A Few Thoughts on Schopenhaur and Mr. Murphy

Arthur Schopenhauer was a German philosopher, born in Poland, February 22, 1788 (from Wednesday’s “Writer’s Almanac,” the source for much of the information on him in this post).

Had he been born today in the United States, he would be excruciated into oblivion. You see he believed “women were foolish and meant to obey.” i cannot imagine any man of even questionable intelligence at any time in history admitting he believed either.

But his other ideas have some merit from my perspective. He had this idea of two realities: one we have from our “limited senses  and reasoning,” and “the other of universe as it truly is.” This idea, which i think is on target, would also get him pilloried and burned in effigy today, along with mass protests.

It seems we should all consider where our reality lies in relationship to the universe as it really is. But that ain’t gonna happen here and now. Too many folks are going for the jugular with no attempt to consider what the reality of the universe might truly be, let alone the reality of the other side.

So i’ve written enough to join Mr. Schopenhauer in the pillory. All sides will leap to my  perceived offense against them with no regard for intent. That’s okay. i’ve gotten used to it, and such reaction makes me consider their thoughts, even changing my take on reality, which is just as not accurate as anyone’s compared to universal reality. So even though it hurts, it is a good thing for me.

In the reality of Mr. Murphy — you know: the guy who came up with “Murphy’s Law” except it wasn’t really Mr. Murphy; it was another guy with the same name — Schopenhauer was credited with one of the laws in “Murphy’s Law Desk Calendar,” damn close to being a second bible for me.

To revisit, my Uncle Pipey and Aunt Evelyn Orr sent me my first desk calendar of Murphy’s while i was spending 1979 Christmas in Hong Kong as a staff member of the Commander, Amphibious Squadron Five staff. The calendar was my Christmas gift from them for about thirty years after that. I looked forward to opening that present every Christmas and now buy it for a Christmas present to me from Santa Claus.

But that Mr. Murphy had another Schopenhauer in mind with the same name of that other Schopenhauer of Murphy’s who supposedly created “Schopenhauer’s Law of Entropy.”

That Mr. Schopenhauer’s law states:

If you put a spoonful of wine in a barrel of sewage, you get sewage.
If you put a spoonful of sewage in a barrel of wine, you get sewage.

i must admit, even in the universe’s reality, there is a whole lot of sewage and not very much wine flowing around this world.

But something is bothering me in my reality. It has been several years since Mr. Murphy, yeh that one, included “The Law of Thermodynamics” in his desk calendar. Perhaps this was just an oversight on Mr. Murphy’s part or mine. i fear someone somewhere in the political spectrum expressed outrage at such a concept, and that particular law was barred due to it upsetting someone whose reality is whatever hits the fan is actually evenly distributed. Of course, that it is a bit of reach for anyone’s reality, but i’ve seen further stretches of reality.

Regardless, Mr. Murphy’s Law of Thermodynamics is very much a part of my reality and i miss it. So for all, including Mr. Murphy and Mr. Schopenhauer, as Mr. Durante once said, “Wherever you are,” here’s that Law of Thermodynamics:


And whenever i consider the reality of that law, i know everything in my universe is sometimes grounded in reality, and i can deal with it, and smile.


Electoral College or Popular Vote?

For those who wish the Electoral College was eliminated and the popular vote was the deciding factor in elections, i was once of that opinion.

However if the popular vote was used to determine presidential election outcomes, the most populous states, California, New York, and Florida voters would hold sway over the rest of the country. i’m damn sure i would not like that.

There is another reason from history: Abraham Lincoln (whose birthday is today) only garnered 40% of the popular votes for president in 1862.

‘Nuff said.

Drop it.

A nice day

For those of you who don’t know, i have almost given up on movies. i will go anytime, anywhere to anything with my grandson. But those opportunities are rare. i will go to any movie either of my daughters would like me to accompany them. Fortunately, Maureen has given up on me going to movies with her and she is satisfied, probably even happier going to to movies (she’s a movie buff) with friends or alone.

But stage productions, that’s a different story. i blame Sarah.

When Sarah was majoring in drama at San Diego State, i went to all sorts of productions. It was supposedly a support thing. But in truth, i enjoyed all of them, even those without Sarah in the production.

i have been to several since she graduated and moved to Austin. i have promoted Maureen and i going to those at SDSU and elsewhere.

Tonight, it was like some kind of fusion, some extraterrestrial voodoo. Maureen had caught the promos for this play in the newspaper a couple of months ago. She got us tickets.

