Not much of a poet, but I was encouraged

Our friend Cindy encouraged me to post these few words as a feeble attempt at poetry. She posted a picture of a young woman with her head laying on her lap top keyboard above a poem that included a reference to “undo.” Here is a paraphrase of what I typed as a comment with the context provided above the poem.

Cindy, pairing your poem with the first picture is marvelous. “Undo won’t do the trick.” That is a terrific line that would have been unheard of forty years ago. It is the most magical button or icon ever invented – undo. So, when it does not do the trick, we are screwed. I am sure many a bad marriage would love the “undo” button. Of course, this would be passed the annulment period, which is a nice invention in its own right.

So, with this in mind, here is my feeble attempt:

“I wish my love for you remained
Undo

I wish I had not left my old job
Undo

I wish I had not given the Nigerian prince money
Undo

I wish I had not clicked on that link
Undo

Oops, undo is not working.
OK, Alt+CTRL+Del.”

If you like the format, please offer some “undos” of your own.

Wednesday wanderings the second week of 2022

Good morning all and happy Hump Day. Let’s get out today and wander around some, weather permitting in your area. Even if it is snowing, dress warmly and listen to the crunch of the snow beneath your boots.

I have about finished cutting up a strategically located Wax Myrtle in our back yard that fell over due to all of the rain and wind about ten days ago. It provided such privacy from one backyard neighbor’s view. Now, we can see their house more clearly and vice-versa. Wax Myrtle’s smell nice, so as I took the smaller branches to the curb, I had an aromatic walk. I have cut up many a tree due to high winds from hurricane remnants or just windy storms as our backyard has a small forest which we left for privacy. But, I hate chain saws and love to exercise. So, it is a slower process that takes days.

Today, we will be shedding our house of the many versions of Christmas ornaments we have in the attic. I think we have enough ornaments for ten Christmas trees. We label them by year, but in essence we have the brown, copper and gold Christmas ornaments, we have the blue and silver ones with an artificial white tree when we put up two, we have several variations of red and green ornaments, and we have colored and white lights. Right now, we have pulled them out of the attic and have small paths to walk around upstairs. If I report a sore back tomorrow, you will know the reason why. It won’t be due to the tree cutting, it will be due to ornaments removal. My guess is other folks have this problem.

I have noticed the marketers are mailing less now that Christmas is over. I am sure they will pick up the pace, but the respite is much appreciated. I have shared this before, but my sister gets marketing mail for my mother who passed away several years ago. And, my mother never lived in the house where my sister lives now. This is the definition of eternal life – you remain on marketing lists forever. When my sister tries to remove my mother’s name, they just change it to my sister’s. I wonder how many trees are killed sending mail to dead people?

Speaking of marketing, I saw where Congress is going to address the number of calls, as they did before. Talk about a waste of time. Counting the fingers on 435 members, they do not have enough digits to plug the holes in the marketing dam. Now, many of the calls are recorded voices trolling the listener. You can tell by the delay, then spiel. Yesterday, Samantha called me, but she was not really there. We usually don’t answer, but if it is real person, I want to tell them to please take me off their list. I think I am up to 768 “final” calls to extend a car warranty, get a better interest rate, etc. “Final” must mean “eternal” as in the previous paragraph on mailers.

Those are few wandering thoughts for the day. Best wishes on all your errands and chores. May the force be with you.

Movies and more movies

Since I have emerged from quarantine and am more than fine post-COVID infection, I wanted to share that I have been watching a number of movies. A large number. While the vaccines and booster kept the COVID wolves at bay, I still wanted to keep in “my hole” as I called it, until time passed and my wife and other son got their boosters.

So, between reading, puzzles and exercise, I watched a lot of movies. Here are a few that I found of interest. I will tell you some of these got low scores on Rotten Tomatoes, but were still a nice investment of time. I only turned away from a couple that I will not mention. If I watched again with my wife, I will note her reaction as well.

