Friday, December 2, 2011

Imponderable

Something that has long puzzled me: the Book of Revelation was written somewhere around 70 AD or so. LSD wasn't invented until 1943.
The fact that something THAT fucked-up could have been written without the help of acid is TRULY a miracle!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Still Kicking

Life can certainly get dull if all one does is work and/or recover from and get ready for more work. There’s a part of me that craves a creative outlet, though time constraints often prevent any efforts in that direction. It is for that reason, therefore, that I am happy to have actually written a new song… my first in many, many months. I don’t really know if it’s any good or not and I likely won’t get any feedback until I get a chance to play the demo to my fellow Ice Halo bandmates next weekend, but it just feels good to have written something… anything!... again.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The New Front Line in the Culture Wars: The Janitor's Closet!

In my new incarnation as a janitor at a medical institution (one in which yours truly has recently won an award for best cleaning of patient rooms, thank you very much) my workday begins and ends with a trip to the janitor's closet. Throughout my worklife, I have seen more of these closets than I’d like to admit. They are all pretty much the same. There’s a sink in the corner with a drain for pouring out filthy pail water at the end of the day. There are racks on the walls for hanging dust mops and brooms. There are shelves for boxes of trash bags and various cleaning solvents. And they are almost universally too small. Even the closet at my prestigious institution is so small that once the cleaning cart is parked inside one must squeeze around it to access the supply shelves. So imagine my surprise when I heard there was a move afoot by a state legislative group (in Virginia, to be precise, but the movement has to start somewhere and if it catches on in Virginia, then it will surely spread to our beloved Great Lakes State eventually) designed to tackle the problem of small janitor’s closets! Who are these wonderful people? Obviously some sort of commie pinko labor-loving outfit that wanted to “stick it to the man” by symbolically reforming the most lowly physical manifestation of the working environment, right?
Well, no. Actually the folks advocating this reform are Conservative Republicans.
Republicans?
As Ned Flanders might say, that’s a real head-scratcher, right there. I thought these people were against government regulations in the workplace. But who am I to be so prejudiced? Maybe they just started to feel sorry for the lowly blue collar working stiffs and decided to give us poor janitors a break. Or perhaps (and more likely) they’re getting huge campaign contributions from large corporate donors who make janitor’s closets. Dunno. Either way, we’re gonna get bigger closets, so who cares?
But wait. These Republicans don’t want to have these regulations for janitor’s closets at all workplaces. Just certain ones.
What? Well, okay… maybe there are some places that are too small to be able to afford to re-do their existing janitor’s closets. Some small mom & pop companies, perhaps. So I guess I could see why the Republicans would want to give these smaller places a break. But still, maybe the rest of us who work in larger (and richer) places will soon get our palatial 50-square-foot janitor’s closets! Right?
Well, no. Not exactly. The regulations aren’t based on the size of the company, but on what type of facility they are. Specifically, medical institutions.
Well, that kinda sucks for about 90% of the janitorial workforce out there, but for those people like me who earn their bread cleaning medical facilities, it’s still something I can look forward to, huh?
Nope.
Not all medical facilities will be required to expand their janitor’s closets.
Okay… so which ones WILL be required to expand them?
Only medical facilities that provide abortion services.

Uh…huh.

So… Republicans are against intrusive government regulations on grounds that such regulations would inhibit the ability of employers to do what they do. Unless the Republicans happen to disagree with what those employers happen to do. In which case it’s fine to pile on as many costly regulations as possible just to be a pain in the ass.
So… I guess they don’t really care about us lowly janitors at all and we’ll have to live with our cluttered closets forever and ever amen.
Unless we work at an abortion clinic.
Their closets will be awesome!

Fuck the Republicans!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

September Haiku

Trees in new colors
Know that it's fall, but the sky
Still thinks it's summer.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The New Migrant Workers

A strange thing is happening here in the Flint area. Something that has happened to me and now, I notice, to many others ‘round our beloved Buick City. We live here, but no longer work here.

