Sunday, July 31, 2011

ONE LAST POSTING IN JULY

July is coming to a rapid close.  This month has seemed to fly by at a record pace  So many things popping up to keep me from posting and this makes me a little sad.  What July coming to a close really means.

The majority of holidays are now behind us for the year 2011.  The holidays that I treasure so much because they signal at least a day that I can try to forget about the hectic schedule at the office.  We now have only Labor Day, Halloween (holiday of a sort), Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I include Halloween because even though I do not get a day off of work, it is what now triggers the Christmas Season.  Lewis Black said that anymore Halloween kicks off the Christmas Season and Thanksgiving is Christmas halftime.  I dread both Thanksgiving and Christmas.  The moving up of the kick off season just makes that much more time for me to be in a state of dread.

I don't care much for Halloween either.  Strange kids and people coming to my door all evening, upsetting the dog and stealing candy from me.  Candy that I could use myself as I prepare for Christmas.  Nothing gets you through a rough day like a good sugar high.

The end of July also signals that in just a few weeks school will start.  Mind you I don't mind the fact that school is starting, I think it is good to put the kids away for a few hours every day.  Makes the neighborhood quieter and you don't have to worry during the day what is actually happening on your block.  The problem with school starting is now I will have to be fighting kids walking to school in the middle of the street as well as trying to get around those school buses that stop every ten feet to pick another of the little hooligans.  Between the walkers and these yellow monstrosities, I have to add a minimum of five minutes on my drive to work and arrive home as late as ten minutes later than I do during the summer.

Also with school starting, it brings about fundraisers.  Fundraisers for band, for football, for the school, and a host of other needy organizations that want my money.  Look kids, I vote for school taxes and bond issues every time they are on the ballot because I think it is important to support the local schools with my tax dollars.  I don't want to be paying a surplus on my taxes because the school board does not know how to budget.  In other words, I gave at the office.

The end of July marks the start of the last phase of the baseball season.  It is usually about this time that I look at the standing and for the first time admit that the Royals more than likely will not see post season play again this year.  I hold out hope for them all summer long but at around the first of August you finally have to admit that there is really no way they are going to do it.  It is also about this time that I look at the Cubs standing and realize that once again St. Louis is going to end up ahead of the Cubs and probably go into post season play.  This is a double whammy having the Cards go into post season almost every year while the Royals and the Cubs sit at home and watch the playoffs in local bars.It is a rude awakening indeed.

On the other hand the end of July marks the beginning football training camps both on the college and the pro level.  One thing that this means is that along the first of August or so, the stores start to put out Mizzou inventory.  Unfortunately they also put out Kansas inventory.  By the end of August I am sick of looking at that stupid looking little red and blue  disturbingly malformed thing they call a "Jayhawk"  My spell check doesn't even recognize "Jayhawk" as a real word or thing.  I was in a target store on the Missouri side of course, and noticed that the Mizzou inventory was out.  Two whole aisles of black and gold shirts, flip flops, hankies, just about anything you can imagine.  The thing that really impressed me though was I did not see one red and blue KU or Jayhawk in the whole place.  This Target store has my business for life.

The beginning of August also marks just a few weeks until fall arrives.  When August is over the temperatures will begin to drop to a tolerable level and the trees that color the State of Missouri so beautiful will begin their artwork. Fall is truly my favorite season here.  There is only two three things that interfere with my total enjoyment of fall.  Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas.Why couldn't they plop these miserable days into a part of the year that I already don't like??  Then I could get all the misery over at one time.

It is like I am cursed by watching the baseball season come to an end followed by Halloween right behind it.  As if that isn't enough I have to watch the racing season come to and end followed immediately by Thanksgiving.  COME ON PEOPLE!!!  Have you no mercy at all??  At least let me grieve the loss of two of my favorite sports without slamming me afterwards with these two worthless holidays.  It isn't right and it isn't nice.

Then comes those weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas where I worry about what different gifts I have to come up with for different people.  Thankfully the internet is here and I can shop from my desk at the office avoiding crowds and stores who hire temporary cashiers who have forgotten how to make change.

Then there are the dreaded days themselves.  Wasting a perfectly good day from work by having to spend it in a noisy foodfest that has the same menu every single year.  That is only thanksgiving.  Christmas is even worse because we have to decorate the house, put a tree in my living room where there is no room for it and then go out in the cold for another foodfest with, again, the exact menu every year.

You can't avoid these annual booby traps that life sets up for us.  John Grisham wrote a short novella on trying to skip Christmas for just one year.  ONE SINGLE YEAR.  Nope, turns out that the main characters in the story were not allowed to skip Christmas.  It is impossible to run away from.  A lot of it has to do with it's religious importance, which you will never find me bad mouth.  But they take that religious meaning and before you know it you are in someone else's house with out a place to sit down trying to eat a bland dinner that you have had fifty times before.

There is a good part to Christmas,  The cookie and candy dishes my mother prepares for me to chow down on for the week before New Years.  I do not mind that at all!  I imagine that if I could get a plate full of pecan tassies every holiday of the year, federal holidays included, you may find my protests against these holidays a little less caustic.

 It's okay though.  When all is said and done and I find myself having survived another year of the madness, I always seem to be able to look back and find some good things that happened during the fight.  A special moment with any number of family members.  The ham may have been a little more moist and the turkey a little less dry this year.

I can look back at the time I was able to spend with my nephews and nieces and realize how special each of them are in their own little way.

I suppose the holidays does have its merits and its reasons.  It is just too bad we have to fight through all the garbage to get to the good stuff after it is all over.

See y'all in August

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Eternal Kansas City - Van Morrison

Chorus (Choir singing)
Excuse me do you know the way to Kansas City?
Excuse me do you know the way to Kansas City?
Excuse me do you know the way to Kansas City?
Excuse me do you know the way to Kansas City
Excuse me do you know the way to Kansas City?
Excuse me do you know the way to Kansas City?
Excuse me do you know the way to Kansas City?
(Van singing)
Excuse me do you know the way to Kansas City?
Excuse me do you know the way to Kansas City?
Excuse me do you know the way to Kansas City?
Excuse me do you know the way to Kansas City?

Train down to St. Louis
Get me there alright
Over to the city there, you know that one
Where the farmer's daughter digs the farmer's son
Dig your Charlie Parker
Basie and Young
Witherspoon and Jay McShann
They will come
Oooowoooowoooo

Chorus (Van and choir in background)
Excuse me do you know the way to Kansas City?
Excuse me do you know the way to Kansas City?
Excuse me do you know the way to Kansas City?
Excuse me do you know the way to Kansas City?

Lady Liberty in waiting
You know she lights the way
Her name is Billie, she's a Holiday
And the city is eternal -- hey, can't you see?
It's inside of you and it's inside of me
Oooowoooowoooo

Chorus (Van and choir in background)
You know, you know the way to Kansas City?
You know, you know the way to Kansas City?
You know, you know the way to Kansas City?
You know, you know the way to Kansas City ?
You know...the way to Kansas City
You know...the way to Kansas City
Wild Thing

You know the way to Kansas City (Choir only)
Thank you Man (Van)
You know the way to Kansas City
Sing it (Van)
You know the way to Kansas City (Van and choir)
Hit it (Van)
You know...the way to Kansas City
You know...the way to Kansas City
You know...the way to Kansas City
You know...the way to Kansas City
Baby can't you sing it one time (Van)

(Choir)
You know the way to Kansas City
You know the way to Kansas City
You know the way to Kansas City
You know the way to Kansas City
You know the way to Kansas City
You know the way to Kansas City
You know the way to Kansas City


JULY WAS LEAN ON BLOGGING

Well, July is almost over.  It has been the leanest month of blogging since I began this effort.  I don't particularly care for the lack of blog entries this past month.  I have tried to set a goal of a minimum of nineteen entries a month.  It doesn't look like I will hit that goal in July.  So what has happened to cause this?  Primarily there were three potentially life changing events that took me away from the bloggersphere.

The first event happened over the fourth of July weekend.  While trying to reach some of my stuff in the garage on the back of a shelf, I slipped and fell about three feet onto concrete stairs on my back.  It was painful and if you know me at all or have read much of this blog you know that I have a strong aversion to pain.  Pain and I do not get along very well and the fall brought about a considerable amount of pain to my back and my ankle.  I was in pain for over two weeks and found it difficult to concentrate on writing.  After a trip to the emergency room, I was given a prescription for some Oxycontin, a muscle relaxant and an anti-inflammatory medicine.  All three of these meds tend to bring about drowsiness.  Along with these pills, I had to continue some of my head meds to keep myself from having that detached feeling and buzziness in my head that withdrawal brings about.  Also it kind of keeps my depression and anxiety in check so that I am able to reason out suicidal thoughts and stay alive.  It is extremely difficult to write when you are full of drugs of this sort.  So because of the fall I lost several days that I could have been writing.

