn’t sing out loud for anyone after that, until the year I was in the eighth grade.

I was in “Glee club” at school and we were singing as a group with band director John Corruth as our director. It was at Christmas and we were doing a version of “White Christmas” I was really into the song, and with the seeming anonimity of others around me singing, I was belting out my best Bing Crosby version. “Hey Bowers” said Mr. Carruth. “I want you to sing the first verse of that song at our program as a solo”. “You sound pretty good.”

My face went bright red, and I almost ran out of the rehearsal area, which was at the front of our Elementary school cafeteria. But…I ended up doing it, and although I was extremely nervous, my voice didn’t break. I went on to do a lot more singing during High School. If it hadn’t been for that one situation with Mr. Carruth though, I may not have.

My parents didn’t come to that program. I can’t remember them ever coming to any of the “minor” activities we did at school. It’s not that they weren’t interested, but it was more that the programs took place during the hours in which they worked. I wish they could have been there sometimes.

As my Mom got older, she was beset by a bevy of health problems which finally took her away in December of 2010.

But sometimes during the dreary days of winter, like the one today, as I dust the bookshelf or the T.V., I can hear her gently humming a country tune…..

Living Life Over Again

I sometimes see the question “If you had the chance to live your life over again, would you do it?”

Of course none of us ever will….

And when I see this question, people usually qualify the answer: “Well, if I knew what I know now…” or “If I could make just a couple of changes…”

I tell you straight to the point, that I would. I’d do it again just exactly the same without changes anything one iota. I’d take the pain and heartache of burying a child, just to see her again through the nursery window.

I’d go through the agony of my parents death, just to hear their voices again. I’d let Mom hit me on the head with my bow again. I’d endure watching Porter Wagoner.
I’d wait til I was 16 again to see the Ocean for the first time. I’d rinse poop out of cloth diapers to have the chance for my baby girl to take a nap on my tummy.

I’d buy hot wheels for my boys to crush with rocks and bury under the Elm tree I planted on 9th street. I’d pick cherrys straight off the tree in the blazing Idaho summer sun for my Mother in law to can.

I’d chase lighting bugs all evening until I had a jar full, and take my turn at cranking the old ice cream machine.
I’d smell Grandpa’s pipe tobacco, and the wood smoke from the pot bellied stove. I’d listen to him cuss when I’d turn over his “spit can” I’d relish the taste of Grandma’s fried apples and homemade lard biscuits.

I’d take the two heart attacks a stent, and four bypasses and a year of recovery to see baby Eli and Rue come in the door the first time again.

I’d play countless games of hearts at the student center at West Georgia college to fall in love with my wife. I’d run off the road in a rain storm on our wedding night and double back to Dalton to a tiny little hotel room.

I would load tractor trailer loads of matresses by myself in 100+ degree weather, so I could have Saturday off to go to the baseball card show.

I would do all the stupid things again, just to do a few of the smart things. I’d take the ass chewings, and countless hours of driving out and back to work in Calhoun and Dalton just to have the hugs and the kisses from the ones I have loved, and do still love.

We will never have that chance…perhaps…depending on your philosophy, or depending on how the Universe works. Who knows really how it does work? All I can say is that the joy has vastly outshined the sadness.

Yes, I’d do it again. Unqualified and unquestioned if I could.

Even the Bad Times are Good

To the people who I have loved and who are now gone: I try and remember you as much as possible! I try and think of you each and every day! It’s not maudlin to remember your loved ones and the happy memories you had with them. I think it’s theraputic. It keeps them alive in your memory. They exist there as they once existed physically here on Earth. I try not to think in a mournful way, but in honor.

And, as one song I have heard so succinctly puts it, “Even the bad times are good” We learn from the bad times how better to enjoy the good. We learn from the bad times that we are all human. There are no perfect people. Not now.

I always thought the tiny old house in which we used to live to be a symbol of not succeeding.

As I grow older, I am trying to leave better memories than I did when I was a younger man. I was so self absorbed, and trying always to “get ahead” and “make ends meet” How little I knew about life. How off the mark I was about what constitues happiness. I’m not sure if it’s the dwindling years, or the gathering of more tender memories with those around me. It really doesn’t matter now. What matters is that most days I remember to try and leave a memory with somebody.

