Thursday, April 30, 2009

Bevie's Weight Tracking Link

NOTE: Created a Watch Page for tracking my weight.

Sometimes I Make it Hard to Breathe

When I was young I got to spend the month of August at my grandmother's house. I forget how old I was when this began. I don't think Mickey ever did, but my older sisters spent summer months there. Gayanne went up right after school was out. June is her birthday month. I remember how happy I was when I got to go up. There were initial concerns about me becoming homesick, but those were completely unfounded. It was such a relief to be away from Mother's constant yelling. Mother hated her life and blamed her children for it. She told us over and over again how much better her life would have been had we not been born. Eventually, she changed that to "just the last three". I was second-to-last.

Helvie got go up afterward, in July, her birthday month. But Helvie DID get homesick, which completely amazed me. The first year Grandma and Grandpa brought Helvie back. That year I got to go up early. It was great. After wards, I would always go up early so Helvie could stay the whole month. She was able to make it if I was there. Not that I was great or anything. I think she just got bored with grandma. I never did.

Well, that's not entirely true. Grandma liked to visit. At least twice each week she would travel around the county visiting her friends, spending about an hour or two at each place. One or two other days her friends would do the same, and on those days it was a regular parade of people. Them visiting Grandma was fine. Grandma visiting them was a drag. I had to go along. Grandpa found it boring, too.

One year my uncle asked if his little boy could come and stay at Grandma's, too. I wasn't keen on it, despite the fact that I liked Drew. But I liked having my time alone. It was mine. I didn't want to share it. But I knew better than to say so. So Drew came and stayed, too. He only stayed two weeks, so I still got some time alone. Just not as much as I wanted.

Drew is younger than me by perhaps three years. I forget. Haven't seen him in so many years I couldn't venture to guess how long. At least twenty. Anyway, he looked up to me and followed me everywhere. At first, this was cool. I felt important. But it didn't take long for me to realize that with Drew around, my only private times were going to be when I was in the bathroom. He was everywhere I was. I couldn't do anything without him, and some of my imaginative games required no one be there to bother me. And sometimes I just wanted to be alone. I never could.

I started letting my frustration show in various little ways. Drew either never caught on or chose to ignore the hints. I would use my advantage in height to walk fast and put distance between us. But Drew would just start to run in order to keep up. Finally, one day I couldn't take it anymore. We were walking around the house and I just stopped and told him to go away and leave me alone. I wasn't nice about it at all. He thought I was joking, so I impassioned my argument until his face fell and he ran away.

Didn't feel good about that. Now I was alone, but I felt guilty. Kind of got over it and kind of enjoyed the rest of the afternoon. Then I went into the house and met Grandma. She was so clever about this. She sat me down and told me how impressed Grandpa was with me. "He thinks it's just wonderful that you let a little boy hang out with you like that. Most kids wouldn't stand for it, but you do. You're so nice to Drew, and Drew so looks up to you. I just thought you should know that."

I wasn't completely fooled. Clearly, Grandma had been standing in the dining room and overheard my verbal assault on Drew. She was trying to make me feel guilty about what I had done. It worked. I found Drew and offered to play. Only it was never the same again. I had hurt him, and he wasn't going to open himself up to let me do it again. A year or two later he quit coming to Grandma's in August. He and his sisters would come at the end of June and stay until near the end of July.

I feel bad about Drew, but you may be surprised to learn why. It's because I think I am Drew now, and I know what I do to the people I care about. I smother them with attention so that they just want to get away at whiles to breathe. I don't mean to do that. It's just that I still tend to be selfish, and I forget how annoying I can be at times. Even with Spouse. Sometimes I just can't let go, and so I get pushed away.

I've had a couple of people do to me what I did to Drew, too. Since then I try to keep myself in check with people, but it's hard. It really is, because I have a hard time gauging when I'm too much. I've backed away from some people only have them conclude I don't care about them at all, and they bail on me. Others decide it's no fun playing with flypaper. Can't say I blame them.

Don't know why I posted this. Supposed to have posted about animals and nature. Just got to thinking about Drew for some reason. But he was mild compared to Denni. That's who I've really become.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Thinking About the Wrong Holiday

It's spring, and Halloween celebrations are months away in either direction. Yet I find myself now thinking about a Halloween far, far back in the early 1960s. My family lived in a nice house in a nice neighborhood. It was a typical 1950s development, with the "ticky-tacky" houses. I was five years old.

I had probably gone out on Halloween before, but I don't remember it. So this is my earliest memory of Halloween. I was dressed up as a ghost. You know. White sheet with two holes cut out for seeing. Only I probably was wearing a large pillow case.

My family couldn't afford the cool buckets others used to collect their candy. We used paper bags. Just brown paper bags. I don't remember what my siblings were. Helvie didn't go, I remember, which suggests to me that this may have been my first Halloween doing Trick-or-Treat. Helvie would have been four.

Back then the neighborhood kids would get together in huge groups and walk together. This made traveling safer. Also, back then it was far more common to see teenagers participating in the evening's fun. There was this one boy, I remember. He was dressed up as a "Pumpkin-Head", complete with a real pumpkin. Everyone kept touching it, and he began to get annoyed. Finally, I happened to be standing next to him. I reached up and patted it. What a pity that a tiny five-year-old's tap proved to be the straw which broke the camel's back. He turned and began to threaten me. Fortunately, Mickey was right here. Mother had told him at least a dozen times to keep an eye on me. Mickey wasn't massive, but he was tall. And he has always had a presence about him which makes people stand up and take note. "Pumpkin-Head" backed off.

I must have been the youngest in the group. I was certainly the smallest. As such, I would go to the door last. At first, Mickey stood with me, to show me how things were done. Once I figured out the routine he let me go on my own. But that became the problem. You see, as Trick-or-Treaters finished at one house, they would begin to rush off to the next. The group was beginning to stretch out between houses. I supposed this is part of Mickey's leaving me to go on my own. His friends were running on ahead. I began to fall behind.

It wasn't real bad at first. I would be able to run and catch up while the line backed up. But then there was this house where the bowl went empty. The lady made me stand and wait while she refilled it. I looked to my right with great anxiety. The line at the next house was dwindling.

I ran and got there just as the last person left. Why did these people have to move so slowly? I mean, how long does it take to drop a couple of candy bars into a paper bag? Come on, people!

I was not catching up. In fact, I was falling further and further behind. My little legs moved as quickly as they could, but being wrapped in a sheet/pillow case hampered my speed. And it kept shifting so I couldn't see. It was becoming a bad dream. I fell, and my bag ripped. Then, at the next house, the woman insisted I wait while she gave me a new bag. Now I was nearly two houses behind. I ran, but it was useless. So, I just fell down between the houses and cried in the dark.

Don't know how long I lay there, emotionally exhausted and totally given up, but then I saw Mickey running toward me. He picked me up and carried me home. It was determined I couldn't handle Halloween and so my evening was done. Mickey went back out, leaving me home to reflect on what it means to fall behind.

I didn't do many Halloweens. I quit in seventh grade. By then it was no longer cool for teenagers to participate. It seems it's kind of changing back again, but not to a large degree. I have a vague memory of one other Halloween, which must have been my last. Otherwise, the only memory of Trick-or-Treating I have is laying in the dark and crying.

You know what's so cool about Halloween, though? Dressing up in costumes.

Yeah, that again.

Why is that the sad memories seem to stand out so well?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Chafing Over the Ironing

Remember starch? I don't know if it's even made anymore. Clothes are all permanent press now. Wash them, dry them, hang them up, and the wrinkles are gone. Back in the day when I was young that wasn't so. You wanted to get wrinkles out, you ironed.

I began doing laundry when I was in grade school. I may have been eight, nine, or perhaps ten. With older siblings it wasn't so necessary that I learn these things - except to my older siblings. They're the ones who taught me.

We had an old ringer washer. The image to the right is probably as close to what it looked like as anything. The black hose was used to drain the thing. Made for quite a mess. In the summer time we brought the washing machine outside and washed there. Then, when the laundry was done, we would drop the hose and let the water run into the ground. Yeah, not exactly ecologically sound.