When I finally managed to snag a job in Ann Arbor, I thought I was the only one who had to drive over an hour to my place of employment. That’s not true, as it turns out. In my own neighborhood, the lady across the street who once also worked in Flint, now has to commute to Bay City for her job. Another neighbor goes past Lansing. One must drive to Pontiac. Others in the area, I’m told, are forced to commute as far away as Grand Rapids and Mount Pleasant! It seems we have become a force of migrant workers, though unlike the agricultural laborers usually associated with that phrase, we drive back home at night. And if the others are anything like me, they will generally have just enough time to eat dinner and get ready for the next workday. Time for relaxation, socializing and puttering around the house are at a minimum.

I suppose one could reasonably ask why the hell we don’t simply move closer to where our jobs are. That’s a fair enough question but I think it has a reasonable answer. First of all, trying to sell a house in the Flint-area market would be an exercise in frustration. It’s not as though Flint is a hotbed of real estate activity. Trying to sell a house in this environment would be like trying to sell Playgirl subscriptions at a Lesbian convention. It just ain’t gonna happen.
Second, and more importantly, many of those working far from home have spouses and/or other household members who still have Flint-area jobs. Moving closer to one job would mean moving farther away from the other.
Finally, at least in my own case, there are children involved. My own children are enrolled in the Davison Public School District. Pulling them out would not only disrupt their personal and social lives, but that particular school district is doing a fantastic job educating our children. They are thriving both academically and socially. For me, my long drive is a sacrifice worth making for the sake of my children. Moving would disrupt and most likely hinder their educational progress.

And so I make the commute. As do others. We do this to earn a living. All the while the teabaggers call working people lazy and overpaid.

I keep hearing talk of class warfare. Honestly, I wish it was true. I’m so frustrated with what we working people have to deal with. I’m usually peaceful, but I think it’s time to stir things up a bit. I’m ready for some war.

But it won’t happen. We’re nothing but a bunch of stupid sheep.

Just waiting to get fleeced.

And sliced into lamb chops.

Rain...

It seems the older I get the more I appreciate the sound of a gentle rain shower.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Apologies in Advance...

Once upon a time, someone with too much time on their hands was pondering the name of a popular craft store chain.
“Have you ever noticed,” he remarked to a friend “that despite the name of the store their buildings don’t actually have a lobby?”
“So?” replied the friend.
“SO?!? I think that’s an outrage and something ought to be done about it!”
“Like what?” asked the friend.
“Like I’m going to hire some people to make my argument to Congress until this injustice is rectified!”
“You mean…”
“That’s right! I’m going to start a Hobby Lobby Lobby Lobby!”

Monday, August 8, 2011

Things is Changin'

Last night, I watched the premiere of a science series called “Curiosity” on the Discovery channel. The title of the first episode was “Did God Create the Universe?” Nothing like starting out with a bang (a “Big” one, at that… yuk, yuk). I watched, expecting the usual watered-down mush in which the hard science is played down for fear of offending the religious sensibilities of some viewers. But I was pleasantly surprised to see that this series did no such thing. The answer the program gave to the titular question was a resounding “No!”
The fact that a leading scientist (in this case, Stephen Hawking) didn’t invoke a divine creator is nothing new, of course. The fact that this was presented clearly on a mainstream cable channel, however, is. That this has happened at all, I think, is one of those quiet milestones the ramifications of which will not be appreciated until much later. I couldn’t imagine something like this ever having aired even ten years ago. Things are changing. Atheism, if not exactly yet mainstream, is at least emerging to the point at which it can be mentioned in polite company. It’s no longer something to be ashamed of or to be kept hidden.
And that’s a change I welcome.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Even When I TRY to be Good, I'm Evil

Admittedly, my position as a custodian in a hospital isn’t the most glamorous gig around, but I at least was under the impression that what I was doing was helpful to people. If I do a good job cleaning a hospital room, I figure, the chances of them getting an infection are reduced. What could be bad about that?
Hospitals are places people can go to get better. That’s a good thing. Right?
Well, maybe not. No less a person than Mohandas K. Gandhi had a rather strong opinion about hospitals. Writing in 1909, Gandhi said the following:

“Hospitals are the instruments that the Devil has been using for his own purpose, in order to keep his hold on his kingdom. They perpetuate vice, misery and degradation, and real slavery.”