The title of the play was  “Picasso at the Lapin Agile.” It was at the Old Globe. No, no, not that “Old Globe” in England, but the replica built in 1935 in Balboa Park. The big differences are the audience has seats where those folks watching back in that other one stood, and this one is fire proof, even air conditioned.

So we have a representation of the heart of the beginning of great drama, aka Shakespeare and the Old Globe to start. Then the play’s author is Steve Martin (the reason Maureen was enthralled enough to get the tickets). i was skeptical, even though i’m a theater fan. One of the actors, although not the star but nevertheless a headliner was Hal Linden.

Now, i haven’t had too many brushes with fame. But one was when Sarah was around three and we were at the PGA West clubhouse for lunch, hosted by our Sarah’s godparents, Frank and Jan Kerrigan. Hal Linden walks through after finishing his round. He spots Sarah, comes over to the table and after introductions, picks up Sarah, tosses her into the air, and hugs her for several minutes.

i must say here that Sarah’s sister Blythe may have the edge here. When Blythe was three, we were waiting at a gate in LAX for someone to arrive. Bing and Kathryn Crosby came off the flight in the first group. Kathryn saw a beautiful young child, came over, asked our permission and picked her up. They laughed and Kathryn showed Blythe to Bing commenting on how beautiful she was. Then several months later, we were at the baggage claim at LAX. Blythe dashed away from us and grabbed onto the leg of a gentleman waiting for his luggage. It was Rod Serling, the guy who brought us “The Twilight Zone.” He picked Blythe up, laughed, gave her a hug and then gave her back to us.

But Hal has been one of my favorites even if he hadn’t had his moment with Sarah.

Now mind you, Hal wasn’t the premier actor in this show. But he was great as “Gaston,” the old sardonic Frenchman…and boy, did he play that clarinet at the end. The play was interesting in that Steve Martin envisioned Picasso and Einstein meeting, which they never did, and analyzed their genius and proclivity for women with wit, irony, and a touch of deep thought.

So it was  a beautiful night, a play doing things a play should do for someone like me in a beautiful setting with a beautiful date. We walked back to our car, parked by the Natural History Museum under the colonnade of buildings along El Prado, built for the Panama Exposition in 1915. Discussing our options, we decided on a nightcap nearer home. So we stopped at Romesco’s, a “Mediterranean” bistro with a tapas bar in the back. There, we had a desert with a Tempranillo (Maureen) and a Manhattan on the rocks (me).

That stop is the reason this is being posted tonight rather than last night.

It was, as i imagined, a night for folks to enjoy while growing old…together.

i kept thinking, “i hope my friends can have nights like this.

“It makes it all worthwhile.”


Photos from a War

It is three-by-four inches, black leather bound. The traditional fouled anchor was more than just a chief’s emblem in 1944 because it is in gold seal on the front of this packet carried by a machinist mate, automotive, second class petty officer in  the 75th Construction Battalion.

i am not sure  how Jimmy Jewell first obtained it, but he carried it for over two years while in the Southwestern Pacific during World War II. i guess he either bought it at the PX in Gulfport, Mississippi while literally waiting for his ship to come in, or his wife, Estelle, sent it to him with all of the photos already in their enclosed jackets.

It was in that baby blue and faded pink “Deluxe Baby Gift Box” that once contained “Baby Powder • Baby Cream • Baby Soap • Baby Oil” by “Johnson & Johnson” with locations in “New Brunswick, N.J.” and “Chicago, Ill.” i’m guessing someone gave the gift box to my mother for tending to me while he was gone, and when he returned home in December 1945, he noticed the six-and-a-half by nine by two-and-three-quarter inches empty box was just the right size to store photos and memorabilia from the war, many of which shouldn’t be shown to polite folks.

i don’t know where he kept it, but in 2003, he gave it to me. i’m sure he had forgotten about it, and ran across it when he was moving with his wife to a smaller home after living in their home for sixty-two years. i think i just happened to be there when he found it and didn’t know what to do with it. So he gave it to me.

There are many treasures there and many still should not be shown to polite folks. But this one is special.

The cover’s pocket above the insignia has some kind of transparent protection. According to the explanatory note inside, the pocket holds a four-leaf clover, the work of the Panama Canal Zone “Wire Chief.” The process for preserving the clover is explained, but after seventy-three years, it has lost most of its green and slid catty-wampus in its pocket.

