Archive for September, 2014

WHINING, GOOD THINGS, and ALL THE REST

September 1, 2014

 

 

Whining

As a fledgling blog writer, I’ve learned that sometimes the only good choice of a word may not be politically correct. This occurred the last few days, as I survived an onslaught of negative communications which somewhat tarnished the joy of last weekend when I attended my newest grandson’s christening in Texas. I realized that the most appropriate adjective to express my emotional state is, “I’m Pissed!” And these personal events only added to my disgust at the horrible occurrences in the Ukraine, in the Middle East, and at a plethora of locations in our own sphere including Congressional non-activity to address immigration concerns, climate change, and others.

First, I noted that in driving from my Thermopolis, Wyoming home to the Dallas area, at no time did I see gasoline prices anywhere close to the $3.67 we pay here; even the rest of Wyoming is at least $.20 per gallon cheaper. And we have oil wells throughout our county! I even saw a $2.99 cash price several times, in Texas. So, I arrived home not in the sunniest of moods—more like “We’re getting screwed, again!” (more crude but very expressive language).

Upon opening my accumulated mail, I received a notice that my Medicare Supplement Insurance premium will be increased by 8%, beginning next month.

This was followed by the cable TV company, happy to tell its customers that as of October 1, all of their broadcasting will be digital, removing the analog channel broadcasts. That means that the tv’s I have in the two bedrooms can only receive programs if I pay an extra $6.99/month per tv, for a box. I already pay $115/month for the privilege.

Next, a $190 bill from Verizon, which turned out to be from a mistake made by a former employee two months ago, when I changed to a cheaper plan to include my tablet. They tell me that I have to pay it, but will receive about $110 in credits next month, when my normal bill would be $80. Maybe.

I stopped in Casper on my way home, and dropped by the Hyundai dealer where I had purchased my 2011 Sonata Turbo two months ago. There, I was informed that they will no longer be a Hyundai dealer, only Toyotas, and the fancy warrantee I purchased will be honored at the only other Hyundai dealer in Wyoming, in Cheyenne, 305 miles away. I guess I can always go to Billings, Montana, a mere 190 miles distant.

Finally, I need to check on the two charities to which I donate monthly, UNICEF and Wounded Warriors; the former because of my concern for all kids, worldwide, and the latter because even though I was totally against either of the two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the service men had no choice about going and if injured, need to be taken care of. However, recently I’ve read some internet commentary that raises the question, “where does the money go?” I’m also tired of getting repeated pleas for more, and more, from both of these organizations. At the same time, the mail brings an average of six more solicitations weekly, some of them obviously spending some of the donation funds on “gifts” to prospective donors. I won’t even consider those, even though most are quite reputable—March of Dimes, Easter Seals, American Red Cross, Public Radio. The V Foundation, Jimmy Carter Foundation, Doctors without Borders, Smiles, etc.

 

Good Things

Having become more and more depressed as the week unfolded, I decided that in order to regain my usual sunny self, I needed to look at all the good things that were happening. For instance, my Broncos completed the pre-season without any “out for the season” injuries, and look toward bettering their record from last year; i.e., winning the Super Bowl.

Then, there was receiving an offer to buy our advertised house, the first such although it has been shown nine times. We made the usual counter-offer, remembering JFK’s “We shall not negotiate out of fear but neither shall we fear to negotiate”, and should know this week if we’re in business. If successful, I foresee lots of travel in my future. Hopefully, things will settle sufficiently for me to return to Egypt and to visit Jordan and explore Turkey, as well as other less questionable sites as Australia, New Zealand, and various places in Europe. Iceland has long been somewhere on my “bucket list.

Several weeks ago I had moved into the smaller house I had purchased almost two years ago, and am really enjoying its size, one floor, and convenience. And the utilities are less than half of those in the big house. It takes only a half hour to mow the lawn, another bonus.

The cat has learned to use the plastic flap on the kitty door, meaning I no longer worry about bugs flying in the uncovered opening to the backyard. She has finally realized that merely sitting and staring at it doesn’t work, she must leave her haunches and push through the portal.