What??? I work at an instrument of the Devil? Damn! And here I was TRYING to be good for a change. I guess I just can’t get away from being evil.

Still, seeing as I’m now in league with Satan, I’d think the guy downstairs would have a little more clout in getting me a better parking space at work. I’m just sayin’…

Monday, August 1, 2011

Duh

Sometimes the answers to some of life’s problems stare you in the face on a daily basis. Even so, some people are too damned stupid or stubborn (me, for instance) to apply this knowledge which is so easily accessible.
One such lesson is that a positive attitude makes life better. In my job at the hospital, I see this all the time. I work in the cardiac intensive care unit. In order to be a patient there, you have to be in rather dire physical shape. So, while the condition of those in the ICU is usually similar, the reaction of those patients to their situation varies widely.
Some of the patients have an extremely negative attitude to their predicament. This is completely understandable. Having severe heart problems and recovering from highly invasive heart surgery is not only physically painful, it is also mentally draining. These negative patients react by complaining, refusing to follow the directions of the medical professionals and generally being whiney. Again, I can’t really blame them. Their situation IS rather far removed from rainbows and sunshine.
But not all patients react that way. There are other patients who react in a more positive manner. Remarkably, these people are all smiles despite their pain. They’re talkative, happy and pleasant to be around. Rather than dwelling on the fact that their ticker is defective, they are grateful to have the opportunity to have the problem corrected as much as medical science is able and to have the chance to improve and recover. And what I have frequently noticed – with often dramatic regularity - is that those with a positive attitude usually recover far more quickly than their negative counterparts. From what I’ve observed this isn’t merely a case of people being happier than others because they’re less sick in the first place and thus would have recovered more quickly anyway. These happy, positive patients start out just as physically messed up as the negative ones. It really seems their attitude helps them improve more quickly.
I can only speculate as to why this appears to be the case. Perhaps the more positive patients are more likely to do what the doctors and nurses recommend, even if it’s inconvenient or physically painful. Following these directions could lead to more rapid improvement. Perhaps there’s some physical benefit to be gained from a positive outlook in and of itself. Maybe a good mental outlook somehow promotes physical well-being. (Or, as Funkadelic said much more bluntly, maybe it’s a case of “Free your mind and your ass will follow.”) Again, I’m merely guessing as to the mechanism, but I’ve seen it work so often I must assume there’s at least inductive evidence for the phenomenon.
Which brings me back to me.
You’d think that someone such as myself, who pretends to be at least somewhat intelligent, would – after making such observations – attempt to apply them to his own life.
Ah, but I am an idiot in that regard. I seem to dwell on the negative in spite of myself. Rather than being thankful that I have a job and can pay my bills on time, I dwell on the fact that I have to drive over 60 miles one way to my job (which is long enough in good weather but which can become nightmarish in the winter), am often – due to traffic congestion - away from home 12 hours each workday and constantly have to struggle with the nearly nonexistent parking in Ann Arbor.
These are real concerns and obstacles I have to deal with and feeling stressed about them is a natural reaction. But the people in the intensive care unit are dealing with real issues as well. But some of them deal with it in a positive manner. And they’re the ones who thrive and get better. Why can’t I seem to apply that to my own life? Sure, working far from home may suck, but what if I didn’t have that job at all? I have a regular salary – not as much as I once made, but enough to pay the bills. I have healthcare coverage for myself and my family. I have a nice home and a dependable wife and wonderful children. The people I work with seem to genuinely appreciate the quality of my work and are quite nice to me. I have a lot to live for and much to be thankful for. And maybe, just maybe, if I make an effort to try to be more positive, things will get better. Perhaps something external will change. Or maybe the happiness will be its own reward. I don’t know. And I can’t promise I can make such a change without setbacks or problems.
But I can try.
And if others try to bring me down, perhaps the most revolutionary thing I can do is stay positive in spite of them. It will, at any rate, drive them nuts. And that may be the most positive outcome of all.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Nutter Haiku