Apparently, it did as promised with the blessing of “Good Luck, Good Health, Good Fortune” and brought one Jimmy Jewell through New Caldonea, Guadalcanal, Bouganville, Banika, New Guinea, and Leyte with the enemy always coming close but not too close.

Through it all, he carried this little leather packet of nine photos and the card explaining the four-leaf clover. i imagine it in that small left breast pocket on the dress and undress blues, but i don’t think they wore them very often, if at all, once the liberty ships landed in Espiritu Santo, the New Hebrides island where the indoctrination to Southeast Asia began.

All of the photos have faded. i suspect most of the degradation came from the tropics in that corner of the world. It is not a kind place for any kind of equipment or treasure. The first photo always stirs some deep emotion with me. i have doctored it a bit here. It’s the little bungalow they rented in Gulfport in May. i surmise they must have rented two. Aunt Naomi, his older sister, was a major contributor for the drive in her car with the new tires, rare because of the rations, Bob Padgett loaned her for the trip. Friends and family threw in their ration cards for gas to ensure they could make the round trip journey. Somewhere in these piles of memories, i recently found a photo of my grandmother with me suggesting she was on the trip as well. So i’m thinking the other two women shared a room. i keep thinking they were women who did not play by the rules of then.

The second and third photo in the packet shows where his heart truly lay. The first is the two of them next to his parent’s home on West Spring Street. By the swell of her abdomen, i’m thinking it was his first return in late September/early October when he had finished boot camp at Parris Island and was on a round about trip to Davisville in Rhode Island. And then, the second photo of the couple about two months later. November perhaps. He had completed his training and was headed to Gulfport to await for the inevitable call to board a ship and head out to places he could barely imagine. After all, his life experience had been in  Middle Tennessee with trips to Gatlinburg and Florida. That was about it. But crossing oceans were about to provide him a look into a world he could not imagine.

Estelle looked marvelous for someone into her sixth month of pregnancy. She loved him with  no reservations. When she was fifteen down on South Cumberland Street , she was visiting her mother, , who held a 24/7 job — They didn’t call it that back then. They might have said,  “Mrs. Prichard works around the clock nursing people to provide for her children since their daddy passed away two years ago.” — The visit  coincided with the young man in his bib jeans walking home to West Spring Street from the high school where he helped his father in the janitorial tasks. She pulled her mother out on the front porch as he passed by. She wanted her mother to see the man she loved.

He had other women in his life. His stately and elegant older sister Naomi lived at home and worked as an operator at the phone company office over on Gay Street, walking there every day. i wish i had asked if she worked seven days a week. i suspect she did, and i know the pay was paltry. He dropped out of high school before his senior year to work at a motor car company beginning with washing vehicles and changing tires. Between his $13.00 a week salary and Naomi’s, they kept the family above water. Culley Jewell had contracted tuberculosis in 1934 and could not work until he passed away in 1939. So Mama Jewell, Naomi, Jimmy and the youngest brother Huffman lived in the family home.

The fourth photo was another shot from the Gulfport trip. i was pretty small, but they obviously were proud of me then. They knew then Jimmy would be leaving soon, getting on that liberty ship. They did not know his ship ( i regret he never told me her name) would head through the Panama Canal up to San Francisco where they would embark the last of the 900 troops on a ship designed to hold 550, and then sail west for a month to Espiritu Santo, one of the southernmost islands in the New Hebrides chain — it was the jumping off place for allied troops into the war and the fictionalized location of “South Pacific,” the musical developed from James Michener’s Tales of the South Pacific.

Next is a photo of my aunt holding me back in Lebanon. Bettye Kate, Estelle’s youngest sister, and her husband, Alvin “Snooks” Hall, were very close. When Jimmy, James “Pipey” Orr, and Bill Prichard went to war, Snooks, deferred because he was a farmer in Shop Springs, became the male support for the women of the Prichard clan. In the mid-1950’s, he partnered with Jimmy for “Jewell and Hall,” a vehicle maintenance shop and a gas station (Mobile petroleum products featuring a sign in front with a rearing Pegasus). The two were best friends, almost as much brothers as the sisters. When several of Jimmy’s long time fishing partners passed away, he talked Snooks into fishing. They did almost everything together along with their wives. Aunt Bettye Kate was my second mother.