My niece is retiring from the National Park Service at the end of September and moving to FT. Collins, Colorado where she will continue working on her writing. I will get to see her more often, as I travel through that area on my numerous trips. I must admit I’m struggling to read her latest novel, the mystery “Afterthought”, by K.A. Krisko, due to my difficulty in reading lengthy items on Kindle. This is a throwback to my comments in my previous blog “Transitions”, the ones indicating that I believe that each of us ASSIMILATES our particular era, and only ACCOMMODATES others. I like to read, but books, not screens. Actually, the story is quite well written and entertaining, particularly the gift she has for descriptions and dialog.

I’m looking forward to next weekend when I visit friends in Jackson Hole, where I lived for three years back in the last century (1996-99). And next month when I head to Arizona after hitting the AdvancEd Wyoming conference in Cheyenne, for a bit of golf with other colleagues.

Finally, I can golf every day at our local course, with a group of similarly retired friends. Much of the time, we’re the only ones on the course and even get a bit miffed if the golf shop has allowed anyone else to “use our course”. The greens have finally come around, just in time for winter; usually we are able to play comfortably at least into mid-October.

 

All the Rest

We are seeing the tentative onset of autumn, the best time of year in our area. We look toward cloudless blue skies, daytime temperatures in the 60’s and 70’s, and nighttime cooling to make it “just right” for snoozing. I recall a day a number of years ago when I was having morning coffee with one of my friends, both of us unemployed full-time at that juncture. My friend, Jeremy, was known regionally for his talent for fishing, even to the extent that he was asked to be the guide for Babe Winkleman as the latter was filming a fishing segment in “our” Wind River Canyon. Anyway, Jeremy and I decided to go fishing north of town, it was one of those days like the ones I described, in October. As we walked along the Big Horn River, admiring the golden leaves of the bankside cottonwoods contrasting with the brilliant blue of the sky above, I turned to Jeremy and said, “You know, I’ll bet there are people in New York who would pay several thousand dollars to be doing what we’re doing, and neither of us even has a job!” And that’s why I live here. And I mourn his passing several years ago, from cancer.

 

When I was in sixth and seventh grade, I had a girlfriend named Patricia. Actually, the only overtures we ever made at that age were to hold hands while roller skating at the PlaMor Roller Rink, but nevertheless we were an official “item”, BK + PR (I was called Bobby at that time) I moved from that area after eighth grade, and heard no more about her until two years ago when I was contacted by a former classmate inviting me to their high school reunion. Along with the invitation information, he had enclosed a photograph of our fifth grade class (39 kids!—Teachers nowadays would go on strike! And I never realized how many were in that class until I saw the picture) and a list of everyone’s address and email. As I looked at the names, I saw that Patricia was not only listed, but lived in Northern Colorado where I often travel.

I contacted her and we agreed to meet for lunch on my next voyage. Subsequently, we had a very pleasant afternoon lunching in Boulder, taking a short hike in a nearby park, and visiting the nearby Constant Comment Tea Factory and the Lending Tree Western Library. She had retired after ten years as the reference librarian at U. of Colorado, following a number of years at the U. of Northern Colorado, the institution where I had earned my doctorate. In her retirement, she was a member of several hiking clubs, and even went overseas to follow that hobby. And this is where more sadness creeps in.

Several months after our meeting, I was contacted by another classmate to tell me that Patricia had disappeared in the mountains above Denver, while on a trip with her hiking club. She had told the other hikers that she was going to take an alternate path down the mountain, and was not seen again. Weeks of searching revealed no trace of her, and the efforts were reluctantly abandoned. Then, last month, a couple out hiking with their kids ran across remains that were ultimately identified as our Patricia., two years after her disappearance. I am sad.