Staredown with a squirrel:
Although I look away first,
I call it a draw.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Pilgrimage


In the Trivial Pursuit "The 1960’s" edition, one of the cards asks the question “Who was the second American to orbit the Earth?” The answer given on the reverse of the card is “Wally Schirra”. That answer is wrong. The second American to orbit the Earth was, in fact, M. Scott Carpenter who, on May 24, 1962, orbited our planet three times in the Aurora 7 spacecraft. (For those of you keeping track, Wally Schirra was the third American in Earth orbit.)
Of the original seven Mercury astronauts, Carpenter is the one who fascinates me the most. Although he was a badass military test pilot (as were all the Mercury seven) there was an extra dimension to his personality. Whereas some of the others were so mission-driven they seemed almost caricatures of hard-nosed no-nonsense military types, Carpenter seemed fascinated with the human element of space flight. (And also of exploration in general, since he went on to participate in the Sealab underwater test project.) When one listens to the in-flight recordings from the Aurora 7 mission, one gets a more genuine sense of what it actually felt like to be on a Mercury flight. Suffice to say the Aurora 7 flight has always had a special place in my already space-loving heart.
For that reason, when our family decided to take a week long trip to Chicago for vacation, I knew that a trip to the Museum of Science and Industry was a must for me. The reason? The Aurora 7 spacecraft is there, located at the museum’s Henry Crown Space Center.
For me, this was more than a simple “Cool! There’s the space capsule!” trip. It was, in a very real sense, a pilgrimage. In the same way religious people are emotionally drawn to religious relics and artifacts (and in some cases artifictions – sorry, I couldn’t resist getting in a dig at religion) the Aurora 7 spacecraft, to me, represents a physical, tangible link to a powerful idea – that humans should use technology and science to explore the unknown - and a magnificent achievement in human history. It, to me, is my fragment of the One True Cross, my Holy Grail, my Ark of the Covenant.
And best of all, it’s real and I know where it is. And – last week – I got to see it with my own two eyes. (And I’d say I got to touch it, as well, but that’s not allowed so I’ll simply maintain silence on that point on grounds it may incriminate me. Suffice to say there’s a small space where the plastic shell doesn’t entirely cover the spacecraft and my fingers have been known to slip on occasion.) :-)
Chicago has a lot of wonderful things: skyscrapers, amazing deep-dish pizzas, Italian beef sandwiches, the fantastic evolution exhibit at the Field Museum, fish, fish and more fish at the Shedd Aquarium, but for me, the best thing in Chicago is a metal object 11.5 feet tall by 6.2 feet wide. Aurora 7 is what transformed my trip to Chicago from a vacation into a pilgrimage.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Traffic

Just a quick observation on this, my final day in Chicago.

I've noticed there is a different dynamic between motorists and pedestrians depending on where you are:

In Flint, a motorist will run over a pedestrian without a second thought. The pedestrians realize this and there are no problems.
In Ann Arbor, pedestrians expect to be given the right of way. The motorists realize this and there are no problems.
In Chicago, motorists will, without a second thought, run over pedestrians who expect the right of way. This results in a type of meat-grinder traffic chaos I've seldom experienced.

How I look forward to my serene Davison Township subdivision. Nothing on the street but the occasional tardy mail truck...

