Memories of the old home

I have run around this little old town pretty much all of my life. I was born two blocks from where I am sitting typing this. I went to grammar and high school four blocks away, right next to the river that I take photos of all the time. I used to look out of the study hall windows and I could see that same railroad trestle that you’re always seeing pop up on my page.

I lived in three different houses while I was growing up here. One of them is one block behind me. The other two were up in “hot town” about a ½ mile away from here. I was married 45 years and a couple of months ago in the Church right behind my house…about 200 steps from where I am sitting. My wife and I raised our three children here…living in two different houses along these narrow streets. There has been a sense of continuity to it all.

I’m sad sometimes that things have changed so much….but change is inevitable. It’s like breathing in and out….like life and death. What does not change does not survive, and therefore change is necessary. I am happy that I have been here, and been here in this time and place. I’m grateful that I have survived the situations in which I have been, and the storms which have blown in and out of my life.

So, here I will be and perhaps will be from now on. You will see more photos of the landscape…probably more than you want to see. Of course there will be some more traveling, some more vacations and there will be time away from here. A cruise or two for sure. Disney World again…Paula likes that place and I kind of do too.

There are just too many ties here to completely break away at this point in life…family, kids, and grandchildren, and the memories…oh yes, there is that. Once upon a time back in the “old days” I dreamed for the day I could get out of this “one horse town” I wanted New York City or Nashville. A lot of my classmates and “city mates” have made it out of here. For some reason I didn’t. I guess maybe it was because I just wanted to stick around and see how things turned out.

One of my old dreams

“To Sleep, Perchance to Dream, Ahh…there’s the rub” Shakespeare..

Wonder what Hamlet was really thinking about when he uttered that line. Fear of the long sleep of death? Was he maybe just an insomniac…? Too bad for him there wasn’t Ambien back then, he may have been able to live a normal life!
Then there’s the line that “Hal-9000” asked Dave right before he “died” “Dave, will I dream?”

Dreams are weird things, and I have been having some really wild ones of late. I don’t know why… Mostly, I dream about work and how it used to be in those days. Mind you, it’s not enough that I used to spend 12 hours a day at work on most days. Then I came home, did some work on the computer, and read my emails, watched a little news, and tried to go to sleep. But the ignominy of having to still dream about working, after three years, just really peeves me. I think I have dream’t of every belligerent boss I ever have had over my working career in the last few weeks, and believe me that covers a LOT of ground. But then…there was last night’s dream.

I was in our old house on 8th Street (been moved from there for nae on to 27 years!) and watching apprehensively out the door and big black steam train was coming by. You could feel the house shake since it was only about 60 feet from the railroad tracks. The smoke and soot belched out of the top of the engine and the noise was like a jet plane. I was scared and sweating, I was terrified that the train was coming for me. Finally it got next to the house and I could see the engineer sitting there in the front in his gray hood, and his sickle next to him. He looked me straight in the eye and smiled…. and then the train passed on by. On the back of the caboose when it passed there was a banner that said, “It’s not over, til I say it’s over” The train boogied on by so quickly it was amazing.
I went back inside, and the house was pitch dark and there were cobwebs in the corners and on the ceiling. There was no sign of life, no furniture not a thing moving (not even a mouse!) There were memories…and a bright light off in the distance.. Then….the dog licked my ear and I woke up.

I get the feeling that this dream is kind of like my life. I am a reminiscer. Someone who feels more comfortable thinking about the way things were than about the way they are. I guess sometimes I figure my life is mostly like the train…chugging relentlessly and quickly on down the track. I’m a passenger but I’m not in complete control. I worry that the ride will very soon be over,… But hey….the banner on the back is encouraging!

So, I will keep on writing about the things I like and remember so well from the past, and try and keep it nostalgic, and leave out the politics and problems that we are bombarded with from every side on a daily basis. I’ll leave that to people who are smarter and younger, and more dedicated than me. And I WILL remember: “It ain’t over ’til HE says it’s over!”

Now, in an hour or two it will be time to go get a little shut eye. I think it will be peaceful tonight. “To sleep, perchance to dream…that’s the rub now…isn’t it!” Thanks Will!

