it’s all about the terror

beer-brined-roast-chicken-2

I don’t know how smart a chicken is.

If you watch them for a while, you have to come to the conclusion that a chicken is a pretty stupid animal.  They don’t seem to give much thought to anything except eating, drinking, and pooping.  They’re just not the smartest bird I’ve seen in my minor league bird watching lifetime.

But when you’re chasing a chicken around the yard, trying to get them back in their coop, they seem pretty crafty.  They zig, they zag, they evade.

A chicken can make you feel pretty unintelligent while you’re chasing them behind the picnic table.

Maybe a chicken is smarter than I think.  It would take something pretty brilliant to make me feel like I was a dullard….of that I’m sure.

We had some full-grown chickens before we got this batch of chicks.

Something was picking them off one by one in the night.  We came to the conclusion that it must have been an owl or a hawk…something big enough not to leave a trace of any chicken in its wake.

I don’t notice these chickens looking to the sky for the bigger bird that’s sure to kill them.  Maybe they do it when I’m not around…but to me, they seem unaware and unafraid.

We’ve had a number of break-ins lately in our area.  From what I hear, it’s some gang members from Greenville who’ve decided to migrate north and hit up the easy targets in NC.

I never worried about locking everything up before they started kicking in people’s doors.

The old cliché is “ignorance is bliss”….true statements that get used to death become cliches….but it sure is a lot easier to migrate through life expecting the best.  What’s the other cliché?  “Expect the best, prepare for the worst”?  I don’t know how you prepare for every random event.

I guess that’s what the insurance industry is built on.  Fear is an easy sell.

Thinking about these random break-ins got me wondering about how terror works.  It’s not just the event that leaves the real mark…it’s the lasting expectation of what might happen in the future.  We forget that the owl swooped down to kill….if it didn’t get us…but we remember that something bad could happen at any moment….even if we can’t predict or define what “bad” is.

Who would have thought that something benign like the Boston Marathon would be a target?  Runners have no politics while they’re running…it’s just the running.  It was effective terrorism because it made no sense. It changed our expectations of what might be possible.

That’s the thing about “effective terrorism”…it takes the “who would have thought” moment…and turns it into another opportunity to fear something that “could happen”.

I am going to miss those “who would have thought” moments when they’ve all disappeared.

After the Boston bombing, a lot of people shared this Fred Rogers quote.  I’ll close with this video because I really believe that in spite of all the fear and trepidation, there is a core of goodness in most people…we just have to figure out how to make it come out.

Norbit

norbit_posterWhile I was getting my morning started…boiling some water for the french press, grinding the coffee, making a peanut butter sandwich for later, packing my banana, filling my water bottle…doing the same things I do every morning in the same way and at the same time, I thought, “this is kind of like a really boring and un-zenlike tea ceremony”.

My modern tea ceremony…complete with banana packing and sandwich preparation.

There are things that I think my wife would like me to keep hidden from the world.  There aren’t many…to live a life without secrets is a good thing…but discretion is vital sometimes.  Sometimes too much can be given away with the slip of a tongue…sometimes minor details tell more about a person’s character than we intended.

I like Norbit .

It’s as low-brow as it gets…the critics hated it…most people with any sense or refinement can’t stand it…it was pretty repulsive.

But I like Norbit.  I think it’s pretty funny.

I guess I should be embarrassed…should be talking about some movie with some class like Wings of Desire or Lawrence of Arabia…or some other such some such…but I like the low-brow stuff sometimes.

Like the country song sort of says…I like my movies just a little on the trashy side.

Maybe the most fun for me is seeing the reaction that other people have when I suggest it as a viewing choice.

“How about Norbit?”  is sure to produce a violent and sustained negative reaction.

For some perverse reason, that’s kind of entertaining for me.

I’m not a sadomasochist…I don’t like to cause any one around me any pain….I don’t get pleasure from other people’s discomfort.  I’m not like that.  That’s not how I roll.

But…it’s fun to see the grimace when I mention Norbit.