Monday, July 18, 2011

Hitting the Pavement

There are times when arguments that sound good in theory are horrible when actually carried into practice. Like the Republican insistence that the Federal debt limit should not be raised without cutting the deficit. Sure, it sounds reasonable. The government is spending more than it’s bringing in already and it now wants to be able to borrow more. This, therefore, would appear to be a good time to examine spending priorities and to develop strategies both to contain future expenditures and to pay down the existing debt. Except the Republicans want to somehow magically pay down this debt without actually… uh... paying down the debt. They want to cut spending but not raise taxes. But without raising taxes, how can the debt be paid off?
Let me put it in personal terms. If my credit card debt were out of control, it wouldn’t be enough to simply say I’ll fix the problem by living on Ramen noodles and tap water because they’re cheaper. I would also have to – you know – actually make payments on the debt I’ve already racked up. If I fail to do that, any statement on my part that I really, really, really want to eliminate my credit card debt would be disingenuous. Munching Ramen, while symbolic in an ashes-and-sackcloth sort of way, does nothing to actually reduce my existing debt. The only way to do that would be to make the move of setting aside a larger share of my income and applying it toward paying it down. And while this would be painful for awhile, doing so would be beneficial in the long run. Since once I’m free from debt, I could actually start saving money for cool things I really want to do or buy.
But the Republicans don’t seem to get that. These same people who appear so eager to slash medical and Social Security benefits for the poor and working classes somehow find tax loopholes for gazillionaire oil companies, owners of corporate jets and racehorses sacrosanct. I may not be the brightest bulb on the marquee when it comes to figuring out politics, but when it comes to figuring out whose side these people are on, I sure as hell know it isn’t mine.
When pondering the Republican position on the debt ceiling, I couldn’t help but think of a recent incident in upstate New York. It seems there was a group of motorcyclists who didn’t like the state law requiring them to wear helmets while riding. They felt it was an infringement on their personal freedom. So they had a rally in which they defiantly rode their cycles without helmets. While on this protest ride, one of the cyclists lost control, flew over his handlebars and smashed his head on the pavement with fatal results. Had he been wearing a helmet, authorities stated, he likely would have survived.
Lofty-sounding pronouncements in favor of individual rights and liberties do little to alter the fact that riding a motorcycle without a helmet is a profoundly stupid thing to do. And that, to me, is the perfect analogy to the entire Republican/tea party platform: nice-sounding arguments which, if carried out, would lead to disastrous results.
The Republican willingness to let the US Government default on its loans rather than have the rich pay their fair share of taxes shows me that they’re not serious about deficit reduction. They’re only serious about protecting the rich. They like feeling the wind flow through their hair as they ride. It’s the feeling of freedom.
And if the poor and working classes get their heads splattered on the pavement as a consequence, they can console themselves knowing they were martyrs in the cause of liberty.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

WAY TO GO, NEW YORK!

I was thrilled with the news that the state of New York has decided to legalize same-sex marriage, not only because I think it is the right thing to do in the name of equal rights, but also because it will piss off and annoy people whom I think should be pissed off and annoyed more often. And while I’m certain many gay men and Lesbians in the Empire state will be in a celebratory mood, this straight Michigander will also derive much enjoyment listening to the whining warning cries of impending hellfire and brimstone from those who still hold the medieval anti-gay views which are now slowly – thankfully and hopefully – disappearing from the political landscape.
One of the canards always dragged out by these morons is that the union of gays in matrimony will somehow destroy the "sanctity" of straight marriage. Strangely, however, I have never heard a satisfactory explanation as to why that supposedly will happen. If a couple guys in Albany tie the knot will a happily married straight couple in Binghamton suddenly decide to split? I just don’t get it. It’s all a flaming (pardon the pun) non-sequitur to me. Not that any arguments of the religious right have ever made any sense to me.
If the study of history has taught me anything, it’s that in the long-term the course of human history tends toward more tolerance, enlightenment and freedom. This is not to say there aren’t interludes of horrible intolerance, violence, oppression and injustice on massive scales, but I am a firm believer in the notion that overall, despite the inevitable setbacks along the way, things will –with sometimes glacial slowness – get better. I don’t think I’m being a na├»ve and hopeless optimist in this view. I think it is borne out by realistically looking at historical trends. And for that reason, I am hopeful that anti-gay bigotry will one day be as rare as defenses of slavery are today.
And so I salute the people of New York for making a small step in the history of tolerance and the improvement of humanity.
Life can sometimes be hard, cruel and unfair. So if there are things we can do to make our time on this planet a little happier for someone during the short time we are alive, why not do them? What makes my neighbor happy may not be my cup o’tea, but so what? He or she may not be into what I like. But if we can both learn to follow our dreams without hurting the other guy, we will both be better off. Life is too short for hate. And if you believe your god tells you to hate, perhaps you should tell your god to fuck off.
For if the choice is really between divinely-inspired hate and human-inspired love, I’ll vote for love - any kind of love - every time.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Beat Goes On