The Real Batman

A story I was listening to on NPR today really caught my attention. It was about a blind man named Daniel Kish who lost both of his eyes to cancer as a young child. One would expect…yes a person’s expectation would be that this child would lead a sheltered and protected life. A life where his parents would protect him and seek to keep him from being harmed due to his “disability” But, Daniel Kish himself had differenct expectations for his life. He expected to be able to do things that normal sighted people could do.

He developed a system of his own, using vocal clicks as he moved about, in order to locate things around him. As he grew he became more adept at finding his way using this unique sonar system. He came to be able to do things that any normal sighted person could do. He rides a bycycle anywhere he wants to go. He can identifiy items exactly, using his sonar system. The main part of his philosopy is that he is not bound by other people’s expectations of what he, a blind man, should be. He essentially became a real “Batman”.

Therein lies the idea which made me think and reconsider expectations.

Our first set of the expectations are from our parents. We are guided into the precepts of their own expectations for us. Kids are expected to play sports, or to be involved in some way. We must keep our kids busy doing the things we expect a child of their age, in their environment, to do. If a child asks to do something out of the ordinary, we sometimes tell them they “can’t do” that. “Momma I want to be an artist”. You can’t do that…your too little. “Daddy, I want to be a writer”. Son, you know we’re already doing football. “Mom and Dad, I want to be the person who cures cancer”. “Mom and Dad, I want to discover how to exceed the speed of light”. Say what?

Then there are the limitations we put on ourselves about our abilities. “I want to be a writer…publish a book”. What you talking about boy…your 65 years old…an old man!”

“I want to start a new chapter in my life, I want to live to 100 years old, I want to discover new possibilities for my life that I never thought possible!” Everything is possible if we believe we can exceed our expectations. Contrary to a popular myth which says we only us 10% of our brains, we humans use practically every part of our brain. What we do not do is expect success which exceeds our wildest expectations.

We should never sell ourselves short. We certainly should not put limitations on the expectations of our family.

We should not only expect them, and ourselves to be Batman, we should expect Superman.

I’ll fly Away

I have sang the song “I’ll fly away” hundreds of times. In choirs, in duets and quartets. Solo.

“I’ll fly away, oh glory….I’ll fly away”
“When I die, hallelujah by and by”
“I’ll fly away”

I’m looking up at the heavens sometimes at night, as I did the other week looking for shooting stars, and I get strange feelings. I get carried away. I feel like if I could, I would simply float up into the air, and keep on going.

Out past the moon, out past Mars and Jupiter. Out of our solar system and into the Milky Way. Through nebula, and skirting black holes. Past dwarf stars and red giants. To gently go where no man has gone before. But I pull back for now.

I am not finished here yet. Not finished. I’ve things yet I want to do. Little ones I want to nurture and love a bit longer. I don’t for how long I’ll get to. Nobody knows, except perhaps God, and I’m certain sometimes he gives extensions for his own reasons.

Truth be told, I’m really tired this summer. I’ve been dealing with health issues of various kinds practically all season, including a bad spell this afternoon with some rogue PVC’s, and tachycardia. You’d think with all the cardio I do, I’d be fit as a fiddle, but I reckon it’s really simply maintainence I’m doing. No matter though. I’m a survivor.

Robert Frost said it best: “for I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep…..and miles to go before I sleep”.

….or in my case before I fly away.

Have a great week everyone, and when you can manage to, “go home and love your family.”

The Final Frontier

Watching the movie “First Man” yesterday about Neil Armstrong’s life, and about America putting men on the moon was a stark reminder of where we have been as a country, as opposed to where we are now.

The strength, resolve and focus that we had as a country to go to the moon…to beat the Russians in our space program, was something which inspired and united us as a people. I know there were a few detractors who protested about the money being spent on that program, and that protest was addressed in the movie.

Overall though, it was a matter of togetherness that included most Americans. Was there a black astronaut at first? A woman? No there was not. I do firmly believe however, that the overall encompassing reach of the program, on all levels…not just the men who composed the crews, led to more inclusion, faster than in other areas of our countries culture.