In case you hadn’t figured out from watching the trailer….Eddie Murphy plays the main character, Norbit…and he also plays Rasputia, his king sized…no, that may be the wrong way to say it…his queen sized love interest.

“You got a girlfriend, Norbit?  Well you do now.”

Things don’t roll easy for Norbit.  It’s a hard life living with Rasputia.  She is not a nice character.

Norbit is a funny movie.  I will say it again to cement the damage I’ve already done to my critical reputation…I like Norbit.

If I was on Oprah, I’d jump up on that couch and crow to the world, ” I LIKE NORBIT!!”

You would think that someone with his own private tea ceremony would have a more developed capacity for quality.   A mature man should be…mature…..”when I was a child, I…” and all that.  There should be evidence of growth and wisdom…not some weird backsliding like enjoying Norbit.

I don’t know if it’s some sort of covert Satanic plot, but this movie streams everywhere…Netflix, YouTube, Amazon, Crackle…it’s everywhere.

You can’t escape Norbit.  It’s like laying down next to the pods in the Invasion of the Body Snatchers movie….who knows who you’ll be after you waste some time watching this one.

I know it changed my life.

That’s a good thing…right?

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driving and thinking…about Kesey

What I think about when I drive around delivering the mail is so random that sometimes I can’t believe it.

Of course, the main topic of conversation inside my head is the accurate delivery of the mail.  That goes without saying. That is a given and needs no elaborate or further explanation.

But in the spaces in-between concentrating on something I do in the same way everyday, I think about a lot of things.

The other day I was thinking about trees…which led to logging…which led to this scene from an old Paul Newman movie…which led to Ken Kesey.

Ken Kesey wrote “One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest” in 1962…had great success with it…and then wrote the book that this movie was based on, “Sometimes a Great Notion”, in 1964.

Then, except for a couple collections of essays and a book of short stories and essays called Demon Box that he put out in 1986, he didn’t publish any other novels for almost 30 years after the first novel.

This second novel, “Sometimes a Great Notion”, was one I found in High School somewhere.  My barber had a rack of “strips”…books that had their covers removed so the bookseller could get a credit for the unsold copies by just sending back the covers.  The books are supposed to have been destroyed when the covers are ripped off…but for some reason my barber always had a rack full of these books.  From what I remember, I found my coverless copy there.

What a tremendous novel.  I have family in the Pacific Northwest, so the location might have had something to do with it, but I was pretty into this book when I first read it.

I think I could relate more to this book and its subject matter than the first book, which for the most part was set in a mental institution.

Salinger wrote some great novels and then retreated from the public.  He was a mystery…a recluse.

Kesey wrote some great novels and then seemed to be swallowed up by the counterculture.  He was out in the world, riding a psychedelic bus, doing the acid tests, living among the hippies (he did say that he was “too young to be a beatnik, too old to be a hippie”)…living in the moment…but…not publishing any novels.

Sometimes, I guess, a legend is cemented by what you don’t do as much as what you do. If you hit it hard with a powerful statement, and then don’t say anything else for years…you are remembered for your success.

You know, though…looking up YouTube videos of interviews with Kesey, I was struck by how many were about taking LSD or recollections of something that happened back in the 60’s, but I could not find anything about writing or creativity or art.  What the heck?

This guy is a great writer…but looking at these videos all I could think was that it was sort of a waste.  Maybe you become what people expect?  Maybe you play out the part that was given to you?  Maybe you just continue to ride that train that you bought a ticket for and then forgot how to get off?  I don’t know.

I used to think that it must be kind of cool to be a counterculture icon.

With a couple of years under my belt, it just starts to look like a wasted life.

If this video clip posts it’s a major spoiler.  It’s one of the most powerfully memorable scenes from a good movie made from a great book.

Ken Kesey had a lot more stories inside of him than “we got so high on a fancy school bus”.  Watching the video interviews made me wish he could have shared more of them in-between hits of acid.

 

where’s my tree?

forest-tree-sun-ray-light-spruce-485x728

” I’d like to see that tree you wrote about sometime.”