The next thing that occurred was that I bought a new laptop computer.  I also bought a router, a wireless mouse and key board and ventured on my first trip into the technological twenty first century  by setting up a network in the house and going wireless for the first time.  The time taken just to get the network set up and running took enough time away from writing but there was more than just that.  I had to move hundreds if not thousands of music files off of my work computer to the new laptop.  That was almost three days of lunch hours that I was not able to write.  Now I am in the process of putting the rest of my music at the house on the laptop, again taking time away from writing.  In the end though, this new tool should give me the opportunity to write in the evening without taking any of Barb's time on the internet.  Now I find myself interested in checking out some streaming movies and television shows that are available through different services out there.  I will NOT be using Netflix in the near future as my own little protest of the rate hike they placed on their customers without warning or explanation.  Luckily there is a growing competition for netflix that should allow me to experiment a little with it.  This has also allowed Barb and I to agree with each other to drop HBO which will be a huge savings in our pocket.  This is very exciting for me and definitely should give me more time to write in the near future.

The third potentially life changing event happened just the other day.  My coffee pot died.  It was not really unexpected.  I had noticed strange happenings coming from the coffee maker as of late.  Going in and seeing the "self clean" light turned on for no reason.  One night I wasn't able to turn it off before I headed to bed.  Now it won't turn on.  When it was in it's infancy it was a zinger of a coffee maker.  It would grind fresh coffee beans throwing the grounds into the filter as it ground.  The result was a near perfect cup of extremely freshly brewed coffee. Entropy eventually was able to lay it's filthy hands on it as it does everything.  Now it doesn't work at all.  I am using a cheap little six cup coffee maker that my wife use to use at her office.  It is not the same.  Anyone who tells you that a coffee pot is a coffee pot doesn't know what they are talking about.  There is a definite difference in how coffee is brewed.  It is a formula that takes into account the temperature of the water, the size of the grind, and the rate at which the water flows through the grounds to brew the coffee into that delectable, taste bud exciting brew.  I miss my coffee pot already and find it difficult to concentrate on anything since it died.  It is like losing a best friend.  It is not easy to get over.  That coffee pot and myself have been good friends for a lot of years.  I can't bring myself to place it in the trash even though I know I must.  That will probably happen tonight.  Maybe after it is set in its coffin of plastic and set out by the curb for pick up tomorrow, the pain may have lessened.  For now though, I walk into the kitchen and see it sitting there, unable to perform what it was made to do and that is sad.  <big sigh here as I write about my little friend>

These three events add up to one simple fact.  I am having a difficult time coming up with topics to write about.  Each of these events has been a distraction for me and they all happened within a four week period.  That, my friend, is a lot of distraction to work through and come up with a topic for a blog entry.

Next month I plan on doing better.  MY back is pretty much back into shape with just minor pain every once in awhile.  The home network is set up and ready and I should be able to take advantage of writing at night instead of over my lunch hour.  Finally, the coffee pot will be replaced by next month.  This above all things will probably be the biggest help in getting me back on a decent writing schedule.

For those of you who have stuck with me during these lean days of July, thank you.  I know that my writing isn't great, but I think it is good.  The question becomes is my writing good enough to be patient through a small dry spell called July.  Well, according to my stats, there have been quite a few of you who think it is worth waiting for.  I truly appreciate that.  I love to write and it feels good to know that there are people out there who get at least a little something out of it.

For those of you who didn't stick with me through July, well you aren't reading this right now so I feel fairly comfortable in saying that you'll be missed and hopefully you will one day miss the blog.

If that isn't the case...... bugger off with you.  :)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

RACING CAREER

My racing career is not well known to race fans around the world.  As a matter of fact it is not well known to Kansas City or even to the street that I grew up on.  But for a while there was a definite racing mentality going on in my brain that I really enjoyed. That racing in my brain is still there but is regulated to sitting on the couch while I watch others race.

When I talk about racing, I am not talking about running or walking.  Although I was fairly light of foot in my younger days and made several marks with my running ability through grade school. it is not that kind of racing that we are talking.  We are talking about racing contraptions with wheels attached to them.

A little bit of clearing up has to be done for a second.  Contraptions with wheels attached to them do not include the Tonka trucks and jeeps we used to tear up the back yard for dad.  Thinking about those Tonka jeeps brings up a question I have always wondered about.  One of those jeeps was pink with white and pink striped seats in it.  WHY?  No the contraptions I speak of must be able to allow a human being to ride upon it and propel it with lightening speed.

Now that we have defined what lies inside the lines of a "racing career" we can begin to look at it.  It started of with a three wheel vehicle otherwise known as a tricycle.  Trikes were good for small track racing, such as going around in a circle about the driveway.  Now a driveway track is pretty small and so about the only way that a pass could be made would be by running into the trike you were racing against.  That would be my little brother most of the time.  If I could hit him hard enough to topple him, then the race would be won.  Of course winning had it's downfalls as brother would go into the house with these tears running down his cheek to tell my mother that I had hurt him.  My thinking?  If he didn't want to get hurt, he shouldn't have been racing me.  I had a bigger trike and a bigger body.  Mom did not seem to see it that way though and often times I would end up either apologizing or sitting on the bottom step for a set amount of time.  There still was the satisfaction of winning the race most of the time, which made it all worth while.

After I outgrew the trikes, I moved up in class to the two wheelers.  The bicycle.  The bike was was faster than the trikes.  You could also run the bike in places where it would not be practical to run a trike, like up hills and on streets away from the house.  You could run road courses or ovals depending upon where you were at the time.  The bikes brought a certain danger along with them in that you could get hurt without running into your opponent.  Take a turn too sharp and those wheel would slide right out from under you.  When you got into the upper class of bikes, they had a sort of manual transmission to them.  Five speed or ten speed were the most popular.  These nifty little gear sprockets allowed you to climb hills with out too much trouble and also allowed you to gather speed that was exhilarating.   Riding on a bike at fast speed , you would feel the wind in your hair and your hearing would be severely disabled because of the wind blowing into them.  Cars could sneak up on you and you would not have a clue that they were there.  We ran many bike races around the neighborhood.  We had dirt trails and street trails and parking lot tracks.  If you were really fancy you would pop a wheely at the start of the race and then do another one after you won the race.  It was not as easy to win a bike race as it was with a trike.  The competition consisted of more than just my little brother.  I have been thinking about getting my bike fixed up just to take it out again and ride it along the lake trail.  It is a piece of childhood that you can always go back to.  There are some things that you never outgrow.  Bikes are one of those.

When I turned sixteen I went up another class to the four wheel machines.  The cars.  To be honest I really only raced a car once.  It was a drag race (see the "Sweeney and Me" series earlier in the blog for details) and I was stopped by a police officer.  It is just as well.  Cars are dangerous and if you are driving one at high speeds and you lose control, it could cost you your life.  I have known several people, both family and friends, that have died under such circumstances.

I don't race my car anymore.  I like it too much to race it.  Racing takes a toll on parts of the car that you don't think about until they break.  Transmissions, brakes, and the engine in general are but a few of the things that can go wrong if you race a car too much.  Then there is that wrecking thing again.  I don't like pain and from my experience, wrecking a car can be extremely painful if you survive.

That is not to say I don't have my little moments of fantasy racing.  I still find myself, when stopped at a red light, trying to beat the driver next to me through the intersection when the light goes green.  I am pretty good at that and I do it without left foot braking.  I stop my fantasy as soon as I hit the speed limit though and settle back down into an old man responsible driving mode, which can be boring at times but certainly is cheaper than paying speeding tickets or getting into one of those wrecks.

So my racing career is all but over.  Now it consists of sitting in my chair on Saturday and Sundays watching much younger men than myself go much faster than I ever dreamed about going.  I have crossed the one hundred mile per hour mark twice and it was a little intimidating.  Once I was driving my little Saturn SL from southern Missouri on my way home when Barb fell asleep next to me.  Just out of curiosity, I sped up to see how fast it could go.  It shook a little when I crossed the 85mph mark but then smoothed out like driving on glass when it passed the 95mpf mark.  Then Barb woke up and the slowed under its own power back to sixty five.