Now when I think back, I remember the times when everyone was packed in together. We were close. We grew closer. Three kids and their friends. Games played and meals eaten. Shows watched together in silence or in noisy celebration. Report cards reviewed, and papers written and assissted with. Research which benefited me as much as it did the primary party. Situations discussed and problems resolved…..or not. Life lived!

So, I guess it is not so bad. Not really a “sign of success or failure” My grandchildren used to run and crawl the halls and draw on the walls. I didn’t care. If you had looked around, you’d have seen crayon pictures hanging and momentos magnetized to the refrigerator. You’d have seen kid’s books partially filling the bookshelfs and plastic crates full to the top with stuffed bears and letter blocks. My wife sat not eight feet away from me. I’m glad she was that close, and still is….

So, in twenty or thirty years, or whenever my time is over, I hope I’ll have made enough memories in the heads of some of my favorite people that they might even think back and remember when I wrote a little post about it.

Infinity in Both Directions

I spend some time every day looking at some things under high magnification. I do this for things I think I’m going to sell…I look through high power loops at stones and marks on silver and what not. Sometimes I use a black light with the magnification and I can tell you, what appears ordinary when viewed with the naked eye is sometimes extraordinary under magnification.

I know that scientists look at things under such powerful magnification that they have gone down to what they think of as the smallest particle in existence, which they call a quark. I wonder if it really is the smallest….or if it just goes on and on.

I went to take my dogs out last week, and the stars were coming out and looked gorgeous. Sometimes in the past I have used a telescope to stretch the reach of my eyes farther out into the Universe.

What is obscured by the light of day is beautified by the quiet calm of night.

I know that scientists have telescopes which have stretched out to the edges of the Universe and they have theories about how old our Universe is, and when the “big bang” started it out.

I truly wonder if the nature of existence stretches to infinity in both directions? I know that science fiction writers have used their imaginations many times to “stretch” the way we look at things. I enjoy those types of books.

We think we know so much, when we actually know very little. We are just scratching the surface. We need to keep scratching and see what we find.

1968

I Had a Dream…back in 1968

Growing up in a small town of only about 2000 people, you pretty much get to know everyone. The population of the town I live in has hovered around that number for most of the 61 years I have been alive, and I have been associated with it. The people change of course, old people die and are replaced by new babies. The babies grow up and either work at the mill, or some of them break free and go off to college and end up in other parts of the world. But still the population is about the same.

I started off in grammar school in 1956, and there were about 50 of us in the first grade. We had three classes with about 17 or 18 each in the classes. We graduated 52 people in 1968. An ultra small Senior class for sure. And 1968 doesn’t seem all that long ago to me. It’s a relatively long time ago though. I was watching the golf tournament last week and Phil Michelson won. I thought, to myself that he is getting on up there in age to win a tournament. Then, when they said he was born in 1970, I did a double take. I had a daughter born in 1970.…so I am old enough to be Phil Michelson’s Dad…ouch.

Today, I feel really old. I have done a little painting the last couple of days and it has worn me out. I thought I felt pretty well this morning, so I went about my usual things…walking around trade day etc. I thought I was pretty energetic, but I was wrong. This evening I feel like I have been dragged behind a car for a couple of miles. I used to shake these kinds of things off a few years ago like a Water Spaniel shaking off some pond water. Now, I think I am like an OLD Spaniel. Ahh, but I know 61 is not too late to get back into decent physical shape, so I am REALLY trying, losing some weight and such.

But, in any case, I was thinking about my Senior class again. We usually try to meet a couple of times a year for a meal and to rehash old times. The only thing is, the last few times we have met, we have discussed members of our graduating class who have died in between our meetings. We were, and are a close knit class. Most all of us went all the way through those twelve years together, and it’s troubling when these people who you picture as youngsters start falling by the wayside. Heart attacks, cancer, car wrecks. This can’t be happening can it?

I once had a dream back in the 60’s that I would be the LAST member of my class to be left alive. Really, I did! I can’t remember too many details about it other then the vaguest memory that I was some kind of ancient decrepit man. And I was alone. That’s the thing I remember the most about the dream, was the being alone. Now I know, dream interpreters would say I was having a dream about the teenage feelings of isolation I was going through, but I don’t know about that. How many dreams do you remember from when you were a teenager?? That’s what I thought!! I am pulling for the rest of my Senior class to live long and happy lives, with many grandchildren. That way, if the dream was true, then I am going to get over this fatigue!

Speaking of changing things, what things about your life would you change, if you could go back and change something? If you had the power to change ONE thing that happened in the past to you or to someone else because of you, what would it be?

