Those Were the Days

horsedrawn-carriage-to-the-moon

Russia House. The movie. It was recently on TV.  Great thriller. I remember seeing it on video shortly after it was released. Little did I know at the time that several of the supporting cast members would surface 25 years later as some of my favorite British film/TV actors. That’s a fun part of watching old movies.

When I was very young, I didn’t understand my parents’ thrill when an older film popped up on TV. I always assumed their enthusiasm for all things World War II and farther back was because it was of their generation; an intense period in history that none of the rest of us could, or ever would understand.

Now that I’m in my 50s, I think I get nostalgia. I am giddy when I see a Laugh-In rerun (there are only a few of you who know what a “rerun” is). Seeing 70s era films and TV shows with groovy chicks, like I wanted to be, with their long, stringy hair, parted in the middle (which my hairline would never do), dressed in hip-huggers and halter tops make me wistful. It brings back memories of Krishnas singing and dancing in the street. Vietnam war protests, Flower Power stickers, and Michael Jackson, when he was just a cute kid I had a crush on; when he was just a sweet boy in a boy band with his brothers. Doin’ the Hustle at 7th grade cotillion instead of the Waltz or Foxtrot (my mother was so shocked), Watergate-blah-blah-bah, sneaking into the family room after everyone was in bed to watch Saturday Night Live (with the volume barely audible so as not to wake my parents), the Cold War and loving how naughty it felt to sing aloud “Back in the U.S.S.R.” when my father was in earshot. Standing at the school bus stop all through the full eclipse of the sun, seen only from my corner of the world at the time.

Every generation is sentimental for days gone by. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have at least one complaint about how much things change from their youth to their adulthood. I suppose Millennials are approaching a time when hearing an early LL Cool J song will bring back memories of how computers used to be these heavy, giant blocks of putty-colored plastic and the internet was something you dialed into from a modem that made loud electronic noises (and downloading a file took at least 30 minutes).

But, if you think your world is moving too fast, think about my grandparents.* For literally hundreds of years before they were born, the only way you got from Point A to Point B was on horseback, or on a horse-drawn wagon of some kind. For hundreds of years, that was how it was done. Then, one day, you hear about these things they call machines; this thing they call the Automobile. Hell, that’s nothin’! They put a goddamned man on the moon! (as one grandfather would have put it). You think things are changing fast these days? Try living in a time when horse drawn carriages, oil lamp light, no electricity or running water were the standard, and had been for generations, to the discovery of molecules, atoms, industrialization and putting a man on the moon, all in the span of 70-some years. It’s a wonder my grandparents entire generation didn’t curl up into a fetal position in an all-out, mass nervous breakdown.

My point is, if they survived the whip-lash change of pace, and challenges to the absolutes they thought to be irrefutable with the modicum of grace and civility they were able to manage, so can we.

So can we.


*All four of my grandparents were born in the 1880s to 1900 and died in the late 50s through the early 80s. 

 

OLWG #4: Dig Down Deep? Maybe Not.

I’m taking the essay approach to the Online Writer’s Guild prompt today. The prompts are: 

  1. Time to excavate our relationship
  2. A twenty dollar shine on ten dollar boots
  3. It’s a handicapped spot

Ah, the dreaded, “we have to talk.” We’ve all been there. But it shouldn’t be dismissed as a twenty-dollar shine on a pair of ten-dollar boots. The time comes when all relationships need excavating in order to get reacquainted with what forged and molded them in the first place.

Couples expect, at some point, they will have to open up and reveal themselves in order to determine either how to carry on, or if it is time to come apart. It’s the unspoken understanding when we enter into a romantic relationship. But, other relationships undergo a similar journey of discovery, or at least, ought to.

Professional relationships, advisedly, don’t wander into the touchy-feely, emotional-needs-being-met realm of human interaction, but they need examining nonetheless. You can have a department full of smart, experienced, talented, hardworking souls, but if they are not getting along, their potential won’t be realized. We all can attest to the ultimately destructive power of a snarky, gossipy workplace.

