Sunday, July 29, 2007

Road Trip, 70's style

When I was about eleven my mom and sisters and I piled into our station wagon and headed across the country on a trip to Colorado to visit my oldest sister. It was a trip that was memorable for me, but only in sketches. I remember a big sign that said WELCOME TO INDIANA that stretched across the highway, I remember my one sister who was half sleeping - half carsick- all bored who barely lifted her head to look when we went across the Mississippi River, the endless flatness of Kansas, and seeing the Rocky Mountains loom on the horizon from seemingly hundreds of miles away. The road that lead to my sister's town was a winding one with hairpin turns which just kept going up. At each turn you could look down hundreds of feet and see where you had just come from, not a road for anyone afraid of heights. By sheer coincidence, we had decided to visit my sister's family at the same time that some friends of hers from back here in Ohio had. Her house was tiny and I remember there being several people sleeping in the same room as me. Besides my sister's husband and her friend's husband and my three year old nephew, I was the only boy there so it was a pretty yucky situation- for an eleven year old boy. Funny, as I'm writing this now I remember a little more. Like the stream that ran behind their house, and how I was hoping to catch some huge trout in it even though it was only a few inches deep.

Visiting the ranch where my brother-in-law worked was fun and exciting. The field that stretched toward the mountains looked like fields back home, but I soon found out that distances are deceiving in the mountain country, and that field went on forever it seemed. Cattle (or horses, not sure which) grazed in that field but couldn't be seen because of it's vastness. There was an old refrigerator in the ranch's bunk house which had a menagerie of animals in jars of formaldehyde; baby mountain lions, rattlesnakes, bears... it was slightly scary yet exciting to know that I was in dangerous country with animals that we didn't have back home.

Right before we left we went to Royal Gorge, which has a suspension bridge that is a quarter of a mile high. With the excitement of a young boy I couldn't wait to go across that, but it wasn't to be. It was late evening and a horrible thunderstorm and downpour was making it almost impossible to see the road, and at the last minute my mother decided she didn't want to go across the bridge just then. I remember there was a ghost town close to there that they used in a John Wayne movie that we drove through, but I don't think we even stopped as there was nothing much to see.

On the way back we went north through Wyoming, which had the most awesome scenery of the whole trip. Huge mountains, endless fields, incredibly large herds of deer and antelope right along the road, and a sky so big it took my breath away made this my favorite state right then and there. I also remember that it was somewhere in Wyoming that I lost one of my favorite possessions, a bone handled hunting knife. Being the man of the trip I naturally was in charge of protecting the females, so I had brought this knife along and had put it under my pillow at one of the motels we stayed in. I guess in the commotion of leaving I had forgotten it because when I went to get it it was nowhere to be found. I sort of made up for losing it by buying a really neat, western style bb gun that I loved the look of. When I got back home I found it didn't shoot nearly as well as my old, worn out one, it just looked a lot prettier.

That was most of what I remember about our western trip. This story is in bits and pieces, like my memories. I wish my eleven year old brain would have told me to buy a camera, even though back then they were out the price range that my paper route sales limited me to, and I probably would have still saved my money for that BB gun anyway.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Honor of the Ancients

When someone commits suicide in today's society it's most often looked upon as a horrible event, especially among religious people, who think the act is a one way ticket to the fires of hell. Many times, the person doing the deed has been suffering for a long time with internal struggles which were just too difficult to overcome, be it a mental illness or a shame that he has not been able to rid himself of. When the individual reaches this point and takes that step there are always people who will say things like "If I'd only known I would have tried to help him". Most of them are lying. How many people do you know who will go out of their way to befriend someone with a mental illness? Even if it's someone they know fairly well. No, this person is an embarrassment to them, even though they may make an attempt at a casual friendship, it takes a very special person to go the extra mile and try to provide this person with the help and comfort they really need.
I think that probably the suicidal person knows that his friends aren't really going to stick with him, and in fact most of them would probably be relieved to be able to say "I wish I could have helped him" rather than actually making a commitment before things reached that climax. The stigma of shame associated with suicide is really unfair to the victim's name and to his family. Especially to his family, as they have to grieve for their loss and also have the added burden of shame which society levels at them.