The tubs were filled manually. We would run a short hose from the faucet to the tub and turn on the hot water. When the washing tub was full of soap and water the clothes would be added and the wash cycle engaged. There was no rinse cycle. That was where the wringer came into use.

Next to the washing machine there would be a wash tub. Couldn't find a good image of one that looked like what we used. The closest was what I have displayed. Only ours didn't have the cool scrubbing board. I think we may have had a scrubbing board, but it was as rusty as the tub.

Well, when the washing was done, you would take the clean clothes out of the water and begin running them through the wringer. If you let the next article of clothing rest on the previous, the conveyor would pull them through. The dirty water would fall back into the machine and the "clean" clothes would fall into the clear, hot water in the wash tub.

If you were good, you could actually send more than one article of clothing through at a time. But you had to be careful. The wringer sometimes would jam. Then you had to pop up the top (see the big handle?) pull the clothes back and do it again.

Feeding clothes into the ringer was a bit of a risk. If you weren't careful, you'd get your fingers pinched. And, if your name happened to be Judayl, before your pain sensors told you that you were in trouble, your entire hand and wrist would be pulled through. It wouldn't take your arm. That was too thick and the wringer would jam. Whenever Judayl helped with the laundry you could count on this happening. In fact, I believe it happened to all my siblings at least once, except for Ranlen (who was up north) and Helvie (who never had to do laundry like this). It never happened to me either, although I did get my fingers pinched a few times.

Once the clothes soaked in the hot clean water they would be sent through the wringer again. This time, instead of letting the clothes fall, you had to catch them and put them in the wicker baskets (not plastic) to be brought to the clotheslines.

Washing in the winter wasn't just a bother. It was a great bother. For one thing, there was draining the water. The washtub took two people to bring it to the bathroom where it was unceromoniously dumped into the bathtub. (Just made you feel like jumping in and taking a bath to see the brown water sloshing about.) The washing machine was either scooped out the top a little at a time, and then the dirty water poured into the sink. Or, the side hose was let down so the water could drain into the washtub, and then two people had to carry it to the bathroom. (If you thought dumping the rinse water was bad, you should have seen this.) This was done twice or more times.

Hanging out the clothes was another matter in winter. If it was a nice day we hung them outside. They didn't dry. They froze. Then we would bring them inside and beat the ice off them. They were still damp and had to be draped over furniture to finish drying. If the day was poor, we hung them around the house on wires stretched across rooms. This was highly inconvenient. You would walk through the room and either get slapped in the face by some dangling article of clothing (hopefully not Daddy's long johns), or at least get dripped on.

I remember when Daddy had sprung for a new sofa for Mother at Christmas. The rule was, no one could sit on the sofa. (People come up with the strangest rules. What's the point of having a sofa if no one sits on it?) Well, we had just brought in the clothes and they were frozen. This meant they could be positioned. So Daddy and Mickey set up their pants and shirts on the sofa. Then they went behind and kneeled down so only their heads showed. Mother came walking down the hall, saw them, and exploded in wrath. By the time she got into the living room she saw it was a joke and then everyone laughed at her. This only made her more angry. That was when Daddy told her that her rule was kind of stupid.

So, back to starch. That was using in ironing. I hated ironing. Some things really s*cked to iron. Remember pleated skirts? Things with ruffles. Stocking were easy. So were cotton t-shirts. Sheets would have been, except they were so big. But ironing was also a way to get revenge.

Remember how I wrote in an earlier post how my older sisters (and Helvie, too) would frequently beat on me? Well, I wasn't big enough to win back for a good many years. But once I was given the job of ironing, I found a way. You see, we washed all the clothes, of course. We also ironed all the clothes. Everything that could be ironed, was ironed. Shirts. Blouses. Dresses. Stockings. Pants. Shorts. Skirts. Underwear.

If you use the right amount of starch, clothes will stand up on their own even when they're not frozen. I found that out by accident one day. After that, I would do it on purpose - when one or more of my sisters had thrashed me soundly. Put those on and tell me how you like it. Of course, that usually resulted in another beating.

It was worth it.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Weird Can Be Beautiful - Right

Had a short talk with a good friend this morning in which "dress up" was talked about. Nothing in depth. Just kind of 'mentioned in passing'.

I like playing dress up. Or, I should say, I like the idea of it. Don't actually do it. Don't have many clothes, and those I do have kind of all look the same. Not much fun dressing up to look the same.

If you scroll down a bit you'll see three pictures of me in various forms of dress which are unremarkably similar. That's pretty much how I dress all the time, although none of those particular articles of clothing remain. Pity about the top outfit. That was my favorite. It got washed so many times that it tore when I scratched an itch. But I generally wear sweat pants, or perhaps oversized tennis shorts (I'm still overweight), with a t-shirt and a polo shirt (sometimes) on top. My feet are usually bare.

I envy women, being able to walk into a store and see such a variety of things to wear. The variety in guy stuff seems to be more in color than style. What a pity we gave up the days when men got to wear frills, puffy sleaves, exotic hats, and things. Of course, I don't know that I want to shave my head and wear a puffy wig just to keep the lice away, either. But when men dressed like that they had to feel elegant and grand. Somewhere along the line somone decreed that men had to give up the cool outfits and dress boring.

When I was still in kindergarten my Aunt Cile (Lucille) stored her costume jewlery in a huge dresser my parents kept in our garage. My sisters and I were allowed to go into the garage and play dress up. At first I wasn't allowed to join in. Just wasn't done, you know. But I cried and Daddy said it didn't matter. He was probably embarassed to see me running around with giant earings on my ears, beaded necklaces around my neck, and some of Aunt Cile's blouses and gloves draping off my body, but he didn't seem worried about me. (Perhaps he should have been.) Now that I think of it, Daddy was quite progressive in his thinking.

I miss being able to dress up and look fine, and grand, and beautiful. Supposedly, (when I was much, much younger), I was something to see when I was "dressed to the hilts". I bought a three-piece suit back in the days when you were supposed to have to be important to wear one. Spent all my money to get it. Every once in a while I would wear it. Just because. I was in my early twenties. Still thin. Reasonably muscular. Wasn't married then, but I got Spouse's attention.

If I dressed like that now I'd probably look like another fat Wall-Street pig.

Can't really do dress up anymore, for a variety of reasons. Not for real. Not the way I would like. So I do it with imagination and stories. I create hero and villain characters with some on-line software and write stories about them. (See Legion of On-Line Super Heroes blog.) I use computer characters as alter egos and dress them up to be pretty, scary, sexy, monstrous, or whatever suits me. It's a different kind of theatre. (I need to start a community theatre. When I know what community I'll be living in perhaps I will.) I save the images to my hard drive to use in subsequent stories I will write.

I guess I'm kind of weird, aren't I? But you know what? I don't mind anymore. I'm finding I like me better when I admit the truth to myself.

I am weird! Hear me roar!

Now. Whatever did we do with those earrinngs and beaded necklaces?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Fallen Fruit Will Rot on the Ground

Do you remember your dreams? Not the ones you get nightly. I'm talking about those you create in your heart and then play over and over in your conscious thought. Some of you may actually have achieved one or more of your dreams. I'm thinking, though, that most of us do not. For whatever reason, they just don't happen.

How do you respond when you realize your dream will only ever be just that: a dream? Do you remember your first? What was it that captured your imagination for the first time? I still remember mine. It began when I was young. So very young it seems now.

My brother introduced me to baseball when I was five. Probably earlier, but I have no memories before five, so I'm going with that. Mickey would have been fifteen then. I remember him pitching to me when we lived at the "pink and white house", which was the name Helvie and I gave to the pink and white house we lived in up in Shoreview, north of St. Paul. I was batting left-handed. Back then I was exclusively left-handed. My back was nearly to the fence. I remember swinging the bat and feeling the thud of good contact as it struck the ball. I recall how I felt as I watched the ball sail over the heads of everyone and continue over the fence to land in Uncle Harold's yard. I don't know how far I hit it, but considering normal property lines I am guessing it had to have gone more than one hundred feet in the air. I was a power hitter.

