Friday, April 29, 2016

Deep Down in the Delta

Inside the hardware store is a great place to evade a sudden rain shower.  I ducked in and waited for the fickle storm to pass and the sun to reappear.  First the garden shop and then sizing up a couple of wood screws to finally hang a hatrack.
By the time I got to lightbulbs I heard a familiar voice.  Why would canned music give me a familiar voice I care about?
Wait...isn't that Son House?  Course it is.  I know the tune.  Muted and probably in nobody's radar I moved through pest traps and bug sprays and stopped briefly to admire some trinkets best classified as knick knacks, stocking stuffers, or simply things you don't need but can't resist touching.
Son House in my local Ace Hardware.  How does that happen?  Did the person responsible for the sound track of this afternoon migrate to the Northwest from the Mississippi Delta?  Is it a random act of serendipity?  Did a music programmer one day draw a diagonal line from the bottom right side of the U.S.map to the top left side and end up in Portland, Oregon?
Delta blues from Son House, on a stormy day in Portland.  Ace is the place.


Friday, April 22, 2016

Mother Teresa Restored My TV

I had to do the Comcast dance again.  That's the game you play when you have a cable problem or your monthly fee abruptly rises without warning.  This time it was the TV.  I watch more news than the average person.  So when my morning dose never materialized, I soon found myself dancing with Comcast.
The picture that morning was replaced with a blue screen telling me that some software had to be downloaded and it might take a few minutes.  After the first hour went by, I decided to troubleshoot.  The online community soon informed me that I was not alone and that this message could last hours. But one of the posts suggested contacting a Comcast customer service rep online chat for quicker results.  That I did.  Within minutes I was chatting with someone who's name was Materesa.  Not sure if she was in India, but she was very courteous and attempted to solicit some information and fix my problem.  Ma Teresa...it caught me immediately, and even in my frustrated state, I had the feeling that a miracle was suddenly possible.  After resending my signal, this saintly woman informed me that there was still some sort of interference and that I needed to schedule an appointment and perhaps have the little cable box replaced.  This I did.  After offering me a few things I did not want or need, she began to sign off.  Then a sort of download box appeared on the blue screen.  Bright red.  I started to type in the reply box, "What is that red bar slowing moving on my screen...when the online chat ended.  I left the TV on and in about 15 minutes the download box was slowly turning from red to orange to yellow to light green to deep, vivid green.  This looked like a positive sign.  I watched and waited.  In another 10 minutes a message appeared telling me not to "switch off" the TV.  I let it be.  10 more minutes passed.  The messages came faster now and I watch the miracle unfold as my system "powered up" and then "connected to the platform."  5 more minutes passed and then I was back to normal or as my old grandfather would say, I was "cookin' with gas."  I'm not exactly sure what transpired that morning, but I prefer to think that Mother Teresa...and her power to produce miracles, restored my TV. I cancelled the service appointment.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Socially Responsible

Christian right wing Republicans are such hypocrites.  I was reading some posts on the evils of socialism, probably in response to the popularity of Bernie Sanders, and noticed how most of the points expressed were based on weak stereotypes.  Of course, having the paranoid gene helps in this process.
The gist of their fear comes from the fact that socialism enables those who don't work, or choose not to work, to benefit from those who do.  If I have two cows, the government will demand that I give you one.  So the thinking goes.  Over simplistic, to be sure, but most of these right wingers really believe this.  No matter that there are numerous references to the accumulation of wealth and the importance of sharing with those less fortunate in the Bible.  Probably in any version of any Bible you choose.