That would be the most powerful ability any of us were ever given, if by some magic we had it bestowed upon us. I can think of several. But, the thing about the ability to change that ONE thing would be the ramifications of changing it.

I know we ALL have heard about the ripple effect. Where you throw the tiny pebble out in the middle of the still waters of a little pond, and watch the ripples spread out from where the pebble has hit. They eventually go out to the very edge of the pond itself albeit by that time they are very negligible and barely visible. But, near where the pebble has hit, they are much stronger.

I have though about things that I could have done which would have changed my life. I am not going to name them though. The fact is that what I did is what I did and it caused pain sometimes and happiness sometimes. Sometimes just to me, and sometimes to others. I would be petrified with fear to change any of these things in the past, even if I could, because I might come back to future and find that I didn’t like what I had done.

The best thing for me to do then is to make sure I make better choices in the years I have left. I would advise everyone to try and do that. You know that we can make better choices. It’s all a matter of thinking about things logically, taking the time to sort them out and not jumping into them without a lot of careful thought. Now, I am not talking about deciding what to have for supper! I don’t think that will affect us that much, unless we decide to eat Peanut butter and Banana sandwiches with Mayo, or something. What I am talking about are the decisions that have that ripple effect. The ones that can cause other people or our self’s that pain or happiness I was just talking about.

I have to be very careful, because I often open my mouth and speak before my brain has a chance to process what I am going to say. I act hastily sometimes. I act impulsively and irrationally sometimes. Why do I do all of that? Why do any of us do that? I wish I had a dollar for every time I should have kept my mouth shut, don’t you?

Along with trying to get back in to physical condition, I think I am going to try my best to treat other people the way I would want to be treated. That’s how we should do it, regardless of what anyone else might tell you. Now…if I can JUST get a good night’s sleep tonight…..

1988

1988 was a good year for me. I went to work in February of that year for a company in Calhoun, Georgia as Quality Control Supervisor for their Dalton, Ga. plant. I was thirty eight years old that year. My kids were still all living at home, and all in school here in Trion. There was a lot going on. Paula went to work at the same company a few months later, and for the next 10 years we commuted out and back from Trion to Calhoun to work. We went out to lunch with each other pretty much every day, and saw each other quite a bit during the course of the work day. It was a really good situation for us, and a really good time, in my life.

Because we were working out of town, there was a lot of pressure on our three children to take care of themselves until we got home in the evening. Kirsten being the oldest, was designated pretty much as the “range boss” There were epic battles, but they were survived. On weekends I always tried my best to do something with the boys. We went to a lot of baseball card shows, comic book shows, and hot wheels shows. Back then, that’s how you got collectible stuff. There was no internet yet, believe it or not.

We had a lot of spaghetti and meat sauce, salmon patties, and fish sticks during those days. We eventually graduated to some different types of meals, but those three things were staples of our existence.

We started out the year with Reagan as President and ended it up with Bush Sr. It wasn’t too contentious of an election as I remember…with one of the most memorable moments being when Sen. Loyd Bentsen of Texas, who was running as V.P. told Dan Quayle that he “knew John Kennedy, and you aren’t any John Kennedy” …and he wasn’t

There was a lot of stress which came along with my job, but looking back now with 20-20 hindsight it was a great year, and led to a great decade.

I could go on and on…but maybe another day. Suffice it to say, that my mind has drifted back just a bit today and I wanted to share. Hope everyone else can remember what they were doing in 1988! (if you were around and kicking)

Walking the Mall and The Memories

One of the places which I used to like to go and take a walk when it’s rainy and bad outside, is the Mt. Berry Square Mall. As a matter of fact, my wife and I went there a couple of times last year before the pandemic, and walked to get our cardio workout. Unfortunately, as my Dad once sang about the old gray mare, “she ain’t what she used to be, many long years ago.”

Mt. Berry Square Mall opened back in 1991. It was brand spanking new back in mine and my wife’s “heydays” of our working careers. It was beautiful. Skylights illuminated the food court and it was full of new stores with new smells, and stocked full of stuff we needed in our lives. Our sons were still living at home with us then. If I remember correctly, they opened it early in 1991….almost a “late” 1990 opening. The first Christmas we shopped there would have been in December of 1991.