Then there is a photo of just me, i’m guessing four months. Today, i look at it and am amazed how i’ve returned to my origin: chubby body, fat cheeks, bald head. It is upside down in the packet. i try to imagine him in the jungles of New Guinea (i’ve been there and can attest there are jungles, plenty of them, dark with vegetation) where at night, the tree rats would crawl across the sleeping seabees in their tents. i think after he got out his flashlight to scare away a rat, he would reach into his clothing and pull out the packet, turning it to this photo, turning it to the side to look at his son. i hope, lord i hope, it made him smile, gave him some hope, made him think about that little place across an ocean and a continent he called home. Yes, i hope i helped him just a bit.

The last enclosed photo in the packet reveals the Prichard family closeness. When the men became husbands and the woman became wife of the Prichard’s, they immediately and forever became family. He was. And his love for family shows in this one. Nancy and Johnny Orr in the side yard of his home, the first of the next generation of the Prichard clan. He held them dear, treating them as his own, and they in return, calling him “Uncle Jimmy” and the other “Uncle Snooks” but knowing they were more like fathers in the queue more than just uncles.

Finally, there is a photo included in the packet but not in the slips for the photos, loose like the four-leaf clover card. It is Jimmy Jewell. i’m pretty sure it was a year or two earlier. It may have just been put there when he was going through the box, not taken to war. i like to think it was included. It is a dapper man looking like he owned the world, his leg propped up on the rock wall where he sits. His wife’s image is cut off. The photo most likely was taken in the Smokies. The family, most Lebanon families thought the Smokies was the get-away place. Even though he has on a light wool suit and sports white dress shoes. He looks comfortable. i imagine him looking at that photo in his motor pool on Leyte thinking, “I’m going home and we are going to the Smokies, and I am going to relax.”

As i wrote this, i kept feeling i had published a great deal of the information before. But it just seemed like it needed to go here. It fit. It was Jimmy Jewell in the war with his special packet of photo memories in a special “four-leaf clover” packet.

i also thought i am not sure he  would like this. He could be sentimental when it came to his wife, his children, his family. i have seen that. But he was not sentimental about himself. He talked very little about himself. It was only when i was past middle age when he said anything about the war. Then, it was mostly sharing war stories. He never talked about how he felt. He, along with damn near every man who left his home, put on a uniform, and headed into the unknown war theaters, would say it was just something they had to do.

They did have to do it. And boy, did they carry through. i hope all of them had a packet with a four-leaf clover and photos to get them through the rough times of getting the job done.

Dreams and Innisfree

Every once in a while i pull up a poem i wrote a number of years ago. It sort of puts me in my place and then revives a passion i think i have always had and always will have. i do not know why. i’m not particularly good at writing. My grammar is often shaky. i often break the rules. My editing is terrible. I sometimes get “smarmy” as Sharry Baird Hager once desribed my writing. And i can get on a roll and go over the top, writing what i really didn’t mean to write.

So i can get frustrated, swear i’m going to give it up, decide there are better, more productive things to do, declare i don’t have any desire to be published, and on, and on, and on…

Then i run across this poem again and realize i ain’t gonna quit. i don’t know why.

Dreams and Innisfree

Mr. Yeats, that revolutionary son of a bitch,
wrote of the Isle of Innisfree,
creating yet another dream for me,
which i did not need for
i have dreamed all my life;
it’s time to put aside such distractions.

tomorrow, i will meet a young woman,
not needing some dreamer to interfere;
we will converse, enjoy our time
discussing possibilities
in the ambience of the avant garde eatery:
she will go away again,
forging her own path.

i will go home to
play my role,
subjugating my dreams;
it is time i gave up dreaming,
then that ole sum bitch Yeats
tempts me with Innisfree:

I will succumb and dream again.

Mummies and me

Maureen had asked me what  i wanted to do for my birthday yesterday, and i made a short list, modifying it as predicted rain made modification required.

But unwavering, even with the threat of rain, we drove to Balboa Park, one of my favorite places on earth. The schedule modification dropped the zoo from our schedule. But we figured with the rain, the museums would be virtually empty.

They weren’t. We were astounded at the amount of cars in the parking areas even though it was a little less crowded than usual and disbelieving that many people would be in the park. They were.

We walked down the colonnade on the south side of the El Prado, the avenue from the large Bea Evenson fountain on the east end of the park to Plaza de Panama (a large number of the park buildings were built for the 1915-1916 Panama-California Exposition) and stopped in the San Diego History Museum, one of several in the Casa de Balboa, which was featuring the structures created by  Irving Gill, a renown architect. It was our first time in that particular museum. We will go back.