My wife was talking to me about a tree that I’d written a blog post about a couple of days earlier.

I’d made a big deal out of this one misshapen tree that I’d noticed in the forest.  I was sure I’d not only be able to find it again anytime I wanted to, but that someday it might even have some sort of marker or plaque commemorating what I had done…

“THE BLOG TREE”

That would have made all the sense in the world…that my words would someday spark a giant outpouring of nostalgia…”remember when he wrote about lego impotence?  Those were the days, huh?”  There would be plaques on most everything I had come in contact with or written about.

The reality of the situation was that when I went back to where I thought the tree was…I couldn’t find it.  It was a memorable tree but in all the new green, it just didn’t stand out like the first day I saw it.

That tree…the oddest of trees…just blended in with the other trees.  For the life of me, I couldn’t see it anymore.

We are the hub of our own universes.

Astronomers would be confused…”I thought we already settled that sun/earth issue….it’s the SUN that everything revolves around, remember?”

We are the center of it all…at least in some of our minds.

We are the tree that every other tree in the forest had the good or bad fortune to spring up around.

We can’t get over our selves.  Even if we work at practicing humility…and discount our own importance in the big picture….we can’t escape being us.

We can’t escape it…but we can’t understand it, either.  Try as we might, understanding ourselves is a tough nut to crack.

Not being able to find this one odd tree made me think about how people just don’t have the time to sustain an obsession with our differences or faults.  They are so busy being the hubs that to give up too much attention to someone elses problems takes too much energy.

They may notice some quirky (or major…it could be something earth shakingly major) difference…but they can’t get over themselves long enough to give it a second thought again and again and again.

Probably one of the major reasons we have to pay attention to other people is that it takes some of the heat off of trying to figure out our own problems.  We get to focus on something outside for a while ….and it feels good to leave the self obsession behind momentarily.

Not being able to find this WEIRDO TREE again was a big loss.  I thought that I’d always have it to point to as an example of nature gone wrong…always be able to compare the GOOD, NORMAL TREES to it.  It was bent and “growed back wrong”….why wouldn’t I remember it always? But, try as I may, I can’t see this tree anymore.

When someone else notices something about us that’s not flattering, in our minds it becomes a forever thing.  We obsess over it…water and nurture it until it becomes just another tree in the forest that “growed up wrong”.

The people that made the comment have probably moved on…unless they’re so desperate to escape their own pitiful version of “ME”  that they’ve set up a tent at the base of our trees so they can pick at us and forget themselves for a while.

They don’t have the interest in “outside things” to keep up the attack.

I’m glad I couldn’t find that tree again…it meant more hidden among the others than it ever meant standing out in the forest.

brawlin’ with the sherpas

“They’re great people…these Nepalese guides”.  That’s the final quote in this short video…and something I kind of suspected to be true.

If I went into an area of the world and threw my weight around…spent my money and enjoyed the labors of the people who’d been there for years…had an attitude of “here I am…serve me…you work for me now, get to steppin’ “…if I had that sort of attitude, I suspect there might be problems at some point.

Wait a minute…it sounds kind of like my neighborhood…but that’s another story for another time.

These Sherpas seem to be pretty good folk on the whole.  I suspect they put up with a lot.  I think that in a lot of cases with these “western” climbers, the Sherpas are the real athletes of the bunch. They really are unsung heroes.

From what I can gather, the three European climbers, climbing unroped, interfered with preparation work that the Sherpas were doing above Camp 2.  Words were exchanged… and when the European climbers returned to Camp 2 they were met by an angry Sherpa mob.

I don’t know when we “westerners” decided that the world was OUR oyster…but it’s not something that started with Everest.  Wherever we go, our egos go with us…and the attitude that we have the right to enjoy someone else’s world on OUR terms goes with us, too.

Climbing can be a dangerous sport.  It takes a healthy sense of self to do what these climbers do.  You have to have a reasonably well-developed ego to survive.  But when we treat these Sherpas like guides at Disneyworld, there for the attainment of a goal that more and more often can be purchased if you have enough cash, something has gone pretty wrong.