The other time I passed that magical speed was driving across Montana with my sister in a rental car.  That was fun.  The road was straight and flat and the car just seemed like it was built to run that fast.  We were making pretty good time until my sister noticed the speedometer and ordered me to slow down a bit.  I slowed to ninety-five.  Not slow enough for her so I took another five miles per hour off and settled in at ninety.  It was a fair compromise I thought and she must have as well because she let out a huge sigh and shook her head then turned to look out her window.  I figure she was praying or something.  If she was it worked.  The car stayed true to the road and we did not have any problems going that fast.  It was the last time she would allow me to do that on the whole of the trip which was okay I guess.

So that, in a nutshell is my experience racing.  Well there is one more race that we all are involved in.  That is the race of life.  Trying to get ahead all the time.  Trying to out run death consistently.  That kind of racing we have no choice but to be involved with.  The race will end sometime, but hopefully not today.

Monday, July 25, 2011

A WEEK IN HOSPICE

It was the last Tuesday in April when Barb and myself went to pick up my Uncle Dan for our usual standing dinner date at Sharp's in Brookside.  He was in a good mood and seemed to be feeling pretty well.  He had cancer of the lungs that had spread to mainly his spine, and a few other places.  He had survived through decades with AIDS and was still beating it, but the cancer was too strong.

He ate well that night and seemed to enjoy himself.  He was laughing at jokes and at slips of the tongue that people would make while telling a story.  He was tired though.  The cancer had a habit of doing that.  He carried around a little canister of oxygen in case he needed it and I don't recall him using it that night.  We went home a little early and got him to lay down on his hospital bed that he kept in the living room on the first floor.  He no longer had the strength to climb up and down stairs.

We had a rotating system of people who would come and spend the night with him in case he needed anything.  This was Martha's turn to spend the night and so Barb and I left for home.  Over the previous few weeks I had not slept very well at all.  I would go to bed and worry about how Dan was doing.  I knew that any day could be his last with us.  On this night I slept fairly well.  He had been in good spirits and had eaten and was not complaining too much about the pain he was enduring.  The pain was always there, but he reserved his complaints for when it was really bad.

The next morning I received a phone call from my wife.  Brian had spent a long night with Dan.  Dan was in a very irritable mood and was in great pain.  He had not slept all night and had kept Brian jumping all night to do things that he thought might help his pain.  Now he was having trouble talking and did not seem himself at all.  He was refusing any medical help.  As so many times before, I left the office immediately and went over to Dan's house.  Dan lived only about ten minutes from the office but I feel like it took me over a half hour to get there that morning.

When I got there Brian was sitting in a chair and Dan was laying in his bed.  I sat and tried to talk to him.  One thing about Dan was that you didn't tell him what to do when it came to things that involved him.  You asked.  So I asked him if I could call Dr. Lee and see what she said.  I had to ask several times before he okayed the call.  Dr. Lee advised us to get the hospice nurse there.  When she arrived Dan was in great pain and was not expressing himself very well.  I imagine the pain was so bad that he could not handle it.  I had given him some morphine tablets but they were having little effect.  Between the hospice nurse, my mother and myself we decided to transfer him to the hospice facility where he could get enough medication to ease the pain.

The ambulance arrived and I rode in it with Dan trying to calm him down on the ride over.  Everytime we hit a bump he would groan loudly.  I began to ready myself for the fact that this may be the last ride he would take in this life.

He was admitted into the hospice and immediately hooked up to a morphine pump.  It was not long before he went into what I can only describe as a totally aware coma.  His eyes were open and he would respond with those eyes when you talked to him but he couldn't move nor could he talk.  He would be in this state for the next week.

He would gasp for air with every breath.  His lips were getting dry so we spent a lot of time wetting them down with ice chips.  Family and friends would come and see him and you could tell that he was aware by looking at his eyes.  It was the only form of communication that he had.  On a regular schedule the hospice nurses would come in and check on his morphine and his blood pressure.  He was slowly dying.  All I could or can hope is that he wasn't in too much pain during this process.

I had promised Dan that I would be there with him until the end and so I determined that I would.  I had no idea how many days it would be but I didn't think it would be long.  My mom and dad spent a lot of time there going home to rest when they needed to.  Barb would go home and then come by after work.  My little brother spent a lot of time there with Dan.  My sister and my Aunt from Alabama came up for the weekend to visit with Dan.  This whole time Dan did not sleep.  His eyes remained opened every day and every night.

I asked one of the hospice nurses in the middle of the night one night if he even knew I was there.  She answered very firmly and positive that yes, he knew we were there.  He knew he wasn't alone.  She would later make me a little origami bird as a present to try to cheer me up.  It worked.  Soon my uncle from St; Louis returned home and my sister and aunt went back to Alabama.  They had to leave because duties from home needed their attention.  They were going to come back in short order to spend more time with Dan.

Hospice has a network of volunteers who bring in donuts and sandwiches and soups for families to have while they sit in hospice with their loved ones.  This is a great thing that they do.  If it were not for these volunteers We would have to be leaving all the time to get food.  The work of these volunteers should a level of caring that is hard to find these days.  And their actions took an extra load off of our minds because we did not need to worry about that part of staying in hospice with Dan.

The next Tuesday night, My cousin Susie brought Barb and I dinner from Sharp's since we weren't able to make it to the weekly foodfest.  It was so nice of her to do so.  It kind of put a little normalcy back into everyday life even if we were eating outside Dan's room.

Dan had never heard me play the piano and always wanted to.  Earlier that week I had sat at the piano in the main room of the hospice and played their piano for a little bit.  When I finally had some alone time with Dan, I told him I had played the piano for him and that people liked it.  His eyes widened a little bit and sparkled.  I think it was his way of saying thanks you.

After Susie left that Tuesday night there were my mother, my brother, Barb and myself left with Dan.  My little brother went home to shower and take a little nap and would be back later that night.  I fell asleep on the couch in Dan's room.

I awoke to Barb shaking me and saying it was time.  I got up and for the first time saw Dan with his eyes more or less closed.  His breathing was hardly noticeable.  The nurse kept a stethoscope to Dans chest waiting to see when his heart went silent.  Finally, a little after two in the morning, she said that he was gone.  A few minutes after that my little brother arrived.  He took care of mom while I went to walk outside and think things over.  I had a lot to do.  I had promised Dan I would email all of his classmates and friends informing them of his death.  As I walked up to the front nurses station I noticed the young nurse holding her head in her hands and crying.  I asked her if she was okay and she tearfully said that she had just gotten word that her mother had died.  I felt so sorry for her.  She pulled herself together and asked me how things were going with me.  I told her Dan had just died and she did what she was suppose to do.  She offered her sympathy.  This girl who had just heard about her mother but she had to set that aside to do her job.  It takes a strong person to be a hospice nurse.

I walked outside to find it raining very softly.  Dan had wanted to die when it was raining and God had granted his wish it seemed.  After walking around the parking lot a bit I went back inside to Dan's room to see him one last time.  I was heart broken.  I took comfort though in feeling that he died with his family there for a whole week surrounding him with love.  I took comfort in believing that he died pain free thanks to the nurses of hospice..  I took comfort in knowing that he was ready to go.  We had discussed it several times over the previous three or four weeks.

Now I had to pull myself together and do the chores I had promised him I would do when he died.  Barb drove me over to his house so I could begin to carry on after the end.

Friday, July 22, 2011

BEING NICE = RESPECT

About two years ago on the Friday before the fourth of July, I was leaving the office for a long weekend.  It was hot outside and I was ready to get home and get the holiday started.  I pulled out onto sixty third street and headed down over the bridge well over the speed limit.  Then I noticed a policeman motioning me to pull over when I approached the bottom of the bridge.

I pulled into the road leading into Swope Park and waited as the officer walked over to my car.  He was very polite and talked to me as a human being.  I returned the respect and jokingly asked him what he was doing out here on a day like this?  He answered that they told him to go out and write some tickets, so he was just doing what he was told.  I noticed he was sweating pretty bad so I turned the air conditioning vent so it blew out the window cooling him.  He thanked me and I told him it wasn't a problem.  He ended up giving me a ticket but for a minimum speed so that I wouldn't get points on my license.  We parted with take cares and such and I went on my way.

