Being Better or Dying Trying

This paragraph completes this post; I wrote this paragraph after I wrote the rest of it. I write this to remind myself, and anyone else who stumbles on these words, that I have to write in order to know what I think. I started this post full of piss and vinegar, ready to take on the task of dramatically improving my self-discipline. As I typed, and as I thought things through, my thought processes changed and my perspective on my intended project changed. I can be my own most difficult stumbling block.


All right, here it is. The beginning…again. The hatching of the plan. The way I’m going to approach discipline, willpower, and self-control (all of which are one and the same, I suppose).

Here’s my reprise of (or replacement for) my “Doing Without” project, which I began in mid-2013. The idea at the time was to test the boundaries of my self-discipline. How far could I go in depriving myself of things I enjoy but that might have a deleterious impact on my physical or mental or intellectual health? Perhaps the question was not so much “how far could I go?” as it was “how much self-control am I willing to exert over myself?” Whatever the question, I did a reasonably good job of it, depending on how one measures success. That’s all I’ll say about that. But here I am again, doing something similar; but I’m modifying it to test my mettle in different ways.

I’ll “do without” a favorite activity for one month, then add another the following month, then yet another the third month and, finally, another the fourth month. The “doing without” will grow with the addition of one thing each month. Here’s what the plans looks like for now:

  • Month 1: No coffee; replacement: tea
  • Month 2: No coffee+no alcohol; replacements: tea + water
  • Month 3: No coffee and no alcohol+no meat; replacements: tea and water + high volume of vegetables
  • Month 4: No coffee and no alcohol and no meat+no television; replacements: tea and water and a high volume of vegetables + walking

This will translates into four months without coffee, three months without alcohol, two months without meat, and one month without television. That can only improve my health. Especially the removal of alcohol and meat. Perhaps I should switch coffee with meat so that I will have fewer clots of cholesterol pumping through my veins and arteries. Well, let’s leave well enough alone for the moment, shall we?

But, first, how do I establish the appropriate measures for the replacements? For example, how much walking will I need to do to replace the time I spend watching television? The problem as I see it is that watching television is an inconsistent thing for me; some days I watch three or four episodes of a favorite Netflix series and an hour of news, while other days I watch nothing. Oh, well, I’ll figure something out.

I have to ask myself whether replacing activities is a good idea. It’s as if I’m exchanging one dependency for another. I remember thinking that when I first started the project in 2013. My consumption of iced tea grew exponentially when I stopped drinking coffee. I seemed to need something to fill the void left by the removal.  I’ll give that some more thought.

The next question, of course, is when “Month 1” begins. Time will tell. And I may modify the plan before I begin.

It occurs to me that I might find it beneficial to either replace or supplement the plan with this one: Add something to my routine each month to enhance my intellectual or physical well-being. I could add daily exercise or modify my daily routine to ensure at least a hour or two of reading fiction (my consumption of fiction has declined considerably in recent years). Or I could begin a daily meditation practice. Or I could opt to learn something new, like how to play pickleball or how to build and fly radio-controlled model airplanes. I’m stretching here. I don’t want to test my discipline so much that I’m destined to fail; anything new has to hold at least a modicum of interest for me.

In the final analysis, the plan has to mean something. Why am I intent on doing this? What good will it do for me, or for others? Is this just an exercise in futility, or will it have a profound impact on how I look or feel or fit into the world? I have a feeling that I’m using the project as a way to trick myself into doing something I should have been doing all along without the drama of the project. Why don’t I just start walking and work on exercising more control over my diet and get more exercise? Because…self-discipline. Or the lack thereof. So the project may be trickery, but it’s trickery of the sort I guess I need. Setting goals is easy. Achieving them, not so much.

Obviously, I need to give this matter more thought. Yesterday, I thought all I needed to do would be to set out a plan and follow it. Today, as I conceive of a plan I find that my mind is disjointed; I question my own motives and I wonder whether the idea of “doing without” has any real, long-lasting merit. I think it does, but I can’t quite articulate what the merit might be.

Ultimately, I suspect this whole thing is about becoming a better person. That should be easy. I don’t need a plan or a project to do that. A change in behavior, here and there, and it would be “mission accomplished.” But that’s superficial. My interest is in change that’s deeper, life-altering; something that will improve me from the inside-out. I think everyone wants that. And I think most people who actually give it dedicated thought realize that we’re all trying to be better throughout our lives. We’re in pursuit of being better or dying trying.

I’m going to rethink this concept. I may move forward with it; I may not. Whatever I decide, though, I will decide after exploring the idea and myself much more thoroughly.

 

 

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Unit 42

I just finished watching, for the second time, the first episode of the first season of Unit 42. I watched the episode several months ago and enjoyed it immensely, but somehow got sidetracked, as I am wont to do, and didn’t keep it up. Tonight, I decided I wanted to continue the effort, but I had forgotten almost everything about the first episode. I tend to do that. All I need is 24 hours to utterly obliterate my memory of a television show or a movie. It’s a bad, ugly, miserable flaw. At any rate, I opted to renew my experience with the program. Again, I enjoyed it immensely. It’s not what I’d call high-end television, but it’s a solid French-language police drama with plenty of action and intrigue. Nothing that requires much thought, just a program that requires some attention and an appreciation of plot.

So….I’m just taking a break before I launch into episode number 2. And I will. My only concern is that, after two glasses of wine, I might not recall episode 2 tomorrow, which will require me to watch it again. This could go on for weeks. But it won’t. Because I will watch the entire episode and will plan (and execute the plan) to watch subsequent episodes in a timely fashion.

***

Tonight is Saturday. Many people are out with friends or family, kicking back and enjoying the weekend. But not me. Instead, I’m at home, watching a French-language television program while my wife is watching who knows what (or reading who knows what) in her nest retreat. Sometimes, I think we live in different epochs. I know I do.

***

A load of clothes has finished washing AND drying. As I was putting away the clothes, it occurred to me that I haven’t communicated directly with my blood and non-blood nieces and nephews of late. I don’t know why that entered my mind, but it did. I need to make a point of letting those folks know I think about them often. I don’t want to impinge on their lives, but I do want them to know the geezer uncle thinks about them frequently. How does one do that without seeming like a geezer uncle? Especially a distant, not-awfully-close uncle? I don’t know. I’m asking for a friend.

***

Last night, I had a bizarre dream. I won’t bore you with it; I told my wife about it and she found it strange and inexplicable. The upshot of the dream is that I was lost in a parking lot and I wasn’t sure where I’d gone when I left my car. Except I knew I had to be somewhere in short order to deliver a speech on behalf of (?) my church’s minister. I realized, in the dream, I might be dreaming. That was a strange element of the experience.

***

Sadness envelopes me like a damn hot, uncomfortable blanket. I don’t know why. I loathe this feeling of isolation and anguish. It’s not a normal Saturday night feeling. Jesus, I think I need to down an ounce or three of Black Jack Tennessee whiskey; that should put me back right with the world. But first, I have to watch another episode of Unit 42. And maybe it will dissuade me from swilling Black Jack.

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A Few Things on My Mind in the Three Hours Since I Awoke

For some reason, humans seem to have a hard time accepting the fact that different cultures can have radically different world views. We tend to think the way we were taught to think and perceive the world is the only proper way. Other perspectives—those at odds with our own—are strange or wrong or evil or unusual or otherwise weird; only our way is natural and normal and reasonable.

An example of this clash of cultures can be seen in the reaction in our culture to the fact that a small percentage of Koreans eat dog meat. As far as I can tell, eating dog meat is not a common practice and it is in decline, but it is done. To be fair, the practice of eating dog is diminishing in part because of the reaction of people in the Korean culture to the concept. But it is done. And, in my view, it is not barbaric. But I do find it unappetizing and I loathe the idea of breeding dogs as sources of meat. The reason for that loathing is attributable in large part to my upbringing—my culture.

The same sort of cultural reactions can be observed when discussing different forms of society and government. Many in the Western world insist that democracy is the single best form of government (even though we do not live in a true democracy and probably do not understand what it is). The very idea of communism or socialism is abhorrent; we’ve been taught that communism and socialism are “evil” forms of social control (as if democracy as practiced in the U.S., along with its ally, capitalism, are pure and absolutely fair).

My point is that we are taught what to believe. Our values are etched in our minds from an early age, carved in the folds of our brains in ways that seem to prevent other values from being given even a consideration. While I understand and appreciate being taught a foundation of good values, locking the mental doors to conflicting values is an ugly mistake. By insisting our system of government and our social order are the best ones, we degrade others systems; either explicitly or implicitly, we label them inferior, something to avoid. Is it any wonder, then, that people readily react negatively to other cultures in general? Anything different is bad; anything that looks like us is good.

If I could change the world, I would. I most assuredly would.

***

My wife got out of bed around 4:00 a.m. I followed about half an hour later. We’ve both been awake since then; she with her tea and me with my coffee. She’s reading. I’m writing. We took a break for breakfast, though, which was a welcome respite from the keyboard.

She toasted two large pieces of black bread and spread goat cheese on them. While she was toasting the bread, I was peeling and smashing the meat of an avocado. She spread the avocado on top of the goat cheese. I put a pinch of Kosher salt on my piece of avocado and goat cheese toasted black bread. It was exceptional. If we had more avocados and more goat cheese, I would have more. But we don’t. So I won’t. Alas. I’ll say it again. Alas.

***

Leaf litter covers many of the roads and driveways around us. The recent record low temperatures can be blamed for the earlier-than-usual leaf drops, I suppose. If I can muster the energy later this morning, I will go outside an blow leaves off the driveway and the front porch. I need to tidy up just a bit in preparation for a gathering at our house on Monday afternoon. Several members of the writers’ club and a few spouses will come over for a read-around and a wine and hors d’ouvres reception. The numbers will be small. I expect only 10-12 people, including Janine and me. That’s about the maximum workable number for a read-around, in my opinion.