Moving to the country meant few organized teams for me. It was difficult to spark enough interest in rural Minnesota back then. We did have one year, 1965 or 1966, when interest was high. My team was the Navigators (I thought that named s*cked), and we wore yellow (a cr*p color for a baseball team). There was no trophy that year, which was too bad, since we won more games than anyone.

I was thirteen I would play on an organized team again. One of the neighboring towns had four teams - and an official field. It was surrounded completely by a fence. The backstop was huge. There were concrete dugouts! And the outfield fence had signs posted to indicate the distances from home plate. The shortest was 375-feet. The longest was 400-feet. We got to play there four times in the season, and then twice in the play-offs. It was there I had one of my "great moments" of the game. What a pity that it should come when I was so young.

I remember the Soderville team had put up its ace pitcher; a tall, lanky boy who threw hard. He may have been a bit taller than me, or perhaps we were the same height, but I had more muscle and bone to work with. He had given up a hit and a walk and was now pitching to me. Now I was batting right-handed, having been forced to convert by my parents and older brother, who somehow viewed being left-handed as a terrible disease. He threw nothing but fast balls. On his fourth pitch he put the ball right where I wanted it. I swung as hard as I could.

It was the same feeling I had when I hit that home run at five. I felt the ball and bat come together perfectly. I saw them meet about belt high, a little in front of home plate. The ball left the bat with the added power of my swing, my hips, my arms, and the turn of my wrists. I knew I had hit it over the left-fielder's head. Now, if I could only run fast enough I should be able to round the bases. The ball might even roll to the fence.

I vaguely remember hearing the cheers when I hit it. Back then parents often sat in their cars and honked the horn whenever anything of worth took place. I don't really remember it going quiet, but it did. What I do remember was glancing to left-field as I came up and around second base. I could see the left fielder still running. The ball had rolled to the fence! Then, as I came to third, the coach, who was coaching third base, held out his hand and told me to quit running. So I walked in to home plate.

When I got to the dugout I realized nobody was cheering. Nobody was saying anything much. They were just staring at me. So I asked what had happened. Tommy, who was sitting next to me, asked why I had run so hard. I said I wanted to be sure I got the home run. Why? That was when Kevin told me what had happened.

"Well you already had that, stupid. You hit it over the fence."

I was dumbfounded. I looked out to the field and, sure enough, the opposing team's outfielders were searching the tall grass on the other side of the fence. It took several minutes before they found it because the grass was so thick. When they did, the opposing coach stepped it off. No one knew for certain, but the guesstimate was that I had hit it 430-feet. My coach took the ball and had everyone on the team sign it and I got to keep it. It became my most prized possession, until the house burned two years later. I got a replacement ball, but the person who gave it to me wrote 375-feet, because that was what the marker on the fence said. I don't know if I still have that one.

I was a good ballplayer, but kind of a big fish in a small pond. Apparently, I lacked something. I was scouted, both by colleges and by the major leagues. But no one came to my door to offer anything. Whatever they wanted, I didn't have it. I've often wondered if my taking a year off to do drama club didn't make a difference. I didn't play as well when I came back, due to my teammates no longer accepting me. I needed that to play well. When I was up I played better than anyone I knew. But when I was down, which happened, I wasn't much good at all. I suppose if I had achieved this dream it would have destroyed me. Maybe that's what I lacked. I was good, but I didn't have the skills of Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Rod Carew, or Roberto Clemente. So without the rest it was just a waste of time to bring me up.

When I realized my baseball dream was over I went into coast mode, and stayed there a long time. Writing got me out of it, but only while the inspiration lasted. When that died I returned to coast mode, where I have remained until just recently.

Now I'm staring into the face of my other dream and wondering: Do I have what it takes this time?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Timid Groundhog Fears Its Shadow

Okay. I set myself up for this and so I'm paying my penance. You were curious to know what Bevie James looks like? Well, I don't have any recent pictures to show you. Neither Spouse nor Son takes my picture very often. Got lots of Spouse and Son, though. But that wasn't the question, was it?

All three of these pictures are at least twelve years old. The first two were taken about fifteen years ago, when Spouse and I had our first house built. The third was just over twelve years ago. Right after Son was born.

My best side. I am leaning on the floor of what will eventually become our living room. I am standing in the dining room. Below the living room is the family room. I designed that room myself, and when we put the house up for sale it became the focal point for all buyers. I had a wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling entertainment center built in along the wall to my right in the picture. Against the far wall I had a fireplace. I kind of wish we hadn't sold that house. So many things went wrong after we did.
Below is me - and my little red car. The 1992 Mitsubishi Eclipse. It had fifteen miles on it when we bought it. Now it's over one hundred thousand. Back then it was almost brand new. We built the house in 1994. Like me, the car has seen better days. The driver's seat is broken. The passenger seat is stained with pizza grease. The seals on the windows and rear hatch are torn. The driver's window won't roll up unless I stop the car and pull it pull it up with my hands. The air conditioning is broken. The front bumper was destroyed while delivering pizza to someone who hadn't plowed their driveway. Spouse tried to talk me into selling that car many many times, but I always resisted. Some day, when we have money again, I'm going to fix that car back up. It's such a pretty car. Oh, and only one hubcap remains.
Below is without a doubt my favorite picture of me. In fact, it is probably the only picture of me I have ever liked. It was taken not long after Son was born. See how we're looking into each other's eyes? We used to do that endlessly. I read stories to him before he was born. I would lay sideways on the bed and read into Spouse's stomach. And I would sing, too. Elton John's, Blessed. The night he was born (11:36 p.m.) the attending nurse cleaned him up, wrapped him in a blanket and handed him to me. I paced the room for an hour while they tended to Spouse (who didn't even know I was there). I talked and sang to him the entire time. Then, after an hour, Spouse was ready to take her son. I handed him over and he fell asleep. I think the reason the picture below worked is that neither Son nor I knew it was being taken. We were caught in our natural states. Laughing. I'm in a white t-shirt, which is also my normal attire. My hair hangs over my head like a mop. The same it has done for over forty years. It looks like I've shaved my cheeks and neck though. That's not usual.

Sometimes I Have Not Been Nice at All

Animal Day, huh? Well, this probably isn't what you had in mind when I wrote that, but here goes.

I grew up in rural Minnesota. No big deal. We had electricity and a telephone. For a while it was party line, but Daddy's job required he have access to a telephone and so my parents sprung the extra money and got a private line. I still recall the number: 5008. Didn't have to use the prefix if you called within the area.

There were various wildlife creatures about, but nothing exotic. Supposedly, a black bear took up residence near my house, but I think that was foolish child's talk. I never heard an adult say they saw one. I don't recall even seeing that many deer. Mostly, the wildlife consisted of birds, squirrels, and a few other miscellaneous rodents. Generally, if one were to see an animal larger than a squirrel it would be a pet or a farm creature.

We did not have much for farm creatures at The Old House, despite the place originally being a farm. We got rabbits once, for Easter. But the dogs broke into the shed where we kept them and killed them all. We had chickens, too. And ducks. The chickens were nice because they walked the yard and took out the wood tics, of which the area was well inundated. Before we got the chickens you couldn't walk across the yard without picking up a half dozen. The first thing you did when you got inside was use the bathroom to sift through your clothes. After the chickens, no wood tics.

When Daddy was diagnosed with cancer, my parents sold the place and moved into the city. Roseville. A suburb north of St Paul, near the State Fair Grounds. That fall I was to be a senior in high school. I wanted to graduate in the school where I had spent most of my growing up. (I was afraid to go anywhere else. "The H*ll That You Know.") So my parents arranged for me to board at a retired minister's placed about five miles from the high school. The man was a control maniac and I didn't particularly enjoy my stay. In fact, shortly before Daddy died, I left that place and went to Roseville to live. I drove the thirty or forty miles distance daily for the rest of the year.

So what has all of this to do with animals? Well, Mr Minister (not his real name) fancied himself a part-time farmer. He raised cattle and planted hay. Well, one day I come home from school to find Mr Minister had forgotten to close the pasture gate. As I drove up the lane I could see the monsters milling about on the yard. Now I had never had anything to do with cows. All I knew about them was: a) they gave milk; b) chopped up, they made excellent burgers; c) the smallest of them weighed twice what I did.

