It is later than usual for me to arise and write random thoughts. 5:45 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time. Then, by the time i grind the coffee and start the coffee maker, set the table, put up last night’s dishes, feed the cats, have our always breakfast with the newspaper, folding and stowing away the clothes Maureen washed yesterday (and put in front of my family room chair to uncompromisingly hint i had a job to do), it was mid-morning, long after i wrote the first words of random thoughts. But i always return and sit down to this damnable screen with keyboard i can’t escape. Screw with it way, way too much. It is becoming me, or at least an essential part of me. Maybe it always has been since i started banging on those keys on the old Royal on that worn desk in “The Cavalier” room, at the back of Armstrong Hall, just before the circle, aka the bullring in front of Main at Castle Heights under the watchful and demanding eye of Coach Leftwich.
i’m no longer particularly good at it. Age has given me the okay to ignore correct grammar, punctuation, and sometimes, more often that not, coherent thought. i fooled myself for a long time my stories, my thoughts might serve the younger set as good and bad examples from which to learn. But i’m even older now and have learned in that oldness that the younger set doesn’t have time to listen to oldsters. It’s a different time, different ways, too busy thinking about fixing the world their way and my stuff is from a past time, no good, obsolescent information, if not obsolete.
Boy, that past time had a lot of problems. Lots and lots of problems, but i’m glad it was mine. i was protected, reared in a pasteurized environment where we didn’t lock our cars or our doors; we played outside; we got our images from books, oaters, cartoons, and our imaginations. We didn’t wear shoes, or shirts for that matter from May until September. Shorts. We wandered from neighbor’s yard to neighbor’s yard playing. We walked to school. By ourselves. From first grade on. No kindergarten. And we got religion. Man did we get religion. Bathed, dressed up in our Sunday best, starched clothes and us, hair slicked back en route to a full day: 9:00 Sunday School, 11:00 Church Service, 12:30 dinner out or a big one at home of us or kin, later for the kids 5:00 MYF the same time the men’s chorus had supper and rehearsed, and 7:00 Evening service mostly gospels. It wasn’t the church in the wildwood, but man, it had that feel, had that feel.
And i learned, and i believed. Later, it sort of got away with me. i had some hell to raise, a world to conquer (didn’t), life to live, women to wed, silently crying inside with divorces, children to raise (even if one was from long distance), wars to fight, seas to sail, sports to cover, dreams to chase, people to meet, friends to make and keep. That religion thing all came back in a different fashion again, later. Oh, i wouldn’t be called a church goer, or much of anything else, but i believe. i don’t proselytize because i know even mine is a belief, not a fact, and i get tired of all of those folks trying to prove a belief. Ain’t happening. It’s enough to believe if your belief is good. You know, Jesus like. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Those without guilt throw the first stone (none should be thrown, but they are falling like hailstorms in a never-ending storm of hate and fear). Walk in the customer’s shoes, or something like that, but maybe that was what i learned in a leadership intervention i facilitated, which apparently is no longer in vogue with the corporate money-makers even though they wear it in their marketing like a hood ornament, but we know damn well it ain’t under that hood. Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world (well, we pay it lip service, but i see the hate and the fear on all sides, protecting their own, throwing those rocks, spitting hate, meanness, small little people bent on being better by walking over all of those not like them, remembering the past as it wasn’t but what they want it to be to justify their hate.
But that place i started writing about. That place that taught me all that stuff. They protected me from seeing the underbelly. Oh, i knew. Somewhere, sometime, it dawned on me. i made some effort to be above it, be without a color line, even made some statements and behaviors that backed that up. Never, not even through today, understood it. My world taught me equality without observing it, taught me goodness with evil lurking like a imbecile child in the basement: Boo Radley, taught me responsibility without stepping up to the plate.
But no one’s heeding. That’s okay. i’ll just try to make some people, perhaps just those near my age feel good. And i will try to live a good life, do the right thing, ignore the smallness, try hard to be bigger in my thoughts. Play decent golf and not curse (well, maybe a little bit). This writing thing is there in me, deep inside, won’t let me go. Don’t wish to market or sell my wares on television, radio talk shows, but it would be nice to make a few bucks to pay for my golf and things for my wife, daughters, grandson, family, and friends. But it’s more important just to put it out there. Don’t know why.