I don’t know these climbers, but I wonder if they didn’t arrive at the mountain with an attitude…and I wonder, too, if they won’t leave with the same sort of attitude.  In their eyes, I bet the climbers see themselves as the real victims..”and then the Sherpas just WENT OFF…FOR NO REASON !! YEA, MAN….THAT’S WHAT I SAID…FOR NO REASON !!!”

You aren’t going to see the Sherpa side of the story, though.  They’re too busy fixing ropes at 22,000 feet so some guy from Chicago can pull himself up and live the dream of summiting Everest.  They don’t have time to complain to the news media that some Westerner picked a fight at high altitude.

The Sherpas have work to do.

 

 

freakin’ truck

old truck broken

Any parent worth his or her salt is going to say that they’d do anything for their children.

“Why, I’d go to the ends of the earth, I’d jump into the fire, I’d give my heart if they needed a transplant…I’d do anything for my kids…”

When crotchety daddy gets a call from his little girl from a school that’s 20 minutes of moderate paced driving away….and she says, “Dad…the car won’t start again”…that theoretical devotion is put to the test.

Now, of course my going to help her was never in doubt.  I’d help her with anything that I could….fix whatever problem she asked me to, and probably try to fix some problems that she wished I would keep my nose out of…but, darn it, I was so relaxed at the end of my day.  I was so ready to just sit after driving around….sitting?…for most of my work day.

“Did you hit it with the hammer? Did you hit it in the place I showed you to hit it? Try hitting it again.”

“I tried that already”, she said.

“Try it again.”  I really didn’t want to drive down to the school to hit the old truck with a hammer myself.

I could hear her outside of the truck…tap, tap, tap.

“Still won’t start.”

I wanted to tell her to really whack it…it should make more of a pound, pound, whack sound than a tap, tap, tap sound…but what I said was…

“Hold on, I’m coming”

I felt like a cranky Liam Neeson in that movie where he goes to Paris to save his daughter with the specialized skills he’d gathered over a lifetime of espionage activities.

I was really going to lay into that truck with the hammer when I got there.

I have skills, too.

Actually, “tap,tap,tap” is the more appropriate way to handle the situation…it’s only a solenoid so the big whack is both impossible in a crowded engine compartment and unnecessary.  It’s just that it makes you feel like getting an even bigger hammer when the car won’t start.  It makes you feel like wailing on it…no matter how inappropriate.

My daughter was talking to her mother on the phone while I was making the drive to the school…she said that I’d probably tap it a couple of times when I got there and it would start, and sure enough…that’s what happened.  Thank goodness.  It would be a shame to call AAA…or even AA…and watch some guy look at it and then say that he needed to “tow it in for diagnostics”.

“Here’s the hammer,” I’d say.  “Try that first”.

You don’t see many really cranky heroes in the movies.

Most of the time, they’re chomping at the bit to wade into battle…”I’ll save you, Ma’am…don’t worry…I’ll save you.”  They don’t say, “hit it again…harder…try harder”.  They are steady and strong and everything a hero should be.

I’m cranky.

Most of the time I keep it under wraps…kind of “covert cranky”…but I can be a cranky little baby when I’m backed into a corner by a cheap Chinese aftermarket starter.

I wish my family didn’t already know that…but I doubt it’s a grand revelation to them to hear that Daddy can be a cranky guy sometimes.

But, you know, in my defense…I will jump into the fire for my family, I will drive to the ends of the earth, I will slay the dragon and fight the good fight.  If they ever need me, I will be there for them.

Every ounce of cranky, moaning and groaning, bitchy me will be there for them.

Yay for them….

“Isn’t there anyone else we can call first ?”

image from here

 

growed back wrong

One-Tree-Hill-D-green-19839104-500-400

I noticed a tree I hadn’t seen the other day on the mail route.

I drive around tree-lined roads every day.  There are a lot of trees on my route…but this was a tree that I hadn’t noticed before.