So where does this inaccurate thinking come from?  It seems to me to be a base anxiety about getting taken advantage of rather than coming from a brother's keeper attitude.  I've expressed many times before this that my suspicion is that the brain is wired differently to allow this kind of contradictory thinking to prevail.  So this misguided thinking in my mind appears to be the stuff of righteous justice to the conservative mind.  It's a kind of logic that defies deep thinking much the same way that this rigidity locks them into positions that leave much to be desired when it comes to gender equality and understanding the science behind everything from climate change to the reality faced by transsexuals.
Of course the supreme irony here is that much like Bernie Sanders, the revered one, Jesus Christ himself, was a Jewish socialist.  I'm sure they'd be outraged that I put those two together in the same sentence but they've got nothing more to see my point than to read the Bible.  They do that, don't they?  Still, the conservative right is adamant that jesus was hardly a "Socialist hippie."  That's their term and further steeps all this misinterpretation in more stereotypes.  While they concede that it's a Christ-like thing to help the poor and ailing, they further believe that Jesus's version of free health care is his own love for people.  Heaven forbid somebody get something of substance for nothing.  In the end we're left with a stubborn knot pinning liberal versus conservative values against one another.  Just another reflection of the current state of affairs whether in Congress or the Presidential election, where what is tied up isn't really holding anything together.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Dream On

Clearly, the most popular topic in the introductory psychology class I taught to high school Juniors and Seniors was dreams.  We'd look at the biology of sleep, the brain, and various sleep disorders and then look at the function, science, and fascination with dream interpretation.  I usually taught my students a few approaches to dream interpretation, including Gestalt, which, if nothing else, is a creative, critical thinking approach to dealing with these little night voyages that we all experience.  Often, students who had little motivation to push themselves in other areas would surprise me with how much they put into their efforts to unlock meaning from their dreams.
The class featured a semester project, and for those less academic students I'd offer a chance to explore dreamwork even further.  My class was not tied to any one text, but the one we used as an anchor offered a few possible topics to explore further.  Among them was to interview people of different ages about their dreams with particular attention to how our dreams change as we age.  Now it might not be all that interesting for a 17 year old to talk to a middle aged or older person about their dream life, but I've always wondered about that question and have been mindful over the years of any changes or themes/motifs that occupy my active dream life.

It's been almost 10 years since I retired from full-time teaching and I have noticed some very specific themes that re-occur since that time.  I've also been mindful of bigger overarching themes that might accompany age or specific interests or challenges in my life.
Here's what I've noticed.  There are definite changes to my "school dreams."  Instead of specific students or colleagues, I dream of a teaching reality in a different school.  Sometimes it's a new high school where I don't know my way around too well. That's not surprising since the school I worked at for many years was torn down and rebuilt.  I'd probably get lost there now.  Another fascinating recurrent theme is that I don't take attendance in my post-teaching school dreams.  I often experience the thought that I ought to start doing that, and even attempt to retrieve the scan-torn attendance sheets from an office.  All the while I'm wondering why it hasn't mattered up to now and nobody has asked about it.
Similar to that final exam or course you forget about that shows up in anxiety dreams, there is a class I've forgot to prepare for.  It's usually late in the day and I have to find the room.  Often I have the sense it's a challenging group of unmotivated kids where I need to be on my toes and plan carefully, but I end up going in there and pulling out ideas for good lessons/activities right off the top of my head.  All the while, I'm wondering, am I in the right room and how could I have forgotten about this?
Lots of possibilities in these dreams.
Another thing I've noticed is that I can be any age or look any age in my dreams.  It often feels like I can manipulate my marital or relationship status.  That is, if I feel a mutual attraction from someone in a dream, I might suddenly find that I'm not in a relationship and am indeed free to pursue where that might go.  That unmistakable feeling of meeting someone for the first time and feeling mutual attraction lives on in this dream world.
When I awake, I rarely feel confusion or great happiness or sadness...usually just increased curiosity.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Some Signs

There are some signs of good things ahead,
A crow scolds trying to in habit last year's nest,
Housing prices have increased everywhere and you
Don't always get what you pay for.
People still smile and say hello,
That's huge in this economy,
Everything you've ever subscribed to or given support
To has come due at the end of this month,
It's not even April 1st, so it can't be whisked away,
Tough choices,

But pre-schoolers still parade in front of your window,
They continue to grab heartstrings,
(Does the heart have strings?)
There are no strings attached, no?
My waistline remains the same, the Giants will play for keeps
Next week and I get to buy a 2016 Fishing License,
Afternoons lengthen,
Rain will continue, for a bit,
but some signs, linger and glow,
good things ahead.