These two vignettes are examples of looking back; as I become older I find myself turning to the security that I think I had in That Other Era, the one in which I was raised and had learned to function fairly effectively. Parts of that world crumble away incrementally as people and the way things are done, pass away. Back then, there were for instance a relatively few movie stars and comedians to keep track of; now there are too many that come and go, that I lose interest. I’ve even subscribed this week to the TCM channel’s movie guide so I’ll know when Cary Grant, Gary Cooper, Gregory Peck, Marilyn Monroe, Roy, Dale, and Gene, Barbara Stanwyck, Betty Grable, etc. are being shown. Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Red Skelton—those were ours.

I look back at various “Reading Stages” as I matured; I read voraciously until the current Age of Technology. Summers in elementary and junior high school included at least weekly trips to the library; early on I read the all historical novel series about the Western Expansion and Civil War, of Joseph Altsheler. These were sandwiched around hot afternoons in the shade of the porch, playing our daily game of Monopoly accompanied by a blue Fiesta ware pitcher of grape Kool-Aid. Later, with a summer job as a clay court tennis court attendant where most of the time I could sit and read, I read all the science fiction books in the K.C.Mo. Public Library. I liked many authors—favorites were Heinlein, Bradbury, and especially Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy. I still remember that the flame point of paper is 451 degrees, thanks to Bradbury.

On to college, and many hours spent during the winter huddled over a floor register for warmth, devouring all the Sax Rohmer Fu Manchu stories, R. Arthur Freeman’s Dr. Thorndyke mysteries, and Black John of Halfaday Creek action and mystery.

Graduating college and after a year of teaching in Kansas City, there was the Peace Corps in Ghana and, in my second year, I was in charge of the 5000 volume school library at a school in the most remote part of the country ( i.e., there wasn’t much else to do after the 6 p.m. sunset except to read by candlelight). I discovered mysteries and read all the Agatha Christie and John Creasy novels as well as any other British mysteries on the shelves. At the same time, I introduced myself to the P.G. Wodehouse books about Bertie Wooster, Aunt Agatha, and Jeeves the Butler, to the extent that I exchanged letters with Mr. Wodehouse about my enjoyment, after returning to the U.S. I even have a set of Jeeves video tapes, for my VCR.

In subsequent years, I consumed a variety of pleasurable reading, ranging from the Tom Clancy and John Gresham best sellers, to the historical novels of my brother-in-law, John Jakes. I would stay up until all hours of the night with any of these; now, I just can’t curl up with a Kindle, I go to sleep within five minutes.

I’ve described the types and stages of “recreational books” I’ve read through the years, which might give the impression that I have no interest in more serious thought. However, I can mention a few books that have greatly influenced my ability to move about in different cultures during my school evaluation travels, Edmund Hall’s The Silent Language (about cultural concepts of time) and The Hidden Dimension (Cultural concepts of the use of space); Ralph Linton’s Culture, and others. I spent an afternoon consuming gins-and-tonic with Thor Heyerdahl, author of Kon-Tiki, Aku Aku, and the Ra Expedition, all of which I read for the thrill of adventure as well as contributing to my Master’s Level Anthropology studies. Lots of magazines throughout the years, from ” National Geographic”, “Scientific American”, and “Sky and Telescope” to” Time”, “Newsweek”, and “Mad”. I still subscribe to some of these; fortunately, they’re still available for me to re-live my era.

So, what’s next? I’m a quite healthy appearing 75, but it’s probably really only a façade as these little aging gremlins try to work their nastiness. I hope to match my dad’s 98 years, when he decided he was tired and just closed his eyes and was gone. I have a mental outline of a book or “small pamphlet”, titled “The Middle School Kid’s Parents and Teachers Owner’s Manual” to provide useful, practical insights into understanding and working productively with this age group. No, it won’t have a centerfold featuring a picture of a paddle. I would appreciate suggestions of topics which should be addressed, from persons of experience with middle level youngsters.

In the meantime, I’ll do my almost daily golf, plan my travels, and try to compose a list of my favorite movies and music to present in my next blog. Be aware that all of them will be from My Era.

 

Always Be Happy       To Our Youth