***

Yesterday afternoon, we went to XPlore Lakeside, the restaurant occupying the space once occupied by Last Chance (which is defunct). They had a special going between 3:00 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.; a hamburger, fries, and a draft beer for $10, at the bar. Janine and her sister and I decided to give it a try. It was well worth it. Good burger, good fries, and our choice of any of about six or eight draft beers. Most of the beers were from Arkansas breweries (only one tap had a big name beer; Michelob). Each of us chose a Skullcrusher IPA from Bubba’s Brews. I like the bar at Xplore. It’s the sort of place I think I could hang out every day. Drinking beer and eating hamburgers. And gaining weight. And listening to the sound of the arteries in my heart clog with clots of cholesterol. Maybe not every day.

***

I think I wrote a year or so ago about my months in years past of “doing without.” I’ve talked about a reprise of the project. I want to do more than talk about it. I want to do it again. When I tried to explain it to people, the feedback I got, for the most part, was “Why do it? Why put deny yourself anything? Why put yourself through it?” Though I tried to explain it was to test my willpower and discipline, with the objective of improving both, they thought the idea was silly and pointless. I disagreed. I disagree still. I believe it’s time again to test my willpower and discipline. I think it’s time to explore aspects of myself that haven’t been adequately explored lately. So I’ll begin planning my months of “doing without.” And I’ll write about them here, assuming I don’t drop the ball like I did a year or so ago when I said I was going to resurrect the project. Not this time, though. This time, I’ll follow through.

***

In what might be related in some form or fashion to “doing without,” I’d like to begin another practice/project in which I will, on a regular basis, do something unexpected for a stranger. Nothing big. Maybe offer to return a grocery cart for someone who’s putting their groceries in their car. Stop to help someone whose car is stalled or has a flat tire. Stop and clear debris from the roadway when I see something blocking a lane of traffic. Help someone struggling to carry a load of boxes into the post office. None of these sorts of things are out of character for me, but I’ve noticed in recent years that I haven’t done them as frequently as I once did. And I’ve noticed, too, that I’ve sometimes made deliberate choices not to do something to help even when I felt I should. When I’ve made those choices, I’ve felt guilt for giving my convenience a higher priority than someone else’s needs. Maybe I’ve just grown lazy. Whatever it is, I want to overcome it. That lazy bastard is not who I was and I don’t want him to become who I am.

***

Obviously, my mind has been switching gears at breakneck speed this morning. Maybe some meditation is in order. I can feel the muscles in my arms and shoulders; they are tight. I can feel tension in my neck. A massage right now would be just what the doctor ordered. But since there’s no masseuse handy, I’ll try something else. Meditation or tea. We’ll see.

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Too Old

A brief post I wrote this morning for our church blog sparked a realization that I consider myself too old to do some things I’ve always wanted to do.

The thing that triggered the awareness of how I see myself was my longtime interest in orchestrating a cohousing development. In the back of my mind, for years I’ve wanted to organize a group of like-minded people in creating a close-knit community that combines private and group ownership, privacy and community, and communal support. But, at sixty-six years of age, I think I’m too old to start something of that magnitude. My age, coupled with the fact that I’ve had cancer and am still dealing with the diminution of physical capabilities and stamina that resulted from it, tells me it’s too late to begin.

To be honest with myself, I’ve probably never had the ability to get people excited about the idea. On occasion, I talk about it with people only to find virtually no enthusiasm for the idea. I think a person either gravitates to the idea immediately upon hearing it or shuns it from the moment it comes up. I’m one of those who instantly loved the concept. But I’m not going to convince others that it’s an idea worth pursuing. And I’m too old to do it, anyway.

The same thing is true about another lifelong desire: getting a few acres in the country and working the land. A big garden, a barn, a tractor, a few animals. One of my brothers has a place in the country where I could do what I’ve wanted, but that wouldn’t do it. I am not interested in playing farmer during an occasional visit; I want to have the experience as part of my life. I could do that in the right cohousing environment. But I’m not going to do it. I’ve failed to generate excitement for the idea during all those years I’ve longed for it. And I’m too old to do it, anyway.

I realize, of course, that sixty-six years old is not really old. But you’re as old as you feel, they say. And this morning I feel much, much older. It’s not just this morning. It’s ever since I had my surgery almost a year ago; it’s as if part of my youth was removed with my lower right lobe.  That sense of loss is devastating in a sense. It’s like part of who I’ve always considered I was is no longer here.

All this damn emotion from a damn blog post for the church. I’ve got to stop writing the church blog.

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Harissa in the House

Tonight’s menu will include lemon harissa chicken. I made a batch of harissa paste a few days ago, something I’ve been intending for at least several weeks and more probably several months. Making harissa paste is not hard, but it takes a bit of time and patience, and I tend to get little dabs of the dark red-orange stuff on my clothes during the process. It involves using a number of dried peppers. Most recipes call for at least one dried pepper or another that I can’t find, so I substitute. For that reason, every batch of harissa I’ve made has a slightly different flavor from every other batch. That doesn’t bother me, though, because every batch I’ve made so far has been extremely pleasing to my palate.

Because of my propensity for dyeing the garments I’m wearing while making it, I prefer to wear my most embarrassingly worn, stained, and tattered clothes during the process. And I did.  Frankly, the taste of harissa warrants wearing a white tuxedo during the process of making it, if necessary. It’s that flavorful. And it has infinite uses. Tonight’s use, as I mentioned, will involve just two tablespoons of the stuff, along with a few other herbs and spices and, of course, chicken. I’ll marinate chunks of chicken breast for a few  hours in the harissa concoction and then will cook them in a sauce pan on the stove top. I’ll also make some white rice. If the oven cooperates, I’ll roast some veggies which I’ll place atop the white rice and, finally, the spicy chunks of chicken. Well, not finally. I’ll dress the chicken with a few globs of yogurt and garnish the dish with parsley, sliced olives, and capers. That should make a nice dinner.

Though I did not make a particularly large batch of harissa, using only two tablespoons tonight will leave plenty for other dishes. For one, I want to try to replicate a harissa salsa that we used to get from Trader Joe’s (thanks to my niece) but is no longer available. Based on the ingredients list on the jar of the salsa, though, I think the likelihood of an exact match is slim. I also want to make a few other North African dishes in which harissa is a key ingredient.

If the world were just, and we know it is not, I would have a gas stove on which to cook. And I would have a North African tajine in which to cook North African cuisine. I’ve never used a tajine, but I understand its conical shaped top allows the steam that arises during cooking to recirculate and moisten the food being cooked, intensifying the flavors.

I’ve read that another dish, one I’ve made many times before but without using harissa, is especially good when amped up with harissa. Shakshouka (spelled any number of ways) is an Israeli dish that I understand originated in North Africa. It is, essentially, a conglomeration of tomatoes and spices in which eggs are poached. At least that’s how I describe it. I can imagine how incredibly flavorful a breakfast of shakshouka could be if the tomato-based sauce in which the eggs are poached had an ample dose of harissa in it.

There are more recipes and more uses for harissa, of course. Many more. I suppose I’m in one of my cycles of craving North African food. That happens sometime. Perhaps it occurs when I awaken, get up, and get dressed in the wee hours of the night, as I did last night, thinking the night was done. I’ll have to search my journal-like entries in this blog to find out whether there’s any truth in that.

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I Wish Me Luck

It’s a couple of minutes after 1:00 a.m. and I think I’m going to try to go back to bed. After I made a cup of coffee, I glanced at the clock and realized it was only 12:30 a.m., not 5:30 a.m. as I thought when I got out of bed. Rather than waste a freshly brewed cup of coffee, I decided to drink it and take a look online. That was a poor decision; I should have known a scan of the news, etc. would boost my blood pressure and distort an otherwise decent mood, turning it into a surly expression of loathing for today’s so-called Republicans. I remember when Republicans were conservatives whose philosophies sometimes were simply at odds with mine (and frequently coincided with mine). No more. Today, they are right-wing fanatics whose only philosophy is “the opposite of Obama.”

Enough of this. I will try to climb back into bed and sleep. I wish me luck.

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Cluster

One of the many benefits of rising early, aside from luxurious isolation and time to sort out the mysteries of life, is the opportunity to cook for one. I have no objection at all to cooking for two, or even more, but cooking for one allows selfish pleasures the freedoms impossible to find when attempting to satisfy the tastes of others. This morning, for example, I grated a small potato and cooked it on the stove-top in a bit of oil, making an order of hash-browns for one. But I did not stop there. I sprinkled the crisp little potato pancake with smokehouse pepper (store-bought), then made a condiment comprising ketchup and Cholula salsa, which I tend smeared on top of the potato. None of this would have been possible had I not gotten out of bed at 4:30. Had I arisen later, I would have missed that selfish indulgence for reasons too convoluted to explain without writing a novel-length explanatory post.

Even so, the mere fact that my wife was sleeping in the next room prevented me from indulging myself even more. Had I been alone in the house, I might have taken bacon from the freezer and turned a simple order of hash-browns into a festival of flavors. But the aroma of bacon cooking would surely have awakened my wife, who would have been moderately annoyed at having been roused from her slumbers for a too-early (for her) breakfast. I prefer to eat early. She prefers to ease into the day, sipping on her first mug of tea until it is gone, before having breakfast. And I like big, hearty, over-the-top breakfasts. She appreciates far more moderate early-day meals. I subscribe to (but rarely practice) the philosophy that one should “eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper.” In practice, I tend to eat breakfast like a prince, lunch like a pauper, and dinner like a starving king presented with a feast. That practice, by the way, merits radical change.