Since the number is large, I will just mention the movies with a brief blurb. In no particular order:

  • Queen of the Morning Calm (2019) – I had to watch this one because of the cool title. Tina Jung stars as a sex worker with a nine-year old daughter trying to make a better life for her family, in spite of an unreliable boyfriend. I did not recognize any of the cast, but my wife and I both enjoyed it.
  • The Last Right (2019) – Starring Michiel Huisman, Niamh Algar and Samuel Bottomley, the movie is about three people on a quest to take a man’s deceased body across Ireland to be buried with his brother who had died the week before. The interaction between the three and the underlying context makes this an enjoyable film we both liked. “Right” is spelled that way for a reason – doing something right.
  • Feast of Love (2007) – Starring a large cast with Morgan Freeman, Greg Kinnear, Jane Alexander, Rahda Mitchell, Billy Burke, Alexa Davalos, Toby Hemingway et al, this movie takes us through a range of emotions of love gained and lost. If watching with minors, beware of some surprising erotic scenes for such a known cast. Yet, the movie is good and we both enjoyed it.
  • Reindeer Games (2000) – Starring Ben Afleck, Charlize Theron, and Gary Sinise, the movie is about a group of truckers taking advantage of a released prisoner who had become a romantic pen pal with Theron’s character. The goal was to use his knowledge to rob a casino on Christmas Eve. It had a little more violence than my wife liked, but the story was interesting.
  • Downeast (2021) – Starring Greg Finley and Dylan Silver with a largely unknown cast, the story takes place in a harbor town on the coast of Maine. Finley and Silver are former lovers and she has returned to town to find out what happened to her deceased brother, Finley’s friend. The story is good, but the violence is prevalent, so my wife would only watch this one as we have relatives up there.
  • Defining Moments (2021) – this is a less acclaimed movie, but is still charming as Burt Reynolds leads an ensemble cast in his final movie. It also stars Sienna Guillory, Tammy Blanchard, Eric Peterson (who steals the film), Shawn Roberts, Kelly Van der Burg, Polly Shannon, Lara Jean Chorastecki, Christian McKenna, Graham Greene, et al. Reynolds’ character is dying which is why the added poignancy, but the movie involves the others’ stories as much as Reynolds’ character. Have some tissue handy.
  • The Station Agent (2003) – if you are in for quirky and poignant, this movie is for you. Peter Dinklage stars in this well before “Game of Thrones,” as a man who inherited a vacant train station manager’s house from his friend. It also stars Patricia Clarkson, Bobby Cannavale, and Michelle Williams. The movie is about an unexpected friendship between Dinklage, Clarkson and Cannavale after Dinklage moves in. Dinklage does an excellent job at revealing why a person of small stature is untrusting of people and the difficulty for sincere friends trying to break through that protective shell. Cannavale’s character offers this genuine innocence as he will not stop trying to be Dinklage’s friend. We both liked it, but thought it was a little bizarre.

I was planning on including “Paper Moon” and “The Last Picture Show,” but mentioned them last week after Peter Bogdanovich’s death. Both of these movies received acclaim and are worth the watch. Another couple of more violent movies that are good are “Safe House” with Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds and “Crisis” with Armie Hammer, Gary Odman, Evangeline Lilly and Greg Kinnear.

Tell me if you have seen these or about any other movies that caught your fancy.

A little bit of this and that for 2022

Happy New Year everyone. May your resolutions last longer than your hangover. I have celebrated New Year’s in a number of ways, but this old soul is less inclined to stay up until midnight these days. Living on the east coast of the US, we have resorted to celebrating the New Year’s on Greewich time, so we are done early.

I learned yesterday the legendary actress Betty White left us just shy of her 100th birthday. She has always been a character and has played many different types of roles over the years. She played nice girl roles for the longest time, so when she played the back-stabbing Sue Ann Niven in the 1970s on the “Mary Tyler Moore Show” it was a shock. Yet, she went onto many other roles in the 1980s and 1990s on the “Golden Girls” and “Hot in Cleveland.”. And, she was a terrific humanitarian and friend to animals. May she RIP.

