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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Cousin Bobby

My cousin Bobby, about the same age as me, drowned at about age 12.  I cant remember the exact time anymore.  I remember Mom sitting on the edge of the bed trying to explain what happened,  He had cramps swimming in a quarry hole with other kids and drowned.

We visited my Grandparents, where he lived, the next summer.  I still expected to see him again.  Stupid, of course, but I did.  And he wasn't there.   He had polio at a younger age.  He pulled himself around by his arms and he was real strong.  He recovered, and could run around as well as I could.  But one day, suddenly, he was gone.

While we were visiting, I saw a telescope Bobby enjoyed using.   I asked for it.  The adults didn't understand.  I didn't want the telescope for itself, I wanted it because it was something he had handled and enjoyed.  I wanted it BECAUSE he had used it.  That made a connection to me for my lost cousin.

The adults just thought I wanted the  telescope for itself...  As if I just wanted a gift.  They never understood.  And I was too young to explain it right...

I wanted a remembrance, something Bobby had touched and used.  I wasn't given it.  Instead, I got a new telescope as a Christmas present that year.  None of the adults understood what I meant by my request.  They thought I wanted a "thing". 

All I wanted was something to remind me of Bobby.  And no matter how I tried to explain, I never got anything he used. 

I am that way still about lost loved ones.  Just any little thing is fine...  Something tangible to remember them by is all I ask.  I've been luckier lately.  I have Grampa's carved whale, Dad's wooden-built tool chest (he's still alive), Mom's corn-on-the-cob plates and the imitation Tiffany Lamp she loved...

These things are treasures to me...

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Childhood Friend

I got to thinking about Ronnie tonight.  He was a childhood friend who had muscular dystrophy.  When I first met him at 9 years, he was fine.  Then we kids noticed that he was walking around on his toes.

Then he started to fall over.  That is a scary thing for kids.  You know, when things don't work right...

I don't remember perfectly now, but I think he was a couple years older than me.  His problems grew until he couldn't leave the house anymore.  I used to visit him and we would play Monopoly.  He enjoyed that.  He had a bed with a lifting device eventually.  It allowed his mother to change his sheets and clothes.

I don't understand the details of MS, but there came a day when he didn't understand Monopoly anymore.  So I moved the pieces around the board  and made up stories about his piece having fun on the board .  Toward the end, he couldn't even move the hotels, so I did it for him.  He was pretty much "out of it" by that point.

Then we moved away.  I wrote him some letters at 14 years old.  One day I got a letter back.  His Mom said he had died.  That was a terrible shock.  My cousin Bobby had drowned 2 years before, now Ronnie was dead.  I didn't understand death then very well. Kids were protected from that stuff when I was young. 

No purpose to this, just a remembrance from many years ago...  I think it was about this time of year.

Remembering you, Ronnie Richards...

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Lord of the Rings

I happened to watch LotR, Fellowship of the Ring tonite.  I think it is the best of the 3 movies.    I never liked the one where Frodo and Sam are slogging through the swamps and fighting Shelob.  Quite frankly, that was dull.  Essential to the story, but it didn't develop the story much.  And I never quite thought the ending was right.  Dramatic, yes, but I always thought Frodo should have been able to throw the Ring into the fires of Mt Doom himself.

He had already managed to release or offer the Ring several times.  He handed it to Gandalf at home where it was tossed in the fireplace, placed it on the table at the Council of Elrond, offered it to Galadriel, and held it out for taking by Aragorn just before the Fellowship split up. 

And I'm one who gets annoyed by story changes.  Frodo DIDN'T go over the cliff in the books when Gollum fell clutching the ring, for example.  And it wasn't Arwen who saved him from the Black Riders over the river, it was Glorfindel. 

But that's not why I am mentioning all of this.

I wish I could read the books for the first time again.  Watching the movie, I knew what the characters were going to say too many times in precise quotes.  I wish I did not have that memory.  It may sound stupid, but I really wish I could read the story anew. 

Sone day, there will be a forgetfulness pill, where you take a pill, watch a movie (or read a book) and you will forget it entirely.  And enjoy the watching or reading brand new...