As with all other years, 1991 had it’s memorable historical moments. The first Gulf War took place that year. Space shuttles were being launched with regularity. The shuttle Columbia carried another piece of Spacelab into space that year. In December of that year, Gorbachev resigned and the Soviet Union collapsed. Memorable historical events.

Of course there were the everyday events also occurring in our lives. Paula and I got on the same shift at Crown Crafts where we were working that year, and we rode out and back together to work every day for the next eight years or so. We had a lot of discussions and listened to a lot of music in those years. We went to lunch together practically every day. We were very lucky to have good jobs at a good company.

Then, on a lot of weekends we went to Mt. Berry Square and shopped. Afterwards, we might go to the movies in Rome. A couple of years later, can’t exactly recall when, they opened up a movie theater there at the mall. We made a lot of trips to Rome during the ensuing years. A lot of trips to that mall. Most of them were great trips.

Paula’s Mom and Dad made one of their last “spring visits” to Georgia the year the mall opened and we took them there. Cancer took them both in a few years after that. My dear mother in law died first in 1992. She really enjoyed her first and only trip roaming around that mall. She would always say “Wow” or “Oh my” if she thought something was special. She was a wonderful, caring woman who passed too soon.

There were the Christmas shopping trips, when we would always buy a Christmas ornament from the little old folks from Loganville, who set up in the middle of the mall. They always had some interesting and nicely priced things, and it was a pleasure to look at them and select “just the right thing” Evie played with a set of Russian nesting dolls this year that we bought from those good folks way back then. Good quality to have lasted so long.

We always looked forward to the day that Santa came to the mall, and started letting the kids come sit on his lap and have pictures made. I think we have photos of almost all of our grandchildren sitting in that mall Santa’s lap. A couple of them are hanging on our refrigerator now, held up with assorted animal magnets. I know my children could recall a lot more memories associated with the mall than me. Ted was learning how to drive during those years, and I am sure that old red EXP of his went out and back to Mt. Berry quite a few times.

The stores were jam packed with great merchandise back in those days. You could always find what you were looking for to celebrate a birthday, or any other special day. For years, businesses were on waiting lists to open up a storefront in Mt. Berry Square. It was bustling and full of people on weekends. Not anymore.

As we walked around and around today, there were more empty spaces than spaces with stores. Sears, which had a presence in Rome for over 100 years closed up last year and sits empty. The mall has up ads begging businesses to come move in. It’s a little sad. No, more than that, it’s a lot sad. It’s amazing how quickly things change in the world of business, as well as in our lives. Just as Walmart opened up their stores in many small towns across America and closed up most of the “Mom and Pop” shops in those towns, the Amazon’s and other “online” shopping ventures have begun to cause many malls across America to close up. I suppose that’s progress, but not for a sentimental old guy like me.

I hope that Mt. Berry Square manages to stay open for a while. I go out of my way to go there sometimes just to walk and to remember. There are still sights and smells which invoke the nostalgia of days gone by. Good days, wonderful times, great memories. There are closer places to where I live in which I could walk in the rain, but none of them have those memories contained in their walls. They don’t contain my memories, which are kindled and which burn warmly inside my chest every time I go around one of those familiar corners

I hear a child’s laughter, and for just an instant I’m back to 1991, walking through there with Matt, looking for the newest and greatest transformer for Christmas.

And so, it’s worth the few extra miles drive. Well worth it.

Coal

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..

The Music of the If Game

If…the biggest, most awesome word ever invented.
My Dad always told me when I used “if” that “if a bullfrog had wings, he wouldn’t bump his butt when he jumped” I guess he wouldn’t.
“If a picture paints a thousand words, then why can’t I paint you?”
“If I were a carpenter, and you were a lady, would you marry me anyway and would you have my baby?”
“If I listened long enough to you, I find a way to believe that it’s all true, knowing that you lied straight faced while I cried. Still I look to find a reason to believe”
Hundreds of songs, I’m sure….
Hundreds of quotes….. All beginning with “If”
We are all going to have hundreds of “if” moments in our lives. Those moments of choice that make a difference going forward in how we will live our lives. Moments we look back on and say: “if I had only done , then _. When we make those decisions, they are made.
I’m pretty tired of playing the “if “ game in my life. I’ve done what I’ve done…sometimes until I’ve become undone! It’s a game that’s a waste of time to play.
As that intellectual group of the 60’s “The Grass Roots” once said: Sha-la-la-la-la-la, live for today, and don’t worry ‘bout tomorrow….
It’s a good philosophy.