I know that as far as me personally, the space program was a part of my childhood, which I cannot separate from my psyche. It was an excitement, and an interest from the days of Sputnik and Telstar, all the way through the Mercury program, with pictures of Alan Shepherd and John Glenn taped to the headboard of my bed, right next to JFK’s and RFK’s. It continued through Gemini, with all its tragic deaths….finally into the Apollo program. My favorite photo of all time was from Apollo 8, the first photo of our beautiful blue marble hanging out there in space, like the last gorgeous ornament hanging lonely but divine on the tree being taken down from Christmas that year.

I think perhaps my somewhat obsessive need to photograph the moon, and watch the skies, stems from my childhood wonder with putting men into outer space.

Paula and I were more amazed than ever before about the ability of the scientific community to be able to propel what were essential well built metal “cans” into space, with high powered explosives to launch them, and not only keep the people in them alive, but eventually guide them to the moon. At one point in the film Armstrong was using a handheld geometric chart aboard Gemini 8, plotting lines to try and connect with another capsule with which they were supposed to dock. Computers were these huge and heavy refrigerator sized machines which contained barely a fraction of the computing power of even the earliest PC’s with the original version of Windows. Consider the following from Google:

“So when NASA astronauts rapidly approached the moon 50 years ago, a lot was riding on a computer with less than 80 kilobytes of memory. By today’s standards, it’s a dinosaur. The Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC) weighed 70 pounds. Programs were literally woven into the hardware by hand — it was called “core rope memory.”

What amazing devices of mechanical engineering were those early crafts. What focus and bravery, combined with a sublime curiosity, about pushing the boundaries and limits of mankind’s physicality and mentality to the limit of its endurance these people possessed. Amazing.

While the photos of all my childhood heroes are gone from the headboard of the bed, I still have a plate block of the Apollo 8 stamps which I bought at the West Georgia College Post Office in late May of 1969, before I headed home for the Summer to get married, and start a new kind of life. I remember well Paula and I sitting on Mom and Dad’s couch in the living room on July 20th and watching “the Eagle” land, and later hearing Neal Armstrong’s famous words. “That’s one small step for man, but one giant leap for mankind”. But was it really?

I’m not sure what it would take to break America out of its current polarization and deep divisions. Something like putting a man on Mars? I wonder if even that would do it. I wonder at times if we were even as solid of a country back then like I thought we were, or if I was simply looking at the moon through rose colored glasses?

History by the Numbers

1619-1865 is 246 years. 1865-2019 is 154 years. We have almost a century left until this country has lived as many years without legal slavery as it did with it. That doesn’t even count another 100 years exactly from 1865-1965 when the voting rights act passed. So in reality that’s 346 years.

Spain, and then Mexico…after it won independence, owned much of the Southwestern US from 1521 after the conquest of the Aztecs, until 1848, when the Treaty of Hildalgo was signed, ending the Mexican-American War, which the US had instigated. The US got Texas, Southern California, most of New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado in that treaty. That’s 327 years the SW United States belonged to the “Hispanics” and 171 years that the United States has owned it. All citizens of Mexico got to choose to stay in the new United States, or go back to Mexico. Most of them stayed, creating an instant cross culture between the United States and Mexico, which has persisted since then. That’s a total of 498 years that Spanish speaking people have been in this area, as opposed to only after 1848 that white Americans started to go into these areas to settle. (The Gadsden purchase of 1853 further enlarged New Mexico and Arizona)

It amazes me that in just a very few short years, history in this country has been forsaken for media make believe. The myth of white manifest destiny over the cultural patterns of this country, and the belief that somehow the stain of slavery and repression has been washed as white as snow in a few short years belies the facts which lie in the history of America, if any would take the time to read it. Perhaps it cannot be understood.

Perhaps the trend of purposeful ignorance has taken such deep root that it can never be reversed. It is a shame that we Americans of the last half of the 20th century have been either unwilling or unable to defend the hard won freedoms and openness that our Fathers fought and died for in World War II. We have given them up to Autocracy and Oligarchy with hardly a fight.

