Archive for the ‘Rambling Thoughts’ Category

Jaws 2 Movie Poster

That’s how the movie “Jaws 2,” the sequel to the original blockbuster was advertised: Just When You Thought It Was Safe to go Back in the Water.” And that’s how I would describe our weather lately. Let me explain.

After a week of being warm enough at night to sleep without blankets I finally bit the bullet and opened my bedroom window. Not much—only a couple of inches. Just enough to let in some fresh air into the room. The window had been closed since last October, and I wanted to air it out.

So far, so good. But in the week and a half since I opened it, we have had sunshine, rain, and a little snow. Even now, when it’s 45° outside, I’m wearing a sweater as I write. And for the past 3 nights I’ve used not one but two blankets at night.

But here’s the thing: I’m not complaining. That’s just the way things are in the springtime here in Rochester. My ex told me that one year she was greeted by snow and an ice-storm on her birthday…which is in the second week in May.

We’ve already had crocuses in the garden, and now the daffodils and tulips are taking their turns. So I think I’m safe in assuming that spring has finally arrived—especially since the ice is all gone from the neighbor’s swimming pool. To be sure, we’re still going to have some cool nights and chilly mornings.

But that’s why God invented tea. And afternoon naps. But mostly tea.

As always, thanks for reading.

 

But I Was Too Busy Trying to Have my Own

Source: Arctic Fox, on Pinterest

Some of the most unpleasant people I’ve know had over-achievers as parents. I was fortunate enough not to have had that additional problem in my life, but I did have one that’s just as toxic as it is well-intentioned.

My parents had dreams for me.

I’m sure you know the kind of dreams I mean: a college degree, a house in the suburbs surrounded by a white picket fence, a two-car garage, a successful career, and 2.5 children.

Honestly, did that dream ever exist anywhere but on Leave It To Beaver, The Donna Reed Show, or even Bonanza?

And the dreams were only implied, not explicitly stated. My whole life was guided by them. In school, I didn’t even realize that there were art and music classes beyond second grade. In junior and senior high school I wasn’t allowed to take shop classes, because “those classes are for the dummies. You’re too smart for that — you’re going to COLLEGE!” (Cue the angelic trumpets.)

Last time I was in San Francisco I saw a beautiful hand-crafted wooden jewelry box that one of those dummies had made: the price tag said $2850.00 — and that was over 25 years ago.

And if my faucet leaks, I have to call another dummy who’ll charge me $75 an hour to fix it.

So who’s the real dummy now?

My Spectacular Failure at Education

After high school, it was taken as a given that I was going to go to college. I had no say in the matter. It was another of my parents’ dream for me.

At the wise old age of 18, I didn’t know if I even wanted to grow up, much less what I wanted to be if it ever happened.

In 1968, college was a place where you studied things to help you decide what you wanted to be doing for the rest of your life.

In 2019, college is a place to go to earn the credentials you need for the job you’ve already chosen.

I say — and neuroscience backs me up on this — the 18-year-old brain has developed sufficiently to be making such life-determining changes.

My education might have been more effective had I gone to a better college, but my grades, our family’s economic situation, and our physical location meant the sole criterion that went into the choice was the fact that as a Lutheran minister, my father could get a discount on my tuition and fees if I went to this particular college. A college I flunked out of at the end of my freshman year.

College, Take 2

I was simply too immature for and too uninterested in going to college. So I put off my plans for a higher education for two decades. Even then, I only went because my wife decided to pursue her degree, and I was worried about being left behind.

It went better this time. I was more motivated, and by then I had learned the fine art of academic philosophy, aka Intellectual Bullshit. I breezed through a semester of Selected Masterpieces of American Literature and got an A on it without once reading anything on the syllabus.

And I took several art classes, discovering that I could draw after all and that I was good at etching and engraving. I even sold some of my silkscreens and linoleum block prints.

But here’s the thing: after getting my AA degree and being one semester from my Bachelor of Arts, I was informed that I would not be allowed to count my 12 semester hours of computer classes towards my degree.

It seems one of the faculty review team said that computers have no bearing on liberal arts. This, after I designed and administered the first-ever study of if and how personal computers — then in their infancy — affected the process of writing.

So the University of Alaska, in its infinite wisdom, decided that I needed another 12 hours — a full semester — of math and natural science — -neither of which have any bearing on the liberal arts.

Had I taken the 12 hours and added 3 more, I would have been able to graduate with both a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Science.

Admittedly, the University of Alaska (Southeast) is nowhere as prestigious as its big sister in Fairbanks, but a double major is still a double major. And two degrees for the price of one….

Or three, if you count the Associate of Arts degree.

Livin’ La Vida Loca

So now it’s 2019. It’s been 51 years since I finished high school. I’m retired and living on Social Security. I’m not rich, but I get by — without complaint, thank you very much.

But since 2012, when I retired, I have finally been able to live my dreams. And the biggest lesson I’ve learned — and fulfilled — was to let my daughters dream their own dreams, and to support them in making those dreams come true.

Stay safe, my friends.

Not Prophecy So Much as Observation

kira-auf-der-heide-475768-unsplash2

Photo by Kira auf der Heide on Unsplash

73 years ago, George Orwell wrote:

“All true tea lovers not only like their tea strong, but like it a little stronger with each year that passes — a fact which is recognized in the extra ration issued to old-age pensioners.”

