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.”


 

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.

A Time and Place for Everything (or, Not the Time or Place for This Thing)

surpriseSo, there I was, enjoying dinner at one of my go-to neighborhood places. I was happily tucked in a corner reading a novel on my Kindle; a lovely early work of Michael Ondaatje. Lulled into a complacency as the novel’s story unfolded—in Ondaatje’s wonderfully lyrical way—I was mildly surprised when I found myself in the midst of an erotica scene.

Now, stumbling into an elegantly crafted erotica scene in a book you are reading is something you don’t want to do when you are in a public place. But, if you happen to stumble upon such a passage while reading in public, what you really don’t want, is someone to silently walk up behind you and gently touch you on the shoulder, as my waiter did.

“Everything OK? Need anything else?”

My skin ignited the instant he touched me. Every tiny hair bristled as the surprise of his skin on mine rolled all the way through my body, down to my toes. I could feel the otherwise still air move over me, as if a very soft breeze wafted through the dining room. I recoiled and shot him a surprised look.

“Sorry! I was trying not to startle you!”

I waved a dismissive hand and muttered, “No worries.”

“Anyway, do you need anything else?”

DO WE NEED ANYTHING?!, my mind screamed. AAACK!! ARE YOU KIDDING?! HE’S KIDDING, RIGHT?!

“Nope,” I said, “I’m good,” shyly shaking my head.

GOOD?! YOU’RE NOT GOOD! WE DEFINITELY NEED SOMETHING! WAIT! WAIT WAIT WAIT! HE’S WALKING AWAY! CUTE WAITER GUY IS WALKING AWAY! AAACK!

Stop it, I hissed in silence to my frantic hormones, as they continued to jump up and down on my reptilian brain stem. Not the time or place.

My brain and hormones fell silent, but kept buzzing about.

Anyway, I reasoned, desperate to calm my nerves, he’s actually not all that good looking. And way too young. Stop it!

The hormones cooled their tantrum. My skin desensitized. My brain, now cajoling, urged me to take a long draw off my glass of wine; take a deep breath.

(sigh)

I skipped to the next chapter.

 

My Trip to Florida

cheshire noirSomeone read this yesterday. It’s one of my favorites. So, I made a couple of revisions and am reposting.


My Trip to Florida (Or, I Seem to Keep Having the Same Dream)

The problem with doors in dreams, especially in nightmares, is that they usually aren’t doors. Or windows, garden arbors, tunnels, passageways or worm holes. They usually turn out to be baby buggies or dandelions. Or baby buggies filled with dandelions that get stomped on by a man in a fedora and trench coat, who then turns to you asking how you are going to get back to the tree-house if you don’t have a scooter. He smiles at you, a fist of crushed dandelions in his hand, and you wonder if falling in love is such a good idea. But, if this is a nightmare, you can’t get a hold of a door handle anyway, no matter how hard you try to scream. Instead, you try to stop the goldfish you had in college from drinking the water in its fish bowl, only to suddenly find yourself in a nail salon getting a pedicure with your mother who always used to say she hated getting pedicures. The man in the fedora and trench coat smiles again and turns to leave and you wonder if he meant to smile again, but you were too late to see it. You miss him. But your mother is smiling, so you are smiling, because you knew all along your mother was making that bit up about hating eating lemons. So, spooning lemon curd over your oatmeal, which you know is strange, but you can’t seem to stop yourself from doing it, you stand there with Peter Gabriel (who now looks like your cousin from when you were kids) admiring the view from on top of the ant hill when you remember you completely forgot to go to the beach. You panic and look for a way out. Your cousin gives you a pat on the head and the dogs go running ahead of you through the grocery store and onto the stage where those ladies you’ve seen walking in the park have taken up downhill skiing. It’s funny how one of them has an accordion. No one needs an accordion to ski. And here she is, thinking she is such a big deal which makes you feel and look small, especially since she is a skyscraper. Anyway, how they are ever going to pull off that wedding when they keep forgetting to plan it, you have no idea, that’s their problem, but if you can just get to the library to fix the leak in the toilet before the kids come in from recess, everything should be just fine on the flight to Florida. The cat won’t stop meowing. Quiet, kitty, I’m fixing a toilet on a flight to Florida. Quiet! Wait. The cat’s meowing? Oh…right. Morning. My bedroom. I’m conscience and the cat is meowing to be fed. Good. That means I’m not on a flight to Florida, because— as I sit a moment longer on the edge of my bed waiting for the last of the cobwebs to clear—I can’t figure out why I was on a flight to Florida in the first place (Meoooww! Meeeooooowww!) Right. Not going to Florida. Feed the cat. Go to work (sigh).


In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Just a Dream.” and “Nightmares”

Friday Funny

i have questionsI was out to lunch the other day (literally, not figuratively) with co-workers at a nearby breakfast/lunch place.

“I’ve always wondered,” one co-worker said as we slid into our booth, “why a breakfast and lunch place has votive candles on the tables.”

We look at the candle holder she’s holding up.

“Is there a candle in there?”

“Yep. Burned wick, and covered in dust.”

That got me thinking about other things that don’t make much sense:

  • It’s a thing. We all talk about it. So, why, in an otherwise totally empty theater, bus, or open grassy field in a park, do people choose to pull up a seat right by where you are seated or situated?
  • If love is blind, why does lingerie sell so well?
  • Why are there Interstate Highways in Hawaii? (Actually, I know the answer to that, because the WA State Ferry system in the Puget Sound is considered part of the State Highway system. Who says highways are only made of asphalt? Why not water or air?)
  • Why is a team sport, in which only one player’s foot ever touches the ball, called Football? I mean, Baseball and Basketball and Handball make sense. What is the root, or genesis of the words Rugby, Soccer, or Cricket for that matter? Badminton? Hockey? Tennis? Luge? Ping Pong?
  • “Can I ask you a question?”
    “You just did, so why ask?”
  • Why is it called a free gift? Aren’t all gifts free of charge?
  • Why do people long for immortality when they can’t figure out what to do on a rainy Saturday afternoon?
  • Can you imagine a world without hypothetical situations?
  • If a train station is where a train stops, what is a work station? Exactly.
  • If the pen is mightier than a sword, and a picture is worth a thousand words, how dangerous is Twitter? Wait. Don’t answer that.
  • Why are there Braille signs on the drive-through ATMs?
  • Ironic, but I’m pretty sure “Do Not Walk on Grass” signs did not just sprout up in the middle of a lawn.
  • Why didn’t Noah just swat those two mosquitoes when he had the chance?!

Why, Words…Why?

  • Why isn’t phonetic spelled like it sounds? For that matter, why is monosyllabic a polysyllabic word?
  • If “21” is pronounced twenty-one, why isn’t “11” pronounced tenty-one?
  • If a lawyer can be disbarred, and clergy defrocked, then electricians should be delighted, musicians denoted, and cowboys deranged. Right?
  • Ever know someone who was combobulated, gruntled, ruly, peccable or whelmed? Yeah, me neither.
  • If “con” and “pro” are opposites, then it follows that Congress is the opposite of progress…right?