PS, my other prediction is that someone will produce a perpetual kittenhood shot.  Cats will stay kittens until old age and suddenly die at the usual 16 years old.  Who doesn't want utterly cute kittens?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I Miss JFK

I remember where I was when I heard he died.  In a classroom, staring at the public announcement speaker at the top of the wall behind the teacher.  7th grade Social Studies class, I think, but that wasn't important.  The PA Speaker was light brown wood, about a 12" cube, dark brown cloth covering the grill.  The announcement from the Principal, that President Kennedy had been killed in Dallas Texas and that school would be closing for the day.  That students who took buses were to go to the assigned pickup points and wait with teachers.  That students who walked or rode bikes and had a parent at home (pretty routine in those days) should go directly home.  That those who did not should go directly to the cafeteria to wait for a parent to pick them up.  And then just stunned silence. 

I sometimes wonder what he would have been like in a 2nd term, then retired to "senior statesman" status for another 30 years.  Would the Vietnam War have developed as it did?  Would he have influenced the Civil Rights years?  Would he have become a great person in his elder years?  We'll never know, of course.

I wonder what he would think about our current political situation.  Could he have imagined that both parties would cease having conservative, moderate, and liberal factions?  Yes, there used to be Conservative Democrats and Liberal Republicans...

There used to be only 3 TV networks, too.  NBC, CBS, and ABC.  All that was on TV for several days was news about his death, the aftermath (Jack Ruby killing Lee Harvey Oswald), and the funeral.

I miss him.  A glowing candle, snuffed too soon, dimming the room for us all...

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Occupy Wall Street

I haven't followed the OWS movement city-by-city, or day-by-day.  And as a Vietnam War college protestor, I have a certain sympathy for their actions.  Peaceful assembly is is protected Constitutional right.

But I saw something on TV yesterday that angered me.  I do not know which city it occurred in, I could Google it, but it is irrelevant.  The problem is that it happened somewhere in the US, not where it happened. 

In some city, peaceful protesters were blocking a street.  They weren't digging holes in the street, they weren't threatening to throw rocks or bottles at passing cars or at surrounding buildings, and they weren't threatening the police.  They were sitting quietly in a street. 

Yes, that disturbed commuters.  As a Washington DC worker for 30 years, I have sufferred that many times, and it is truly annoying. 

The role of the police in those situations is to remove the offending people from the street to permit traffic to move again and guide the protestors to places where they can express their views without unreasonably disaccomodating other citizens. 

The police were entirely capable (protected by their armor and the non-resistance of the protestors) of simply removing the protestors blocking the road.  This is what disturbs me.  They didn't DO that.  Instead of just removing the offending protestors, they pepper-sprayed them first, several times!  Not just once, but back and forth along the line several times.  And THEN they removed them.  I watched that on TV.  I saw the repeated, and unneccesary chemical attack on people how would would have peacefully allowed themselves to be arrested.

Something is wrong there.  If they were going to remove the non-violent protestors anyway, why torture them first with pepper spray?  And it wasn't a small shot to subdue anyone.  It was from a fire-extinguisher-sized cannister back and forth along the line of quietly sitting protestors several times.

Where have we gone so wrong, that a few people sitting in a street, who could be easily removed by police without resistance, OUGHT to be sprayed repeatedly by pepper spray.

For no practical reason!  Most of the handcuffed pepper-sprayed protestors cooperatively walked away with the police.  They didn't even make it hard by going limp and having to be dragged away. WHY did they have to be pepper-sprayed?  I keep searching for any tactical reason, and I can't find one.

Part of the irony is that the protestors were protesting the loss of police jobs (along with  teachers and fire-fighters) in their community.

There is something imbalanced here, and I don't like it.   Every day, I am coming down in support on the OWS people. 

I'm 61.  I can't spend months outside in a tent.  I sure wish I was 20 again, when I COULD do that...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

It Is Time to Say This.

Given the Penn State University scandal, I have to say my own bad experience.