The Old Weave Room

I was thinking about the old Weave room tonight. Back before the air jets and sulzers…the days of the old X1′ s and X2′ s. The old clackety clack of the shuttle’s flying out and back, and the beat up slamming that filling yarn in so tight. That rhythmic beat you could hear before you even hit the front door. “Slamaty..Clamity..Slamity..Clamity” over and over and over again. Hundreds of them in time creating an almost unbearable noise and a vibration that shook deep inside your chest.

I remember no air conditioning, and the sweat falling off in salty rivulets…And the white t-shirts all the men wore being soaked with sweat and dirty and greasy from laying on the Weave room floor up under a loom, legs sticking out in the narrow alleys.

And all the women with their waste aprons shoving those round battreys on each loom full of wound double tight yarn spools fresh out of the spinning room, double checking that it’s the right gauge and thickness. “Can’t have no mixed yarn.” Says the floor boss. You’d get wrote up for that. “Hell with that thick yarn!” Momma says. “Can’t get a break without the battery running out.”

And them’s the good old days.

But when we cut ourselves the blood was red. And some fixer who was caught up would help fill the battries so you could take a break and go to the water house and eat a bite. And the paychecks came home, with one savings bond a week coming out of it. But…in the end the money ran out anyway. And the old looms gave way to the air jets. And things changed and changed and changed some more.

But is it better? I can still hear those old looms in my head. My hearings a little hard, but my eyes are a little misty.

Deep Memories of the times when we used Pen and Paper

A lot of times I still find myself picking up a pen and paper and write things down on them before I transcribe it to the cyber world.

To me, writing something down on a page, especially if you are trying to create something gives me a warmer more responsive feeling, as opposed to the cold, clinical, sterile feeling of creating something on a screen that sits up in front of you, like a monolithic all seeing eye, daring you to put your fingers against the keyboard and interact with it in some kind of weird pseudo sexual dance. A dance that it always seems to win. I still participate in that particular dance more often than I would like. In this day and age we have very little choice if we are to interact with the world at large. However, my deeper feelings are still recorded with pen and paper. Just an old habit that’s hard to break.

In my life time I have seen humans being gradually sucked into the black arms of technology, gradually a few steps at a time. I have gone along too, I will have to admit. Sometimes reluctantly, fighting against it tooth and nail, but more often like everyone else accepting the change as just another step to make life easier and more convenient for us.

Wood cook stoves have changed to electric and gas and then to microwaves. Dinner used to run around on two feet and your Grandmother would grab it, and it would be extremely fresh that night for supper. Now, we grab it out of the freezer from a box.

People used to walk places. Miles and miles to places. It wasn’t unusual for my Mother to walk 6 or 7 miles into “town” when she was a child, and then the same distance back after she had conducted whatever business she was doing. It took all day. You were tired after that and had no problems sleeping. Adults didn’t have any problems with sleep either. They worked all day in the fields, or in the barns or at the house. There was very little idle time. Maybe a little bit in the evenings before the sun went down to read a little in their tattered old Bibles before going to bed, exhausted. No problems sleeping. No sleeping pills needed due to having sat around all day and pecked on a computer keyboard and not gotten up and walked more than a few steps. No sleeping pills needed due to worrying about deadlines for unimportant things which seem critical. Just tired bones and muscles needing a full nights sleep before getting up at first light the next day to start over again.

Miles of walking. Now, I sometimes drive the single mile to the local Wal-Mart Superstore 5 or 6 times a day to pick something up. I am the one that worries about the critical things which are not critical and has to have the pill to sleep well. I don’t have to build a fire in a wood stove to stay warm, just turn up the gas or the electric heater. I wonder if I am better off.

Oh, and on those trips to Wal-Mart ( I really don’t particularly like Wally World, but…I would have to drive 20 miles to go to another store that has what they have, SO I conform…what’s a person to do?) most of the time I used to end up buying some pre-packaged stuff to fix for supper. I used to pop a Freshetta Pizza out of the box, and pop it into the oven. I used to NEVER look at the labels. I was afraid of reading them. I didn’t want to know what it took to preserve what I was eating. I’ve changed that by a long ways now…trying to pay attention to all the stuff that I have been consuming over the years which has been slowly killing me. Will it work or not…time will tell.