***

Again this morning, my mind launched into a serious consideration of cobbling together some of my writing into a collection of fascicles. I wrote about fascicles a few years ago, by the way. I just checked; it was more than five years ago. It has been that long ago (and probably much longer) that I declared my intent to publish some of my writing, grouped together by topic or theme or other relational attribute. Five years and nothing of consequence has been done. Well, nothing of consequence I can show anyone. Unless I show the directory and file structures on my computer; there, I could reveal the work I’ve done thus far. I never got very far, though. If I were to approach it again, I would have to start from scratch. Ach.

***

I know of no actual connection, except the family name, between my family and the poet Algernon Charles Swinburne. That notwithstanding, I find some of his poetry fascinating. For instance, this from Atalanta in Calydon:

Before the beginning of years
There came to the making of man
Time, with a gift of tears;
Grief, with a glass that ran;
Pleasure, with pain for leaven;
Summer, with flowers that fell;
Remembrance, fallen from heaven,
And madness risen from hell;
Strength without hands to smite;
Love that endures for a breath;
Night, the shadow of light,
And life, the shadow of death.

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Lost Knowledge

Have you ever considered the enormity of the volume of knowledge that once occupied your brain but is no longer there? The encyclopedic size of missing knowledge is simply beyond comprehension. Where does it go? Does it reside somewhere in the ether, information unaffiliated with one’s brain but extant, somewhere, nonetheless? Or does it simply disappear as if it had been a huge soap bubble, launched by a playful child, that suddenly pops and vanishes into thin air?

The information contained in the knowledge that once filled our heads continues to exist, but it exists outside us. For example, I once knew the names of all of my elementary school classmates. Yet I no longer know them. Those classmates still living continue to have their names (though, admittedly, some may have changed), but my knowledge of their names is gone. Some people might argue that my knowledge of those names still resides inside my brain; it’s just inaccessible to my memory until some internal or external trigger unlocks it and lets it flow freely to my recollections. I can buy that to an extent. But what about my former knowledge of chemistry from high school? No matter what the triggers, that knowledge is gone, never to return. I might be able to replace it with a regenerated duplicate, but it’s not the same knowledge. That stuff’s gone.

Knowledge isn’t just data. Knowledge can include images and smells and tastes. Those things seem to have a relationship, at times, to data knowledge. A smell, for example, can spark a memory of knowledge that seemed long since lost. I recall an occasion in the past when I smelled a perfume a classroom teacher years earlier had worn; the instant I sensed that smell, I was flooded with memories of the teacher and the classroom. The same experience of being flooded with memories has happened in other circumstances. Years ago, I regularly thought about former coworkers when an aroma provoked recollections of them. Usually, the memories were of women, because they were the ones most likely to adorn their skin with alluring fragrances. That doesn’t happen much anymore, probably because men and women both are less likely to wear perfumes and colognes these days.

I do not want to make too much of odors sparking memories, because memories constitute knowledge that remains locked up inside us. What interests me even more is the knowledge that seems to simply be gone. Where does it go? What happens to it? Is it possible that it merges with someone else’s knowledge and slips into that other person’s brain? That sounds a little too woo-woo for me, but I acknowledge that it’s possible. I also conceded that the possibility exists that some knowledge simply vaporizes; it returns to the atoms and molecules that once constituted it. That is, the knowledge simply dissolves into the universe.

Ancient civilizations knew, collectively, how to do things we no longer know how to do. For example, the ancients in Egypt knew how to construct monstrous pyramids. Today, we can only guess how they did it. Obviously, they had the knowledge about how to get it done and, in fact, did it. But that knowledge is gone. Or, perhaps, it’s locked in the human remains inside sealed chambers in which mummified bodies are kept. That brings up an interesting consideration: is knowledge a physical “thing,” or is it simply an artifact of the ways in which cells and neurons and electrical impulses in the brain are configured? In either case, I can imagine a point beyond which one’s brain simply cannot accommodate the volume. If a physical “thing,” the brain must eventually run out of room for it. If an artifact of configurations, the available configurations must have some limits, if for no other reason than configurations have limits (I assume, anyway). So, neither answer makes a difference. Not really.

Let me take a brief detour back to smell and the memories they can trigger. I think the memories may not be triggered by smells. Instead, I think smells may activate emotions that, in turn, prompt memories. It could be the other way around. I really have no way of knowing. But I do know I feel what I thought were long-buried emotions when I encounter certain smells. And those emotions carry with them (or are carried on) memories. I bring this up because I consider emotions part of the body of one’s knowledge. Emotions, while not necessarily equivalent to data, abound with information. And that information, like the kind we normally associate with data, can be lost. Or hidden. And, perhaps, relearned.

I still don’t know where all my lost knowledge has gone. I suppose I’ll never know. But I miss it. I do. Even the pieces I don’t remember having lost. I miss them, too.

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Thinking of Food

I’m making miso soup for breakfast again today. I made a rather disappointing batch two days ago. Not nearly enough miso paste, I think, and perhaps not enough tofu and mushrooms. I will try to rectify those deficiencies this morning.

Ideally, I would accompany the miso soup with a bit of fresh salmon and, perhaps, a few slices of cucumber. Unfortunately, I did not think of the salmon and cucumber until this morning; we don’t keep such stuff around unless we have an immediate plan to use them. Well, that’s not entirely true. I suspect we have a few salmon fillets in the freezer, but I’d have to thaw an entire fillet; that’s too much for breakfast. So, we’ll make do with the soup. Maybe I’ll jazz mine up with a spoonful of sambal oelek. And I might splash a little soy sauce to mix in with my bowl of soup. I realize my additions might render my soup inauthentic. So be it. All food today is fusion food; we just have to get over the idea that my fusion is inferior to or superior to anyone else’s food.

This morning’s miso soup is in sharp contrast to last night’s dinner of New York strip steak—cooked on the grill—and potato, broccoli, and cauliflower. And we accompanied dinner last night with a bottle of very good mourvedre (AKA monastrell) wine. The wine was an especially night treat. Miso soup may be just what I need to lower my cholesterol after an eight-ounce steak.

I’m getting in the mood to make hearty meals that also are healthy. I think that will take the form of more seafood, more vegetarian, and more soups in general. Last winter, when I was out of commission in the kitchen for the most part, I did not engage in my usual winter ritual of making lots and lots of lentil soups, each one spiced differently so as to make essentially the same soup taste radically different from one another. I missed that. So, I think I’ll plan on doing it this year. My wife mentioned it the other day; she missed the lentil soup fests, too. The only downside to making those soups is the amount of cutting and chopping required. I use so many veggies of so many types that my hands get stiff from all the knife work.

It’s almost 7:15. My wife usually would be up by 7:30 (and lately much earlier), but she was awake for a couple of hours last night, so she may be late to rise this morning. But just in case, I’d better get to work on the miso soup.

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Practice Practice Practice

“If things had been different, we might have had an affair. Or something even more lasting.” Garrick’s head bowed slightly as he spoke, as if his neck was giving way to the weight of a sigh.

Stella’s reply would remove any hope Garrick might have had for a speck of compassion.

“Well, of course! That statement cannot be disputed because, if things had been different, all manner of circumstances might have changed. You might have been mortally wounded in Vietnam if things had been different. You might have achieved fame or notoriety as a firebrand actor if things had been different. If things had been different, you might have spent twenty years in a Moroccan prison, subject to daily floggings and frequent rape. My point is, things were what things were. Stop your goddamned moping and live in the present!”

Garrick had not suggested he might have had an affair with Stella “if things had been different.” He was reminiscing about a mostly unhatched relationship with Monica Noburnshire, whose marriage with her husband, Paul, had been on its last legs when Garrick met her. Garrick was too young and inexperienced to recognize Monica’s interest in him at the time. Her advances were not sufficiently overt for him to believe that she actually had an interest in him. She was four years his senior and had the face of a movie star. Garrick was transfixed by her long blonde hair; he imagined running his hands through it as he kissed her passionately on the lips. But that was only his imagination. He was too shy to even hint at an interlude with her. Especially since she was married. And he was almost engaged.

Still, when she invited him to drive her sports car back to the office from lunch and then put her arms around his neck as he sat in the driver’s seat, he could imagine his fantasy turning to reality. Later, when their budding relationship was consummated after an after-work drinking binge at a nearby club, he thought reality and fantasy had become one. But something happened to quell the relationship. He didn’t remember what it was. It may have been something consequential, but it could just as easily have been the result of what had always been destined to be a one-night fling.

That it ended without intention had always bothered Garrick. His gloomy recall and his propensity to ask “what if” during the conversation with Stella drew her wrath and her reply. She was having none of his appetite for reminiscing about unfulfilled hunger and the possibility of love. She continued her tirade.

“You always wonder “what if” things had been different. Well they are always different. Different from what they might have been. Every breath you take is different from every other breath. What if the last one was exactly like the one before it? Well your life might have taken a sharp turn and you might have ended up in the gutter, begging for nickels. But it’s just as likely that nothing of the sort would have happened. I wish you’d get over this constant questioning about how your life would have been different if something or other had been different. It’s impossible to know!”

“Don’t you ever wonder how your life would have been different, Stella, if you’d make different decisions along the way? I mean, what if you had taken the job with the airline instead of staying with the bus company? You can never know, of course, but don’t you wonder?”

Stella’s look of exasperation preceded  her words. “No, I don’t. Because it’s pointless. I didn’t take the job. The bus company folded and I lost my job. But the same thing could have happened with the airline. Wondering “what if” is the utterly pointless undertaking of fools.”

“So I’m a fool for contemplating how my life might have been different had I made different choices? You’re even more callous and uncaring than I thought.”