Let me state that I respect all police officers and firemen.  I realize they put their very lives on the line everyday to protect me and those I love.  Officers should treat the public with respect in return until there is a reason not to.  This fine officer was polite and treated me very well.  I returned the favor and I felt like he respected me as a human being as I respected him.  It was a two way street.

Fast forward to last Tuesday night on my way to dinner.  I was driving down sixty-third street towards Brookside.  As I arrived in the Brookside area, I noticed a man stepping out to cross the street from the opposite side.  Sixty-third is about five lanes wide at that point and so I didn't think anything about continuing driving.  Unless the man broke out into a mad dash across all lanes of traffic and he had the speed of a gazelle, I was not going to come close to hitting him.  However, there was an unmarked police car sitting in the right lane so I switched lanes to go around him.  Immediately I heard the quick siren and as I stopped the car, the officer pulled up beside me.

At this point, both of us had driven in front of the pedestrian and both lanes of sixty-third street were blocked, backing up traffic behind us.  I put the passenger window down and he looked at me with a totally disgusting look.  He asked me very harshly if I had seen the pedestrian crossing the street.  "Yes" I answered and then he shook his head and went on a little terse tirade. "Don't you think you should have stopped to let him walked by, the way that I did???"  I didn't know what to say.  I just shook my head as I grasped for words to answer his question.  He then just shook his head, waved me off with his hand and told me with disgust to go on, get out of here.

That officer did not get my respect.  He treated me like an underling instead of a human being.  There were plenty of better ways to have approached me.  I realize that perhaps he had a bad day or something.  Still, if officers want the public to show them the respect they deserve, they should show respect to us ordinary people until our words and action show them disrespect.  I had respect for this man when I first saw his car but I was fairly angered and put off by the way he had treated me with his words and actions.

The point is that when the officer was nice to me, my immediate response was to treat him with the respect I thought he deserved.  When the second officer treated me as an idiot that was too dumb for him to even waste his time with, he lost my respect.

That is the way it is in life.  That is the way it should be anyway.  There are a lot of nice people out there but it is the not so nice that attract our attention.  Something that happened last night was what brought me to this topic.

I had stopped by the pharmacy to get my prescription refilled and then went across the street to the Pizza Hut to pick up dinner.  If Barb and I are going to get pizza, we get it on a Thursday night.  Trash pick up is Friday morning so this way we don't have a big pizza box sitting around all week.  So this was going to be a pizza night.

I walked into the cool little pick up store and went to the counter.  A lady in back yelled up in a very nice voice that she would be with me in a moment and followed it with "sir".  This immediately kicked in my be nice personality as I told her there was no hurry and followed it with "Maa'am".  After a while she came to the counter and took my order.  She was very polite as was I to her.  It was a pleasant experience on a day that had been stressful to me.  This encounter in the Pizza Hut would make my whole evening a little better.

As I went to sit on a bench to wait for my pizza I noticed an older gentleman, older than me but I am not going to call him "old".  I think the word "old" includes me now, but he was older than me.  He nodded at me as I sat down to wait for my pizza.

After a while a young kid of about ten years old walked into the Pizza Hut to pick up some chicken wings he had ordered earlier.  As it turned out he was all of six cents short of paying for his food.  I asked him if he needed a quarter and he looked at me with an inquisitive look.  I asked him again if he needed a quarter and I got up and walked to the counter to see how much money he needed.  He told me that he was six cents short and as I was reaching in my pocket for a quarter, the older gentleman got up and placed a dime on the counter.  Our eyes caught each other and we both returned to our benches.

After the kid got his food he turned to the older man and thanked him.  Then he turned to me and thanked me as well.  I am not use to kids being so polite and respectful these days and it kind of took me aback for him to thank me when I had not done anything but make the offer.  Both me and the older man told the kid that he was welcome and it wasn't a problem.  The kid left with his food without a care in the world.

The older man's order came up and I noticed that both he and the lady behind the counter treated each other with mutual respect and kindness.  As the man picked up his pizzas, and headed to the door he looked at me and told me to take care.  I responded with a "you too" and it felt good.  The older man and myself had gained a respect for each other by the simple act of helping a ten year old out of a small jam.  It was a big act of kindness but even a small act of kindness can go a long ways.

That kindness and respect build upon each other and by the time I walked out to my car with my pizza, a lot of kindness and respect had been floating around inside that little Pizza Hut that afternoon.  It didn't take a lot.  All it took was talking to people with out an attitude and then seeing the respect come from the kindness.

I know that this isn't always the case.  You can be as nice as you know how and some people will still just act like you don't matter.  The world would be better off without you or whatever.  Sadly that is the way the world is a lot of the time.  But being nice at least gives rise to the chance that some respect will be traded in a situation.

Lord knows that I am not always very nice at all.  I have bad days like my friend the Policeman may have had.  Sometimes I just don't feel nice for some reason.  That doesn't make it right, but simply makes me human.  We should try to be nice though.  I wish there was a meter on me that I could look at and see my niceness factor so that I could correct it.  Most times I don't realize that I am not being very nice.  In the end though if you aren't nice you will never get respect.  If you are nice and treat people with respect, at least there is a chance that it will be returned in kind, and I think the world could use a little more of that these days.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

COMFORT ZONE

I like my comfort zones.  If I could I would stay in them all the time.  Life doesn't work that way though.  Life demands that we step outside our comfort zones on a rather regular basis.  We are required to stretch that envelope of a comfort zone just a little almost every day to keep growing and to let our comfort zones then grow with us.

My comfort zone these days is much smaller than what it use to be or so it seems.  I leave my comfort zone every time I go into a situation where there is going to be a crowd of people.  I step out of my comfort zone if I am going to be in a place that is noisy.  I would rather not go into situations like that but I have discovered that if I don't step outside that comfort zone I would be missing out on a lot of what life is.

My ultimate comfort zone, I think, would end up with me being a recluse.  I would be living by myself.  I wouldn't be interacting with any one else except my music and my television and perhaps the internet.  I wasn't always this way.  I use to go to ballgames with an exciting anticipation.  Now if I go to the ball game the minute I get in my car I begin to leave my comfort zone.  I get more and more uncomfortable as I proceed to the beginning of the ball game.  The traffic getting into the stadium makes me nervous and I find myself trying to hold it together.  Working my way through the crowd to my seat increases the discomfort.  It is only when that first pitch is thrown and the ball game begins that I find myself able to relax somewhat and slide into a different comfort zone.  I have something other than the crowd and the noise to focus on.  I focus on the game and every little thing that happens during it.  I keep a score card to be sure my mind stays in the game.  When the game is over I have to fight people to get out of the stadium and to my car and then fight the traffic to get headed home.

I think it is worth stepping out of that comfort zone for a bit to be able to enjoy a ball game for a few hours, releasing my mind from all the other problems I may be facing in day to day life.  If I had not stepped over that line and worked my way through all the discomfort, I never would have had the satisfaction and enjoyment of watching these great ball players play a game for a bit of my life.

That is what getting out of your comfort zone affords you.  The chance to experience something that would otherwise pass you by.  So many time we miss out on things that we might find extremely enjoyable except for that fact that the fear of being out of the comfort zone may not be all you thought or hoped it might be.  Sometimes stepping out of the comfort zone does end in a less than positive feeling.

I am convinced that we all require a certain comfort zone in our life.  A place where we don't have to worry about anything and can feel relaxed.  For some people this comfort zone is very large with very few things or events that would make that person uncomfortable.  But there is always that one thing, as small as it may be, that lies in the back of your head and mind that you know you will not like even though you never tried it.

Stepping out of a comfort zone can be dangerous and should be at least thought about before taking that step.  Sometimes stepping out of the comfort zone in the wrong direction can leave you broken, homeless and defeated.  Sometimes taking that gamble and stepping out of a comfort zone can bring you knew friends and a little joy that you never thought possible.

Most businessmen and women at one time took a step out of their comfort zone and put it all out on the line and became successful by doing so.  It probably wasn't easy for them to do so, but by pushing that envelope they found a life that seemed unreachable before stepping out and taking the gamble.  You simply never know what you can achieve unless you try different things.

Men and women stepping out of their comfort zones is what built this country.  From the earliest settlers to the founding fathers to the leaders of today, everyone has had to push themselves a little to make things happen.

This post is starting to run around in circles on me, but I think it is an important ideal.  Everyday I find myself outside my comfort zone.  Some days it is worse than others.  Sometimes going over to my parents house is difficult for me because of me not wanting to leave my comfort zone.  Going to work every day is sometimes a problem because of this.  Going out to dinner with my cousins once a week is not the easiest thing for me to do but it is so worth it.  I have discovered that I like my cousins and can enjoy them and have fun.  Still making that first move to get in the car and drive to the restaurant to meet with them is just a little difficult at times.