I know that Grandma used to cook stuff in Pure Lard. For a long time the Drs. said that was really bad for you, all that animal fat and stuff. I don’t know about that though. There is some contradictory report on the TV news every day now about what’s good for you and what isn’t. It’s enough to boggle your mind. If you try and keep up with it, and do what they say you have to change the way you eat and drink about every other week because some study shows this or that. I quit keeping up with that too, and just eat what I think is right for me. A lot of veggies and stuff. I guess if it’s bad for me one day, and good for me the next I figure things are balancing each other out over the long run. Right?

I can barely remember back before there was a TV in the house. Just vaguely. I remember listening to records and radio programs on the Philco combination Radio/Phonograph that my folks owned. There were some great singers. Sinatra, Dean Martin, Rosemary Clooney. There some funny radio shows. All of those are fuzzy memories though. I don’t think we used that radio more than a few times after the first little Black and White TV came into the house. After that, it was ‘I Love Lucy’, ‘The Honeymooner’s” and Baseball games during the week. And then on Saturday mornings, it was the BEST of all. There were Western’s with Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, and Hoppalong Cassidy. You name them, they were there. The cartoons were great too. Bugs Bunny and Popeye the Sailor man. The “Officer Don” show, with the puppets and the cartoons and clowns, not to speak of “Howdy Doody” and old Buffalo Bob. Who could resist that over listening to the radio? We sure didn’t realize we were being suckered into a new life style though. It just seemed like entertainment back then, and not a shady plot to take over our lives. But boy we were wrong, weren’t we?

Now, there are 4 or 5 TV’s in more every house. Every resident usually has one of their own. There are 2 or 3 computers, there are enough Nintendo game systems, and Microsoft game systems out there now to fill up the Superdome if you could stand up at the top and chunk them all in, prior to setting them all on fire in order to save mankind. I am afraid it’s a little to late though. And I will even have to admit that at my house there are two TV’s, and three or four computers. I sigh while I am sitting here thinking about it, but there’s no use in trying to deny the fact that I also have been caught up in the technology trap.

I have seriously thought sometimes about trying to simplify things, but I don’t think I know how anymore. I watched that movie “Lost” with Tom Hanks a few weeks ago, and I don’t think I want to live like that. You know the one where he is trapped on a deserted Island for so long that he starts talking to a soccer ball? Ohh…the lack of a dentist would kill me, but ol’ Tom survived it.

I guess there’s no turning back the hands of time. I wonder how many of us would go back even if we had the chance. I probably wouldn’t.

I wonder if there is anybody out there who has a list of the technological items that have come along since 1950. I have thought about trying to come up with one, but it would take more time then I have now to even think about starting. If there is one out there on the web that anyone knows about, make sure and let me know. Surely there is somebody out there who had all the spare time that all this wonderful technology has created for us to do such a list. That was the point in starting to invent all of it wasn’t it? To make life less complicated and less hard for we humans, and to give less time toiling away at menial tasks, like growing our own food, and raising our families, and more time to do the IMPORTANT things we want to do, like watching more TV, playing more video games, text messaging our friends on our Cell phones, going to one of the 9 billion fast food places in the country to eat our supper, pay our bills online, order our Christmas presents online, read our newspapers online, go to war with people we don’t like with smart bombs, and laser guns, because we have found out we hate each other more because we know more about each other, and what we know we have found we don’t like, and to drive our mega trillion automobiles around 1 mile to Wal-Mart 10 times a day putting so much Carbon Monoxide in the air that our planet is starting to warm up (so they say on TV anyway)

We take out other people’s body parts and put them in people to save their lives. They can transplant just about anything nowadays. I heard a few years ago they are working on a head transplant, so that’s why they got Old Ted William’s head frozen away out there somewhere in California waiting til’ they perfect that surgery. There are pacemakers, and stints. There are Dialysis machines and heart lung machines, and Cat Scans, and MRI’s…….

….and so on and so forth. Whew…we have come a long way baby, to get to where we are today.

I could go on, but there’s no use. You get the point by now.