 

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Another Angle

I do not know when season three of Broadchurch became available on Netflix; I know only that I stumbled upon it several days ago. The series is one of a few British television series I find absolutely riveting. When I learned season three was available, I started watching immediately. I tried to pace myself because I didn’t want to rush through it and be left bereft that it’s done. It was a valiant attempt, but it failed. I finished watching episode eight, the final one of the season, last night.

The degree of interest I have/had in the series is evident from my viewing habits. I’ve begun a habit of watching the program in the afternoons on occasion, a time span in which I’ve always avoided television.

Afternoon television brings back memories of my mother, after she retired; she watched soap operas and other such swill in the afternoons. Her unexpected habit of watching what I considered mindless crap bothered me. I had always thought she was an unusually bright person whose taste in literature was superb. But then she started watching Days of Our Lives or some other such miserable mindlessness and my assessment of her intellect changed. I hated that I was disappointed in her for doing that, but I couldn’t force myself to forgive her for it. I should have said “to each her own.” I tried. Yet I could not accept the legitimacy of her television preferences until years later. At any rate, afternoon television, to me, long equated to televised ignorance and willful stupidity. That unforgiving and uncharitable has since changed. I now realize television is simply an escape. Sometimes, an escape that requires absolutely no critical thought is just what we need. My wife now watches some television I consider utterly mindless. But, then, so do I. I no longer make the mistake of correlating intellect with television viewing habits. Well, I try to avoid making that mistake, though I sometimes fail.

If I look carefully and honestly at Broadchurch, I can see elements of ignorance and mind-numbing gullibility. But Broadchurch is most assuredly not Days of Our Lives. While I’m writing about non-US television series, I’ll touch on some of the series on my list of “must see television.” Based on what I’ve read and what I’ve been told by my wife, I need to include Dicte on the list. (I’ve already included it, but I’m including it here as a ready place to keep my “list.”) Dicte is a Danish story of a journalist who returns to her hometown from Copenhagen and investigates murders, alongside a local detective.  And I want to return to the Dutch Department Q series so I can refresh my enjoyment of that superb set of programs. Another series I have tried to find but haven’t yet is Borgen. She mentioned the program (though she couldn’t remember the name of the series) yesterday, imploring me to keep looking until I find it because, she knows, I will enjoy it.

One day, but today is not it, I will compile a complete list of “want to see” foreign television series, along with those I’ve seen and enjoyed but the titles of which I frequently forget. It seems to me I should have an easier access point to my memories than the results of a search of this blog using multiple search terms. I suppose that item on my wish list should fall someplace below “finish the deck” and “fix the leaking faucets in the bathrooms” and, perhaps, below the “buy replacement hose bibs before the very cold weather hits.”

My new angle of looking at Broadchurch is this: It’s just entertainment. It is not a mind-expanding experience. It is simply an enjoyable way to pass the time while allowing my simpleton’s brain to be massaged into semi-conscious appreciation of the world around me. It’s much like meditation in that sense, I guess. Or medication. Or alcohol.

***

Yesterday, we drove to Mena, Arkansas. Our objective, aside from simply getting out for a long drive, was to view fall foliage. We saw some beautiful foliage, but I suspect we went a bit early for some areas and a bit late for others. The leaves had turned brown and were falling in high volume in Queen Wilhemina State Park, near the lodge. And the lodge was absolutely swarming with people and cars; we couldn’t get away from there fast enough. But at lower elevations, some of the leaves were gorgeous. And the views of the surrounding Ouchita Mountains, covered with multi-hued trees, were spectacular.

We had lunch at a strange little place in Mena, Chiquita’s Tex-Mex restaurant. You order from a menu above the cash register; they take your name and a few minutes later they deliver your food to your table. The menu was a touch odd, but the food was tasty (if not necessarily “normal” Tex-Mex). My tacos were tasty, but the filling was not the usual picadillo I have come to expect in Tex-Mex places; it was not very spicy and had a “filler” of flour, I think. The beans were good, though, and the salsa delivered to the table with our meals was tasty. The taco shells and the chips were the thinnest I have ever seen; I don’t know how they are able to make chips and shells so thin! And my wife’s taco salad was laced with Fritos. Fritos! But she liked it.

Later, we stopped in at Myers Cruizzers Drive-In, which is an old-style drive-in diner. But it’s a one-of-a-kind place, not a chain. My wife wanted a pumpkin pie spice milk shake, which we saw advertised on their flashing sign as we drove past. I had a plain vanilla milk shake. Both were tasty. And as we scanned the food menu, we decided the place was unique, indeed, and worth a stop next time we’re in Mena.

Dinner last night was spectacular. My wife made a wonderfully spice Neopolitan sauce with Italian sausage which we ladled onto spaghetti. It was the perfect way to cap an enjoyable day.

And today we go to church. Hmm. Do I really want to go? No. Will I go anyway? Yes.

 

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Awakening to Light

I can hear slivers of sunlight cracking through the predawn darkness. Daylight is attempting to pry open the edges of a sealed chamber; a cavity in which night spent an eternity blocking the sun’s rays. Once light begins to flood the sky, the bright flow can’t be extinguished until it has run its course.

The air around me becomes a spherical prism, spinning waves of light in sharp circles that dance off everything they touch. Each breath I take fills my lungs with particles of light that traveled incomprehensible distances from stars I can’t even see. Those radiant specks from the far reaches of the universe merge with drops of the sun’s visible energy, bathing me in the detritus of the Big Bang.

The impossible task of explaining the transition from secrecy to truth and from darkness to light and from distance to proximity falls to me; I am not up to it. I am incapable of explaining my understanding of infinity. I cannot express how far into the night I can see when the sun is hiding behind a veil woven from threads of danger and risk.

There will come a time when I will be unwilling to try anymore. I will give in to the allure of stepping off the bridge between pain and paralysis. Then, the sharp edges of life will spill away in a mist, illuminated by what’s left of the sun.

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What and When

I had hoped that avoiding the topic of food in my blog posts would translate into weight loss. All right, I hadn’t actually thought about it quite that way. But in hindsight, it seems like there might have been a logical connection. Regardless, if there is a correlation, it is the opposite of what one might hope. The calories, directed away from the screen, have accumulated around my midsection.

The last time I wrote about food (at least the last time I labeled a post as belonging to the category of food) was in mid-July, when I mentioned Korean Breakfast Toast and deviled kidney, among other things. Shortly after writing that post, I tried Korean Breakfast Toast; I was rather disappointed that the dish wasn’t the joyous experience for which I had hoped. Not bad; just not especially good. I have yet to try deviled lamb (or any other) kidney.

This morning, I’m thinking about other foods that might merit time in the kitchen.  But, first, we must either repair or replace our oven/range. The damn thing will not reach the temperature we intend. We learned of this problem some time ago when we attempted to cook a frozen pizza. The oven claimed it had reached the desired 400-degree temperature, but when the pizza should have been ready twenty-two minutes later, it had thawed into an almost liquid mess, but had not cooked. Since then, we’ve tried to calibrate the oven temperature to no avail. Long before that experience, I managed to break a knob that controls one of the stovetop burners; the part, alone, is $140 or thereabouts. I almost ordered it, but I discovered I cannot remove the broken knob because I cannot get at the part without the risk of doing damage to the stove. So, we’ve let it sit. Now, with a bad oven and a bad burner knob, we’re thinking about ditching the stove; I’ve never liked it anyway. But I’ve diverged from my intended point: other foods.

If we had a working stove and oven, I might return to a dish I made only once, several years ago (at least six or eight years ago, when we were still in Dallas). The dish is tourtière du shack, an incredibly rich Quebecois meat pie. I recall that it was quite an undertaking, even though I did not include some of the more involved garnish ingredients like calf’s brains and sweetbreads and foie gras. It was delightful, though. I do remember that.

The tourtière du shack was one of about twenty regional main dishes I had planned to prepare during the course of a year. I researched regional foods of the U.S. and Canada, sought out recipes for them, and planned to explore much of the North American continent’s cuisine from the comfort of my kitchen. Spiedie sandwiches, Cornish pasties, oyster pie, Jiggs dinner, and several other regional specialties were to find their way from our kitchen to our plates. For some reason, though, I did not get through the list. I only made a half-dozen or so before giving up on the project. I don’t think I deliberately gave up; I simply stopped making the project a priority and it slipped from my memory out of neglect. Yet another example of my tendency to get side-tracked. I allow myself to veer sharply away from a clear focus and, instead, muddle around with something else that, until that point, was of only tangential interest.

I’ve lost my enthusiasm this morning, already, for writing about food. I’m not even feeling hungry. Bah. I should consider returning to bed. But I won’t. I rarely do. Instead, I’ll wander aimlessly through the house, looking for something that will catch my attention and inflame my interest. But, alas, that something is unlikely to be sufficiently motivating to get me moving. A dull, aching boredom seems to be spilling from my mind. Something will change that. It’s just a question of what and when.

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Convolutions

Cooksie Sherwood slaughtered his opponents in the mayor’s race. Not literally. At least not all his opponents. But when his closest competitor, Ivory Lambrusco, was found dead in the front passenger seat of an overturned two-seater Mazda convertible, questions arose. Lambrusco did not own the car. There was no one else in the vehicle when the police arrived. The car had last been sold as a salvage vehicle a few months earlier, to Sherwood’s former campaign manager, Elizabeth Dole, yet its ownership was questionable. Dole was, apparently, on vacation in Italy when the crash occurred and she claimed she left the car with an auto restoration firm in Houston before she departed for Venice. The firm went out of business while Dole was away.

Despite all the headlines surrounding the mayor’s race and the death of his chief rival, Sherwood won handily, capturing almost eighty percent of the vote. He slaughtered his opponents.