I don't know what else to write without going in another circle again.  The main thought I guess is that we all have a choice to sit and become dormant and let life pass us by, not finding out what living can be, or we can make ourselves try things that we may not want to really do and possibly find new things that life has to offer us.

It is a struggle I seem to go though every day and, yes, I have found some wonderful new things that life has to offer me.  The problem is getting it through my head that these new things that life has to offer is worth continuing to step outside my comfort zone in order to experience them until my comfort zone stretches to include them.

I certainly hope this makes sense.  It seemed to become more of a ramble than a well thought out writing.  By writing on this topic though, I had to take a step outside of my comfort zone.

Monday, July 18, 2011

HISTORY AND MY JOB

Thirty years ago this evening, my wife and I sat in front of our television watching the terrifying images being sent from the Hyatt Regency hotel as over one hundred people died in an horrific engineering failure.  It would make the news across the nation and become one of the deadliest disasters of the twentieth century.  It was not caused by weather or terrorists, but rather by an architectural firm that had tried to cut corners on design and costs when building the luxury hotel.

I began thinking about that.  It was in 1981.  It was before we adopted Brett.  Before I saw Sinatra perform.  I began to think about how many historical events I have witnessed while working at my current job.  It turns out that my job and myself have witnessed a ton of history.  There is so much that has happened since I walked through the doors of this company in December of 1979 that I can not make a complete list of them.  I decided to list the ones that pop out in my memory as the big ones that happened while i was sitting at this desk.

I suppose the first one that sticks out in my mind was the failed rescue attempt of the hostages in Iran by President Carter.  It was a dismal failure and one that left us all thinking how long these citizens of the United States would be held captive and wondering if they would live through the ordeal.  The failed attempt was not by any means the only reason that President Carter was not re-elected but I believe it certainly sat in peoples memories as they went to the polls when the President was trying to win a second term.

I witnessed the election of President Reagan from this desk and all of the history that the Reagan administration brought to the history of this country.  The Soviet Union was dismantled and the Berlin Wall was torn down.  We fought a short "war" in Granada during that time as well.

Wars have come and gone since I came to work here.  The Persian Gulf War that was triggered by the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait was played out.  President Clinton sent a "peace keeping" force to Bosnia without getting approval from congress and was rather successful at it.  The Iraqi War and the Afghan war have also taken place as I continued my work here.

We watched the first shuttle launch from this company.  We even had a pot as to when it would occur.  When the final launch date was set, a person in the department that we use to play a lot of pranks on was looking to be the winner.  To continue our pranks on this poor gentleman we exchanged all the money into coins and spent a morning bending them just slightly so that they would not be accepted by any vending machines.  At the last moment the launch was scrubbed until a later day meaning our prank target was not going to win the pot after all.  We spent a good deal of a day trying to straighten out coins for Pat, who would be the eventual winner of the pot when the shuttle finally did launch.

I saw the Space Shuttle explode that terrible morning a few years later as the boosters ignited to leave the shuttle killing all members of the crew.  I watched in horror as another shuttle many years later broke up and burned entering the atmosphere over Texas, kill all of that crew as well.  And I watched the last shuttle mission take place and return home safely.  The whole shuttle program was run from start to finish as I worked for the company.

The floods of seventy seven that tore the Plaza apart as Brush Creek ran out of its concrete banks commencing changes in the layout of Brush Creek making it a more of a river walk than a concrete stream happened.  The floods of ninety three when both the Mississippi and Missouri rivers did terrible destruction all through their respective valleys effect us personally as our offices were flooded by a tributary to the Missouri, the Blue River.  It took us almost two weeks to clean up the office from the ninety three floods.

Also in ninety three, terrorists bombed the World Trade Center in New York.  Sadly it was a sign of things yet to come but I remember sitting there watching all the people streaming out from the buildings and thinking that it was a Godsend that the bomb had not done what the terrorists wanted it to do.

Also in ninety three was the great stand off at Waco, Texas where a group of religious zealots barricaded themselves inside their compound for weeks until the government tried to storm their sanctuary and for some reason a fire erupted killing dozens of men, women and children in the process.   It was a sad disaster that a lot of people think could have been avoided.  Not being sure how the fire started we can't say for sure if it could have been avoided or not.

Two years later in an act of retaliation for the events at Waco, a man set a seven thousand pound bomb off in front of the federal building in Oklahoma City.  Over a hundred people were killed in what was truly an American terrorists act upon the United States.  It was hard to fathom a citizen of the United States performing a terrorist act upon our country, but it happened.  The United States is just as vulnerable as any other country on the face of the earth.

Case in point of that was the events of September 11, 2001.  My wife called me at the office that morning and told me that a plane had hit one of the World Trade Center Buildings.  I remember thinking that was odd but not out of the question.  I supposed it could happen.  Then she called again to say another plane had hit another building at the WTC.  I remember telling her "So, this is a terrorist thing."  And it sunk into my soul that we were truly a country that had a huge target on our back and that a good portion of the responsibility for that target being placed there was our own doing.  It was while I was working at this job that the United States assassinated the man considered responsible for the 9-11 terror.

I have seen a President commit perjury to a federal grand jury, lie to the American people and put the country at risk all for an extramarital affair that he probably could have waited for until he was out of office.  I saw this president be acquitted on strictly partisan votes.

I watched as the Simpson murder crime and trial seemed to go all the wrong way and watched as a young mother named Casey seemed to get away with the murder of her child.  The system worked in both cases, just not the way we expected it to work.

All of this history plus a lot more as I have sat at this desk working for over thirty years.  So much has happened that have shaped not only my thinking but the way I carry out my job.  We have a lot of government contracts and a lot of them have to do with what the United States is up to around the globe.

This little list just scrapes the surface of the historical events that have occurred while I sat in my seemingly steady job.  To me it is amazing how history continues to move without resting.   History is writing something down every minute of every day.  Sometimes they are little events that blossom into huge events.  Sometimes the little events stay little and are not thought of often.  Then there are those huge events which effect all of our every day lives and changes the course that history was on before they happened.

To me it was an amazing realization of how may things can happen in such a short period of time.  Thanks for letting me share them with you.

Hobo's Meditation - Jimmie Rodgers 1932

Last night as I lay on the boxcar
Just waiting for a train to pass by
What will become of the hobo
Whenever his time comes to die

There's a Master up yonder in heaven
Got a place that we might call our home
Will we have to work for a living
Or can we continue to roam

Will there be any freight trains in heaven
Any boxcars in which we might hide
Will there be any tough cops or brakemen
Will they tell us that we cannot ride

Will the hobo chum with the rich man
Will we always have money to spare
Will they have respect for the hobo
In that land that lies hidden up there

Will there be any freight trains in heaven
Any boxcars in which we might hide
Will there be any tough cops or brakemen
Will they tell us that we cannot ride

Will the hobo chum with the rich man
Will we always have money to spare
Will they have respect for the hobo
In that land that lies hidden up there




Friday, July 15, 2011

CLOUD SCULPTING

The sky is blue and there is a soft southerly breeze brushing across your face.  You look up and in the sky are patches of little clouds being pushed across the sky by the breezes.  As the wind moves the clouds, the change the form of the cloud a little at a time, first on one side and then on the other.  Perhaps the back of the cloud gets push up into the main part of the cloud or new little branches of the cloud pull away from the main body.

Look, that cloud looks like a dog for a while and as you watch, the wind morphs the cloud into a big shoe.  You focus in on this one cloud as it makes its way across the sky.  It takes about twenty minutes or so and during this time the cloud shifts and changes at an amazing rate.  In between identifiable shapes you watch and try to guess what shape the cloud will take next.

Watching mother nature sculpt these clouds into different shapes at a constant pace is one of the gifts that is given to us.  We first become aware of the sculpting of the clouds as children when our parents point up to a cloud and ask us what it reminds us of.  Because of small attention span as children we soon tire of watching the art being formed in the sky but only for a short while.

Once that seed is planted in our brains, we continue to return to observing new masterpieces being created one after another.  There is a period of time as we near the age of ten that we start watching the summer clouds more often.  We find ourselves peeking a glance at the sky and hearing words in our minds as each shape takes a certain form.  Turtle, elephant, ball glove are words that flow through your mind as the cloud continues to be shaped by the invisible artist.