Of course there is good connected with all of these things. Certainly, there is. I’m still alive because of some of this technology. I would never have gotten to do some of the amazing things I have done because of it. I have friends I would have never “spoken” to without this technology. I can keep in touch with my family, and that’s the most important thing I have gotten out of it. I guess it’s best to live with it, take the good and try to change the bad if you can. We were all created with a built in conscious (at least
Most of us were) so we know good from bad, and it’s up to us to try and change the things about our ‘New’ society that are bad.

We can write our Congressmen and Senators about the things that are wrong with our government, and how we feel about the Economy, and such. (Those would be some very long letters, but…it’s what we should do) If you see a program you don’t like on T.V., turn the channel. That’s the fastest way to get something done there. Recommend to your friends that they do the same thing. Vote next time there’s an election. Even in a GOOD voting year, most of the time fewer than 50% of registered voters vote! If they are not listening to the cards and letters…vote them out!

Quit making so many trips to Wal-Mart (That will be a hard one around my house) Cut down on the computer time, cut off the lights when you are not using them, read some instead of watching TV all the time. Spend time with your family….real time in person, not time “on line”

Question anything you aren’t sure about when it comes to technology:

Just because some Dr. wants to do something to you, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right or correct thing to do. I don’t really want them doing too much to me to tell you the truth, but I haven’t gotten on the stick and even written a living will, or a real will yet. Yes, that’s something I need to do, how about you?

Just because some salesperson at the computer store wants to sell you the “latest and greatest” PC doesn’t mean you really need it.

Do you really need that flat screen or HDTV? ( I decided I did…arrghhh.)

When you get your next car can you make sure it’s not a gas guzzler, or maybe even try and get a hybrid.

Ah well, I have rambled on long enough.

By the way, I wrote this directly onto the screen, instead of using a pen and paper. It would have taken too long otherwise.

Dang me. Dang me….outta’ take a rope and hang me…

For Love of Books

I developed a strange habit as a VERY young child. I learned to read quite young. At 6 my Dad would buy me one comic book a week. Of course I would read it immediately, then…there was nothing new to read.

So, I read the same book again, and again. After many weeks I had many books to re-read. First the excitement of the new, then the comfort of the familiar. I developed favorites which would be read more often..friends so to speak. So, me and my boxes of comics, a familiar routine. Thus it continued all through my school years. I would read a book I liked, and in my mind I would “schedule” it to be read again at some future point.

I was a voracious reader, tearing through books at a lighting pace. Many of them strange, books that rarely ever got checked out of the school library: Mika Waltari’ s “The Egyptian” read many times over. Michener’ s “Hawaii” And the classics too: “The Count of Monte Cristo” a dozen times. “Moby Dick” 4 times at least. I liked long books, and experienced a let down..a sad feeling when I finished them. “But I always can read them again” I thought. I have the time to revisit my friends.

Now, as I lay here pecking away I realize that I have made too many friends to be able to revisit them all again. Especially with the development of this blasted Social Media, which is addictive and sucks away huge portions of my time. However, I have some time now before I sleep to go back and visit. No more posts or games of hearts for me tonight…I think I will go visit an old friend of mine….

What matters?

What matters?? Your family matters.

I often wonder how I managed to end up in the middle of so many wonderful people. Wife and daughter. Sons. Grandchildren. Brother. Niece. Nephew. All of them. Good people. Those they have chosen to love and share their lives with. Good people.

Lucky. Good Karma. Blessed if you want to say it. Doesn’t matter the adjective. The tag is immaterial.

I have wonderful memories with all of these, and more wonderful memories from those who are gone which bubble up when my tired memory is on slow simmer like it is today. Mom and Daddy. Grandparents.

On autopilot. With tired muscles and foggy brain. But with good memories.

So if you wonder what life is all about, you don’t have to climb Everest, or seek out a Yogi, or read Socrates and Marcus Aurelius or even the good book.

Just look around you. Close by. Your life is happening close by. It’s doesn’t have to be sought out like a mystery. Just has to be recognized and worked on. Cherished.

Reach out. Put down your phones. Touch. Talk. Feel. Live.

Do it.

You have only the day, today.

Regret is such an empty, hollow and dark tunnel. You don’t have to go there.