I drove my car as close to the house as possible and then dashed inside. Safe, I went upstairs to my room and proceeded to write.

About an hour later Mr Minister comes home and ushers the cows back into the pasture. Then he comes upstairs and proceeds to yell at me and tell me what an idiot I am for not noticing the cows were out. I told him I had noticed. He asked why I hadn't put them back in the pasture. I responded by saying there were thirty cows and one me. And since most of them weighed more than a thousand pounds and I weighed less than two hundred I didn't like the odds. He told me I was stupid. Everyone knew cows were slovenly creatures who wouldn't hurt anyone. Well I didn't know that, and I told him so.

He made me feed the cows in the pasture after that. You can make teenagers do things, you know? If he tried to do that today I'd tell him where he could put his feed. Well, he's probably long gone now. He was older than I am now when I was seventeen. But I drove the tractor (now that was a treat) into the fields, pulling a wagon filled with hay. The cows saw me coming and began to hurry to intercept me. I didn't like that. Tame or not, I didn't particularly relish getting squished between the cows and the wagon, or knocked to the ground under their feet. So I climbed across the hitch and tossed hay down for the bovines and then drove away.

Mr Minister wasn't really a bad man. He was just a control freak. He hated it that I had a car. He hated that I could drive to Stephen's house without having to ask him permission. He hated it that I never showed him my homework. (I never showed it to my parents, why should I show it to him? Ah, for the record, though. Spouse and I keep close tabs on Son's homework. He's straight 'A'. I was straight 'C', which pissed off teachers and counselors alike.)

I tolerated his meddling until Daddy began to get worse. Then Mr Minister's meddling became an interference and I left shortly after Thanksgiving. That Christmas I took all of my money (I had a job at a pizza shop) and spent it all on Christmas presents. Stephen was with me and kept insisting I buy Mr Minister a gift. I didn't want to. I thought he was a horse's a*s, and I told Stephen so. But Stephen kept pestering me, so I finally relented. And here is where my sense of humor took over.

Against Stephen's wishes, I found a little plastic statuette. They were popular back in the 1970s. They were about six inches tall, made of hard plastic, and completely tan. The figures were of all sorts of things, and on the bases were inscriptions. You know the kind? "I Love You." "You're My Friend." "All The Best." Fun stuff. And some of it quite silly.

I chose a little man with an incredibly fat belly. He stood with his arms spread wide. And stuck - right in the middle of his belly-button - was a giant screw. The inscription? "Thanks For Everything!"

I bought that.

Stephen was beside himself with distress. At first he thought I was only joking. But then I paid for it and put it in a little brown paper bag. He fussed and worried as I drove out to where Mr Minister lived. He kept begging me not to give that to the old man. By chance, Mr Minister was at the end of the lane, clearing snow, as I drove up. He smiled and said, "Hello, Bevie." I smiled and said, "Hello." He asked what I was up to. I said I had bought him a Christmas present, and then I handed him the bag. He thanked me and I drove away, never to see him again.

Every so often I think about that and wonder: how did he react when he saw the gift? Did he understand what I was trying to tell him? Or was I just another teenage punk?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Joy I Never Knew

It's spring. The snow is all gone. The ground is mostly dry. It's windy and cool. Do you know what that means? Kites.

Kites used to be a big thing when I was young. Not every year, but on years when people were interested it seemed like everyone was interested. I remember Old Man Smith's young adult son, who helped him manage the farm (crops, no animals), flew a giant box kite. He had it staked out in their hay field with about a quarter mile of string. The kite flew over our back field for days and days and days. It amazed me how it could stay up there without any help.

Eventually, it did come down. The wind made a small tear which got increasingly larger until the kite came crashing down. I found it in our field by means of following the string trail. I brought it back to Bob, who took one look at it and declared it done. I could have it. Cool! Of course, I never got it to fly again. But that was not unusual for me. You see, I couldn't get kites to fly.

Unlike Charlie Brown, who's kites always seemed to find the nearest tree, my kites were not so magnetically attracted to wood. Dirt seemed to be their fascination. They would nose dive right down and lay flat, a humiliating monument to my ineptitude.

I remember holding onto a stick at one end of a string when I was five. Nearly a mile away a kite flew. It wasn't there because of me, though. Mickey had got it into the air and then had me told onto it while he went and got more string. He kept getting more and more and more. It got harder and harder and harder to hold, and I had this magical sense that I was about to go flying myself. (It never happened. Pity. It might have been fun. After I wet my pants for fear.)

The string eventually broke and that kite wound up destroyed in a tree. But I could never make my own fly. Not once.

I could make them. The little pieces of balsa wood acting as a frame. Looping the string through the holes in the paper. Tying on the tail. I got all of that done. But the kites would never fly for me. Not unless someone else got them going first.

One year Daddy purchased plastic kites. They were new that year, and guaranteed to fly. Everyone was out that day, standing in one of Old Man Smith's fields. He hadn't planted yet, so he didn't care. There must have been a dozen kites flying when Helvie and I arrived with Daddy, Mickey, and I think Judayl and Lynahr. Daddy helped Helvie get her kite up and she joined in the fun. I was supposed to be old enough to do it on my own. But I couldn't . It just wouldn't work. It didn't take long for the other kids to see my trouble, and soon I was being laughed at. But no one would help. Eventually, I was crying. That only made people laugh the more. So I took my kite and went home.

Two days later I was standing on the roof of The Old House, trying to get my kite to fly from there. It's pretty sad when the kite you're flying is lower than you are, but that's the way it went.

Kites are fun, though, aren't they?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Cassanova Rides Again

This is probably overplay, but my mind is stuck back in the early 1960s right now, so please forgive me. The picture at the right is of Mickey and me in the spring of 1957. I'm in red coveralls. More pictures at the bottom of this post.

Yesterday I wrote about Cheryl, and how we were married at a very young age only to be separated and divorced by virtue of lunch. Reconciliation was not possible because I move away and we never saw each other again.


That fall I began first grade. For whatever reason I did not attend the grade school just a mile down the road. Instead, I rode the bus ten miles to go to school. It was the only year I did this and I have never learned why. But it resulted in another love affair gone bad.

I must have been cute or something when I was young. There aren't many pictures of me from then left now. Most of my parents' photographs were destroyed in the fire, and whoever inherited my grandmothers' and Aunt Cile's pictures tossed them. But there are a couple. Personally, I think I look like a dork. But Cheryl must have thought differently. So did Vicki. And Debbie.

Vicki and Debbie were two girls who shared first grade with me. They both liked me. I was fine with that. (Having been married I was now an experienced gentleman.) Unfortunately, Vicki and Debbie were not fine with each other, and they had a bit of a war going on about me. Lacking the wisdom of Solomon I was not able to successfully deal with this. Case in point.

I finished my lunch and went outside, as was required when the weather permitted. Before I could find my good friend, Terry, Debbie found me. She wanted to push me on the swing. (Yes, you read correctly. The girls would push me on the swing. It was their idea. Honest!) I said, "Okay."

Well, we had only been doing this for a little while when Vicki arrives. Vicki wanted me to leave Debbie and go play with her. Now the truth was, I liked Vicki a little more than Debbie. You see, Vicki didn't just fawn all over me like Debbie did (not that I minded that), but she would actually talk and play with me (six-year-old play). However, that being said, Debbie had asked first and to leave her to go play with someone else would hurt her feelings. (I know. People did that to me all the time. Right through my adult years.) So, taking the risk I told Vicki that Debbie had asked me first and I felt I should stay with her.

Vicki did not find the answer acceptable. She stepped forward and insisted. Debbie told her to "buzz off" using whatever language six-year-olds used back then. (I confess that I have forgotten. It may have been, "Beat it!") The two girls began to argue over me, and as they did, Vicki kept stepping closer and Debbie kept pushing me on the swing. (Do you see where this is going?) Suddenly, I realized that Vicki had placed herself directly in my path, and that when I came forward I was going to knock her down. Lacking imagination, it never occurred to me to just drop my feet and stop. Instead, I did the most stupid thing I could: I held out my hand like a traffic cop and told her, "No!"