Coming out, i gaped, as usual at the architecture. Across the prado was the Casa de Prado, the sister of the Casa de Balboa. The beauty of this place never ceases to make me feel good.

To get to  the San Diego Museum of Art, we continued down the colonnade to the Plaza de Panama, the center of the park. The plaza has gone through many renovations. Recently, they banned parking there and soon will reroute traffic around it . That makes me feel good. To me, the beauty of this place is in its ties to a century ago and makes the current beauty of the surroundings even more beautiful. Standing on the edge of the plaza, we are in the heart of the place. The Prado, a restaurant with an atmosphere of old charm, serves a mixture of California, Southwest, and Mexican cuisine (at least, that’s what i call it).  The patio in good weather makes me feel elegant. And the bar area with no real bar makes me think of the Long Bar at Raffles in Singapore where the Singapore Sling was invented (the original tastes like cough medicine). But before being renovated into upscale, this one was where my father-in-law, Ray Boggs liked to stop for a Beefeater’s on the rocks with a twist. Of course, i went along.

Plaza de Panama: the Mingei on the left, the California Tower and Old Globe in the center background, and the Panama 66 restaurant on the right.

Outside the Prado where we were yesterday, we were a stone throw away from the Japanese Gardens, the Mingei Museum dedicated to folk art and craft, The Timken Museum featuring classical paintings, the Lily pond, and on and on.

It is a gathering place for all kinds of folks, families, just a place to relax. Beautiful.

On the north end of the plaza is my favorite, the San Diego Museum of Art. It was the reason i wanted to include the park in my birthday. In particular, i wanted to see the “Visible Vaults” exhibition. The museum has made it possible to experience the many, many works of art that has been in the archives, not available for viewing. The collection is astounding. With every piece displayed and with every drawer upon drawer Maureen and i examined, i thought of two people: my daughter Blythe and my friend Maren Hicks. i knew they would understand more and consequently enjoy more than me this treasure.

Our final stop in Balboa Park was at the Museum of Man. i had not been there for a score of years, and i remember being fascinated by the exhibits. It has been upgraded and is now very children friendly. In fact, Maureen and i kept laughing at how our grandson Sam and other boys between six and seventy-three would enjoy some exhibits. They had a special “cannibal” exhibit, there was the evolution of man exhibit, and the Egyptian exhibit featured mummies. For the older guys, there was the “Beerology” exhibit. Maureen and i laughed at a number of ancient civilizations which drank as much as four gallons of beer a day, especially the ones in Peru which practiced shrinking heads.

The Egyptian exhibit had a mummy not of that civilization. The “Lemon Grove Mummy” was that of a young woman and a child curled into a fetal position. She was the one that captivated me those many years ago. She got her name because two San Diego teenagers stole her from a cave near Chihuahua, Mexico in 1966. Getting home, they became afraid of what their parents would do if they knew and stored the mummy in a box in a friend’s garage. Shortly afterwards, they were sent to serve in Vietnam. They and the mummy became separated. In 1980, the mother of the friend was cleaning out her garage when she found the mummy (i’m still trying to imagine her moment of discovery) and donated it to the museum.

Somehow, i connected the mummy to some old destroyers. In 1974, they had been taken out of mothballs and were moored on the quay wall of the Long Beach Naval Station,  just aft of the U.S.S. Hollister, on which i was the chief engineer. When we found out the destroyers were to be used as targets for missiles and sunk on the Pacific Missile Test Range, we went aboard to salvage any supplies we could use. i also acquired a magnetic compass, an engine order telegraph unit, and a brass plate off a main feed pump of one destroyer. The brass plate is a paper weight in my office, the compass is part of Maureen’s arrangement including a metal cruise box, cacti, and orchids on the stoop of our courtyard porch.

But i saw a relationship between those ships and the mummy. That’s when i wrote this poem:

Thoughts about the discovery of the well-preserved and very old remains of an Incan boy and young woman high in the Andes Mountains of Peru, circa 1995

the magazine photos riveted attention, fascination:
children, forced to grow up and die
before their time in our time
yet probably not a great deal more
than their time in their time.
did they volunteer to the sacrifice?
now they are a source of interest in ages past,
and macabre beliefs:
i only feel sadness.

dead, empty hulks.
eyeless sockets staring out
into a world gone techno,
not a great deal more advanced from
what they saw when they could see:
world still full of ignorance, hatred and religious zealots
out to rid the world of all other gods.
the hulks,
not just dead, but dead and gone, yet not gone,
still here, rediscovered,
creating fascination, ghoulish interest in such relics.