Today I realized how true that is.

My tea cup of choice is a tall, 12-ounce cup from Starbucks. For the past 2 years, I’ve been brewing my tea with either 2 tea bags (PG Tips) or 2 teaspoons of loose tea leaves.

Such was my first cup this morning.

But it wasn’t so satisfying as it was yesterday morning. It didn’t seem strong enough for some reason. Two teaspoons of leaves didn’t quite satisfy me.

Each type of tea has an optimal steeping time, depending on its type and the drinker’s preference. For me, with my strong black Assam tea, it’s 4 and a half minutes.

For a stronger brew, one adds more tea, rather than increasing the steeping time, which only makes the tea more bitter.

For my second cup, I used 3 teaspoons of leaves. The result? Too strong. Finally, the third cup, with 2–1/2 teaspoons of leaves, was perfect.

George was right.

Now my only problem is trying to figure out how to brew a cup of tea with 2–1/2 tea bags. A hopeless task? Perhaps.

But as Arthur Wing Pinero so wisely said, “Where’s there’s tea, there’s hope.”

It’s a Piece of Cake!

Photo by Rainier Ridao on Unsplash

To paraphrase that great American philosopher, William Claude Dukenfield (aka W. C. Fields),

Quitting smoking is easy. Why, I’ve done it hundreds of times!

And I have. And I keep coming back to it.

Coffin nails. The noxious weed. Cancer sticks. I’ve heard them all. Lung busters.

Hell, I’m even smoking one as I write this.

It’s an addition, a crutch. And a great way to kill boredom…if not myself.

It’s the stereotypical image of a writer: cigarette in one hand, glass of whisky in the other, starting at a blank piece of paper, deciding what to write. Or in Hemingway’s case, replacing the shot glass with a shotgun.

Except I’m not suicidal. Or am I? Smoking is, if nothing else, slow-motion suicide. Russian roulette with better odds. The depressive’s choice of poison.

And yet…

I like smoking. I like the first cigarette of the day, in conjunction with the first cup of tea of the day. I smoke and toke as I read Medium stories, looking for new works by my favorite writers. Finding new writers. Hell, it’s every bit as good as a public library — or it would be if I could smoke and drink there.

But I’m not ready to quit, not really, Not now. I’m pretty sure they time will come when the dollar cost outweighs the benefits. They always do.

Believe me, I know.

I’ve done it hundreds of times.

Photo by Stas Svechnikov on Unsplash

“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” And so begins Daphne du Maurier’s classic novel which was turned into a brilliant movie by none other than Alfred Hitchcock. It starred Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine.

But that’s neither here nor there. And I apologize for the title, which is the uniquely American bad habit of turning verbs—in this case, journal—into verbs. And vice-versa.

I like to record my dreams…when I remember to. It’s a simple process, really: I just jot down a few notes on my iPad and save them for later. Later, when I go back and read through them, I can see trends in my dreams and therefore, in my life.

There are places I’ll remember all my life.

I would love to have written that line, but John Lennon beat me to it.

Dreams are elusive creatures

They don’t like being seen in the light of day; that’s why they fade so quickly when you wake up. Until very recently, I’ve always been able to remember my dreams. I’ve also been able to remember if they were in color, or black and white. But lately, while I remember the basic subject of my dreams, I’m still hazy on the details.

And for the past few weeks, all of my dreams have been centered around Juneau, Alaska, as well as New York City.

New York City

The New York City dreams always begin the same way: I’m driving in my car down US Highway 101, about to cross the Golden Gate Bridge, when the bridge turns into the George Washington Bridge. I’m in New Jersey about to head into Manhattan.

The next thing I know I’m in downtown Manhattan, usually in one or two places: standing outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art, or underground waiting for a subway at the Christopher Street station, in Greenwich Village. But regardless of where I am, I always take out my cell phone to call my cousin, who lives in Brooklyn, to make arrangements to meet her.

At which point I wake up.

Juneau, Alaska

The thing about Juneau is that I lived there for 15 years. My then-wife and I moved there shortly after the birth of our first daughter in Petersburg, AK. Our second was born in Juneau 4 years later.

15 years is the longest I’ve ever lived in one place.

Stef-Zanne

My daughters at Eagle Beach, Juneau

Believe it or not, we did a lot of camping in Juneau. The summers were so short we took advantage of every bit of nice weather we could. And while the season was short, the days were long. I still have pictures of a sunset I took at 10 p.m. one night. It’s the complement to a sunrise I shot later that same year at 10 in the morning.

In the Juneau dreams, I’m usually driving down Old Glacier Highway, heading towards our house on Taku Boulevard. Just as I turn into the driveway, I wake up.

Sometimes I’m shopping in downtown Juneau. Not current-day Juneau, of course, but the way it was when we left in 1989. My friend Suzanne owned a kayak that she would lend me so my daughter Suzzanne and I could paddle among the whales. Naturally, thee two of them became Big Suzanne and Little Suzzanne. She also owned a health food store I frequented.

Usually, the shopping dreams ended when I entered Suzanne’s store. I’d wake up, feeling disappointed.

And I’m still not sure

What my dreams mean. But I’m not losing any sleep over it. They do, after all, give me things to write about.

Thanks for reading.