A few months after the election, photographic evidence surfaced that Sherwood and Dole had been together in Houston when Dole supposedly was  in Vienna and Sherwood ostensibly was on vacation with his wife in Mexico. The photographic revelation turned the tide against Sherwood. Within months, he was recalled and Dole was arrested, charged with the murder of Ivory Lambrusco, even though evidence that a crime had been committed seemed slim; Lambrusco was found dead in an overturned car. And then Sherwood was arrested as an accomplice to the crime. All of this took place under a new acting mayor, MaryLou Treat, who had been Sherwood’s pro-tem during his brief tenure.

One might be forgiven for assuming this mayor’s race was just another story of political intrigue and big city gang-style crime. But this mayor’s race was for the chief elected officer of the City of Giddings, Texas, population roughly 5,700. The intrigue surrounding murder and the mayor’s race put an unwelcome spin on the city’s motto—Giddings, Texas: Experience Hometown Hospitality.

Fortunately for Giddings’ city manager, Leroy Scotsman, the entire ugly episode took place while Scotsman was on medical leave. Scotsman had been blowing leaves out of the gutters on the roof of his house when he disturbed a bat. The bat flew into his face and bit him. Scotsman swatted the bat to the ground and, in so doing, lost his balance and fell to the driveway below, breaking bones in both legs, his left arm, and his right hand. The responding medical team recovered the bat, which was determined to have had rabies. So, Scotsman was required to undergo post-exposure prophylaxis, an involved process over two weeks. Scotsman was heard several times during the ordeal with Sherwood and Dole saying, “I picked absolutely the best time possible to get rabies and fall off the roof.”

The position of mayor of Giddings is largely ceremonial and the position only pays $150 per month, so it’s hard to imagine jockeying for power and prestige played any part in Ivory Lambrusco’s death. Regardless of the motive, the circumstances surrounding Lambrusco’s death and Sherwood’s arrest caused enormous furor in Giddings. With Lambrusco out of the race, the four remaining challengers to Sherwood each garnered roughly five percent each.

[My attention deficit disorder or short little span of attention or whatever it is that makes it damn near impossible to maintain an interest in anything I do for more than about 45 minutes—90 minutes on a good day—has kicked in. Perhaps it’s that I’ve written myself into an inescapable corner, marked with impossibilities and unlikelihoods. Or perhaps I’ve milked as much as I can milk out of the words I’ve used thus far. Whatever it is, the story will remain untold. Who knows why Ivory Lambrusco died? Who knows who really killed her? Was Leroy Scotsman involved somehow? Was his rabid crash into a concrete driveway simply a diversion? And what about MaryLou Treat and Elizabeth Dole?  Why was Cooksie Sherwood so interested in becoming mayor of Giddings? And why were there six candidates for a largely ceremonial position? Too many questions and not enough answers. I may write about a simpler city next time: Mumbai or Rome or Weslaco, Texas.]

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Ad Infinitum and Practical Pacemakers

Lightning is the visual expression of thunder.

Thunder is the sonic expression of lightning.

While those two statements may seem either absurd or obvious (or contradictory…or not), I think they merit contemplation. If nothing else, they force a shift in perspective. I suspect thousands of similar observations (or claims, depending on one’s frame of mind and generosity of spirit, or lack thereof) could be made.

Back to those two statements, though. The first one is incorrect. Both imply causation. Thunder does not cause lightning; lightning, the discharge of atmospheric electricity, results in (or can result in) thunder. Thunder cannot occur without the sudden expansion of air in the path of the electrical discharge which must, obviously, come first.

Damn! I’ve allowed pure facts to interfere with the point I was trying to make! Regardless of the physics involved, it’s realistic to gravitate, mentally, to one perspective or the other. I suppose people for whom the right side of the brain is dominant would allow physics to take a back seat, whereas left-brained people would seek out logic. But, wait! The long-held belief that the right side of the brain controls creativity and the left side controls logic is, apparently, a myth! The myth has quite a history of “scientific” evidence, the level of rigorousness of which has for the past few years been called into question. The widely-held perspective among scientists today is that, although different parts of the brain control different parts of the body (and the mind), the left-right logical-creative split is not true.

I vaguely remember writing a blog post a few years ago in which I suggested the twenty-six letters of he alphabet, even combined in every conceivable way, would eventually be insufficient to capture all the beauty of which the English language is capable. The suggestion was tongue-in-cheek, of course, but it held a kernel of real belief. I applied the idea to my own writing capabilities, thinking I would at some point literally run out of anything new to write. Mathematics, on the other hand, is infinite. Not only is there a limitless supply of numbers, they can be combined in an infinite number of ways. The relationships between numbers and the relationships between relationships are so incredibly numerous that even the hint that one might eventually use them all up is ludicrous.

Considering the two sentences with which I started this post, along with the paragraph I just completed, it seems obvious to me that an infinite number of combinations of words and numbers and ideas and relationships constitutes only a fraction of the possible pairings or groupings. So we can merge ideas with dreams and facts with imagination and numbers with fantasy and on and on and on, ad infinitum.

***

On a completely unrelated matter, a friend in the hinterlands of northern Arkansas had a pacemaker installed yesterday afternoon. It was done after a lengthy period of experiencing syncope, the cause of which, until just a few days ago was unknown. A heart monitor finally determined that a recent syncope episode corresponded with his heart stopping for several seconds. Finally, the doctors figured out the cause of the syncope. The obvious treatment was to install a pacemaker. Perhaps we’ll be able to visit them in the next month or two to celebrate a brand-new pacemaker!

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Contemptible Portrait of Pain

When does empathy turn into a target, a bull’s-eye painted on one’s compassion that guides seekers of pity to unearned sources of tenderness and sympathy? It happens almost without the compassionate victim realizing the game is being played. By the time one’s empathy and compassion have been milked almost dry, it’s too late to call foul. By then, it’s impossible to extricate oneself from the claws that grip the soul, the impossibly strong grasp that cannot be broken without emotional bloodshed. The perpetrators of these vile acts seek undeserved mercies and undue condolences that, once given, cannot be readily retrieved lest the victim be perceived as a monster, unfeeling and willing to crush poor, weak, bereaved beasts (who, if truth be known, are the victimizers and the vanquishers).

I’m still processing an experience which will, I suspect, provide a limitless resource for inventing a fictional character whose actions reveal a swindler and a thief, a charlatan whose sympathetic countenance is counterfeit. This creature gets her sustenance from painting herself as a lifelong victim, drinking in unearned sympathy as if it were absinthe and she were addicted to the stuff.

She is a dangerous one, that woman. But she fits nicely into a story of psychosis and demonstrable dementia. I’m glad I never trusted her and, so, did not get pulled in by her stories of woe. Perhaps her life has been just as ugly and undeservedly harsh as she describes; but the description, repeated over and over and over, sounds highly scripted, as if perfecting it has been her life’s work. The story gets her the attention she craves. But my attention isn’t the kind she wants; she wasn’t seeking my contempt, I’m sure, but that’s the only attention I’m willing to give her.

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Keepers of Private Notebooks

Yesterday, I read parts of something Joan Didion wrote in 1968, entitled, “On Keeping a Notebook.”  One excerpt in particular struck a chord with me:

Keepers of private notebooks are a different breed altogether, lonely and resistant rearrangers of things, anxious malcontents, children afflicted apparently at birth with some presentiment of loss.

Except for the assertion that they/we are “rearrangers of things,” I think her words describe me. That, and the fact that most of my “notebooks” are private only to the extent that few people ever find them or take time to read them. Yet in spite of the discrepancies between her words and my reality, she seemed to describe me; or, at least, a snapshot of a part of me.

But Didion’s words could describe almost anyone at some point in his life. Certain attractive phrases, whether written about oneself or not, tend to be treated as if they were crafted specifically to share one’s secrets with the world.  The use of words in such a clever way takes a special skill that, while not necessarily rare, is not particularly common. Writers of horoscopes possess that skill, enabling them to write convincingly in a way that every gullible reader believes the prognostication was intended solely for her.

In reading Didion’s thoughts as she recorded them, it occurred to me that she and I share many of the same questions about why we spend the time and energy to preserve our thoughts. But I don’t really know. Though I try to believe I keep notes strictly for my own personal future reference, I fear I’m doing it in lieu of begging to be noticed. I seem to be asking an unidentified audience, in a roundabout way, to pay attention to what is on my mind today. Rather than attempt to produce a publishable collection that might offer to a disinterested world insights into the man I am right now, I write and horde what I’ve written. Some day, someone may stumble across what I’ve written and find it interesting and enlightening and worthy. And, then, the significance of my chaotic thought-bombs might finally be recognized for what they are worth.

I hope I’m not that guy. The one who hopes someone else will decide, after I’m long gone, that my words had merit, after all. But I’m afraid that’s exactly who I am. A coward. A man who thinks he has something to say, but who’s afraid to suggest it aloud for fear he’ll be proven wrong in the avalanche of derision that follows. So, instead, he hopes someone else at a different time will take up his cause. Not knowing precisely what that “cause” is, he is utterly incapable of taking it up for himself.

I’ve never been fast on my feet like a practiced trial lawyer. On the one hand, I long to be quick-witted and sure-footed, capable of stinging rebuttals and irrefutable arguments. But on the other, I am leery of people who possess those attributes and skills. They are too much like carnival barkers, manipulative swindlers for whom life is a competition in which only the strongest and most Machiavellian survive. They prize winning above all else, even when “winning” causes devastating misfortune to befall their adversaries. Adversaries. That is the problem; they classify everyone as either supporters or adversaries. Everyone must take sides because every act is a competition, a rivalry designed only to determine winners and losers.