Soon we enter a period of time where we find ourselves lying on our backs in the grass with our hands behind our heads.  We watch one cloud fly over and give it a name and wait for the next cloud to drift by and be given a totally different name.  The works of art are shaded by the light of the sun giving each work of art its own distinctive coloring, depth and texture.

Sometimes we look up and the canvas is empty.  Blue sky is all you can see from horizon to horizon. It can be disappointing to look up expecting to see some beautiful art only to find nothing.  At other times the clouds take over the whole of the sky blotting out any blue from reaching our eyes.  Sometimes these clouds are flat and bland but if we are lucky the clouds have a lot of texture and sit at different heights and the canvas takes on the look of a Van Gogh painting with clouds swirling around each other and flowing like a river fron one side of the sky to the other.

Soon we grow into our late teens and early adulthood and schedules begin to be filled.  We are too busy to take notice of the world around us like we use to.  The sky is there and we know it, but seldom do we look up into it unless there is a danger of storms.  Even then, it only gets a brief glance from us as we assess the situation and move on with our hectic little lives.  Meanwhile the artist continues to manufacture works of art for new observers that we are not aware of.

Then comes a magic day.  It is a day when we find our selves with a young niece or nephew or even a child of our own.  We are standing outside holding their hand as we push on with life when a sudden and pleasant memory enters our brains.  We remember when we were young and our mother or father, aunt or uncle held our hand.  They stop suddenly and point up to the sky and asks us what does that cloud look like?  Or that one?  How about that one? We stop walking and look up into the sky.   We really look at the clouds for the first time in many years and see that natures artist is still at work and we see a horse coming into shape as the cloud moves and shifts.  We squeeze the little hand that is being held in our own and ask the same questions that were asked of us long ago.  What does that cloud look like?  Or that one?  How about that one?  Once again the magic of the art enters our lives for a little bit as we stand there in wonderment along side one who has for the first time made the discovery of art in the sky.

Then we do something that we always do.  We do not learn from the past and slip back into the business of life and forget the sky once again.  We continue our journey without taking time to notice the loveliness of the world around us and we miss out on so many beautiful things and events.  They are constantly appearing and fading away around us without the least of an attempt from us to notice all of it.

Finally we end up with life slowed down.  Our fast paced days are behind us and we have come to enjoy a slower pace of life.  We find ourselves sitting out side under a shade tree or on a deck.  Suddenly we start to think of days gone by, about life and all that we have been through over the years.  We begin to daydream and we find our eyes slowly lifting to the skies.

We catch a cloud slowly moving into view.  At first it looks like every other cloud but then we start to notice something.  The cloud is taking shape.  It is floating and shifting around until suddenly there is that turtle from many many years ago.  It has come back to revisit us.  We now have time to sit and notice the great art gallery we know as nature.  The cloud sculpture is but a small part of that great gallery.  There is the tree gallery and the bird gallery.  So many different wings of the gallery that you can never see it all but it fascinates you to a point of at least trying to.

The artist that sculpts clouds continues to do so and with that continues to build a portfolio of art in our minds that is astounding and never ending.  If only we had taken more time to enjoy and observe nature's gallery of art with the time we have here on this earth.  All the years being too busy to take a little of it in has caused us to miss masterpieces that we will never know existed.  Thank goodness that the artist never stops creating.  There is still something new in the gallery for us to see every day. The cloud sculpture wing of the gallery is especially beautiful and wonderful.

Take the time to enjoy it once in awhile.  It can pick you up when you are down.  It can make you think and imagine.  It can bring back memories of days long gone by.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

LET IT BE - A MEMORY

The local movie theater had gone through some changes.  It had originally opened as a bowling alley before turning into a two screen movie house.  Two screen movie theaters were the thing back in the late sixties and early seventies along with drive in theaters.  Later the theaters would turn into four screens followed by eight and then twenty until huge theaters with thirty some screens would arrive in the late nineties.  The Ruskin Theater Complex was just a two screener though and had already had its hay day in the early seventies.  It had gone from showing first run movies to making itself a baby sitter for a weekly moms day off by showing kid movies once a week for a quarter.

I had gone to some of the kid movies before I entered middle school and remember how rowdy it would get in there. Any chance of actually watching a movie was totally gone.  Basically the parents would pay to drop the kids off to watch a movie, the movie operators would lock the kids in a full theater for a couple of hours and open the doors when the movie was over.  Apparently they were turning a little profit on this scheme because they kept it going for several years.

It finally came to be on its last legs when they started running movies that had left the first run movie houses for a dollar.  You should remember this was before the video cassette recorders had arrived and so if you wanted to see a movie uncut and in its entirety the last chance to do so was the dollar movie houses.  I had come to this situation in seventy one when what would become the last movie the Beatles arrived at the Ruskin Theater for a dollar.

It was summer and during this particular summer I did not have many friends that I was hanging around with.  It was the pre Ronnie and Larry era and a lot of us had gone separate ways when school let out.  I was still going up to Mr. Allard's ball field a few times a week to play baseball but other than that I was pretty much on my own.  This was the thing that could make that particular summer stand out for me.

I remember the day clearly right down to what I was wearing.  one of my favorite shirts back then was a yellow striped oxford button down that fit me really well.  Sporting my favorite shirt and a pair of white jeans with an extremely wide double buckle belt holding them up along with a pair of sandals I left the house to head for the theater.  At the time I thought I was dressed pretty cool.  I looked the part of a typical suburban hippie want to be.  I had parts of the making of looking like a hippie but not all by far.  Our family was so un-hippie that my sister actually went to a "hippie" party where they dressed up to try to look like hippies based on what we saw on the news.  She had painted flowers on her face and her blue sweatshirt and jeans.  Suburbanites in the sixties and seventies were so un-cool but really tried to be cool.  My white jeans and wide belt with sandals was my attempt at being as cool as I could coming from the suburbs.

I walked across the shopping center parking lot towards the theater with a dollar in my pocket.  On the marquis were the simple words "LET IT BE".  That was about all I needed to know.  I loved the Beatles music since I was about seven years old.  My aunt and myself had a few of their singles and listened to them all the time.  I was not so much a Beatle aficionado as to be able to say who sang what song but I knew I loved the music.

The Beatles music had changed somewhat since I had started listening to them at the beginning.  The sound was more experimental then it was back in the early sixties.  It seemed to go more with the other music that was coming out in those days like Iron Butterfly, Steppenwolf and Three Dog Night among many others.  I felt a bit of excitement as I entered the theater and paid admission then walked through the doors to an empty auditorium.  I would be watching this last effort by the Beatles by myself and that was fine with me.

From the beginning of the movie I could tell that this was the Beatles movie I had been waiting for.  Previous movies were silly things that did not play to reality at all.  Stupid stories that were written in order to incorporate as many Beatles songs as possible.  They had even done a cartoon called "Yellow Submarine" that was the silliest of all the Beatles attempts but also had the best music for all their films.  That was about to change.

This movie was a documentary of the Beatles recording in the studio.  It had some great songs that would become classics.  It left nothing to the imagination as to what was going on with the Beatles at the time.  They were on the brink of a break up and you could feel the tension in the air as they discussed songs, walked through songs and then tried to lay down recordings of the songs.

Ringo seemed completely aloof from the others during the sessions.  Sitting behind his drums, he looked bored as Paula and John wrestled with what the songs would sound like.  When it became time to play Ringo would do his job.  It never failed that not too far into a song someone would stop and Ringo would get this look of impatience on his face and wait for the discussion to end so they could record again.

George Harrison looked to really be trying to put out a good product.  He by far was the best musician in the group as far as his guitar playing was concerned but he had little say in how the songs of Paul and John would end up sounding like.  He would sit and get lectured by Paul McCartney over and over again on how to play a rift and I had the feeling that George was trying his best to give Paul what he wanted without succeeding very well.

You could feel a tug of war for control of the music between Lennon and McCartney.  Each of them were vying for leadership of the group even though long ago it had been John who led the group in all things.  The burr under the saddle that triggered this wrestling match sat next to John during most of the recording session.

Yoko Ono had recently married John and he insisted that she be by his side at all times.  It was clear that this perturbed the other three greatly.  Women had never had a place in the inner workings of the Beatles until now and Yoko was pushing for everything to go the way John envisioned it.  The longer Yoko was in the movie the more tension filled the screen.