Seeing as I'm getting older, and also seeing as I'm fortunate to have decent health insurance, I decided to have a medical checkup. At the checkup, my doctor found what he called a "slight irregularity" in my EKG. He said it was likely nothing to worry about, but as a precaution, he sent me to a cardiologist to get a stress test just to make sure.
It turned out that my ticker is perfectly fine. The stress test confirmed that. Personally, I think all the wires they had hooked up to me were superfluous. I figure if the stress test didn't kill me right then and there, my heart is fine.
I hope to be able to post more in the weeks to come.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Haiku

First robin of spring
Singing - unaware of the
Approaching blizzard

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Three Weeks. Two Deaths.

2011 has not been a good year.
Three weeks ago, my mother-in-law died. My wife was devastated at the loss of her mother. Though I tried my best to comfort her, I felt pretty inadequate to the task.
Yesterday, my mom's husband died suddenly. (They married after I was already an adult and was on my own, so "stepdad" doesn't seem the right word somehow.) My mom was devastated at the loss and again I felt quite ineffective in my attempts to make her feel at least a bit better.
Socially and emotionally awkward as I am, I'm not good with all the raw emotional stuff: the crying, the hurting, the slow eventual healing. I have a difficult time embracing the fact that these are part of the human condition and must slowly play themselves out. It is not a "problem" that I can somehow "fix". Despite my best intentions, I cannot somehow "save the day" and make everything better for the people I love.
As an atheist, I don't really grieve for those who have died. As far as I can determine, their suffering is over and they no longer exist except in the memories of those who knew them. It's the people left behind for whom I'm sad.
So since I'm not much good at the weepy aspects of the entire mourning thing, I suppose I could try to do something I feel more confident at: writing about the people who have recently died.

My mother-in-law, Lillian Caputo, was born in northern Ontario over 80 years ago. She spoke only French until the age of 16. She grew up impoverished and remained that way until moving to Montreal as a teen to find work and a better life. She married and the family moved to the United States where her husband's mechanical skills were in demand. They lived the typical idyllic 1960's suburban lifestyle. All was well until her husband died of cancer mere months shy of being able to collect a generous General Motors pension. Suddenly faced with having to raise her youngest daughter (eventually to become my wife) on Social Security, she used all her resources to make sure they would be okay. She was smart with her money and she took good care of my wife-to-be through her teen years until I snatched her away. Lillian not only took good care of her daughter, she also felt sorry for me, often feeding me ample meals during my broke student years so I wouldn't have to survive merely on macaroni and cheese and ramen noodles.
She was also extremely handy with tools and had an artistic side which I wish she would have explored. When we bought our house years ago, she was the one who helped my wife paint the place while I was at work. I remember once when she bought a folk-art painting and wire piece. Her thrifty nature started bugging her and she decided she could make one just like it for much less. And she did. Perfectly. Her recreation of the piece was so spot-on it was indistinguishable from the original. So she returned it, got her money back and kept her identical copy.
Lillian was generous with her time and money. A gift from her made a huge dent in the down payment on our house. The best gift she left, however, was her daughter. Lillian made sure that her daughter Leanne grew up to be a healthy and happy and confident young woman who became a loving wife and attentive mother. And in that sense, though Lillian is now gone, her legacy remains.