My reliance on “private notebooks” is the alternative to bravado and certainty, but it’s also an opportunity to safely avoid the dangers of competition and confidence. I can express strong opinions and defend them fiercely, all the while knowing my opinions can change when new evidence comes to light. A trial lawyer doesn’t have that luxury; he can’t opt to join the prosecution’s team at mid-trial  in the face of new and damning evidence of his client’s guilt.

The more I think about it, the more certain I become that my private notebooks do not offer evidence of cowardice and fear that my ideas and thoughts will go unnoticed. No, my private notebooks simply document the fact that I am unwilling to condemn uncertainty or to label equivocation an unforgivable flaw. A willingness to consider that even distasteful positions might have merit is, in my view, a strength. But it’s a strength that’s hard to defend when one is beset by sure-footed swindlers who equate uncertainty with weakness. As for me, though, uncertainty is a quality to admire. It speaks to one’s flexibility and open-mindedness. But one’s uncertainty can be used by one’s so-called opponents as a cudgel, if one is not careful. And if one is not fleet-of-foot and sharp-of-tongue. So keeping private notebooks, where arguments can be recorded and explored and, when appropriate, disemboweled with relish.

I could go on and on (obviously) without reaching any concrete conclusions. I do that a lot. Keepers of private notebooks, I suspect, generally are adept at stepping gingerly around concrete conclusions. But I may be wrong.

 

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Fragmentary Evidence

The fact was not new to me, but like so many facts, it had been lost in the shuffle between truth and lies, reality and fiction, and experience and fantasy. The easiest way to remember it, I think, is to say this phrase: “It’s not plural.” That is, the term is “Daylight Saving Time,” NOT “Daylight Savings Time.” Yet we’ve allowed an error to enter our lexicon as if it belonged. Rather than casting it out like the blatant mistake it is, we’ve treated it with appreciation and respect, allowing it to spoil the language like unrestrained mold spoils cheese.

Next, we’ll permit the use of “supposably” in place of “supposedly,” which already is being done by too many people too frequently. Yet we can’t simply ban the use of “supposably” because, much to my chagrin, it is a valid word. It does not mean the same thing as “supposedly,” but it does mean something. To some people. But not to me. But to others, it can mean “capable of being supposed.” Whereas, “supposedly” means “accepted as or assumed to be true.” The easiest way to avoid confusion is to refuse to accept the legitimacy of “supposably” in all but the most base and substandard English. That, of course, is fundamentally wrong, but as long as one knows it’s wrong and insists on doing what one can to reframe the language so that it conforms with at least a modicum of intellectual superiority, it’s okay. So says me, the arbiter of the proper use of the English language as it escapes from my mouth, my pen, and my fingers.

Today’s “Word of the Day,” as specified by Dictionary.com for this day (November 3, 2019) is obumbrate, pronounced ah-bum-brāt. It is a verb meaning “to darken, overshadow, or cloud.” Judging from the example sentences from Dictionary.com, drawn from materials published in the eighteenth century, I suspect it is not in especially widespread use today. But that may change, especially if I have anything to say about it. In fact, I may start using it regularly in conversation, causing listeners nearby to assume I am simply bragging about what I assume is my extraordinary vocabularly.  The assumption would be wrong, of course, in that I am doing no such thing. Instead, I am trying (almost certainly without success) to popularize an arcane term. I might say, for example, “Whenever I think of the imbecile in the White House, the thought causes my mood to obumbrate like the sky when fierce storms approach.”

I rather doubt I’ll remember the proper term for saving daylight, nor will I recall that supposably is a valid word; nor, I suspect, will I remember the definition of obumbrate, thought I might be able to guess it based on its inclusion of “umbra,” which suggests darkness to me (I don’t quite know why, but if I “take umbrage,” I feel like a shadow is being cast).

If only language were the most important thing on my mind around the clock, I think I would be a happier human being. I would smile more frequently, in spite of the four-foot-wide diastema between my two top front teeth. Speaking of diastema, I wonder why the word always refers to space between the teeth in the upper jaw (at least that’s what I think of)? Is there a word for space between teeth in the lower jaw? I’m sure I could find out, if I had sufficient interest in the subject, but apparently I don’t, inasmuch as I’m ignoring the opportunity to look it up; Mother Google and Father Bing are right here at my fingertips, for God’s sake, yet I won’t take the time or energy to explore and thereby expand my knowledge. Quite the shame, it is, my mental slothfulness.

Everything I’ve written this morning, thus far, offers at least fragmentary evidence that I am either as dull as a soup knife or as stupid as a bowl of half-witted fungus. Nothing I’ve written has even a hair’s width of intellectual value. Even in a world in which the intellectual equivalent of porridge were considered mind-numbingly brilliant, my blather would be labeled insensate and boorish. Yet, still, he persists. Mindless drivel, flooding from his fingers in wave after wave after brain-stopping wave.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve felt an intense aversion to the suggestion that writers “ought” to “write what they know” and steer clear of venturing out to explore the unknown. I think the advice (which, despite hating it, I’ve sometimes bought into) is reasonable for low-creativity wannabe writers whose capabilities are apt never to reach the level of nearly adequate. But, for people who are at least moderately creative and who have spent their entire waking lives using their native languages, the advice is stifling and unnecessarily restrictive. The advice minimizes opportunities to make glaring mistakes and to learn from them. I know, I know. Who the hell am I to argue against advice that has, for years and years (perhaps centuries), been given by very good writers to others who want to be good writers? I can’t answer that question with anything remotely persuasive. But, still, I feel very strongly about it. In fact, I would encourage just the opposite; write what you DON’T know and then read what  you’ve written. You’ll quickly learn what sounds wrong; you’ll learn what to avoid in the future.

Okay. It would be nearly seven o’clock in the old scheme of time-keeping. But it’s only nearly six o’clock in the new scheme. I think it’s time for me to stop exercising my fingers and, instead, to start exercising my mind. Or, perhaps, exorcising my mind.

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Headlines Can Cause Serial Rage and Blindness

I have nothing to say. Sure, if I were more intelligent and better looking, I might have thoughts to share.

But, absent even a hint of brilliance or a glancing blow of handsomeness, my words are valueless. They don’t even belong on the screen, much less on a page that might one day find its way into a book that almost certainly would be burned for its white-hot irrelevance. So I’ll slink away from the fringes of the far edges of the dimming limelight. And I’ll take my ideas and my assertions with me. I’ll crawl back under the covers that hide me from the glaring spotlight. That spotlight was not meant to inflict fame on me. It was intended only to bathe me in harsh heat that sucks the liquid from the milk of human kindness, leaving only a hard skin of rancid, sharp-edged protein, like burned egg white, cooked to the surface of a porous skillet.

“That’s what’s left of him. A crisp scrap of truculent stench so foul it is visible in even dim light and darkness.”

Some mornings, only the ugliest phrases fit the vagaries of my moods as they ricochet from gleeful to gloomy and back again, detouring to detachment and disgust along the way. I can’t place blame for this odd blend of undefinable auras surrounding me in caustic smoke and smooth vanilla. This sort of thing just happens. Eventually, I’ll find a way out. In the meantime, I’ll poke around in the immediate past and explore memories for clues.

Last night, I did as asked and went to Kollective Coffee+Tea, where I was to announce that I was there to read a poem by our dear departed friend of poetry, Bud, and then to do the deed. To my surprise, only four people (plus two staff) were in the business at the time. They seemed shocked and then amused by my outburst. After reading the poem, we (my wife accompanied me) walked to the appointed place where other readers who had been assigned to read in other galleries (along with many other people) gathered for a procession down the street to Superior Brewery, the location for a celebratory remembrance service. And we listened and enjoyed the experience. My wife and I left early, just after a slide show of Bud’s life was shown.

There’s nothing in that little slip of memory that would have created this morning’s odd assortment of moods.

Further back, but only by a few hours, I exchanged a couple of emails with a one-time acquaintance (I guess we remain acquaintances), wishing her a happy birthday. Nothing there.

Ach, it’s no use. There’s nothing causal in my readily accessible memory.

I think I need more coffee and, perhaps, a flour tortilla enlivened with a few drops of habanero salsa. And, then, a brain transplant, alongside an entirely new (and much younger) body in far better condition than the one I’m in.

Ah ha! I know what did it. I saw a headline when I glanced at the news on my computer this morning, claiming Moody’s is forecasting 45 will be re-elected in a landslide. WTF?! The end of civilization, already deeply in peril, is forecast? Well of course my mood will be strange and dangerous!

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The Fire in My Belly was Arson

My wife made a very tasty chili yesterday, a conglomeration of hamburger meat and bacon, a spectrum of spices, pinto beans, and who know what else. We had it for dinner last night. While it wasn’t especially hot-spicy, it alerted me in the wee hours of the morning that it was spicy-spicy. I felt a slight case of heartburn during the night; it wasn’t sufficient to cause me to get up and take curative drugs, but it was enough to awaken me and express my body’s displeasure with my eating habits. I think it was about 2:30 that it awoke me (after a very, very early bedtime, thanks to I don’t know what). It kept me awake for most of the next three hours until, finally, I gave up and got up.

Coffee isn’t necessarily the most soothing liquid for heartburn, I’ve discovered. In fact, this morning it seems to be having the opposite effect, causing my stomach to growl, bark, and occasionally snap at me for my choice of beverage. I didn’t have many options, as it happens. It was bottled water or coffee made from bottled water; we’re still under a precautionary boil water order, thanks to yesterday’s nearby water main break. We have little else to drink in the house; neither bottled diet tonic nor wine make from a blend of cabernet sauvignon and syrah grapes seems especially well-suited for a breakfast drink.

