Between Fact and Fiction

One week soon, I will become a hermit. I will avoid all engagement with others. I will spend a solid week in isolation, to the extent I can. I may have to go grocery shopping or do other errands, but I will spend the majority of the week at home alone. I will wake when I wake and, when I am ready, do whatever I am in the mood to do. Perhaps I’ll take a day to drive to a quiet spot—maybe Mount Magazine—and soak in the expansive view. Regardless of what I do, I will do it alone.

As much as I value and appreciate being in the presence of people who matter to me, sometimes I need distance and isolation. And as much as I am able to isolate myself relatively often now, I sometimes need an extended period to decompress. I need that time now. Or soon. I cannot even express what it is that builds up in me, requiring time alone. Whatever it is, I feel myself becoming a metal vessel reaching the point at which the pressure inside the vessel is greater than the strength of the vessel to hold it. I need an outlet to drain the pressure.

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I dreamed last night that I was waiting in a tiny travel agency office with a woman I did not recognize. It was not apparent at first what we were waiting for, but as the dream’s strange meanderings evolved, I understood that we were waiting for the woman’s husband. The woman tried to convince a male travel agent that she had been promised a second ticket for her husband; he was not buying it. The woman was worried that her husband had not arrived, a problem because their cruise was to leave soon. She and I went outside to wait for her husband, who was to arrive by ship. We expected him to be on a cruise ship.

At some point, an announcement came over a loudspeaker. I could not make it out, but the woman could; she said it had something to do with my car being towed. I had parked near the corner of a freeway feeder road and a cross street a few blocks away from the travel office; it seems that was a no-parking zone. We went searching for my car, only to discover the towing agency had not taken it. I understood the car had been stolen. Because the time for the cruise departure was near, we rushed back to the travel office. Just as we arrived, an incredibly narrow Russian-flagged ship, badly in need of paint, docked. Instead of coming in with the starboard side against the dock, it headed in straight, and its bow touched the dock. The woman’s husband was standing on the ship’s deck; he came down a ramp as soon as the ship was secured to the dock. He said he had been given a ride. He was giddy that, unlike what he had expected, he had been taken through the Panama Canal.

I believe I woke up about the time he finished his story. I have no idea where the couple was going, why I was there, and what became of my stolen car. I am a little worried about opening the door to my garage, in case my dream was a circuitous way of telling me the garage is empty.

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Between 1959 and 1970, a television game show called College Bowl aired on CBS and then NBC.  I have a vague image in my mind of one of the hosts, Allen Ludden. If my memory is correct, he had sandy blonde hair that was combed up into something like a flat top, but his hair was not vertical; it curved on top of his head. I liked that show, even though I don’t think I knew many of the answers to the questions.

I read something recently that, if my memory is correct, suggested the show will be (or has been) resurrected for television. I’ll have to find out more about that. I like the idea of a game show based not on silliness and comedic displays of ignorance but, instead, on tests of knowledge. The American (and possibly worldwide) television audience seems to have been dumbed down in recent decades. I wonder whether that has been an intentional undertaking, shaping intellectual capacity so its low level will be easier for the powers-that-be to take control. The internet, with so much potential to be a source of growth and knowledge, seems to have been usurped to support television’s objective of mush-minding America. Conspiracy theories and the lies supporting them are replacing critical intellectual evaluations supported by verifiable facts. Ach.

College Bowl may be the last gasp of intellectual pursuit.

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My lifelong dream of having a few acres in the country and a nicely-outfitted tractor is fading. I would have to regain strength and stamina that I may already have lost forever to make it work. The opportunities I missed to achieve my dream are legion. Despite many chances to go for it, I never had sufficient confidence in myself nor was I able to convince my wife that it would be good for us. Now, my interest in working the land is diminishing. I suspect that, had I managed to make the dream a reality years ago, I would now be thinking about selling and moving into a lifestyle better suited men growing lethargic in their “golden” years. I have been a disappointment to myself with respect to this wished-for endeavor.  Bah!

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Pleasure. What is pleasure? Satisfaction. Delight. “Worldly or frivolous enjoyment.” Bliss. Pleasure is both a noun and a verb. “Pleasure me with your presence.” To give pleasure. To satisfy. In light of last night’s dream, I think the couple was planning to take a pleasure cruise. Having my car stolen was no pleasure.

What about leisure? Depending on context, it can be used interchangeably with pleasure. Satisfaction. Delight. Bliss. But not “Leisure me with your presence.” What about a leisure cruise? Who cares? What does it matter?

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Take a deep breath, John. Imagine you’re standing on the top of a ridge outside the village of Skarsvåg, Norway looking up at the Aurora Borealis. After you soak in the otherworldly beauty, you will walk into the village and have dinner in a fisherman’s home before settling in for bed. The next morning, you will hike across the peninsula to the Norwegian Sea. You will wade into the icy water, attempting to swim out to Kolbjørn Landvik’s boat anchored offshore. Such a silly man, John. You’ll never make it. Hypothermia will take you before you’ve made it ten yards.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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