In the olden days of the Samauri in Japan taking one's life was sometimes almost a heroic act. Certainly not something seen as the "cowards way out" as it is today, but an honorable way to bow out without disgrace. I'm certainly not condoning suicide as a means to solving problems, but I would like to see the veil of shame lifted on behalf of those individuals who had problems so massive that they resorted to this means. I choose just to say a prayer for their souls and their families, and I hope that, if the circumstance arose, I would be able to recognize and help a person on the edge, contemplating that final step.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Snapshot of Life

One of my favorite songs from the 80's, in fact the song that I associate with the music explosion in that era, is SynchronicityII by The Police. Not a love song, or one glorifying the drugs, sex and rock& roll lifestyle at the time, but a song about a gloomy, depressing, everyday life which is unknowingly about to change as "something crawls to the surface". I don't know why I love this song so much... maybe it's the energy that Sting puts into singing it, turning it from a boring tale into something mysterious and slightly haunting that you just have to crank up the volume whenever you hear it. I have a great video of this song, but I haven't been able to put any videos on my blog for some time now.

I suppose that if you read into this song it could be an omen of things which were to come; life going on day by day while a dark, unseen presence slowly makes it's way to the civilized world.... New York City before 911? Just a thought.

Anyway, I haven't written anything in a while because there's not a lot going on, other than my youngest son going to scout camp this week. And my middle son getting engaged to his girlfriend, something my wife and I weren't ready for, but I expected was coming.
Umm... I took down my tepee. While I loved having it up and watching people slow down or stop to look at it, the birds also enjoyed it. Perching themselves on the tops of the poles to take a rest and a poop, they soon turned my creation into a speckled mess. I'm taking it to the laundromat today to wash it, then I might paint some scenery on it and put it back up.
That about it I guess. Hope your Wednesday is going good.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Just Looking For Love

One of my interests is in the search for Bigfoot, aka Sasquatch, Yeti, and several other names all referring to creatures supposedly seen in many different parts of the world. I'm not one of those guys who attends conventions or races to a recent sighting to take pictures and smell any unusual looking droppings to try to find proof. I do like to check articles online from time to time though. There are many reports in this area of sightings by fairly reliable witnesses, some sightings less than ten miles from here. That area is a vast stretch of land with little civilization and thick wooded areas. If Bigfoot were to come through Ohio that is probably the part of the state that he would choose. I'm not convinced that we have an eight foot tall hairy man running around calling this his homeland, but it would be exciting if it were true. One theory, in fact, is one that I might be prone to believe and that is that Bigfoot is a migratory mammal and passes through Ohio on his seasonal treks to escape the hot southern weather or bitter cold of the north. Or, maybe he just is such a rare species that he has to travel far and wide to find a mate. You gotta think that his pickings are pretty slim when it comes to finding a female Sasquatch who's not overly concerned about odor, facial hair or balls of feces hanging from his hairy butt, so a cross country search would probably be the only way to satisfy his needs.

One of these days I'll have to put more effort into researching the Bigfoot phenomena. I don't know if I can go to my grave peacefully without knowing for sure whether there is a larger, hairier, probably more intelligent civilization living right under our noses.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Today I was thinking about one of my previous jobs and realizing how different things are now, eighteen years after leaving that job because of its closing. The store was exactly like the one in this picture, and although the pay was slightly more than minimum wage and I had to work for a couple of years before getting on full time it was there that I learned to work. During my time there I did a lot of hard manual labor, a lot of work requiring me to use my brain, and a lot jobs that had to be finished in a timely manner, so speed and accuracy were required. There was rarely a lull where there was nothing to do, as we were constantly changing aisles, displays, and whole departments to keep up with seasonal changes or the whims of the head honchos in the faraway New York office who would decide things needed switched around every so often. This was at a time when there were no UPC labels and scanning checkouts, so every item coming through the cash register had to be rung up by hand, and very often long lines developed as an item would come through with no tag on it and someone would have to be called from the department where it came from to check the price. I worked in every department in the store except for the clothing department. The two years I spent in the Automotive Department really helped me learn a lot about fixing my own cars, and the last three years in the Home Improvement Center was where I acquired a lot of skills that I use all the time working around the house.

Back then all the workers were expected to perform at their best everyday, and the store manager was a strict disciplinarian who instilled fear into our minimum wage souls. Just to get hired there was a privilege because you had to have qualities to be able to greet the public everyday and work with your coworkers in an environment that was often stressful. The employees there gained a reputation as some of the hardest workers around, and when the store closed down it wasn't hard to find other employment for most of the people there.