I am not in the least hungry this morning. In fact, the thought of food is off-putting. But the idea of cool spring water flowing directly out of the ground is appealing. If I were closer to a reliable cool-water spring and could remain comfortably warm without getting dressed, I might go out for a sip or a swallow or a gulp. But the nearest cool-water springs, to my knowledge, are in Hot Springs; I would have to get dressed or risk freezing and/or being arrested were I to seek out the cooling  effects of spring-fed dioxygen monoxide. (Is that the correct chemical formula for water?)

My wife will drive my sister-in-law to Little Rock this morning for a medical test procedure and I will stay home to keep the house cleaner company and pay her for her efforts. Having a house cleaner help with maintaining this too-big house is a welcome but rather rare event and it’s even rarer still for me to be the one to stay home while the house is being cleaned. Usually, I skip out during the vacuuming and mopping and such; my wife doesn’t mind the horrendously loud vacuum noises and the intrusion by a stranger into our living space, but for some reason I do. But today, thanks to medical stuff, I will stay here and suffer through the decibels. It’s probably best that I’m staying home, too, because the heat in my belly seems still to be alive with embers. I have to admit the fire was arson and I am the arsonist. I must make the transition this morning into firefighter.

Obviously, I’m not much in the mood to write anything of consequence. So I will stop writing for a while in the hope my creative juices start flowing again. Or until I can write about something that will make me think and be a bit more satisfied with the state of the world.

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Friction

I enjoyed last night’s Wednesday Night Poetry. My set, though shorter than the thirty minutes I expected, allowed me to read most of the poems I planned to share. Fortunately for me, eleven people from Hot Springs Village came to show their support. Without them, the crowd would have been rather sparse; but with them, the chairs were comfortably filled, with only a half dozen or so empty ones, as best I can tell.

Naturally, the people who came specifically to support me were complimentary of my reading. And so were a few of the “regulars.” As nice as it is to hear positive feedback, I know from experience at Wednesday Night Poetry that the expectation is that all feedback will be positive. That’s the point; to offer support and encouragement. And I suppose suggestions for improvement in that environment would be equivalent to critique, which would go against the grain of the event. Yet I had the sense (why, I don’t really know) that my reading was hollow. I had real trouble getting through one poem, based on the experience of scattering my late sister’s ashes in the Gulf of Mexico. I don’t think that reading was hollow. But the rest? I wish I could get some honest feedback. Ah, well, I guess I’ll have to find an honest critic who doesn’t care about hurting my feeling.

Last night was event number 1605 in its thirty-year history. And tomorrow night a special event will follow, celebrating the life of Wednesday Night Poetry’s founder, Bud Kenny, who died on October 2nd; a Wednesday, of course.  At the appointed time, 6:20 or so, I (along with nine other readers stationed at different galleries throughout Hot Springs) will read one of Bud’s poems and will proceed toward the Superior Brewery, where the celebration of his life will continue. I expect the event to have quite a following; they’re arranging for shuttles to move people to and from remote parking. We shall see.

***

As I consider the people “in my sphere” who showed up last night, it occurs to me that some people seem to have a gene for empathy and grace and kindness and compassion and a host of other attributes that lend themselves to being supportive. Very few of the people who came to show their support are extremely close to me; in fact, there aren’t many people who are. But to the people who showed up, that doesn’t matter; they came because they couldn’t imagine not being there to support someone within their sphere of care and compassion. They came even though the weather was sloppy and the roads were wet; they came even though the Astros were playing in the final game of the World Series, something rather important to some of them. That’s just the kind of people they are. And that’s the kind of person I try to be, though not hard enough. I want to be there to show people support and compassion and appreciation; to offer evidence they matter.  I think I sometimes fail to take that into account when planning what I will do with my day. I should more frequently ask myself, “Would my presence in support of someone help them recognize they do, indeed, matter in this world?”

***

The temperature outside is only 33 degrees right now and is expected to top out at 47 later today. The forecast for tonight’s low is 29. Despite the chilly temperatures, clear skies probably will make the day feel warmer and more pleasant than yesterday: gloomy, bone-chilling, and unpleasantly nippy. I hope I’m right. I’d like to get out and about today. Even though I left the house yesterday for an errand or two and then went out last night, I felt confined and controlled, as if I were a dog on a short leash.

Speaking of dogs on a short leash, I met someone last night, my sister-in-law’s new male friend, who has a small dog; a fifteen-year-old wire-haired something or other. It sounds a little like the dog I imagined in a blog post I adapted and read last night. The dog (my story’s dog) was named Cinnamon. I’m waffling back and forth about whether I should get a dog. A small dog. A pocket-sized dog. A companion that enjoys being in my presence. And, of course, whose presence I would enjoy. A house-trained, pleasant-mannered, affable dog. Yeah. Well, I’ll think about it.

But the weather makes me wonder; would I be willing to walk Cinnamon on cold, rainy days? Do I have the patience to take good care of a dog? I would not tolerate anyone, myself included, ignoring or abandoning or otherwise mistreating a dog. Yeah. Well, I’ll think about it. Like I said.

***

For reasons unknown, we were without water for a time this morning. After I explored the crawl space under the house to no avail, I called and left a voice message with the public utilities department. And then my wife called the next door neighbors, who also had no water; during their conversation, though, the water came back on. And while they were talking, another neighbor called and left a message, asking whether our water was on. Obviously, the POA turned off the water for a short while, then turned it back on, but we have no idea why. The absence of flow from the tap, even for a short while, calls attention the the fact that water is important; vital, in fact. Yet many people around the world don’t have the luxury of water flowing from the tap. In fact, many don’t have the luxury of clean water, period. They may have to walk miles to get water of questionable quality from a community well. Do we realize how incredibly fortunate we are?

A return call from the POA revealed the problem; there was a major water main break. And they are issuing a precautionary boil order until tests can be done to verify the safety of the water from our taps.  Getting a taste of the third world lifestyle we’re attempting to create with intersocietal friction and hatred.

***

Fires rage in California. Egos rage in Washington, DC. War rages in Syria. Does Earth’s population realize we could solve virtually all of the problems that face humankind and the planet at large if we only opted to cooperate with one another? No. I guess not.

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Más sabe el diablo por viejo, no que por diablo

U.S. culture treats advanced age as a terminal illness and it treats those consumed by the “illness” as disposable. The quicker the better. Mexican culture, from what I understand, has a different perspective. Age equates to experience which, in turn, forms a foundation of wisdom. People fortunate enough to have survived many years of experience are, in Mexico, revered. This morning, as I was thinking about these conflicting cultural perspectives on age, I happened upon a Facebook post that included a few excerpts from a book by Paul Theroux, On the Plain of Snakes: A Mexican Road Trip. One quote from the book, a recitation of a Mexican aphorism, struck me as particularly interesting: Más sabe el diablo por viejo, no que por diablo. Roughly translated into English, that says, “The devil is wise because he is old, not because he’s the devil.”

I wonder how it happens that some cultures hold the aged in high regard, while others view them as used-up, worn-out, and generally in the way? I wish I knew and I wish I knew how to reverse that perspective.  But I don’t. I suppose the best way to try is to model the behaviors one hopes to see in others.

Yet I feel just a tad sheepish about automatically giving respect to someone simply because he or she has managed to say alive for many, many years. I have encountered plenty of people whose lengthy lives are almost certainly accidental; only by pure chance have these people not stepped in front of buses or drowned in the shower. These people exemplify the concept that: “They do not have ninety years of experience; they have one year of experience repeated ninety times.” That is, they have learned nothing of consequence by living so long.

But more people than not do not fall into that category of old and stupid. More people have, in fact, learned a great deal over the course of their lives, thanks to their ability to associate the meaning of different experiences at many different times of their lives. That may be a hard sentence to digest; they can rely on experiences from years ago to help interpret and give meaning to experiences years later. Maybe that helps explain it.

As usual, I’ve wandered off course. Why do our cultures hold such diametrically opposed perspectives about age? And how can our culture change to be more closely aligned with Mexican culture? I suppose the first step is to change our collective attitudes about our cultures and other cultures. That is, we need to acknowledge that our culture is not always “better” and other cultures are not always “worse.” We need to accept that our culture can learn from other cultures and can improve by adopting some of their perspectives and practices.

I suppose we teach children, from an early age, that older people are not as valuable as younger people. We train people to believe we reach our intellectual peaks around age 45 and decline precipitously thereafter. Somewhere along the line, 50 became the new 99; once a person reaches 50, he is unemployable. His knowledge and capabilities leaked from his head and cannot be recovered.

I have no practical solutions. I just write to complain. I have nothing else to contribute. I’m just sucking in air that should have been made available to someone younger.

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Forgetting and Being Forgotten

If I mailed a letter to the ones who have forgotten me, would they open the envelope? Would they bother to read the words it took me so long to put down on paper? Would the effort I made to retrieve old memories matter to the ones who have forgotten me?

I could ask myself the same questions about a letter I might receive from a forgotten someone. I think I know the answers. I would read their words, feeling shame I had forgotten them. I would feel guilt and remorse I had forgotten a person whose tenuous happiness may have rested in part on the knowledge that at least one other person cared enough to remember them. I would have contempt for myself for failing to care enough to take precautions against forgetting someone who needed to be remembered.

And I would remember I, too, have been forgotten. I, too, needed to know at least one other person cared enough to remember me, but chose to forget. Chose to let our shared experiences disappear, replaced by memories of people who mattered.

The reality of forgetting is that people remember what matters. There’s no room for, no need for, guilt that my brain sorts out the wheat from the chaff. Yet when I remember how I ignored someone who may have needed to be noticed, I realize I did not forget what matters; I simply pushed that recollection to the periphery. I remember, even when I want to forget. It is that class of memory that stabs at me, pokes at me, pries at my sense I am, after all, a decent human being. Would a decent human being allow the memory to ebb?