hulk: dead warship lady
i wandered through during my navy days
lady warship “mothballed” with foam
until cleaned up for her sacrifice,
i, sailor man, entered the hulk,
semi-official equipment scavenger
for my man-of-war, pronounced female,
herself already obsolescent:
aboard: quiet and eerie,
a presence here beyond me felt:
an old unfinished letter,
desk drawer of a small stateroom forward,
“Dear Clara,” was the only identification;
nothing much more than the opening hello;
no great heroics here,
just a khaki clad lieutenant
meeting obligations to clara.

down below in the steel machine guts of the lady,
the clang against the emptiness of fireroom ladders,
once filled with hiss and heat and screams over the blowers
stirring the moist heat to just above tolerable.
it was more incan.
i could see the sailors shirtless sweating,
changing spray nozzles as the orders from above
required they rev up the steaming to where
the sides of the boilers heaved.
just as gone as the incans.
eye sockets empty,
bodily fluids extracted or dried up long ago.
but no petrification here.
no, she will be hauled to sea
to feel the heat of missiles,
practicing the art of war,
slamming into her innards
as her body is twisted, rent asunder,
gaping holes filling with the briny sea
as she slides, stem down
into deep bliss.
sacrificed like the incans,
dead and gone,
but no longer seen
like the incans.

at least the old war lady
will have some peace and quiet.

After leaving the museum, we departed the park and drove to The Rose in South Park. The Rose is a special place for us and it seems we spend a number of our special days there: light dinners and good wine. Yesterday, it did not  disappoint.

The rain had been kind to me, stopping in the late morning before resuming after nightfall, a break just for our trip. In fact, it rested until i brought in an ample amount of firewood.

The television was not turned on until i went to bed. i sat by the fire and read in silence. Maureen was stretched out in the love seat across the rug with the two cats asleep on her legs.

Not a bad day.


It’s Official

Before i finish this post, it will be 8:30 a.m. Lebanon, Tennessee time.

It hit me that is the time my parents would call every year on this day when i was accessible by phone. After i would say the perfunctory “hello,” they would burst into “Happy Birthday.” As they aged, the voices were a little more scratchy, a little more off key, but i could feel the love pouring out over the phone like they were in my room hugging me.

It did not occur to me until this morning, they would wake me up at 6:30 a.m. PST, because that was the time i was born. They loved to tell the tale of how Daddy finagled a week of liberty, by cobbling together several liberty passes from his Seabee friends. He took the train from Gulfport, Mississippi where his 75th Seabees were waiting to be shipped to parts unknown. I was late, so after the instruction of Dr. Charles Lowe, he walked Mother around the neighborhood, “not until she was tired, but until he was tired.” It appeared not to be working. i was stubborn even then. But finally on Tuesday, they went to the hospital. My grandmother, Katherine “Granny” Prichard was the attending nurse. i was anxious to get out i guess as Dr. Lowe did not have time to get in his gown and delivered me in his shirt sleeves.

i think of Daddy waiting in the lobby. i wondered what he thought as he waited. He had a new house, his future was more uncertain than we can comprehend now, his wife was going to have to take care of a newborn while he was away, there was this war going on.

After he saw me, he caught the train back to Gulfport and was not UA (Unauthorized Absence).

And for sixty-nine years, they sang to me as close to 8:30 a.m. Lebanon time on this day.

i do miss that rendition of “Happy Birthday” and them.


No Magic Number But That’s Okay

Seventy-Three. 73. Birthdate year 1944.

Seventy-Three is not a magic number. i mean it’s not like 75. If it were my 75th, i could steal from the anniversary connections and say this was my “diamond” birthday. i can’t. They don’t have a connection like that even for anniversaries for 73, let alone birthdays. i figure this birthday should be connected to lead.

Seventy-Three is not even significant in most categorizations. Seventy-Two seemed, not magical, but certainly mathematically clean and associated.

So why am i so obsessed about turning seventy-three tomorrow. i don’t know.

But i have an excuse: i’m old.

Now if i live as long as either one of my parents with a sharp mind to the end as they did, i could have at least twenty-four more productive years left, maybe twenty-five. But i won’t: i lived one hell of a lot harder and wilder life than they did.

So i figure i will be damn lucky if get another twenty years out of this thing called living.

That’s okay. Either way.