Eventually they vacated the warehouse that they had been recording in and went back to their studio on Abbey Road to put the finishing touches on the album.  At the studio was where Paul played that marvelous rendition of Let It Be.  John and Paul seemed more at ease with each other in the studio setting and the music began to sound a little more tight, but there was still that tension in the air.

The film finished off with the Beatles last performance in public from the top of the recording studios.  While people in the streets stopped to look up at the Beatles playing songs that had not been heard before the police moved in to keep things moving.  They instructed the Beatles to leave the rooftop after about twenty minutes of superb performance footage.  By far this was the best live performance footage that had ever been taken of the Beatles.  They left the roof top and it was over.

I left the theater feeling that I had seen the greatest rock movie ever.  It was by far superior to the other attempts at film that the group had done.  I am glad I took the opportunity to see that film. 

Both the movie and the album of LET IT BE was shelved for a year or so as the Beatles tried to decide what the future of the group was going to be.  During this time they recorded on of their finest albums entitled ABBEY ROAD which featured John on one side and Paul on the other, an indication of the split that was happening inside the studio.  It was on the ABBEY ROAD album the George Harrison made his mark with two of his greatest songs.  It was all too little too late.  After ABBEY ROAD was released McCartney recorded a solo album followed by an album by John.  George recorded an album of songs he had been saving up through the years with the Beatles when he was restricted to two songs per album.

After the break up Phil Spector took the recordings from the Let It Be sessions and finished mixing and producing them.  The result was a somewhat watered down version of Beatles music.  For the first time female vocals showed up on a Beatles album.  The album was good, but not up to Beatles standards and when it was finally released, it arrived without much of a splash.  The movie did not do much better, hence my chance to see it for a dollar.  It made a brief appearance on VCR tapes before disappearing from memories and catalogs.

A few years ago, someone got a hold of the original recordings for Let It Be. before Phil Spector had watered it down.  It was released in its original raw style as Let It Be-Naked and brought forth the sounds that made the songs memorable from the movie.  This was the way the Beatles intended it to be released.  I am convinced of it.

Since then the Theater has turned into what is now a Thrift Store for Good Will.  The movie still has not shown itself after all these years.  I keep hoping that one day someone will put it out on DVD or whatever the format is at the time.  I would love to see it again in its entirety and its rawness.  As for now, I can only re watch that great documentary in my mind, from a hot summers day when I was thirteen years old.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

OLD BLUE ON MY WEDDING NIGHT

My extended family on my mothers side really came to enjoy weddings a lot.  They believed in celebrating weddings in a big way.  This back in the day before the glamor weddings.  A wedding did not include dancing and a live band or DJ.  There was not a sit down dinner to be catered.  Most weddings back in the seventies were simple affairs.  The wedding party would dress up in significant fashion, much as they do today.  The groom and groomsmen would wear rented tuxedos and the bridal party would have those special dresses that would never be worn again.  That is where the similarities to today's weddings ended.

After the wedding there would be a simple reception.  All members of the wedding party would stand in line while guests came through and shook hands or hugged or whatever was deemed proper.  The guests would then go over to a table where they would receive a slice of wedding cake, some punch and maybe some mixed nuts and mints.  After everyone had been greeted and had their cake, the guests would wait for the bride and groom to drive off to start their new life together, throwing rice at the new couple as they raced to their car to drive off.

I am inclined to think that it is very possible that the evolution into today's pricey rich weddings costing thousands of dollars was a result of saving cars.  Without the dancing and eating, family members would have to find a different outlet to celebrate a wedding properly.  That is the way it was in my family anyway.  My mothers side of the family took particular joy in car decorating.  It was so bad that a lot of the members of my generation went so far as to try to hide their cars to keep my uncles and cousins from getting to them.

After being a member of some of these car hunts and decorating parties before my wedding, I decided to hide Barb's Nova SS and to sacrifice Old Blue to the wild animals that I called family.  It would give them something to let their celebratory genes loose on while saving the beautiful brown metallic paint job on Barb's car. 

It wasn't only the cars that got the treatment.  You dare not leave a suitcase where it could be found and you certainly did not ever leave a suitcase unlocked.  Nothing was sacred to this group of fun loving family members who celebrated in this wild fashion to show how much they loved you.

I think they hit their peak in decorating cars when it came to Barb and my wedding.  After a lovely wedding service and some good visiting with friends and family in the reception, we spent some time taking pictures of the two of us on that special night.  Meanwhile the real celebration was taking place in the parking lot outside.

Barb and I were married on a frigid November night.  I must give kudos to cousins and uncles for braving the could to decorate Old Blue in the manner that they did.  They did a lot of thinking and had all of the supplies necessary to do a bang up job.

When Barb and I came out of the church I found Old Blue sitting there pretty much as expected.  There were cans tied to the bumper of the car.  There was a square inch of surface left on Old Blue that wasn't covered with white shoe polish wishing us all the happiness and well being for our future. Still in her wedding dress and me in my tuxedo, we approached the car.

When we opened the door was our first hint of what we were in for.  Feathers adorned the inside of Old Blue.  The feathers were so dense you could not see the seats, let alone the floor board.  We both knew that this wasn't as bad as it could be ans so we waved goodbye, rolled up the car windows and headed for our honeymoon destination which was a hotel down by Union Station in Kansas City.

I turned on Old Blues heater to warm us from the cold as we made our way downtown.  It wasn't long before we started to detect a strange odor.  We figured they had put something under the feathers in the car and Barb began looking around a little bit to see if she could find something.  While she was looking I discovered the smell coming from the heater vents in the car.  The smell was coming from the engine.  Both of us were beginning to get sick from the odor and we decided to turn off the heater to see if that would help.  It didn't.  Just because the fan wasn't forcing the odor into the car, it was still seeping into the car from natural air flow.

We had but one choice and that was to roll down the windows.  The windows went down and frigid cold air came pouring into the car blowing feathers all over the place.  We were cold, but at least we could breathe now.  As we made our way downtown we left a trail of feathers that Hansel and Gretal could have followed.

We arrived at the hotel and pulled up to the valet parking.  The gentleman came out to take the car as Barb and I exited covered in feathers.  After seeing us and taking a peek inside the car he retreated to get some newspapers to for him to sit on while he took the car.

"Who did this?" he asked and when I responded "my family" he expressed relief that he didn't have a family that cared so much about weddings.

We entered the hotel and Barb was lovely as she marched into the grand lobby covered in feathers.  As she entered a group of businessmen were sitting in some chairs and they gave us a standing ovation.  It was a little embarrassing but at the same time I was very proud of my new bride.

Barb had a little bit of a cold before the wedding but the drive over in the frigid wind had made her cold worse.  She was not feeling very well by morning.  Meanwhile in my attempt to protect myself had locked my suitcase and left the key to said suitcase on my keyring, which was in the garage twenty floors down.  We were both tired and cold after a long stressful day.

The next morning Barb opened up the balcony and shook out her veil that was covered in feathers.  There was a jogger on the running track a few stories below our room and I still wonder what went through his mind as he was jogging among a snowstorm of feathers falling around him all of a sudden.

The source of the smell was discovered when I took the car to the car wash to try to get some of the shoe polish off.  I opened the engine compartment and found sardines that had been cooked on the engine block as we drove through town.  The smell of the sardines would stay in the car for several months before it finally dissipated.  It would take a few more washings before the shoe polish would fade away as well.

We later found out that Barb's Nova had been found but they had taken it easy on her car.  They had just written a few things on the side in shoe polish and let it go at that.  They had somehow gotten a key to our apartment and did a number on it that I will describe in a later piece perhaps.  It is a story all of its own.

We survived the family celebration of our wedding and Old Blue had taken the brunt of it.  I think I apologized to that car everyday for at least a year for putting it through what I did.  It was a trooper though and from that day forward I knew I could depend on that car to get me through about anything, and it did until the day I sold it.