It's sad now to see a lot of the people, younger kids mostly, who come into work at the grocery store and do very little all day and get paid almost double what I made back at Nichols. The idea of loyalty to their employer is a foreign concept to most of these kids, but back then we did things with a pride that was shared by all the employees who made it through the Christmas rushes and long, antiquated inventory counts, emerging on the other side ready to start all over again.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Bowling With T-Rex

When I was young my dad had a part time job planting trees on abandoned strip mines to help in the reclamation process. I didn't know much about the job other than the fact that our pickup now had a gimungous tank of water in the back of it and had lots of shovels, spades and other tools for planting. One day dad brought home something he'd found at one of the mines. It was a rock, perfectly round and smooth, slightly smaller than a bowling ball. I wondered what geologic forces had been at work to form something like that, but being a kid of about 9 or 10 at the time I didn't think on it too hard, instead taking advantage of this odd sphere to have fun with it. My sister and I would roll it down the hill and try to knock over "pins" we had set up. As the years went by I used it as a shot put - albeit a rather oversized one, and by and large it got put into the coal house where it was shuffled around, tripped over, dropped and broken in half, and finally disappearing somewhere down the road, probably the pieces of it ending up as part of the lane.
About two years ago my wife dragged me to an antique mall just outside of town. The "antiques" there are mostly things that people were about to throw in the garbage but then said "Hey, I'll sell these at a ridiculous price to some sap who's never seen a plastic Disney lunchbox with a broken latch from 1978 before". So as my wife cooed over all the furniture which supposedly had a finish of some kind at one time but now looked like it had been dragged behind a truck and struck repeatedly with a ball peen hammer, I migrated to a large glass case with arrowheads, ancient pottery and fossils. Something there attracted my attention and I immediately realized that the round stone ball we played with as kids was probably a valuable dinosaur egg, as I was staring at one comparable in size to it sitting in the case with a hefty price tag on it labeled "Dinosaur Egg". I had to smile.... Like so many other things that I'd thrown away or lost over the years, here was a reminder that some of the things I thought were worthless and had discarded or lost turned out to have a value unseen by the untrained eye.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Long Haired Hippie

Being the procrastinator that I am I haven't gotten around to getting my hair cut for a couple of months and I'm starting to look like I did back in the seventies... my hair is, anyway. Back then I didn't get it cut very often, trying for the Peter Frampton look. My hair got as bushy as his, but I could never get it to grow much past my collar. My parents weren't thrilled that it was that long, and whenever my sister and her husband came to visit I always had to get it trimmed - her husband is a barber and he was always kept busy giving haircuts when he came. Now, it hasn't been cut in awhile because my barber died and I just hate to try to find a new one. Not that there are that many to choose from around here, but I don't like changes, and finding someone to cut my hair the way I like seems like a long drawn out process. I've been trimming it myself to keep it looking neat, but it's getting to the point that it needs someone who knows what they're doing, so I'll have to get busy and find someone..One of these days.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The View From Above

It seems the older I've gotten the more the problems and stresses in my life intensify. It's a combination of things, really. Money is a big factor - I just keep going further into debt, but also there seems to be a sense of slowly developing chaos about most other things in my life. Work, kids, wife...everything seems to be coming unraveled. The fact that I'm getting older doesn't help any either. I had a birthday last Friday and was thinking back to when I was young and envisioning my future. It looked nothing like the present that I live in, except perhaps the fact that I have the children that I wanted - even at a young age I knew I wanted to be a father. But the rest of my life is filled with disappointment. Regrets that I haven't made a better life for myself and family, that I haven't changed my quiet nature which has kept me from making friends easily, and disappointed that anxiety has become such a controlling force in my life. Looking at myself I wonder what my purpose in life could possibly be and it depresses me, so, I get in my car and drive to the country.

Climbing my hill is not a quick and easy task for someone who's got a few extra pounds to lug around, and whose hair has more and more gray strands everyday. Some days I'll feel energetic enough to try to sprint to the top, but three fourths of the way up my heart is threatening to explode and my legs turn to Jello so I have to stop and gasp for breath and regain enough energy to plod on to the top. There, I sit and let my head pound for a minute or two while my heart rate returns to normal. Sitting atop the hill just watching nature all around me is something I could do for hours on end. Directly across from me is the opposite hill where deer always bed down, and at the top of that hill where the treeline meets the open field I sometimes see wild turkeys. The scenery is why we bought this land in the first place, and up here on the top of the hill I can forget about the miseries in my life and enjoy the tranquility of being alone with nature. It's very much like James Taylor's song Up On The Roof, where all troubles are forgotten as he escapes from the hustle and bustle down below... it's just that my view is a little different.