Now, it’s time for me, as i have written, to reinvent. It won’t be hard. There are things to remind me of how to do it. Two Tuesdays ago, i played golf with one of my all-time best friends, Pete Toennies at the Bonita Golf Club. For a number of years, we have watched two red-tail hawks soar the heavens looking for game and survey their prospects from a dead eucalyptus, a sentinel  near the sixteenth green. In that recent round, they perched on their outpost, almost like telling me to do it right. They did.

But that is just a recall of a wonderful moment.

With the seventy-third inevitably upon me. So is the rain. So we prepared for the rain, five days of it, an unheard of event in the world of the Southwest corner since the rains of the late seventies. So Maureen prepared, with my help. Her orchids were pulled out from underneath the overhangs in our courtyard so they could bask in the downpours headed our way for the next five days.

Then, i made my last martini…ever…i think. My age does not handle booze well. It is time for me to back off or quit entirely. The trial, hopefully successfully segueing into my lifetime habits, excludes hard liquors and limits all of the others. Appropriately, i had used the last olive already, so i had to forego garnish. Not a big deal but symbolic. So i wandered into the front room, sat down at the piano, arraigned a jury-rigged coaster out of my ever present bandana, placed the martini there for occasional sips. i played a simple piece i made up a hundred years ago and makes me feel like i can do this sort of thing. Then i began “Stardust,” which i learned out the Hoagy Carmichael songbook years ago, but now it requires relearning after layoffs like this long one. i got almost two-thirds of the way through, slowly, haltingly, but always expressively, when the number of my inabilities made my playing un-fun and i stopped. After all, Maureen is making shrimp with risotto, a new dish, so it is time to get on with it.

And then it’s on to night time. i bring in some firewood  and light the fire. Fire in the hearth has become a standard part of our routine from late November through February. It is one of my connections to the past. We never had one fire in our living room fireplace on Castle Heights Avenue. My parents were practical people and they converted from goal to gas with no thought of  connecting to their past with a fire in the fireplace. But my fire tonight is a beautiful fire. i think of my Uncle Pipey Orr, who in his living room fireplace in Red Bank outside of Chattanooga seemed to always have a fire. i think of Uncle Remus. For some reason, i always imagine him telling me his stories of Brer Rabbit, Brer Bear, Brer Fox, and all of the other wonderful creatures in those tales while we sit by a fire in a slave cabin made of logs. Tonight, i thought of Uncle Remus.

And Uncle Remus is a good place to start. He has become some kind of “Uncle Tom” symbol to some folks, who apparently didn’t understand he was the hero, making good when it was hard to make it, living like a piece of furniture, owned. Yet he was the one who did things right. The “white” folks in the that film, which had no real connection to Joel Chandler Harris, except for Uncle Remus and his stories, are really the bad guys, not understanding, bigoted, blind. And Uncle Remus survived.

And he is old, like me.

That’s what i hope to do at seventy-three and beyond: be like Uncle Remus.



My Kind of Humor (Thanks, Norm)

One of the folks i have reconnected with on Facebook is Norm O’Neal. Norm was a radarman (right, Norm?) on the USS Hawkins in 1968-69 when she was my first ship. i do remember him but must confess not as clearly as i would like, a difficulty i have with many parts of my life over fifty years ago…okay, over 50 minutes ago.

Norm sends out some wonderful emails and occasionally posts something on Facebook. Many are beautiful photographs of animals (so i can forward them to family members who are crazy about animals) or historic events. My favorite emails of his are humorous.

This morning, he posted quotes from Steven Wright, a comedian and award-winning film producer. Being challenged to know any performer who did not perform before 1985, i did not know Steven Wright, i looked him up on Wikepedia (God bless you, Wikipedia. If it wasn’t for you and my confessing you are my frequent source, people might think i know a lot). From Wikipedia:

Steven Alexander Wright (born December 6, 1955) is an American comedian, actor, writer, and an Oscar-winning film producer. He is known for his distinctly lethargic voice and slow, deadpan delivery of ironic, philosophical, and sometimes nonsensical jokes, paraprosdokians, non sequiturs, anti-humor, and one-liners with contrived situations.

i mean i have to like anyone who comes up with a lot of paraprosdokians and non-sequiturs. It’s my kind of humor.

But i digress. Wright’s quotes are below. p.s. i think he stole a couple. Thanks, Norm.