I got over it (I thought), and it never SEEMED to bother me too much, but I've been thinking about it lately.   It always seemed a bit weird.  I can only hope someone out there can corroborate my strange experience,

The first year I attended  The University of MD, I took Physical  Education class.  We played tennis, football, etc.  I have good memories of that football.  I was a small guy lined up against very bigger guys.  I crashed at them as hard as I could.  One of the big guys even said afterwards, I was the hardest hitting little guy he ever met.  I did what I could. So I was pleased with the physical education class,

The next is going to sound weird.  Part of the Pys Ed class involved swimming and diving,  The  teacher/coach ordered us not to wear bathing suits.  Because "the lint in the bathing suits was a problem".  OK, I would know that was wrong today.  I didn't then.  An adult guy told us to do it and we did.  All the other guys went along.  I did too because they did.

We swam and dove naked for 2 weeks in the pool.  There was no inappropriate touching, but it was still wrong.  I am angrier today about it than I was then.  I wish now that I had gone to the Dean of the College.  And I am starting to understand that it bothers me more to this day than it did then.  It was all more wrong than I could understand at the time.  I feel guilty that I didn't say anything at the time.  I know now that that was dumb.

I/we weren't molested directly.  But being watched naked for a couple weeks had an effect on me,

And it may not be an accident that I suddenly have hiccups....  This has begun to bother me many days and nights.

I had to finally tell about it to try to get it out of my mind.

Who should I talk to?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Veterans Day, Part 2

I feel that I never do right by Veterans Day.  I can't really; I did not serve in time of war, nor in the military at all.  I don't mean that I couldn't have eaten lousy food, slept in mud, or hiked through rain.  I've done that.

What I mean is that I am not a loyal group person, and that I just will not follow blind orders.  I would not have been the person you needed to trust in battle.  That doesn't mean I'm a pacifist.  I would kill a real enemy without any serious compunction.  I might actually make a good guerilla fighter.

So I would like to spent a few minutes honoring those who did serve, in war or not.  You did what I could not.  You learned to work together as a team preparing or actually engaging in terrible situations.  You learned to follow orders.  More importantly, you learned to follow orders yet act individually when circumstances required it.  That is a great part of our military; follow orders but also be trained and able to act on your own.

I was born in 1950.  Too young for WWII or Korea, too unwilling to volunteer to fight in Vietnam, and too old for military training after that.  I took my chances in 1969 (1970?).  When the draft lottery was announced, I dropped my college deferment.  I would have gone.  My number was 256, and I was passed by.  I was not exactly saddened by that.  I did not consider the Vietnam War to be the same as WWII.

I grew up hearing of the then-recent WWII.  I had family members who fought, and luckily, none of them died.  I respected then greatly.  I respected all WWII military greatly.  Family history says one uncle dropped a bomb down a Japanese destroyer smokestack and sank it.  Other family members were in other fields of war, or spend the war building ships. 

It is partly for reasons like that that I minored in history in college.  I studied wartimes.  I watch wartime documentaries.  The bravery of soldiers matters.  I am not one of them.  But I have done the best I could to try to understand.

If the respect or thanks of a civilian matters, I offer it.  If you refuse it because I did not participate, I understand.

I cannot salute you, as a civilian.  But there seems to be a Roman Empire gesture that civilians could use respectfully (there is some disagreement on this) to their soldiers.  Right arm held out, hand angled down.  If that is correct, I offer it.

Please accept my gratitude for defending your country whenever called upon.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Michael Jackson

I'm tired of hearing about Michael Jackson, his strange life, his spiral into near-lunacy, the charges of child molestation, his death, and FINALLY the last gasp of the trial of his doctor.  I'm glad it's over.

I am not big into "celebrity".

But I recognize talent.  Michael Jackson was probably the most multi-talented entertainer I have ever seen.  He could dance better than Fred Astaire and Elvis Presley combined, he could sing with a breathless passion, and he produced songs (so far as I know) of an originality slightly beyond the Beatles or Bob Dylan.  The Moonwalk, Billy Jean, and Thriller amaze me to this day almost 30 years later.  But that WAS almost 30 years ago.