Now, friendships…Well, that’s tricky. Unlike romantic or working relationships, drilling down into what makes a friendship tick is not required. You hit it off with another and the two of you get along. It’s as simple as that. Contrary to other relationships, it’s unnecessary to explain the reason why a friendship works. And, when it doesn’t work anymore, that’s that. You part company.

Depending on the emotional depth of a friendship, unearthing what lies at the heart of a platonic bond can be misconstrued as a rude intrusion of privacy. There is a point at which that level of exploration feels pushy. I suppose it’s why we differentiate one type of friendship from another. Someone is just an acquaintance, for example. A friend of a friend. Other friends are considered akin to a sibling or close relative, signifying an emotional union. These friendships may be able to tolerate, “we have to talk,” moments, but, in my experience, only to a certain extent.

What’s fascinating about true friendships is their endurance and a high level of tolerance. We give our true friends leeway; a get-out-of-jail-free card we don’t typically hand out to our lovers and co-workers. Our true friends can commit some pretty egregious errors, even betray us, before we decide to sever our ties to them. It’s like being unconcerned if an able-bodied person parks in a handicap spot. It’s wrong, but, hey, whatever. And, our true friends can go for weeks, months, even years, without contact, but once reconnected, it can feel as though no time has passed. No one ever seems to resent the lack of communication. Try that with your sweetheart and you’ll definitely be greeted with, “we have to talk.” Probably over packed boxes and a returned set of house keys. The workplace certainly has a “zero tolerance” for lack of communication. It’s usually cited as the primary cause of workplace dysfunction, or why errors were made.

This isn’t to say friendships don’t take work. They do. Friends have to navigate hurt feelings, misunderstandings and negotiate neglect, by simple virtue of the fact that all relationships need care and feeding. Friendships may have it a easier than others, but all relationships take work. It is the price we pay for being a sentient creature.


I blatantly ignored the clock this time. Sorry! I need to go back to writing these during lunch hour.

 

Unhurt Amidst the Wars of Elements

kanji immortal rose

I’m enjoying reviewing old posts. Gave this one a little polish and am reposting…

The Daily Prompt reads: You’ve imbibed a special potion that makes you immortal. Now that you’ve got forever, what changes will you make in your life? How will you live life differently, knowing you’ll always be around to be accountable for your actions?

“The stars shall fade away, the sun himself
Grow dim with age, and nature sink in years,
But thou shalt flourish in immortal youth,
Unhurt amidst the wars of elements,
The wrecks of matter, and the crush of worlds.” – Joseph Addison

Part of the prompt’s premise seems to assume I have, to date, been living life recklessly, if I’m reading it correctly. I don’t believe there’s anything to date I’ve done for which I haven’t already been accountable, so I’m not sure what more the prompt is looking to discover.

But, to the bit about what I would do differently now that I know I cannot die: If it is to remain a secret that I am immortal, then I suppose, as several science fiction/fantasy authors have also supposed, I must move from one society of people to another, because at some point it will be obvious I’m not aging like the rest. I would have to be circumspect regarding the relationships I create, as a result. That would be a pretty lonely existence, which would not be a life to which I would aspire. But, I suppose I’d move around the globe a lot, which would be fun. If I’m going to be on the planet forever, I might as well explore all of it.

What fascinates me is the practical aspect. For example, immortality does not also come financial security. I assume I will have to work. How do you explain a résumé that goes back 150 years? 300 years? That’s a lot of great experience I’d want to brag about! In a day and age when background checks are routinely administered, I image the same would hold in the future. It would be a challenge to maintain verifiable college education and early job experience to fit a person of my seeming age, and not that of someone who is actually 150 or more years older. I bet I would become a very good con artist.