Going in to 2022 and its insane campaign season which started about eleven months ago, we must try to regain some level of civil discourse in our society. Since changing politicians and opinion entertainers seems nigh impossible. we will have to make this a ground up change and force them to notice.

Here a few rules of the road that might help:

-if someone speaks or writes with name calling, labelling and cursing as their modus operandi, do what I often do and stop reading and do not respond. If this is the how the person wishes to argue, then his or her argument is poor.

-cease watching opinion entertainers who are dressed-up spin-doctors at best and disinformation peddlers at worst. Some do their homework more than others, but you are being told an opinion, often times not a well-supported one.

-if you are getting your news from someone on social media who you like because you agree with them, please do not consider that news and refer to the first two items above.

-if you are getting your news from a politician, check other sources; some have more veritas than others, but too many are just spouting BS without doing much homework. I used to think elected officials knew more than we do (and some did), but I stopped thinking that long ago. They also expect us to have short memories.

-you have two ears and one mouth, use them in that proportion. Ask more questions of people and listen to their answers. Listen to understand, not to respond. Only then can you follow-up with comments, but make sure you give like you want to get. Calling a person an idiot is not a good sales pitch.

-be civil to each other. Sometimes the best thing to say, is not to say it. Look for common ground, by doing that listening thing noted above. You may disagree on five points, but agree on two. That is a start.

One final thought to drum in your head. An old friend used to say “you can never have enough cups of coffee with people.” Engage. Converse. Catch-up. And, thank the other person for their time and interest. Time and interest are the best gifts someone can give you.

Be safe in 2022. Be well and be wise.

Always tell the truth – you don’t have to remember as much

An old friend named Mark used to have a daily updated greeting on his business phone, where he would include a quote with a life lesson. My personal favorite of his is the title of this post. “Always tell the truth – you don’t have to remember as much.”

As the truth is coming out about the horrible January 6 insurrection on the US capitol, there are a lot of uneasy folks who are having to explain things. These inconvenient truths are making people from legislators to opinion hosts to a former chief of staff to a former president squirm. Watching these folks do the backstroke is comically sad and not unexpected.

The truth matters. Or, at least it should. And, as Mark noted so clearly, when you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember as much. You don’t have to remember when and what you lied about. You don’t have to be hypocritical when your pattern of lying is discovered.

Whether it is politicians, churches, businesses, universities, sports organizations, etc., the failure to fess up and come clean from the outset is by far the worst way to handle things. When you know of something, tell people what happened and what you plan to do about it.

Richard Nixon got into most of his trouble covering up for the Watergate break-in. The Catholic church hid its pedophile priest problem for many decades and maybe longer. The University of Michigan has joined other major universities such as Penn State, Michigan State and Ohio State for covering up sexual misconduct by a doctor or coach.

The sad lesson is by waiting to be discovered is not only the wrong thing to do, it is the most expensive thing to do. More people get hurt. And, it costs money via settlements, lost revenue and devalued brand identity. Plus, people who care about the truth will leave. Just this week, Chris Wallace, the most respected journalist at a certain network joined three others who left or had to leave the organization as they care about the truth.

The truth matters. The truthtellers matter. When the truthtellers leave or are vilified that is a bad sign for the entity. Your name is the most important asset you have.

A rainy Saturday of reflection

We need the rain.Yet, December rainy days tend to be gray ones, rather than ones with peeks of sunshine coming through the clouds on occasion. So, it is a good day to write Holiday cards and finish the tree decorations, which usually evolve over three days.

When we moved here, we went from a house with a lot of basement storage to one with a lot of attic storage. We probably have ten years of different sets of Christmas decorations in our attic. This year, we are using one box that says 2014 Christmas on it and another box that is more generic. Not surprisingly, some of the small boxes of ornaments are unopened.