I don’t know if it was a case of the new leaves coming in just right…or what it was…but this tree on this day really caught my attention.

It was a healthy tree….strong and well-formed…a normal tree in every regard….until I followed the trunk up and noticed something different about this tree I’d just seen completely for the first time.

This tree, about 30 feet up, jutted sideways at a crazy angle.  It was more than 90 degrees…it almost looked like it was something like maybe 103 degrees.  I couldn’t really get an accurate reading…I didn’t have my protractor with me at the time…but this tree was kind of messed up and…strange.

I stared at this tree in amongst the hundreds of other trees lining the road for a moment (I was on a mission after all….I was delivering the mail …) and wondered “what the heck happened to that tree?!”.

All of a sudden, it hit me.  I knew the answer…

That tree had done “GROWED BACK WRONG”.

It looked like maybe at some point it might have broken or bent towards the top…but it didn’t kill it, it just grew back kind of funny…grew back kind of wrong.

With a couple of hours on my hands (it was early in the mail route when I saw the tree), I started to think (as I drove on to deliver the rest of the mail, of course…I wasn’t just sitting staring at this crooked tree) about how it might relate to the people I’ve known.

Most everyone I know has had something weird or bad happen to them.

That’s a given…you live, you get hit with something strange eventually.  It’s hard to avoid.

Some people seem to get knocked around and just spring back up.  You can’t tell they were ever in a storm.

Some people break…and stay broken.  They can’t be fixed and they aren’t going to heal.  That’s a sad thing to see.

Some of them break…and “grow back wrong” to some degree.

It’s strange to see someone who looks strong and whole obsess over that one damaged area that they can still see.

It’s like they’re some kind of mighty oak….branches spreading, full of healthy leaves….and all they can see is that one damaged limb that remains from bad times before.

I guess that what I was thinking about was how different we all are…we can be damaged but grow back to be healthy again…or we can put on our bravest face and grow straight and tall….and it’s only at the end that people find out that “tree was holler …all holler inside”.

Sometimes we just start breaking… and keep on breaking more.

Weird.

As far as I know, trees don’t get self obsessed.  They don’t visit psychiatrists to get to the bottom of their problems, they don’t ponder why they feel so bad.  If they break, they either return to soil or they heal and grow.  Sometimes they grow back wrong…sometimes, from all outward appearances, you can’t tell anything ever happened at all.

But if they are going to survive after trauma…they are going to grow.  They might grow more slowly…but they are going to do what they can to thrive again.

All they know is to grow.

Man….I wish I could be more like a tree sometimes.

willy

I love the moment when a friend who also loves music says, “hey, how about this guy?  You ever heard of… Willy Porter?”  (or any other great artist that a friend might turn me onto).

This guy is soooo good.

Check out this link for a Grooveshark listing of what you can listen to for free…

here’s another video of what he’s about….

Willy Porter

faster, faster, faster

I’ve heard some people say that time is speeding up.

I don’t know if that’s really true…I think it’s more situational.  I’ve been in some meetings or teleconferences that seemed to bend time.  They dragged on forever.

I guess forever is hyperbole…. maybe not forever…they just seemed to last a long time.

Our oldest daughter will graduate from High School this year.

I still have a strong memory of dropping her off for her first day of Kindergarten.

Where did that time go?

Here’s a quote from Earl Nightingale that I appreciated:

“I never mastered time management.  No one manages time; time cannot be managed.  I merely manage activities.”  ~ Earl Nightingale

Time management…efficiency….squeezing more into each day…organized and “day planned” and blackberried to death….it’s all big business. People want to maximize…winners never quit…or stop scheduling.

If you can take a shotgun approach and do everything…then maybe something is going to feel right.

I’ve stopped listening to the radio when I deliver the mail…stopped listening to audio books…stopped listening to anything except the wind noise and my own thoughts.

It’s surprising how little I have going on in my head when I quiet things down long enough to notice the lack.