Another practical conundrum: If all the philosophers, prophets and prognosticators are correct, and there is an apocalypse, what the hell happens to us immortals? Do we just float out into space? Is it possible that, biologically speaking, a body that is designed to survive only under a certain set of circumstances, because of this one significant derivation, can survive without oxygen and all the rest of it? And who the hell wants to just go floating around in space for all eternity? Yikes.

Being frozen in time at age 50-something is not as compelling a notion as, say, age 40, let alone 30 or 20. Since my body would no longer evolve (devolve?), I assume it’s not going to change from what it is now. Therefore, I’d rather be frozen in time at 35 or 40. I looked pretty darn good  during those years. And, having a body that doesn’t change means I certainly wouldn’t give a damn what I ate, or if I was getting enough exercise, or concern myself with contracting a flu bug, let alone a disease. It’d be nice to never be fat or be sick a day in my life again.

Having a younger, fit body that couldn’t die would make taking up risky adventures more palatable. I might get injured, though. Because I’m immortal, does it necessarily conclude that I would recover from injury without medical assistance? Sci-fi/fantasy authors are always assuming magical regeneration; that the body must return to the state it was in when it became immortal. Before I took any unnecessary risks, I’d like to have this matter confirmed.

In the final analysis, what does immortality actually buy? I don’t know that dying is the issue, so much as aging is the concern. If, as they say, with youth comes the sense of immortality, then I’d much rather imbibe a potion from the Fountain of Youth. That is, if I could also keep the wisdom I’ve gained from the years I’ve already lived, because, as the other saying goes, “youth is wasted on the young.”


 

To Those Who Wait

From the first Occupy Daily Prompt/Blog Propellant “Picture Prompt.” I had fun writing this, so decided to give it the ol’ once over and re-post.


i see you

It’s a pelican’s life. Foggy mornings, calm waters, and blessed, blessed fishermen. The human kind.

Argus was one of the feathered fisherman who kept a special place in his heart for his human comrades, and Pedro, a human fisherman, liked the feathered fishermen like Argus. They understood where each was coming from: There’s the sea and therein are the fish.

As a young bird still learning his way in the world, Argus found Pedro after a long, mostly unsuccessful day looking for food. On that day, Argus stood on the end of the pier, frustrated and hungry. His mother never told him there’d be times like these and he wondered what to do about the pain in his belly. The seagulls taunted him. Swooping and screaming, always either begging, bullying or scavenging. Eating crap. What did they know. Fish are fish. Whatever the other humans ate, who didn’t fish, was crap.

Argus looked the other way, ignoring the gulls. It was the first time he saw Pedro. Pedro was tying up his boat. He then picked up a bucket and dumped an amazing amount of delicious fish back into the water.

Argus took a step forward, and stopped. He looked back toward the seagulls. Two of them were fixed on Pedro. Argus learned early on, in circumstances like these, you just gotta flap like hell to keep the damn seagulls away if you were going to get anything from the likes of Pedro. As the two gulls flew in, Argus ran across the pier, wings out stretched, mouth agape, and gave the loudest squawk he could to threaten the gulls, but it was too late. The rest of the flock had swooped in, making all that racket like the hysterical freaks they are. There was nothing for Argus to do, but hang back on the pier and wait. And hope.

To Argus’ surprise, Pedro stopped throwing fish away as soon as the gull flock arrived. “Shoo! Git!,” Pedro called out, waving his arms. “Git! Go on! Shoo!” he repeatedly scolded until the last one left. Pedro moved over to the side of his boat where Argus and a couple other yearlings expectantly stood.

“You kids, now. You ought’a learn right what yer folks taught ya. Don’t be waitin’ for no more handouts, ‘K?” He repeated his admonishment as he threw out the rest of what he didn’t want. Pedro’s scolding did no good, of course. Argus and his friends would come to always count on to him to throw his unwanted fish away.