My palm caught her square in the chest, and the force of my thirty or forty pounds knocked her off her feet and to her backside. I was off the swing in a moment and trying to help her up, but the damage was done. Vicki was crying. She got up and ran away from me. Then Debbie walked up and said it served Vicki right so I got mad at Debbie and Debbie left. But my real trouble had yet to begin.

It turns out Vicki had her own version of what had happened, and she had gone to Judayl and gave it to her. Judayl, thinking it was funny, came home and reported it to the family - including Daddy. And this is what Judayl told everyone.

"Bevie's little girlfriend came up to me today and said, 'Your brother hit me.'"

That's it. No details. Just, "Bevie hit me."

The first, and foremost, lesson Daddy ever taught me was: Don't hit girls! Ever. I was granted four exceptions: Lynahr, Judayl, Gayanne, and Helvie. (The reason for these exceptions was that all four of them used to beat the snot out of me and I never fought back. Well, maybe not Lynahr. But the other three certainly did.) So, why had I violated the Prime Directive?

I tried to explain, but unfortunately the first words I spoke were, "I didn't!" That made me a liar. Now I was doubly in trouble.

No supper. Not only that, but I had to stand next to Daddy's chair all night until I explained why I had taken it upon myself to hit a girl. (My second statement that it had been an accident fell on deaf ears. I was guilty, and there was no getting out of that. What I had to do was come up with a reason for doing it. Since I hadn't done it on purpuse I didn't have a reason. So I stood.)

Daddy had my siblings bring out a new blocks toy I had. The idea was to stack oddly shaped blocks. The one who stacked the most was the winner. I had to watch while they did this.

My legs would hurt and I would sneak a rest by sitting the arm of Daddy's chair. Then he would see me and make me stand again. Daddy got home around five. My last sibling went to bed around eight or nine. Shortly after that, when it was just Daddy and me. I started crying and said I had hit her because I didn't want her to push me on the swing. It was a lie. But I was allowed to go to bed.

That wasn't quite the end of it. Vicki wouldn't play with me anymore because I had hit her. Debbie wouldn't play with me anymore because I had stood up for Vicki. So, in trying to be pleasing to everyone, I wound up with nothing.

Told you I was a dork.

Okay. So I kind of dared myself (in an email to a good friend) to post pictures of myself on my blog. You'll have to settle for old pictures, because I'm old.

Six siblings: Helvie (4), Lynahr (13), Mickey (15), Judayl (10), Gayanne (7), Bevie baggypants(5). Ranlen was up north. I believe this was an Easter picture, the year of my wedding. I didn't wear that suit.

Gayanne and me at grandma's goldfish pond. This was how I usually looked. No shoes. Unbuttoned shirt (because the buttons had all been lost). I was around six. The year Vicki and Debbie fought over me. Oh, and the goldfish were only in the pond that day. The following evening the cat discovered the goldfish pond. When we got up the next morning the goldfish had all disappeared.

Me around age six or seven. This was another common summertime pose for us at Grandma's House. It was cool up there. (Literally) The wind through the pines made it sound like there was a constant crowd watching everything we did.

Mr. Tough. It was raining, which is probably why I'm wearing a nice winter coat. I was five, and this was the first day with my new coat. I'm on my way to kindergarten. I'm wearing my name tag. However, on the way home that day I was laughing on the bus and the driver stopped, came back and beat the snot out of me, tearing my coat in the process. When Mother saw my coat had been torn I got slapped for it. When I told her the bus driver did it I got slapped for torking him off. Life was hard for a little boy in the 60s. Married. Divorced. Dumped by three different girls in the span of less than a year. Talk about not having what it takes. Whew!
.

Monday, April 20, 2009

I Am Such a Deadbeat

Having spent a post honoring my current wife I think it only appropriate that I honor my first wife, too. I'm sure I have an inkling everyone's reaction to that, but bear with me, okay?

Monday is House of My Youth Day, which means it's the day chosen especial for me to talk about events from my past. Particularly, events from my childhood. For some reason, this morning I have been thinking about when we lived in a suburb north of St. Paul, MN. I was five. That is where my memory mostly stops. Whereas others have memories of four, three, and even two-years-of age, I do not. There is one memory which I think predates my fifth birthday. It was at my great-grandmother's house. I remember being presented to her and then ushered outside so that my youthful energy did not tax her too much. Other than that, my memories seem to begin at five and continue.

I was thinking I had told this story before, but I can't find it. So, if I have told it before, I apologize. But, like all good storytellers, even if I did tell it before I'll be telling it different now. That's the cool thing about memory. It's selective. And fluid. Which means it changes with time. But this did happen.

It was summer time, I think. Warm weather anyway. I was playing outside with the boy next door, Ricky. He was four. We were in our yard, which was fenced, and playing something. Probably trucks in the dirt. Whatever it was I am sure it was in the dirt. Well, Ricky's older sister, Cheryl, comes out and sees us. Was looking for us actually. Well, looking for me. Cherrie (pronounced Sherry) was six, and filled with a vivid imagination. She came to the fence and asked if we would come play with her. Having no reason not to, we did.

She brought us to the far back of her yard, where the trees were. They made a kind of grove, and the grass was allowed to grow tall here. It made for a neat place to hide out sometimes. Well, Cherrie had apparently been preparing for our (my) arrival. Things were all set up for us. The first thing she did was tell me (not ask) we were getting married. She told Ricky to sit down and be the "audience". She bent over and picked up a pretty little white veil and wrapped herself in white linen. She handed me a top hat. (Apparently her mother had given her these things to play with.) The top hat was too large, so we stuffed it with things so it didn't cover my mouth.

She told me to stand next to her and hold her hand. I wasn't keen on this, but how does one say no to a girl? I never could. So there we stood, holding hands. Then Cherrie proceeded to recite some sort of liturgy. Don't remember anything of what she said, except that she finished with, "I now pronounce you man and wife." (Spouse hates it that some say "man" and wife instead of the more proper "husband" and wife. Can't say I blame her.)

Thinking we were finished, I started to leave, but Cherrie hung on to my hand.

"Oh, no! You can't leave yet."

"But aren't we married now? Why can't I leave?"

"We're not married until we kiss."

Kiss!!!???

Talk about getting sucked into something. I hadn't been keen on holding hands, so I really wasn't keen on this. Especially with Ricky sitting right there and laughing at me. So Cherrie slapped Ricky and told him not to look. Then I had to kiss her. So I did. Wishing I could be anywhere else.

She made me do it twice because the first time was too fast. So we held a good, long kiss. (No tongues. No lip movement. Just touching. Sweet and romantic, huh?)

Finally, it was over, and I started to leave again.

"Not yet!"

"What now?"

"We have to do our honeymoon."

"Our what?"

"Our honeymoon."

"How do we do that?"

"We lay down here in the grass together."

Talk about a frog in pan of water on a stove. This didn't seem to have any end at all. (You know, it's kind of reminiscent of my honeymoon with Spouse. Hmmm. Good thing she doesn't read this blog. [smiles])

So, we lay down in the grass. Side by side. Staring up into the trees. We did that until Ricky began to complain about being bored. Remember Ricky? He wanted to go back and play trucks. So did I.

Well, we weren't finished yet. Now we got a wagon (Cherrie had tied tin cans to it) and I got to pull her around the neighborhood. We had a bicycle horn and hooted it as we went. Ricky, having more sense than I, left.

When we had completed our rounds of the neighborhood we returned to the grass where Cherrie announced she was having a baby. Out comes the doll. Now we had to make our rounds again. As we passed my house the word was called out that lunch was ready.

Now let me tell you, I would never have found it in myself to tell Cheryl things were over and I was going to go do something else. But now it was a matter of something greater than my fear of offending. There was food to be eaten, and it was calling to me. I left.

We never played that game again. I don't think she ever forgave me. Guess I can't blame her. I didn't even give child support. Don't even remember the baby's name. Just another deadbeat dad.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

I Am Musical - With a few Sour Notes

Supposed to talk about God and/or religion today, but instead I am going to return to nostalgia. Going to talk about being in choir during my school years. This wasn't church choir, although the choir director was a Christian and often inserted religious pieces for us to sing. That was allowed in the 1960s and early 70s. But the types of music we sang are irrelevant, for the most part, to my memories. Although I must say we (the senior high choir) did an excellent job of singing William Billings' Kittery.