Thank you Old Blue for taking one for the family, my little family of barb and myself as well as the extended family.  Things calmed down on the celebrations after our wedding.  I never saw another car take the intimidation or embarrassment that Old Blue had to endure.  Old Blue proved proved once again that he was woirth every penny that I had spent on him.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Be Yourself (Be Real) - Al Kooper

Why do we try to be what we wanna be
If we can never be what we are?
And if we could find the way to enjoy everyday
We would have nothing to look forward to at all
There's nothing wrong with bein' just somebody
Cause everybody's got some beauty deep within
And it's not so hard to doubt what the next guy's all about
When he lets the evil out and keeps the good stuff in

BE YOURSELF, BE REAL
BE REAL
Don't be nobody else
BE REAL, BE REAL
BE REAL

If the woman is loving you
For the soulful little things you do
You oughta see her through
Cause she's few & far between
And today there is many a man
Who will walk up & down this land
And never really understand what somethin' like that means
Now I don't believe there's a man for every woman
So if you get lucky don't be playin' any game
And you must never hide
The little things you really feel inside
Or someday someone's bound to go insane

BE YOURSELF, BE REAL
BE REAL
Don't be nobody else
BE REAL, BE REAL
BE REAL

BEEN AWAY - BACK AGAIN

I have spent a few days away from my computer.  Hopefully I have not lost too many readers during my hiatus.  There is a reason for the interruption in my writing and it is not a pleasant one.  If there was ever a chance of my playing a competitive game of any kind of ball, it is over now.  I don't see my body recovering at this point in my life to being able to take part in any kind of physical competition or activity

Last Friday night was the beginning of a long weekend for me.  Here at the company we have two designated floating holidays.  Each year the company looks at the calendar and finds how holidays land during the year.  This year Independence Day landed on a Monday and so the company decided that the Tuesday following July fourth would be one of the floating holidays.  I was looking at a relaxing four day weekend to get stuff done around the house and whatever or just to relax.

We had decided to burn some papers in our outdoor fireplace on Friday night after the sun went down.  They were private papers that had personal information on them and since we did not feel comfortable throwing them away we decided to burn them.  So when the sun went down and gathered a group of papers to take out side and burn.  I was having a tough time getting the fire to start and to keep burning.  It just couldn't seem to continue to burn.

I decided to put a little lighter fluid on the papers to get the fire started and so began my quest for the fluid.  I knew it would be in the garage somewhere, just wasn't sure where.  I looked all over the place.  I looked on shelves, on top of file cabinets, on the garage floor even.  It could be anywhere.  Then I saw it.  It was on the top shelf that bordered concrete steps that went down to the basement.  The only way to get to the fluid was to go back by the stairs, climb up on the railing and snatch it.  After you have retrieved the object you have to slowly make your way down, trying to land a foot on the top most stair that you can reach.  This was where my downfall was.

As I stretched my leg back I thought I felt my toe drag across a step and so went down to plant my foot and continue to climb down.  My foot missed however and my whole body went swinging forward as though I was on a set of parallel bars.  I knew at this point that I was going to go down and prepared my self in that second and a half to fall as well as I could.

A second and a half is not very long and before I knew it I was horizontal to the earth and falling straight down towards the concrete steps.  I estimate that I fell at least three feet straight down on the stairs.  The pain was excruciating.  I screamed in pain and continued to do so.  I did not know if I could move or not but I managed to crawl up the stairs and towards the kitchen door.

By this time Barb had heard me and had opened the garage door and allowed me to crawl in and collapse on the living room floor.  After a few minutes of intense pain and hardly being able to talk we decided a trip to the emergency room was in order.  Barb called our doctor and he instructed us to get to the hospital.  The next call was to my son who would come over and help me out to the car and take me to the hospital.  It seemed like it took him forever to get there.

The ride to the hospital was painful.  Every time the car turned or hit a bump in the road pain would shoot through my back. I did not know that the pain I was feeling now would get a lot worse by the time the evening was over.

We pulled into the hospital and using Barb's cane, I made my way into the emergency room.  A wheel chair was brought to me but it hurt my back to sit on it.  They did not waste any time getting me back to an examining room where I was expected to climb up on a hospital bed.  After I got settled and stopped moving around tha pain seemed to fade just a bit.

They gave me a tetanus shot and took a history of my medications that I currently take.  The doctor came in and did a little talking but I could not say who he was or what he asked.  The only thing that was registering in my mind was the pain that was ripping my insides apart.  The worst was yet to come though.  There were still x-rays that had to be take of my back to be sure nothing was broke or cracked.

A man named Andrew came to take me to x-ray.  The ride was a little rough and it hurt but at least something was being done.  Trying to get off of the bed and onto the table for the x-ray turned out to be a very difficult and very painful trial.  After a few x-rays were taken of my back I had to make my way back onto the bed.  It was worse going back to the bed than it was going to the table.  I eventually made it and Andrew guided me back to where Barb and Brett were waiting.

Not a lot to tell from here.  They gave me a couple of shots for pain which practically knocked me out.  It did make the ride home a lot easier on my back.

Prescriptions for pain pills, anti-inflammatory pills and muscle relaxants were given to me for the duration of the pain.  I took some of those pills but don't really like to.  the back is still in a lot of pain and I discovered two days later that my ankle was swollen and discolored.  They never took x-rays of the ankle.  Everything else was hurting so bad I had no idea that the ankle was even injured.

Well, that is where I have been over the last few days.  I haven't felt much like writing but just wanted to sit and relax and try to make my back not hurt.  I am back to writing now and the stories should continue now.

Friday, July 1, 2011

ART ON THE RAILS

Painters that are taken as serious artists usually use canvas to do their painting on.  The classic painters works can be found in museums all over the world.  Occasional a masterpiece might be found on something other than canvas like the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo or The Last Supper by DaVinci.

Lesser known artists or current artists that are taken halfway serious also paint on canvas.  Still there is an occasional piece of art commissioned to be painted on a wall or the side of a building.  We have a few of those in the Kansas City area.  Even artists that aren't known at all can land a show in a gallery and sell some of their work in hopes of becoming better known.

Then you have the convention center art shows where anyone who paints on canvas can take their art and rent a booth and try to sell their work to the locals for a very little amount of money compared to the rest of the art world.

The art that I am interested in for this entry though are the anonymous artists.  Those artists whose work gets put down by the official art world as trash or graffiti. On trash bins throughout the city you can see these works of art.  On the sides of buildings or on sidewalks graffiti makes itself known to the public. 

And then there is the traveling art show that carries graffiti on rail road cars through out the country.  You can be sitting in your car on a sunny afternoon waiting for the freight train to pass and then there will be a string of cars with some of the most brilliant colors and shapes that isn't found in most other places.  True there is some distasteful graffiti there and some spray paintings that are no more than a doodling on a note pad.  Thinking about that though, there have been works of art that started as doodling as well.  John Lennon's drawings were all doodles and there was even a time when they tried to make John Elrichman's doodles from meetings with President Nixon as art.

But the graffiti I speak of on the trains I consider true art.  It is amazing to me how these artists are able to paint some of the most complicated things that always carry a message of some sort.  A message that does not include the artist name.

These works of art on the train cars must be carefully planned out.  It is either a case of detailed planning or the artists are artistic geniuses   They use spray paint as their medium.  The painting is done in layers with one paint over another until the work is complete.  The vision has to be well in mind before starting because you can't exactly repair a spray painting.

Not only are the works complicated and must have the vision well in mind before starting, it has to be started and finished quickly.  These artists do their work where there is security to keep them from creating their works of art.  Not only is security a problem but there is also the constant reminder that the car you are using as a canvas can start to leave on you at anytime.

These works of art that show up randomly around the city is more than vandalism.  Thankfully the railroads can't afford to repaint every car that has some graffiti art painted on it.  I can imagine a work of art traveling around the country for a year or more before it is erased from history.

Something inside of me say that the graffiti artist is more of a pure artist than the majority of artist creating work these days.  They do it for the love of it.  They do it for their own pleasure and in hopes of giving the vast audience that will see the work around the country a sense of pleasure upon seeing the art.  They don't sign their names to it, not that you could tell anyway.  They can't take credit for their work because they would be arrested for vandalism if they made themselves known.  That is sad I think.  To go through life creating and no one it is you that is doing the creating.  When I make my graphics on a computer at the office my name is put on every one that I do and it makes me feel good to know I am getting credit for creating that drawing or three dimensional model or a printed circuit board.  That is important to me.  A lot of me work, my art, will be in the system of the country for years and years to come.  The graffiti artist name will never be known.  it is done for the pure joy of creating art and sharing it with the world while they sit in cars waiting for trains to pass by.

That is a true artist.  That is an artist whose work should be placed somehow somewhere in a place of permanence.  It would thrill me if the railroads would stop erasing a graffiti artist work and let it live for a few decades to let our children and grandchildren appreciate this work of the true artist.

I want to give the graffiti artist a place to do his work and the safety to do it and put his name to it so we will know who these creative geniuses are.  I hope they continue painting the rail cars forever.  It is one of my favorite forms of art and deserves a place in the history of art.