It was late one day in winter when Argus decided the float along side Pedro’s boat slip was as good as any place to stay the night. Argus knew he was supposed to be back with all his family and neighbors, but here, next to Pedro’s boat, it was quiet and calm. Just a few clanging sounds, water lapping against the other boats, and no one else but live-aboard fishermen like Pedro. Argus liked the solitude.

A flicker of light caught Argus attention, and he turned to see that Pedro was staring at a small box that looked like it had light moving inside it, like the sun reflecting off the ripples of water. He knew better than to climb aboard, but Argus had to get a closer look. He quietly padded up to the window behind Pedro. To his amazement, there were tiny fishermen, just like Pedro, in that little square space. Pedro just sat there, watching them.

Every night afterward, Argus would quietly watch the tiny fishermen in the square on Pedro’s boat. They leapt and jumped, hid and snuck around corners. They were very, very good hunters, concealing themselves from notice before making their kill. And every time they got their prey.

One day not long after Pedro returned in his boat from hunting fish, Argus tried hiding behind a post, just like the tiny fishermen he’d watched in the small box. Argus figured he’d make a move like the tiny hunters and swoop up all of Pedro’s unwanted fish before the gulls or his friends got to it, but a couple of gulls came after him right off, teasing him about pretending to be such a tough guy.

The next day, Argus tried hiding again. This time, he kept to his hiding place and did not make a move. None of the other birds seemed to notice he was there. He tried it the day after that, and the day after that, and still no one seemed to notice him.

On the fifth day Argus chose his moment, and from his hiding place behind the post, he stormed Pedro’s boat with a loud screech, startling all the other birds and frightening them away. He landed on the back deck railing of Pedro’s boat, and gave his wings a little flutter before settling down.

“HA!” Pedro exclaimed. “I seen you, all stealth-like the past coupl’a days, back there, behind the piling. Wondered what you were up to. Way to go! You showed them!” Pedro threw him a huge handful of fish that Argus caught it mid-air.

“Oh, HO! Right on, buddy, good catch! Here…some more!” and Argus made another clean catch of another handful of fish.


 

His Perrier Predicament

I’ve been rummaging through my father’s papers, notes and scribblings again for no other reason than a little spring cleaning. I came across the following bit he typed up on his Olympic typewriter on those sheets we called “onion paper.” (Best for making carbon copies. Remember those?)

This little essay is quintessentially Pops:

Perrier bottleStanding on my desk, amid the genteel clutter of various things I have accumulated over the years, and cannot bear to part with, is one object which should promptly have gone into the garbage can: It is an empty bottle of a popular seltzer water.

What prevented me from aimlessly casting it away is a admonition on its label, NO REFILL–PLEASE DISPOSE OF THOUGHTFULLY.

As instructed, I have earnestly been thinking about that for the past several days. That bottle has no place on my desk. But every time I reach to pluck it out of the midst of the pens and folders and boxes and dried bits of plants and small Mexican fertility gods and goddesses* that collectively provide me with solace at times when inspiration eludes me, I am forced to pause. Will what I am about to do be done Thoughtfully? It is at this point that frustration and fantasy conjoin.

I visualize myself naked, sitting on a rock, brooding like Rodin’s “Thinker.” Or as Hamlet contemplating “poor Yorick’s” skull. I wonder how to dispose of the bottle Thoughtfully. I think funereal thoughts. What if I was on my way to the cemetery with a tag attached to my toe which read, NO REFILL–PLEASE DISPOSE OF THOUGHTFULLY.

I know the author of that daunting legend on the label had no intention of causing me this kind of existential angst. But, if he did, why didn’t he instead admonish me to dispose of the bottle gently, or considerately, surreptitiously, cleverly, or, at least, quietly? Inconspicuously?

Maybe he was simply trying to instill imagination into the prosaic art of disposing of things (which is not, of course, an art, nor will it be, unless someone decides that there exists a state-of-the-art in the disposal of things, as in every endeavor these days, except maybe using the restroom, or putting on one’s trousers). Maybe–just maybe–what he had in mind was total avoidance of the ordinary. You know: open the garbage can, drop the bottle in, close the garbage can.