Distance and time and important matters that demand our consideration allow us to forget. If I were paying attention, I would notice I am allowing people who matter to disappear from my life. It happens slowly, at first, but then one day the rare memories simply disappear like a child’s huge blown soap bubble striking a blade of grass.

When I receive that letter, the one from someone I knew long, long ago, I might recall a giant bubble floating in the breeze. In my mind’s eye, I might see the iridescent surface of the bubble change colors as it spins and changes shape in the wind. And I might hear the laughter of young children, delighted at the wondrous thin film separating air from air and dreams from memories. But when the bubble disappears in a silent explosion, laughter turns to sobs and from once bright young eyes tears flow at the inexplicable loss.

***

These thoughts flooded my mind this morning, for reasons that remain unclear. Perhaps I miss people who matter and fear we will allow ourselves to forget one another. Or maybe I remember people who, long after I forgot them, stumbled back into my life for a brief time and then stumbled back out. I do remember some of those people; and I recall some of them seemed to need, deeply, to be remembered. Yet I allowed them to stumble out. Or perhaps I’m the one who stumbled out, again leaving them to assume they have, once again, been forgotten.

Losing touch is not the same as forgetting, but it has the same impact. It says, in effect, “you don’t matter enough for me to make sure you know where I am.” Or, on the other hand, after giving someone your new address and contact information, you might learn you didn’t matter enough for them to keep it. But maybe that’s just absent-mindedness or disorganization. The fact that it can be confused for disregard should be sufficiently cautionary to change bad habits, though.

I readily admit I’m overly sensitive about too many things. Maybe we all are. There are too many people in our lives for anyone to expect everyone we touch to remember our birthdays. But Facebook insists on reminding even people we’ve never met about our birthdays. I read a quote some time ago that I have tried to take to heart, but have had a tough time doing it:

“You probably wouldn’t worry about what people think of you if you could know how seldom they do.” ~ Olin Miller

The thing is, I realize I am not on the minds of most people much, if at all. But I’m concerned (for reasons unknown) that on those rare occasions I’m on someone’s mind, it’s because they are thinking I’m not someone with whom they’d want to spend much time. Of course, I feel the same way about many of them, so there you go. There aren’t many people I like. But those I do, I generally love with a passion. Perhaps the intensity of my admiration and appreciation is scary. It can be scary to me.

***

On a completely different subject, one of my dozens (or hundreds or thousands) of fantasies is to be able to create an educational institution for people between the ages of 17 and 23. Entry into the institution would be competitive and would be based on tests that measure knowledge in several areas, interests, ability to concentrate, and manual dexterity. Students would be exposed to a rigorous curriculum in which they would be expected to demonstrate proficiency. The curriculum would include mathematics, language and literature, chemistry and biology, social sciences (including sociology, government, and politics), and a range of courses in subjects commonly known as “the trades,” including wood-working/shop, mechanics, HVAC, etc, etc.  As students progress through the curriculum, their interests and capabilities would be closely monitored. Students who excel in “college bound” courses would be guided toward college and the subjects that most interest them; students who excel in the trades would be guided toward the trades that most interest them.

Every student, though, would be expected to complete the curriculum with a sufficient grasp of all subjects to enable them to function as contributing members of society. When a kid come out of the school (and college) with a degree in sociology, he or she would be expected to be knowledge about the discipline but also would be sufficiently knowledgeable and capable to change tires, replace spark plugs, troubleshoot HVAC system problems, and handle household welding and plumbing projects. Kids who move into plumbing would be expected to be able to engage in intelligent conversations about societal change, archaeology, literature, and drama.

Pipe dream. Pipe dream. Pipe dream. I wish my “liberal arts” education had exposed me to more of the “trades” than it did. For that matter, I wish I’d been forced to learn more about chemistry and mathematics and engineering. It’s not that I don’t have the wherewithal to learn about those subjects/activities now; I just don’t have sufficient energy and discipline. If I did, I might go to medical school. I wonder if medical schools would accept 66 year olds? I should hope not; we don’t need to invest the kind of money and time required to become a doctor in someone whose time practicing medicine is so certain to be time-limited.

***

Why do I write so much crap when I know few,  if any, people will read any of it and fewer still will read it to the end? Because I have to write. Just spill my guts and, on occasion, unleash my creativity, as dark and dangerous as it can be. I have to. When I was in the hospital last year and after I returned home and had little energy, I couldn’t write as much as I wanted and needed to. That was a dark time; my writing energy was wasted. It’s wasted now, too, but at least there’s the potential of someone worth reading. I’d better get in gear to write and/or select poems for this Wednesday night’s reading. I have thirty minutes. Enough to arouse and rile up the audience.

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Cultural Lies

Muḥammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī was a Muslim mathematician and astronomer whose major works introduced Hindu-Arabic numerals and the concepts of algebra into European mathematics. He was appointed astronomer and head of the library of Bagdad’s House of Wisdom around 820 AD.

Until this morning, I had never heard of him. I wonder how many other Arabic scholars whose contributions to mathematics and science and astronomy and the like I have never heard of?  And I wonder why I have never heard of them? I think I know. I think Western culture has purposely ignored the contributions of scholars outside European and pre-European society. Just like the systemic racism that forms many of our institutions today, systemic “culturism” forms our understanding of the history of science and the other “hard” sciences.

This is just a guess, of course. But I’m growing increasingly skeptical of the common explanations of the foundations of modern civilization. And I’m growing increasingly skeptical of documented history. Much of documented history, I fear, is based on doctored evidence. Evidence manipulated to put Western civilization in a more favorable light and Eastern civilization in a less favorable light.

I’m growing less interested in knowing the truth about the “Big Bang” and the evolution of species and more interested in knowing the truth about what has been done to paint a picture of history based not on facts but on culturism. I know; culturism is not a “legitimate” word. But it’s my word, so it’s legitimate to me. I suspect it’s not a word because its legitimacy would lend legitimacy to the idea that cultures lie about themselves and paint others with ugly brushes.

This subject deserves more thought. And I will give it more thought, though I wish it did not merit it.

 

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Something to Cheer About

When the world seems especially bleak, one can improve one’s mood immeasurably by considering all the horrors to which one has not been exposed. For example, as I sit here at my desk, I am thankful I was not awakened before daylight by paramilitary goons who marched me off to my beheading in a public square. And I am grateful a volcanic crater did not suddenly appear beneath my house, dragging me downward to drown in a sea of molten rock. Is that sufficient? Still need a boost? Well, I’m thrilled that I am not experiencing retribution at the antlers of a deer I wounded but did not kill before it gored me. The latter situation actually occurred to a Yellville, Arkansas man a few days ago. He shot a deer and was, with his nephew, preparing to field dress it when the stunned buck attacked, riddling the man with puncture wounds from its antlers. The man later died. The deer has not been found.

I have avoided too many horrible things to allow myself to feel miserable. The list of potentially cataclysmic events that did not take place in my life is literally endless. When compared to the minor disappointments that befall me—I awake to learn Trump did not die while I slept; I discover that children remain in cages at the border; evidence emerges that confirms stupidity is both genetic and contagious in both rural and urban America—I cannot help but feel a deep sense of deviant joy. It’s a sense that “things could be so much worse,” coupled with the realization that “things are likely to get much worse before they get better, if they ever get better.” It’s strange and disturbing, while simultaneously calming and soothing. Hopeless acceptance, that’s what it is.

***

All right, I’ve managed to climb out of the vaporous chamber that kept me half-awake but deeply sedated in a surreal fog.

I spent a good fifteen minutes, maybe more, skimming thirty-to-fifty-year-old editions of the Guadalajara Reporter, formerly known as the Colony Reporter. Though I learned nothing likely to change the course of my life, I stumbled across some interesting tidbits. For example, the occasional burglary, robbery, and even murder took place in and around Ajijic “back in the day.” Of course, those crimes frightened the ex-pat community, but they were rarities. I think. And I learned that Plaza Bugambilias in Ajijic opened roughly thirty-two years ago (if I remember correctly the date of the issue in which I read about the dedication). Plaza Bugambilias is where El Torito is located, in case you wondered.

Looking through old issues of the publication triggered a brief resurgence in my interest in creating and publishing a newspaper and/or magazine. I love the idea for some reason. I always have. But the radical transformation of the ways in which people access and consume their news makes old-style publishing an increasingly risky business. I’m afraid a publication I might launch, or like to launch, would appeal to an old audience, a target readership slipping away with each passing day. But that reality causes me great concern about the future of humanity in general. If younger generations simply skim Facebook for their news, much of which is manufactured for the sole purpose of feeding misinformation to the misinformed, what can we expect of the future? I can only say I am glad I will not be here to witness the unraveling of society. What am I saying? I’m witnessing it already, every day! Doesn’t that sound exactly like the voice of geezerhood?! “Well, in my day, we read newspapers and drank coffee. Nowadays, these young’uns walk around with their heads down, playing video games and drinking Red Bull. It’s a damn shame!

***

My wife, who awoke several times during the night and got up to read for a while at some point, is now up for the day. She arose around 7:00, a good thirty minutes (at least) before her usual waking hour. I would have expected her to sleep in, given her unsuccessful state of sleep last night. But, not, instead she is up and has offered to prepare a chorizo con juevos breakfast, which I readily accepted as a good idea. So, while she prepares the ingredients for what promises to be a superb desayuno, I will wrap up this latest attempt at humor and heartache, recollection and reverie. I just wish we had some jalapeños or, at least, jalapeño paste, in the house. Chorizo demands it. Alas, I allowed the cupboards to get dangerously low on a staple. Now, we must made do. At least we won’t be forced to eat rancid roadkill possum off of dirty plates and drink typhoid-laced water from rusted cups. That’s something to cheer about.

 

 

 

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