Monday, August 31, 2015

Loss of Sense

Sometimes time seems frozen.  I'll see a picture of a friend or acquaintance that I've not seen in person for decades and their image from days past is fresh in my mind.  It hardly seems like years since we last hung out or saw one another.
If the person means more than just a passing friendship, the effect of stopping time seems more vivid.   Perhaps a defense mechanism, or another manifestation of holding on to something ephemeral.
The technology we now have incorporated into our daily lives adds to this phenomena as well as creates additional twists of reality.
Scroll through a host of Facebook posts or even a lengthy list of Facebook friend pictures and experience most of the people in your current and past life all flashed before your eyes in a mass of slideshow moving parts.  Most likely most of these people know a limited few of the other faces they are on this moving billboard with.  Yet the juxtaposition of their smiles and grimaces makes for a fascinating kaleidoscope of humanity.  A few tinges here and there too, no?
To this add the realization that some of these folks you probably will never see again.  And that's OK too.  It's that particular phenomena of our internet age where we are closer than ever, but really just as far away.

I experienced this in another way a few days ago.  Looking forward to watching American Pharaoh run in the Travers Stakes, I cleared the day and set up my computer.  Of course I don't have to go to a race track any more to follow the sport.  Even a smart phone will let you place a small wager and watch the race, albeit on a two inch screen.  I refer to that experience as having a race track in your pocket.
Saturday began with all the excitement and anticipation of Derby day until a power outage forced my day at the races onto the I Phone.  While I momentarily felt rescued from the dilemma, I realized in a profound moment what was missing.  No smell of cigar smoke, no mustard or crowd roar.  No seeing the thoroughbred dancing in front of you.  Thoroughbred racing is one of the most intimate sports for the fan.  Getting close enough to talk to the jockey or see a horse saddled with nervous owner and hopeful trainer (or is it the other way around) is easily done at most tracks.  So, for the convenience of watching a televised race and interactive betting, we must sacrifice most of the sensory experience that is such an important and aesthetic part of the sport.
True it is still possible to go out to your nearby horse track.  But with out the throngs that only show up on the biggest days, you might as well just stay home.  So much is missing.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Lost and Gained

I think it's the Woody Allen movie, "Play It Again Sam," that features a scene where Tony Roberts character is telling Woody Allen's about how he can feel better about the loss of a relationship.  No matter that the relationship in question is the wife of Robert's character.  Allen is having trouble with accepting loss (what else is new?) and Roberts reminds him that there are certain things in this life that will always be with you.  In fact, he goes on to say that when you feel particularly depressed about the human condition for any reason, these things will always be there.  A Louis Armstrong trumpet solo, a dynamic sunset, great works of art, or even just places you like to visit, foods you enjoy, or the sound of wind, guitars with harmonicas, or a child laughing.  Simple as it is, just knowing these things will always be there makes it possible to endure some of the dark times we all must experience.
I can't remember how this impacts the lives or events of the movie referenced here, but I do know the concept has certainly helped me through a dark time or two.  I've gone so far as passing along this advice in one form or another to friends in need or folks I know feeling the full effect of loss in their lives.
 I had a chance to listen to some song lyrics the other night at a local music venue. One of the featured performers did a cover of John Prine's "Angel From Montgomery."  One particular stanza that got me thinking.
             Make me an angel that flies from Montgomery,
             Make me a poster from an old rodeo,
             Just give me something that I can hold on to,
             To believe in this living is just a hard way to go. 

Something that I can hold onto; it's the same issue, isn't it?  We all have angels from various cities and posters from past events that we can and do hold onto.  They will always be there for us.  
Angels and posters come in many forms.