I've always liked music. From this pumpkin song I recall from first grade:
I had a little pumpkin,
I gave it two big eyes.
I cut a round and tiny nose
and a great big mouth that smiles.
Now I hide behind a bush and
wait until it's dark.
Then when someone comes along
UP I JUMP!
BOO I SHOUT!
What a surprise!


to this cute ditty, also from first grade, (taken from this site)



to country music, folk music, rhythm and blues, rock 'n roll, to songs I hear on the radio now.

I've never been a great singer. Got a voice like beef jerkey. Remember the commercial? Either you love it or you hate it. Most seem to fall into the latter category, but I remember a few (with fondness) who would sit and listen with rapture while I sang. (Or maybe they were just hoping for the rapture while I sang.)

When I was in sixth grade the high school choir director made the rounds to the three elementary schools which filtered up into the junior high. Our district wasn't the smallest, but our high school had grades seven through twelve and less than 900 students. Anyway, the director listened to each student sing and then left. What we (the students) didn't know was he was auditioning us for choir. When I started seventh grade, choir was not on my schedule. I was in General Music, which meant no singing. In fact, there wasn't any music at all. Just theory. Learning notes and whats and whys. None of the students in General Music liked music at all.

However, despite not being picked for choir, my hopes were not completely dashed. During the first day of General Music class the choir director (who taught the class) asked if there was anyone who wished to audition again to be in choir. I and three others did. From that second audition I was moved from General Music, which met three times a week, to Choir, which met every day. But in Choir I got to sing; much to my joy and a couple others' distress.

My first concert was memorable, and it was remembered all the days of my tenure at that school. In fact, I'd be willing to wager that if you brought my name up to anyone who was in the choir that night they would say, "Oh, yeah. Bevie James. I remember Bevie James." It wasn't exactly something I was proud of.

You see, I had never been in front of a real audience before. We stood on risers under a choir shell. There were lights. It was hot. The gymnasium was stuffy. We had to wear dress-up clothes instead of something comfortable. I stood with my knees locked. The choir director stopped the concert just before I tumbled over and had me sit. Five years later, as the choir was preparing for the final concert which would include my class, the same choir director gave out final instructions. When he finished, Chlo W turned around and said in a vicious voice, "And don't faint!"

It wasn't all bad, though. My voice, while not being a favorite of just everyone, did improve enough that I got to solo in a song (my first effort resulted in a room full of laughing people - including the choir director), and even sing a few solos without the rest of the choir. I sang Elton John's, Your Song, over the local radio station. But the one I was singing it to refused to listen to it.

There were statewide music contest for choir members back then. The choir director signed me up in my last three years of school. His new assistant liked my voice. she even played the piano for me when I sang over the radio. I never won. Did get a Thanks For Showing Up and Wasting Our Time award. Twice!

I like music, and I like to sing, despite the opinion of others. It's kind of like that with my writing, too. Not everyone likes what I write, or how I write it. But others do. And so my voice continues - for now. One day I expect it will go silent, both as a writer and as a singer. Until that day I shall continue to do both. Maybe one day I'll dare record myself and post it for you to give the thumbs up or down to. We'll see. I'm not exactly a courageous person.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Fire: Servant or Master

The Old House was in rural Minnesota. It's not quite so rural now as it was then, but even then there were a fair number of new houses.

Several built by the same family. The people who sold The Old House to us kept the barn because the man used it as a cabinet shop. He provided cabinets for new construction. They built next door. The man's brother built next to him. Then, when one of the daughters got married, she built next to her uncle.

Going the other way, the family which built next to us moved: about 1,000 feet to the south. Then another of their children got married and built between them and us. So they built five out of six houses, and owned the sixth at one time. All of those houses are still there - except for The Old House. And I noted that someone built another house in the midst.

But it was still rural. We all had septic systems and well water instead of city provided sewer and water. The little town had no water tower.

In its heyday The Old House encompassed at least a mile of property going north to south. Not sure about east to west. When we lived there a road went by on the east side of the house, and a railroad track on the west side. The railroad was considerably further away from the house than the road, but you could count on being awakened at least twice every night as trains thundered through the crossing, which was also next to our property. The entire house would shake until the last car was gone. For those long freights that could take as much as five or ten minutes.

When we lived there The Old House's property had been reduced to five acres. Most of it field. I remember a couple of years Old Farmer Smith, who lived across the street, rented the field from us and planted field corn. Not only did my folks get paid for his planting, but he agreed that we could harvest some of the corn for our suppers. It was field corn as opposed to sweet corn, but with the right amount of butter and salt it tasted just fine.

Eventually, Farmer Smith got too old to farm as much as he used to and he quit renting the field. Then it just grew up with weeds and tall grass. A nice fire hazard.

Daddy had the solution. A controlled burn.

For us kids this was an exciting time. We got to play with fire.

There was no burning permit. Not back then. Not out in the sticks. But Daddy was no fool. He knew better than to burn on a windy day, or in the day, for that matter. The burn would take place as the sun set. Generally, this meant lighter winds. He would step outside and smoke a cigarette, walking around and letting whatever wind there was blow against him. After gauging the danger he would either declare the burn canceled until another day, or that it was on.

I'm guessing the area to be burned was about three acres. We would generally start at the northeast corner of the field. Before lighting any fires we would haul out several large tubs. Then hoses would be connected and the tubs filled with water. Then burlap bags would be produced (potatoes came in burlap bags in those days - if one bought them by the hundred-weight) and soaked. Once that was done Daddy would light another cigarette and let the match fall to his feet.

He would stand back and watch as the fire spread, stamping out all its efforts to go east or north. One of his children would follow the fire's path south, and one would follow it west. Daddy would then walk to the southeast corner and repeat the ignition sequence. Again, one would follow the fire north, to meet the southward bound flames, and one would follow the fire west. Daddy would move to the southwest corner.

Eventually, fires would be started at each of the field's corners, and between Daddy, Mother, and six of their seven children (Ranlen was up north) the fires would be contained in a large rectangle. Eventually a complete border would be formed and then all the fire herdsmen would gather on the leeward side of the field to catch any sparks that thought to escape. I remember how thrilling and exciting it was to watch all the flames coming together. It looked like a terrible disaster, and I remember one of the neighbors actually panicking once and thinking it was out of control. But just as the flames reached their pinacle, they went out. Nothing more to burn.

The fires would go out and Daddy would instruct us to stick around and make sure all embers were out. Then he and Mother would return to the house to watch television. We stayed out until it wasn't fun anymore to run through the smoking ashes. At that point we would take our wet burlaps sacks and smack anything that hinted of fire. Satisfied, we went into the house, too.

I was reminded of this because recently there was a grass fire not too far from where The Old House used to stand. Nearly every year there is a grass fire in that same area, and every time it is caused by the same thing: some idiot doing a burn on a windy day.

People just don't understand. You don't burn during the day when the sun is hot and the wind is strong. You burn during the evening, when dew fills the grass and the winds take a respite until dawn.

People just don't understand. If the wind decides to stay up late, you don't burn. Wind and fire are a horrible combination. Do you smoke at the gas pump? Well, actually, I have seen idiots do that, too.

Common sense, people. Pick your evening (not day) to burn. Have plenty of help. Have plenty of water and burlap bags. And if it's windy, reschedule. It aint worth it, people. Those idiots who cause hundreds and thousands of acres of land to burn wind up paying for it. Big time. It isn't cheap to be forced to hire professionals to come and put your fire out. Sometimes, people just don't think. That was always Daddy's big peeve with people. He hated stupid. Whenever he came down on me it was generally because I had been stupid.

Of course, it was Daddy who burned down the house. He found an old air filter holder in the weeds and wanted to clean it up. How did he do this? By using gasoline and a wire drill. The wire against metal caused a spark, igniting the fumes which ignited the dish of gasoline. Startled, Daddy jumped away, knocking the gasoline cup over and spilling it onto the lawn mower - which I had just filled with gas in preparation for mowing the lawn. The lawn mower's tires caught fire and burned slowly, heating up the mower's fuel tank. Daddy and I were shoveling dirt into the port, trying to smother the fire into submission. Daddy has just turned away from the door, and I was just heading back to it when I heard the explosion and saw the liquid fire spray the entire room. I don't think the house lasted twenty minutes after that.