I regret the curse of great riches that happens to some people.  As it did Michael Jackson.  Some people can handle money, some can't.  Jackson couldn't.  I wish he could have stayed "merely wealthy".  At some level of income that would have have made his life great but not overpowering.

I couldn't like him in his last 20 years.  He just became too weird.  He "lost touch".  We will probably never really know what drove him down his own personal rabbit hole, and I regret it happened, as I would regret it happened to the poor and average among us.  But it happened. 

I an reminded of a question in a Philosophy class.  "Your very good tennis partner is accused and acquitted of child porn.  What do you do?"

My answer was "play tennis, but not allow him to babysit the kids".  I gave reasons, of course; it was an essay question. But that was the the core of the answer.

In the same way, I admire Billy Jean and Thriller, etc, but I am vaguely glad that he is gone...  And with the trial of his "doctor" over and done, I hope to never hear his name again on TV.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Computer Scare

I have a confession.  I am hard on inanimate objects when I get angry.  I have punched holes in walls, in hollow doors, and I have been known to throw things.  There are reasons why some people live alone...

Don't worry, I never take out anger on people or pets.  I also play online computer games with other people.  That's not really a good combination.

I thought I had ruined my computer last night.  I was playing Risk and had won 3 games in a row, and reached a level where I was playing a real expert.  I had him on the ropes when suddenly I couldn't make any moves.  After 3 turns of complete frustration, I threw the wireless mouse at the wall.  It broke apart quite satisfactorily...

I had an older wired mouse to replace it.  I still couldn't make any moves.  The keyboard went next, then the wineglass (which had only ginger ale).  So I shut off the computer.  I spent the next hour on my hands and knees carefully collecting bits of glass in a small wastebasket so the cats wouldn't step on them.  That was penance... 

This morning, I set about reconstructing the computer...  The wireless mouse went back together well, the keyboard  was plugged in...  Nothing.  I tried an older keyboard.  The only problem with it was a "B" key, so it should have at least worked otherwise.  I tried an older wired mouse that would only scroll up.  That didn't work either.  I checked the monitor for power, it had it.  Rebooting my Mac-Mini, I could hear the power-up sound.  The monitor would come on with the "no signal" graphic normal at start up.  I was baffled.  I tried every combination I could think of.

I worried about what scheduled blog posts said that I meant to edit.  I worried about emails I wasn't receiving.  I worried about what I was missing on the CB... 

I was so annoyed that I ate dinner early because I didn't have anything else to do.

I kept going at it all night.  I am not skilled at computers, but I am analytical and persistent.




The monitor connection to the computer had come loose...

All is well.  The wireless mouse still works, the keyboard still works, the computer still works.  Meanwhile, I feel pretty stupid...  Throwing things at walls never accomplishes anything useful.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Unhappy Halloween

This may sound strange.  I don't like Halloween.  I used to.  I used to carve pumpkins and stay by the front door to give out candy and admire costumes.

But about 6 years ago, no kids came to the door (or my neighbor's) and after a couple years of that, I just stopped trying.  I don't eat candy, so I had to throw it away after the holiday.  I started just ignoring Halloween.

To avoid an odd single trick-or-treater disturbing the evening meal, I started just blacking out the windows and turning the room lights off to signal I wasn't participating.

Until THIS year!  I read in the local newspaper that sex offenders in many places were REQUIRED to do what I was doing.  Turn out the lights, not give out candy...  Oh GREAT, if I DON'T give out candy and participate, I will be viewed as a sex offender by some neighbor, and you know how rumors spread...

I batted that back and forth all day in my head, and I hate to say that I caved!

I worry about rumors.  I'm an aging (61) single guy; the modern version of aging females considered witches in the older days.  So I rushed out to buy candy, kept all the house lights on, ate dinner early, and waited for trick-or-treaters.  None came.  Well, the cats were happy, they HATE the doorbell!

And you know what I noticed at prime trick-or-treating time?  Half the houses on my street were dark!  Either I live in a very BAD neighborhood, or THEY weren't worried about appearances...   So a good lesson about appearances. 

Now WHAT do I do with a year's supply of Hershey Hugs...?