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Bonus Word

“The bonus word is paraphernalia,” Mrs. McCarthy said. 
“Para..what,” someone yelled back.
“Par a fen al ia”  Mrs. McCarthy stood her ground.  All five feet 11inches of her Irish school teacher self.  Her mother of the brood, warm, stern, no nonsense self.  We loved her 7th grade English class and especially the bonus word on spelling tests.  If you got the bonus word right, it counted in place of a missed word somewhere else on the test.  The bonus word came with all the anticipation of a mystery.  Even a word like paraphernalia was fair game.  The trick, of course was that it was para …pher…nalia, not para… fa… nalia.  We knew this because paraphernalia had been the bonus word a few times already.  
   So, most of us at Sun Valley Junior High could spell paraphernalia, but we never used the word.  It wouldn’t come into heavy usage until the word drug preceded it a decade or two later and we were not in the habit of discussing our “camping paraphernalia,” just our shit. 
In that select group of 7th graders who not only knew the spelling, but the definition of paraphernalia, were students who no doubt would become very familiar with the concept as they navigated the passage from youth to adulthood.  Many, not the ones we’d expect. 
First choice would have been Mickey F.  His uncle was supposedly “Pretty Boy Floyd,” the gangster.  Mickey was a quiet kid with the short sleeves of his white Tee shirt rolled up all the way and the traces of a cigarette pack in the wrinkles.  He had the wavy hair and receding hairline of a 40-year-old man.  Nobody knew exactly who Pretty Boy Floyd was, except that he was a gangster that rode around in cars with running boards and “plugged” people with a Tommy gun.  It would be 20 years before any of us learned of his Robin Hood reputation and how he’d anonymously beg a meal with a poor Oklahoma family and leave a hundred dollar bill underneath his plate so they could “save their little home,” as Woody Guthrie sang. 
Arthur H. would come to know paraphernalia well.  His life was sucked up, spun dry and then shoved down the drain of the Vietnam War.  There must have been others in that group of Mrs. McCarthy’s but Arthur is one of the only one’s I heard about.  College wasn’t for him right out of high school and he’d hooked up with his fast lane girlfriend faster than a GTO.  The army offered mechanical training but they soon took the auto shop tools away and planted an M-14 in his hands.  By the time he had a weekend of leave in Hawaii, he’d been dumped by his “wife” and was back in Vietnam the following Monday.  He soon acquired paraphernalia.  Many of those boomer kids in uniform carried the same trappings of their brothers and sisters in Haight Ashbury.  Arthur’s collection, eased his pain, but stole his soul. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Stationery Story

The back to school commercials start in late July now.  I don’t feel the pull until the second week of August.  This is the exhilaration time for teachers, and even after retiring from the full-time routine the pull is always just as strong. 
I begin to think about stationery stores and then quickly lament that they don’t exist any more.  Or if they do, they hide in plain sight.  We have the big and getting bigger box stores and that seems to be about it.  Now the two giants, Depot and Max or Club, or whatever it’s called today, have merged.  Then there is Staples but they don’t even have decent staples.  I miss a good stationary store. 
Once upon a time I found things like file folders in unusual colors or wood grain.  Many choices of pens, pencils and the thing I love most, college-ruled, easy on the eyes, light green writing paper. 
I remember how just putting 5 sets of essays to grade in crisp new folders lightened the task.  I still employ that method for the work I do now with beginning teachers.

Maybe the pull of the office supplies has to do with the momentary control that comes with organizing the new products.  There is an instant for teachers preparing to open the year, when everything is pristine.  Nothing is missing, torn, graffittied, or broken.  The stapler is full, the writing paper in good supply.  Even the windows are clean.  For some, as in much of my experience, this all comes with rooms and furniture that have lasted for generations, but nonetheless, a delightful, ephemeral calm has settled on your learning environment.
One year, a particularly insightful parent worked a deal with a local stationary store in my community.  Each teacher was given about $300. credit and allowed to purchase whatever they wanted/needed for their classroom.  It resembled one of those multi-party lottery tickets for some.  While most purchased paper and art supplies and things that would hardly last the year, a few went for one big purchase.  One even bought a lectern.  I'm still trying to get my head around that, but it can't be helped.
Maybe just going online and being able to hunt for one of a kind or unique items will fill the slot that a local small business once held.  I doubt it but it's all that's left.  

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Jump Back

Last night I lost a post I'd written due to a poor internet signal in Central Oregon where I am currently spending a few days.  The irony of this jumps high in my face like the huge rainbow trout I also lost,  That fish was the subject of the post.
My thought was to get a written description down somewhere because it just might have been the fish of a lifetime.  Of course, for a fly fisherman who dutifully practices catch and release, I will always have the memory.  That's all we ever have anyway, isn't it.  I'll go out there today but it wont be like yesterday because no two days are alike.  Perhaps a few hours on the water will help sharpen my description skills.  More to come...
The second day arrived a bit cooler with very few clouds and fewer people.  I took my camera along mostly to tempt the fates, but was rewarded with a nice pic of the landscape, a surprise selfie, mostly from boredom, and a nice rainbow who pounced on my fly as I was floating peacefully eating an energy bar.  They always seem to make contact when my concentration is not 100 %. 

So long until next year or perhaps a post Labor Day adventure calls.