No one yelled at Daddy for being stupid. But he punished himself to death. He only lived a year-and-a-half himself.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Goodbye, Mr Chips

I first saw this film back in the 1960s. Watched it on television with Lynahr and Judayl, who both insisted I wouldn't like it because it was neither adventure, fantasy, or cartoon.

Their cynicism encouraged me to at least watch as long as I could - just to prove them wrong. What surprised me was that I DID prove them wrong. I liked the movie.

Back in those days you had to wait for one of the network stations, or the local station, to show a movie once it left the theatres. And Goodbye, Mr Chips had left the theatres long before I was born.

For those of you who might be unfamiliar with the film, it is a black and white production from 1939, starring Robert Donet and Greer Garson, also Greer Garson actually was only in it for a short time.

The back of the VHS case has this to say:

In 170, Charles Edward Chipping (Donat) becomes the new Latin master at Brookfield School, where he leads a rather lackluster life. On a walking tour of the Alps, he loses his way in a fog and encounters Katherine Bridges (Garson). When the two meet again in Vienna, they fall in love. Happiness and tragedy mold Chipping's rise from mere teacher to "Chips," the most beloved member of the faculty.

Adapted from James Hilton's best-selling novel, the film is both an intimate study of human nature and a nostaligic tribute to England's venerable public schools where generations of young men were instilled with the traditions of a world now but a memory.

Approximate Running Time: 1 hour 55 minutes.

Actually, the blurb is inaccurate in that Chipping does not get "lost" in the fog. He just has to quit walking because of the fog. (Or risk a mistep and fall to his death.)

It's a tender movie, despite it's quiet acknowledgement of certain cultural truths about gender and class (which we still stuggle with today, I must say). No time in recorded human history has been good for everyone. But this movie seems to suggest that perhaps the culture of that era had a lot of things over the way we do things now. If only we could merge the best of both and discard the worst of both.

If you enjoy history at all then give this movie a go. I bought it a good number of years ago (which is why I own a VHS and not a DVD version) and I watch it several times a year. It's one of those films which fills me with longing and tears for something I never knew.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

An Expression From the Past

Stephen receives a lot of exposure on this blog. He gets honorable mentions on a couple of other blogs, too. Daddy is another. It is entirely right and proper that I should do so, I think. They are both gone and I love them both dearly.

I have referenced my new friends more than once here, too, confessing my love for them.

Today, despite it being Animals and Nature Day on A Voice in the Wind, I will confess my love for Spouse. Included with that is Son, for he came from us, at least in part. His spirit comes from God, but the shell it lives in came from us, as well as a few personality quirks, good and bad.

Spouse isn't too keen on frequent mentions on-line. Not keen about Son being mentioned, either. Anything to hide their identity. But I can hardly post without referencing one and/or the other at least sometimes. And because this blogging thing has turned from a selfish display of words to myself into a selfish interactive with others, things slip, and I find myself compelled to reveal more to friends than I did to an empty and impersonal cyberspace. (Hence the addition of gender on my profile.) Spouse is mostly fine with this. I have friends again. It's been a few years.

Anyway, I have been listening to this particular song several times a day for the past five days. It's one of about a dozen I'm replaying over and over again. All take me back at least two decades in time. Some as far back as 1969. Some make me cry. Some make me feel hopeful. Others remind me of Stephen, being young, foolish, and without any cares. This song, also linked at the bottom of the blog, brings me back to the early 1980s. We (Spouse and I) were still in our twenties. We were both thin then (now it's just Spouse). And healthy. And hopeful. And poor. We both worked at the same place (which is how we met). As I drove us to and from work we would listen to radio stations (I'm a station turner). When this song would come on I would sing it. It's been more than twenty years since I remember hearing it last. Stumbled across it the other day. I can still sing it. Just not as well.

The song is important to me because I have watched what has happened to many other families - just in this neighborhood - in which the husband has lost work and can't get/keep another job to replace the one lost. In nearly every other case the wife has taken the children and left. Spouse did not do that. Not even when we lost the house.

It's no fun being undeserving. But it is comforting to be loved. And so my friends, not to take anything away from the love I bear for you, and you know I love you, this expression of love is for Spouse, though she will not read it. If you wish to listen to it, I have a YouTube link at the bottom of the blog. (Today, anyway. That will change at some point in the future.)

Longer, by Dan Fogelberg

Longer than there've been fishes in the ocean
Higher than any bird ever flew
Longer than there've been stars up in the heavens
I've been in love with you.

Stronger than any mountain cathedral
Truer than any tree ever grew
Deeper than any forest primeval
I am in love with you.

I'll bring fires in the winters
You'll send showers in the springs
We'll fly through the falls and summers
With love on our wings.

Through the years as the fire starts to mellow
Burning lines in the book of our lives
Though the binding cracks and the pages start to yellow
I'll be in love with you.
I'll be in love with you.

Longer than there've been fishes in the ocean
Higher than any bird ever flew
Longer than there've been stars up in the heavens
Ive been in love with you
I am in love with you..

For better and for worse. In sickness and in health. Wasn't sure I believed it at the time. Now, coming up on 30 years later, time has shown the truth.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Miscellaneous Rambling

I get to vent today. So what's new, you're asking yourself. Bevie's always venting about something. True. Only today I get to do it with permission. Wednesday is Venting Day on A Voice in the Wind.

So what am I going to vent about? A couple of things.

Just got back from taking Son to school. Stopped at the grocery store on the way home. We were completely out of milk, green grapes, apples, and Clementine oranges. I was nearly out of my wheat bread, too. (Son and Spouse eat white bread.) No asparagus, either.

So we get inside the store and green grapes are still on sale at a dollar a pound. Good price. But the asparagus has gone UP in price by 60%. So did the Clementines. The apples weren't so bad. They only went up 20%. But they're even more out of season today than they were four days ago. So why should I pay more for apples that are mushy and grainy? I hate mushy and grainy apples. Butter was up nearly 20%. So we left the produce and dairy section with two cartons of milk (price remained stable), some yogurt for Spouse (I hate yogurt), and some mozzereli cheese for the pizza Spouse and Son are going to have tonight while I eat a cheese sandwich and look on with saliva dripping from my mouth, one bag of Clementines and two pounds of green grapes. No apples. No asparagus.

What we find next is that one of my favorite Root Beers (Dads) is on sale, 60% OFF! So is Powerade, 25% OFF. Chips are down. Ice cream is down. Pre-popped popcorn is down. An entire fleet of snack product prices have fallen 25%-60% while the foods and drinks which are my new staples have increased by the same percentages. I swear there is someone monitoring what I purchase and adjusting things accordingly. Why else did they quit making my favorite spaghetti noodles? Why quit selling macaroni in the discount five pound box? What happened to Cream of Shrimp soup? Blueberry Pop Tarts WITH NO FRIKKIN' FROSTING? Life s*cks. So does losing weight. Well, actually it isn't the losing weight that s*cks. It's the losing weight. Right?

Just deleted a half hour's writing. Didn't like the turn I took. Maybe I am growing up at last. Not so sure that's a good thing. I like the idea of being young and silly. It's better just to be comfortable with who I am. Maybe that's what's going on and I'm not really growing up at all. That would be okay.

Do you want to read something really cool? Fairyhedgehog's Hero Story posted on The Legion of On-Line Super Heroes this morning. I've read it. It's cool. Give it a good read. Then bookmark the page and return to read the other posts. There are six now, with four more scheduled over the next eight days.

EDIT: Oh. And what the H*ll's up with these new dashboard icons: set up mobile posting and set up email posting? They pushed my blog titles over to the right and now Legion of On-Line Super Heroes take up two lines. Make the screen look odd.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Stories, Heroes, Writing, Critiques

Supposed to talk about writing assignments today. Nothing new to say about them save that Quest is moving along nicely. Too nicely, in a way. I tried writing with Spouse and Son offering up one interruption after another. It's hard to keep focus when one is being inundated with a host of questions. I wound up skipping a mess of idea and not thinking others through.