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i do have a worry. i don’t see much making things anymore, except paper money. i see the big shots and their offspring playing games, manipulating people, propagandizing for their causes. The masses marching, protesting, deriding all who do not fit their idea of equal, which isn’t equal at all. My daughter’s elementary school had it right with their slogan: “ICMM,” i can manage myself. Doesn’t seem like too many people deal with that: too busy fixing everybody else. After all, they know what’s wrong with the rest of the world, just not themselves or their causes.
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Ahh, what a glorious weekend. Courtesy of Tick Bryan, i linked up to the Lebanon High School football game Friday night. Mount Juliet beat them handily, but watching took me back to damn near every Friday night from six or so until twenty-four. Blue Devils. Autumn. Me.
Saturday, Vanderbilt beat Middle Tennessee, but Middle Tennessee wasn’t embarrassed. Good, hard play on both sides of the ball. It’s always difficult, having gone to both schools. i was a Tennessee, Vanderbilt, and Middle Tennessee football fan growing up. Listened to every game i could. Don’t think i saw a one on television until Vandy beat Auburn in the 1955 Gator Bowl, but had been in the stands for all three teams before i was 20. i wanted both the Commodores and the Blue Raiders to win. No tie. Turned out about as good as it could.
And delight of delights: The San Diego Padres swept a day-night double-header from the Dodgers, the team, like quite a few others, maybe all of them, attempting to buy a World Series, only with more money than most. Fans are awful. So are the Padre fans, but not quite as bad. Still it was sweet.
And Saturday, i went home. i went back to Tennessee in August. It was 97 here and humid, not dry like it’s supposed to be. All of my bragging about not needing air conditioning seemed a bit foolish. We were okay. We know how to cope. Being over the hill from the ocean gives us an edge with the sea breeze. But it was hot and humid. Like Tennessee. In August. When before AC there and then, Daddy had installed a large window fan in the upstairs hall window. That was it. i would lie in my jockey shorts at the end of the bed. No cover, no top sheet. Just me, my jockey shorts, curled at the foot of the bed where i was all in front of the double window to our room, maximizing what little air the fan pumped through the hall to out our window.
And yes, early season practice up the hill at Heights. Two-a-days. Heavy cotton jerseys over pads. High top cleats. Helmets. 95/95. Refusing water: hydration wasn’t a manly thing to do back then. But salt pills, that was good. 9:00 morning practice with a ten pound water loss; driving to Johnson’s Dairy at West Main and West End Heights where Walgren’s now sells drugs for a half-gallon of orange drink. Coming back to find the Carthage boys passing a jug of moonshine back and forth on the bunk beds. Afternoon practice. Same gear, same 95/95. Seemed longer. Sprints were a killer. Ten or more pounds gone again. Be back by next morning practice. And then, just like here in the Southwest corner, surprisingly, i could smell the rain on the wind. And it came. And it cooled down to what? 80? Still sliding in the mud of the practice field down Hill Street with the rain infusing its drops through every pore felt good, and we slowly trodding back up the hill to the locker room with mud-crusted uniforms, smelling to high heaven with sweat, and we laughed..
And yes, digging graves. 95/95. Work shoes and Levis. No shirt. Pick and shovel. Mr. Bill and Dub and me. Taking turns. Wiping brows. Tough work. Leaving on the dot. After all, Legion Ball or fast pitch softball (bad descriptor) down by that church at the Southern end of Baird Park where it seems i remember the preacher ran away with one of his younger parishioners. And catching in the gear and sweating until the uniform was soaked and at the end going out and finding Country Club Malt Liquor and drinking and smoking for the first time because i didn’t have football that fall and sitting on the side of a rock road, talking, laughing before starting it all again Monday digging graves. Hot and humid. Just like it was in the Southwest corner this past Saturday.