I thought it would be a constant stream of profundity inside my head…but it’s just a lot of moving air…. and watching the deer and wild turkey… as I zip on to another mailbox.  When I’m really alone, I realize I’m not nearly as amusing as I thought I was.  If you can’t keep yourself amused…then what do you really have going for you, anyway?

Maybe that’s why people like a lot of activity going on around them all the time?  It’s kind of tough sometimes to spend time with yourself….it can be kind of boring.

I think most people have a hard time spending time alone….like they want to say, “OK, me…let’s back off just a little, please…let’s keep all this stuff PROFESSIONAL….ALRIGHT?!!!”

You don’t want to dig too deep…you just might find a big ol’ pile of BURIED CRAZY if you throw that last shovelful of distraction out of the hole.

Who wants to risk that?

I’m pretty good company for myself…just not the non-stop mailman party I thought I presented to the world.

Quiet is peaceful…it’s just not always very exciting.

I guess that’s good enough, though.

Here’s an Eric Andersen song from an album called Blue River…it’s a quiet one so maybe it’ll slow down time for a moment…give you a minute to stack some cups fast.

03 Wind and Sand

 


yellow savage

In 1967 my father drove into our driveway in California with a new car.

It was a yellow Ford Fairlane station wagon with an automatic transmission and a 289 under the hood.

As a seven-year old, of course I didn’t understand anything about any of that description…all I knew was that we had a big new car and it was yellow.

I remember my mother talking about wanting to put vinyl flower stickers all over it (it was 1967). 

She never did…and that was a good thing.  I guess she was just pondering letting her “inner hippy” out a little.

Sometime, a little while after we’d gotten the car, a political candidate named Savage asked if he could put a bumper sticker announcing his candidacy on the back window.  We were at the beach and feeling benevolent…so my Dad agreed that it would be OK…and from then on the Fairlane became known as the “yellow savage”.

It’s funny how tradition gets set in motion by random events.

When I was learning to drive and just starting to get some confidence, we were on our way to downtown Marietta and Dad said, “you’re going to need to stop up here”.

“I know….I see it..”  The stop light up ahead was turning yellow….I knew the red was coming.  Red means STOP.

My father was a pretty quiet and patient man.  He said, again “you’re going to need to stop up here…you see the light?”

“I know…I see…”

All of a sudden, my father found his loud, excited voice…“STOP!!!!!!”

The rest of it was a blur…all adrenaline and hyper awareness as I locked down the brakes and went fish tailing between two rows of stopped cars on either side of me.

A 1967 Fairlane is a pretty big mass of metal.  It takes a little while to skid to a stop no matter how hard you mash down on the brake pedal.

When our forward trajectory came to a close, after managing to not hit any of the other cars or skid into the oncoming cross traffic, my father said (amazingly, he was reasonably calm)…“Didn’t you see the light?”

I’d been looking at the light that was one beyond the light…the one that was already red.

“I meant this light” my father said.

In this life, I’m just starting to figure out that …even though people expect you to have plans and ideas about what your future is supposed to hold…if you focus so intently on what is going to happen later, somehow or another you’re going to miss the “now” and really screw yourself up.

One of the most bothersome and obnoxious questions I’ve ever been asked is, “So…what are you going to do with your life?”.

Maaaannn….I hate that question.  I wouldn’t want to tell the people asking it any of my grand life scheme…even if I had some interesting and grand scheme to report.

“NUNYA”, I feel like saying….”nunya”.

I don’t know what to say to them.

So…we had this car…a big yellow station wagon that took us to the beach and up the coast and across the country. We drove it in rain and snow and heavy wind and all kinds of weather in a lot of different places around the country.  I drove it to first jobs and to get firewood ( a truck works better)….used it for a lot of things that a teenage boy uses a big old car for.  We lived with that car for a long time.  It had an interesting life a day at a time.

When my father drove it home that first day we owned it, the car didn’t have a lot of miles on it.  I don’t think that he had a big itinerary for it for the next 15 or 20 years…we were just going to use and enjoy it everyday.

You have to wonder if the life doesn’t happen around the plan, anyway.  We can steer…but we have to remember to pay attention to all the lights going off around us.