Monday, March 21, 2016

A Collection

We met in the morning.  Almost 10 years now.  Most every morning.  10 years now.  It's the time before the day really begins.  The brief stop; the respite.  We share thoughts, ideas, concerns and minor victories and setbacks.  Sometimes we read.  But we share books too.  Movies, politics, religion (sparingly) and outrage.
The old guy mostly writes alone in  corner.  Who reads his journal, I wonder?  It appears meticulous. Neatly drawn characters on expensive paper.  Personal, to be sure.  But created in public.
There are families.  Children grow and romp inside this oasis.  They begin withdrawn but soon their conquests are shared experience.  They are seen and heard.
Once a couple got engaged at one of the tables.  The stage was set, and the ring produced.  Photos, smiles, and coffee all around.
The city planner who talks about his wife, though she never appears.  Teachers, retired and active share lesson plans and critiques.  Readers, gamers, textures, and wayfarers all occupy the space.
Street people stop over.  They get a cup too.  Somehow.  They have names like "feather" and "overalls."  They appear and reappear.  The winter gets cold and wet.  The windows steam up like our glasses when we enter in December.

There is a retired pastor, and a guy with an NRA cap.  Deals transpire over mobile users who are too loud and too self-serving.  People share tattoos, oatmeal, and weekend plans.  Lots of out of towners enter because they know just what to expect.
The aging folk princess writes a new song.  The I T guys speed through having conversations with everyone and none simultaneously.
Often, people just sit and stare.  At the dogs and sirens going by.  At the freezing rain, an occasional snowflake, the sudden rainbow or fleeting sunlight.  They catch a glimpse on one another and force tiny smiles.
The educator from Nigeria. the one from Vermont.  The guy who sits in the corner and sketches.  The special needs couple who just want to participate.  Writers abound.  The well-read columnist from the hometown paper sits right behind one of them.  If they only know.  Odd couples.  All sorts.  If you can imagine it, I've seen them there.  We all have a day to begin.  We all want a boost.  What goes along with a coffeeshop that closes.  This illegitimate gathering will need to reinvent itself.  It's not about the coffee.  Neve was.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Polar Opposites

The current Presidential election season is affording us many new things.  Aside from the apparent hostility on the Republican side, there are a number of other firsts that have so many people on all sides of the political spectrum questioning how we got where we seem to be.
In all the descriptions and proposed explanations we hear the word polarized. Yes we are quite polarized as a nation.  Nothing new.  If we know our history, we know the long story of our differences. We know the wars, battles, and tragedies that have resulted.  In fact, a peak at the conversation and costumes currently on display reveals that we haven't really made all that much progress.

The candidacy of Donald Trump and his megalomaniac, narcissist, brash toying with the media and his followers has only revealed what was always there.  The racism, intolerance, and dumbed down analysis of the problems and challenges facing this country play perfectly into the hearts and minds of the hateful.  Their pain becomes displaced onto those most vulnerable.  The manipulated smile, they cheer and now, increasingly they lash out.
What if we took our polarization to heart and did something about it?  What if we created two countries out of the two poles that separate us?  Not really a blue state and a red state, but two separate countries where cultural values would be agreed upon.  One might have a government where  there is no gun control and abortion is illegal.  One might have a government where health care is provided for all and education is free.  How much happier would we be?  Would all the stress that results from our current division be eliminated?  Tempting, no?
It's been suggested many times.  Boundary lines have been drawn and artist conceptions, complete with new names, abound.  Who gets what?  Who would go where if we follow through on a national divorce?  Perhaps our values would prevent us from even getting beyond these basic steps.  How fascinating, though to live in a country that is truly united.