I’m sure what he was hoping for was that, stimulated by Thoughtfulness, I would wait until my bridge partner trumped my good ace, at which point I would shatter the bottle on his head. As I write this, I think that not only qualifies as a Thoughtful Disposal, it would also Thoughtfully rid myself of a bad bridge partner. Or, while driving through the verdant countryside, toss the bottle, full of gasoline and fixed with a lighted wick, onto the dry grass, thus saving the state the considerable cost of mowing along the verge.

Well, maybe not the latter, but disposing of the bottle could have a certain social value. For instance, one could invite friends and neighbors to a Bottle Burying Party, especially fun in the summer, amidst barbeques and pool parties. The fun part would be a contest, with the guests challenged to suggest the most unusual way to bury the bottle. Folks could bring their own bottle, giving a new meaning to “BYOB.” Undoubtedly, the whole party will discover that there is a state-of-the-art in the Thoughtfully disposed bottle. It would start a trend, written up in women’s magazines for the Thoughtful hostess looking for something special to make her party a real hit with the neighbors, to say nothing of the opportunity it would present for amateur composers of ceremonial music.

Leaving the Alice in Wonderland world of fantastic Thoughtfulness, I come to the ultimate conclusion that the only way I can get rid of the bottle is Whimsically.

As for the subject of disposal itself, I must Thoughtfully conclude this column, however un-artfully.

*My parents travelled often to Mexico. Over the years they collected quite the menagerie of clay figurines.

OLWG #3: Nothin’ Special

This week’s Online Writers’ Guild prompts are:

  1. I have to find a way to tell them
  2. Nothin’ special
  3. This was not what she needed right now

Woman-Sitting-at-Desk-Exhausted-Work-in-Front-of-HerAfter the month she had, the last thing Paula needed was her manager laid up with pneumonia.

“Six weeks?!”

“Give or take, but yeah,” the department director said. “This means I’ll need to you to jump in with Sean to get that proposal finished.”

Paula resented everything about her job, but this really put it over the top. Filling in for her manager will mean staying late and starting early. Her husband will have to get the kids ready for school, pick them up after soccer and gymnastics, and make dinner most nights. She dreaded telling him the bad news. She dreaded the silent treatment she was in for.

Maybe sweeten the sour deal with an offering. Like, more sex. Not that he complained, but she knew. More sex. Or, maybe let him get both cars fully detailed, which he had complained about. After all, it’s just money. Speaking of which, Paula thought, since we’re going there, let him sink more of their hard-earned/even harder to save dollars into that bottomless pit project of his. On the weekends she’ll make two breakfasts: pancakes for the kids and Denver omelette and all the bacon he wants, instead of making everyone miserable with her tofu-is-food-too scrambles.

As her mind turned over her options, Paula thought again about how many hours she’d be stuck at the office, never mind the work she’ll probably have to bring home. She was going to have to offer up a whole plate of concessions.

Sean knocked gently on her office door and cautiously opened it. “I can see you’re doing what I’ve been doing.”

“What’s that?”

“Thinking of what all you’re going to have to do to make up for all the time here at work in the next six or so weeks.”

Paula smiled and sighed. “Yeah. I was thinking how much more exhausted I’m going to be after making good on all the bribes I’m going to have to hand out.”

“What’cha thinking you’ll have to do?” Sean asked.

“Ooooh, nothin’ special. Just, become a short order cook on the weekends, ready with a special meal for anyone who demands it. A hooker, whenever and wherever wearing whatever. Watch our bank account dwindle to zero. But, hey, at least the cars will be sparkling and that completely useless project of his will be done so he can move on to the next useless and ridiculously expensive project.”

“I hear ya!” Sean laughed. “I’m going to rock the pink tutu look for the next six weeks. My daughter will be thrilled.”

Paula waved Sean in. “C’mon. Take a seat. Let’s get to it.”