The stories are posting on Legions of On-Line Super Heroes. If you haven't visited the blog, or haven't in a couple of days, I highly recommend it for good light reading. Fun reading. There are five stories up now, with others scheduled for Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Monday. There's some very good writing there. And my stuff is there, too.

What a pity there's no money in blogging. I'd be doing just fine. But then, we all blog. How does that phrase of W.S.Gilbert go?

When everyone is somebody, then no one's anybody.

Been invited to bring something to read to tonight's Writers' Group. There was only a single submission to be critiqued. I gave it my best, but the writer happens to write a lot better than I, and it's Chapter Eight of a story which I haven't read before. I thought about bringing what I have of Quest, but as Quest is a sequel to Apprentice, and this group has already reviewed Apprentice, I thought to bring something new. So, I'm bringing my opening to The Animal Kingdom. It's only six pages.

The Animal Kingdom is one of my unfinished works. The premise is this:

There is an alternative reality where animals from this world can go to get away from humans and the struggles there are to survive here. How the journey is made is unknown to humans, but animals can make the journey easily.

The Animal Kingdom is a kingdom of peace. No animal preys on another for food. Those which feel the need must return to our world in order to get their meals. And therein is the story. A hog is found slaughtered near the border of the cats. Eschae, the Kingdom Mare, calls upon Sparks, her German Shepherd inspector, to solve the crime before the kingdom is undone and all predators must be banned.

I like the idea. I even remember a lot of what I wanted to do with it. Just never finished it. If there's time at the meeting tonight I'll present it and see what everyone thinks of it. Maybe I will finish it after all.

Other than that, not much going on. Mostly recovered from my cold. Slight headache today with slight congestion. But only a few coughs.

Take care.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The House of My Youth

Part 11 - So What's My Read on the Manifestations?

Okay, as promised, here are the reasons I (mostly) do not believe the things I have written about regarding The Old House were ghost induced.

First. I don't believe that when people die they stick around. Either they go to live with God, or they are locked away to await final judgment. Do I believe in demons? Yes. But I don't think that's what was going on at The Old House either. I think all of the manifestations can be directed into a couple of groupings. Let us examine each kind of manifestation (as opposed to each instance).

Voices

That nearly everyone who came to The Old House heard voices from people who were not (apparently) there is without debate. So who was talking? Where were they? Why couldn't we see them? Why was it so difficult to make out what they were saying?

I am convinced it has to do with how things work. Our knowledge of science should back me up on this, I believe.

The Old House was built before 1900. At some point in time, someone brilliant decided to insulate the walls with small pieces of something which appeared to contain metal. When we lived in it, The Old House was over eighty years old. Having never been properly heated and cooled, the wood had gone quite dry.

Now it is a fact that those of us who heard voices, heard them in only one of two rooms. The big room downstairs, or the big room upstairs, right above it. This meant the southeast corner. What I believe was happening was The Old House had become some type of radio receiver, with the construction allowing for a faint broadcast of what it was picking up. We heard voiced because it was picking up talk radio. (Talk about scary! Just think - Rush Limbaugh - and you'll know why we were terrified. Well, Rush wasn't around then, but you get the idea.)

Walls Banging - no footprints in the snow

Not many outside our family experienced this one. I think one of my uncles was there once, and maybe my grandma once or twice. But usually it was just the immediate family. Again, I think our knowledge of science will support me on this.

As indicated above, The Old House was, indeed, old. The wood was dry. The construction codes back in the 1800s were not the same as now. Different materials. For one thing, no sheetrock.

That the main wall to experience this banging should also have been visibly bowed is significant, I think. I have read that old dry wood will, of its own accord (and I believe this is what was going on at The Old House)(actually due to air pressures) begin to vibrate. The Old House was collapsing, as was evidenced by the bowing of the wall. What we were hearing was significant shifts and tremors in the wall. Someone more knowledgeable about such things can explain it better, but I am convinced this was a natural phenomenon.

Sharing the Bed

This one's harder (and the reason I wrote "mostly" at the post's beginning).

It could have been hallucinations. The argument against that is that these incidents took place in three different rooms with four different people. So what other explanations do I have?

Not an entirely satisfactory one, I'm afraid. The best I come up with is imagination. I have something like this take place today when I'm in bed. I will get the sensation that someone is rubbing my lower legs, or putting pressure on them. No one is. Not even the cat. Today I believe it is related to poor circulation caused by my diabetes. But I'm wondering, since only young people, school age, experienced it, if it wasn't related somehow to growing. Just a guess here. I didn't find anything about it on-line.

Sightings- Visual Manifestations

These are also difficult to explain because not only did many people see the phantoms, but we all saw the same thing. The most logical explanation is: magnetic fields.

There are several websites which talk about this phenomena. Here is one.

I actually watched a short documentary about this last summer or fall. A group of "ghost hunters" had gone to Edinburgh, Scotland. There is a castle there which is acclaimed as being the "most haunted in the world". Every week many castle visitors, and staff, experience eerie events in the lower places.

What the did was get several volunteers and put them into separate rooms. Some of the rooms were notorious for producing manifestations and some had few or none. The subjects were not told which room they were in. Cameras, sound equipment, and other electronic monitoring devices were set up. Then the experiment began.

The one young woman, who was in one of the notorious rooms, heard voices and felt something touching her. Neither the audio nor video equipment picked up anything. But the woman was becoming quite terrified. What the other electronic equipment did pick up was magnetic fields.

Later in the show, they filmed a doctor/scientist who was experimenting with low-level magnetic fields on human beings. What he had discovered was that these same manifestations could be induced. People would hear things. They felt themselves being touched. It was quite panicky for them.

Low-level magnetic fields exist naturally in the world. If they do in fact cause these kinds of hallucinations, then that may very well explain The Old House. It would also explain why the manifestations ceased when The Old House burned and we rebuilt 100 yards to the north.

Animals

Our dogs often reacted to The Old House itself. Especially when they were inside and near the steps going down to the basement. Both my Mother and Helvie told me about being down there and suddenly having a sense of fear which made them want to run out. But they barely made it, having to climb on their hands and knees up the steps.

The basement was so poorly constructed the ground itself could be seen. My guess is that some poisonous gas was seeping into it and that at times it got intense. The basement smelled so musty and bad anyway that we wouldn't have notice any other kind of smell. The dogs' reaction would suggest the gas was not odorless.

So there you have it. My explanations of why The Old House was NOT haunted. Like I said at the top: I'm mostly convinced.

Here, just because I have it, is a photo of The Old House's last moments. It didn't scan well. The paper is over thirty years old and quite yellow.

The room I was using at the time was in the upper right corner. It was already gone when the picture was taken. There is a 250-gallon tank of fuel oil next to the house which was spouting fire. Everyone was terrified it was going to explode, but it didn't. The house looks cruddy for two reasons: 1) I was tearing off the old siding and painting the wood; 2) It was cruddy.

I used to use the part to the left as a backstop to throw rubber baseballs against. I quit when I threw one through the wall. Then I shifted around the corner to the left. The boat got pulled away and saved from a meltdown. Not so with my things. I had ran them out of the house and set them in the yard. Even at thirty yards away the heat from the fire evaporated them. All I saved was an acoustic guitar and the clothes I was wearing. No shoes.

The caption below the picture talks about damages being estimated at $5,000. They left off the "1" ($15,000). Mother was furious. Not only did the picture make it look like we were Ma and Pa Kettle, but then the caption confirms it.

The window on the far right was stained glass. The next window, by the tank, was at the foot of the steps. Then it was the two dining room windows. The last window, left-middle, was the kitchen window.

The tall chimney in the center didn't fall. My Daddy and two neighbors went the next day with a giant crowbar and took it down before it fell on someone.

Heck of a day. Not much of a birthday present for Helvie. I remember walking up to her and her screaming hysterically, "It's our house! Where are we going to live?" I put my arm around her and said, "It's okay. It doesn't matter." She didn't like that answer.