My mom's husband, Chuck Franklin, was 60-years-old. I don't know too much about his early life because I never bothered to ask. I know he served in the military in Germany for a few years and then worked various jobs from furniture sales to long-distance driver. He ate, smoked and drank a lot. He had some failed marriages. Then he met my mom. To say that their pairing was unlikely is an understatement to anyone who knew them. But somehow they meshed. Chuck got his life together, stopped smoking and drinking and tried his best to watch his diet. After awhile my mom and Chuck were married. Though Chuck was over a decade younger than my mom, he seemed to have a premonition that he would die first. He accepted that in a matter-of-fact manner, saying that his marriage had added 15 years to his life regardless.
Anyone who knew Chuck would be struck by his sense of humor, his genuine warmth and kindness once you got to know him and - most of all - his uncanny culinary abilities. Chuck was perhaps the best cook I have ever known in all my life. I would look forward to each Thanksgiving for some of his delicious stuffing, mashed potatoes (he always made a huge quantity knowing I loved them) and amazing chocolate pies. Thanksgiving will never be the same from now on. I remember one time I was at my mom's for no real reason. I was probably just dropping something off or just stopping by to say hello or something. Out of the blue Chuck asked if I'd like some pan-seared steak. Not being one to turn down such an offer, I readily accepted. The steak was delicious, of course, but more surprising was the side dish: mushrooms. Normally, I view those fungi as the tasteless gray mass one usually tolerates on pizzas. I didn't really want to eat them, but I figured since Chuck went through all that trouble I should at least be polite and choke them down. But as I took that first bite: a revelation! THESE mushrooms were not only tolerable, they were delicious! In fact to this day that serving of mushrooms was among the best things I've eaten in my life. No mushrooms before had ever come close... and I suppose none ever shall again.
I have many other nice memories of Chuck - his attempt to show the finer points of trout fishing to my outdoors-challenged son - the time he took us to the Soo to see the locks and the museum ship there. But damned if those mushrooms don't keep popping back into my memory. I suppose there's a lesson in there somewhere. What for Chuck may have been a simple act of kindness, a mere cooking of a steak, something that he might have forgotten about even doing shortly thereafter, became an event that helped define who he was and became one of the fondest memories of him after his death.

So I suppose if you ever feel like doing something nice for someone - even something small - please do it. It may be what you're remembered for after you're gone.

And there I must end things. I have to go to the Post Office to pick up my mother-in-law's ashes.
As I said: 2011 has not been a good year.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

1,240 Days...

...until I qualify for full retirement benefits. Not that I'm keeping track.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Welcome Back to an Old Friend


Back in the early 1980's I purchased a shortwave radio at a pawnshop for $35. I enjoyed many hours listening to it. As the years went by, I had acquired a few more radios though the demands of school and work took up much of the time I had once devoted to shortwave listening. Once, while spending the night at my grandmother's place, I'd got out the old radio and spent some time listening to it. My grandma mentioned how much she enjoyed listening to the music broadcast by Radio Havana, so I let her borrow the old pawnshop radio.
Many years went by. I forgot about that old radio until the August afternoon a few years back when I got the news that my grandmother had died. While going through her belongings, I saw the old radio and decided I may as well take it back. A quick tryout of the radio revealed that while it still picked up FM signals just fine, it no longer received AM or shortwave stations. I put it in a closet and forgot about it again.
Until a few weeks ago. While doing some internet surfing about another old shortwave radio I once had, I found that the radio I had sitting in the basement, a Panasonic RF-2200, was now considered a classic and was selling for upwards of $250 in eBay in working condition. Apparently, although it's an analog model, it had gained a reputation over the years as being one of the best-sounding AM and shortwave receivers ever made. I very seldom have that kind of luck! If that wasn't motivation to get the old beast working again, nothing was!
And so, I put my minimal experience to work trying to figure out what was wrong with it. To make a long story short (and to try to conceal the fact that I really didn't know what the hell I was doing) I finally - after the application of much compressed air and contact cleaner to some old dials and switches -got the old Panasonic to once again spring to life. And what I heard was lovely! Shortwave and AM stations were booming in with a warm tone unmatched by my more expensive digital radios. I've spent quite a bit of time recently getting reacquainted with this once-forgotten friend. It's like I'm in 1982 again.
Though much in my life has changed since I first listened to the RF-2200, it's nice to know that some things endure. And it's also nice to know that although life is often unfair, occasionally it's unfair in my favor.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

At Least She Didn't Say "Used Car Salesman"... Or "Axe Murderer"

As I was getting a haircut today, the lady barber asked me "Are you a physical therapist by chance?"
"No", I replied. "Why?"
"I don't know. You just look like someone who'd be a physical therapist."

I suppose I could have asked some fairly obvious follow-up questions at that point, but it would have ruined the strangely bemused feeling I was enjoying.

Sometimes life is more fun when you just enjoy the weirdness.