The Quotes of Steven Wright:
1 – I’d kill for a Nobel Peace Prize.
2 – Borrow money from pessimists — they don’t expect it back.
3 – Half the people you know are below average.
4 – 99% of lawyers give the rest a bad name.
5 – 82.7% of all statistics are made up on the spot.
6 – A conscience is what hurts when all your other parts feel so good.
7 – A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.
8 – If you want the rainbow, you got to put up with the rain.
9 – All those who believe in psycho kinesis, raise my hand.
10 – The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.
11 – I almost had a psychic girlfriend, ….. But she left me before we met.
12 – OK, so what’s the speed of dark?
13 – How do you tell when you’re out of invisible ink?
14 – If everything seems to be going well, you have obviously overlooked something.
15 – Depression is merely anger without enthusiasm.
16 – When everything is coming your way, you’re in the wrong lane.
17 – Ambition is a poor excuse for not having enough sense to be lazy.
18 – Hard work pays off in the future; laziness pays off now.
19 – I intend to live forever … So far, so good.
20 – If Barbie is so popular, why do you have to buy her friends?
21 – Eagles may soar, but weasels don’t get sucked into jet engines.
22 – What happens if you get scared half to death twice?
23 – My mechanic told me, “I couldn’t repair your brakes, so I made your horn louder.”
24 – Why do psychics have to ask you for your name
25 – If at first you don’t succeed, destroy all evidence that you tried.
26 – A conclusion is the place where you got tired of thinking.
27 – Experience is something you don’t get until just after you need it.
28 – The hardness of the butter is proportional to the softness of the bread.
29 – To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism; to steal from many is research.
30 – The problem with the gene pool is that there is no lifeguard.
31 – The sooner you fall behind, the more time you’ll have to catch up.
32 – The colder the x-ray table, the more of your body is required to be on it.
33 – Everyone has a photographic memory; some just don’t have film.
34 – If at first you don’t succeed, skydiving is not for you.
35 – If your car could travel at the speed of light, would your headlights work?

January 19: My Second Day of Reinvention This Year

i’m back on Facebook.

Actually, i never went away. i monitored, but not as intensely or frequently. i shared links to the posts on my website and my Democrat columns, and i posted albums of pictures i’ve scanned for posterity because i’m too damn old and ornery to learn how to share those old photos with my family any other way.

The truth is i like sharing stuff back and forth with friends and family. Those reconnections and new ones give me a lot of pleasure. i decided i just couldn’t give up those connections.

But i’ve made some rules. i’m only going to “like” posts i truly enjoy or find especially interesting. i am no longer going to “like” a post because i want you to know i’ve actually read it.

i’m going to skip all those pass-along jokes, feel-good videos, prayer requests, political comments, copy and paste demands, etc. That doesn’t mean i don’t respect you. It just means i’m not on the social media for such stuff. i like the social aspect.

You see, i set myself some goals, not resolutions, before the  end of the year to reinvent myself. i want to live the rest of my life in a better, healthier, more productive, and more giving back mode of operation. i also don’t want to sweat things anymore. i want to truly retire except for that giving back thing, which i plan to do through writing.

Well, i backslid on those goals, not resolutions, pretty soon after the turn of year. Not completely, mind you, not even too badly, but i did backslide in my opinion. But you see, i have an automatic reprieve. My birthday is January 19, which i share with Robert E. Lee, Edgar Allen Poe, Paul Cezanne, Jean Stapleton, Tippi Hedren, Phil of the Everly Brothers, Janis Joplin, and Dolly Parton, among others.

And of course there is James Winston Watts, who developed the frontal lobotomy.

It all seems to fit.

So i’m renewing my efforts to reinvent myself. Whatever is left in this life for me, i intend to enjoy it.

This morning, i completed a project, the first one among many. It’s not that impressive. i made an herb table which we will put out in the old dog prison (no dog, no prison) where Maureen can work on raising her herbs and potting flowers.

It’s really not impressive. i made it out of scrap lumber and some sheet metal. It is not square, but i did it with no plans, just sort of began puttering.

Still it’s a change. i have somewhere in the neighborhood of fifteen thousand projects in my garage and office, and that’s not counting the four billion and growing list Maureen has for me. This herb table is the first step in completing those tasks and the beginning of the reinvention of my reinvention.

And as i drug the table from the garage work area to the old dog prison, i passed the rose bush Maureen has in a planter.

i didn’t see this at first what with rousting about the table. i experienced the aroma first, one of the sweetest smells i’ve come across in a while.

Then i saw the rose. ‘Bout damn near perfect. Not a bad way to kick off a reinvention.