This is the second year we have gone with a smaller tree, about six and half feet tall. For our more accomplished metric friends, that is about two meters. The fact that I can recall a meter is 39.37 inches in length shows my mathematical (and maybe too anal) bent. By the way, it makes it harder to argue American exceptionalism, when the rest of the world has moved to the metric system, but I am just saying.

As a former runner, I know from experience that a 10K race converts to 6.2 miles, so if we Americans are ever traveling in Canada, remember to multiply by roughly 6/10 (divide by ten and multiply that by 6) to get the estimated number of miles before you run out of petrol from the kilometers’ signs to the next city. This is important when traveling north of the border to Montreal from New York state – make sure you fill up along the way.

Speaking of traveling to Canada, each time I have visited while driving, it never surprises me the number of Canadian cars you see going across the border. Citizens from the US are missing a great opportunity to visit a neat country with a lot to offer. I have been to Montreal three times, Niagara Falls twice, Toronto once and Ottawa once. My wife and I were going to Quebec City one time,but canceled that drive from Montreal due to icy road conditions. And, for those going to Niagara Falls, cross into the Canadian side, as the viewing is closer and more spectacular.

Our goal to travel more has been hamstrung by the COVID thief. Being vaccinated helps with the scare, but then we must face self-appointed martyrs for the mask and vaccine naysayers on planes who for some reason think WWJD includes being belligerent to flight attendants. We had planned on a trip north to see friends in Minnesota and along the way. We had planned to travel to the Seattle and Vancouver. And, our blogging friend Linda has helped with low road and high road routes along the US/ Canada border out west.

But, back to those Christmas decorations. We now have to get the decorations we pulled out for consideration, back into the attic. I feel like I am living in a salvage store with small aisles to walk through. Hopefully, we can pare some down, but I have a feeling others have similar messes in their attics. We have sold a few things from our attic on a “Next Door” app, so maybe we can get a few more things out the door for something tangible. That cash might help pay for dinner on our trips, when we feel more inclined.

Happy holidays all. Travel safely and with an abundance of patience and tolerance. You will need both for those martyred (and well lubricated) travelers, bless their hearts.

Monday morning you sure look “fine” – December 6, 2021

Since I believe I have used this title before, I will date this post. Fleetwood Mac fans will recognize the title as a lyric sung by Lindsey Buckingham in “Monday Morning.” The word “fine” has different meanings that fall in and out of favor. It also takes on different meanings with the tone of your voice.

It can mean things are going OK and don’t ask any more questions with a rebuttal tone. Or, it can mean a certain action is OK with you when askef permission. With a more welcoming response, fine can mean things are better than OK, actually pretty good or even good. And, it can be used as a noun to mean a penalty one must pay for a transgression.

My favorite meaning is from older times. Using a line from the Liam Neeson movie “Rob Roy,” about an honorable and heroic Scot, he would tell his wife, played by the lovely Jessica Lange, “You are fine to me.” In this case, he is telling her how beautiful she is to him. So, we have gone from OK to good to punitive to beautiful with one word.

It also finds itself in humor. I will avoid using a very funny, but very risque line from Richard Pryor in his bit the “Wino and the Junkie.” This is far from a PG line, so if you embark to hear it, you have been forewarned. Yet, it does address a couple of the definitions above in one sentence. One of my favorite cleaner lines about being “fine” comes from an unknown comic; “She is so fine the fine folks call her fine.”

After having my COVID booster shot on Friday, I am now fine after a sluggish Saturday. I may not look fine in the eyes of the fine folks, but I do feel fine and hopefully will avoid any fines in the future. Since it is the holiday season and we are eager to see friends and familly, let me quote two lines from the song “Fine fine day” by Tony Carey:

“It’s a fine, fine day for a reunion
It’s a fine, fine day for comin’ home”

Things are so fine, it has to be said twice. Have a fine, fine day.

Sports movies that echo real life lessons (a reprise)

Last month, I highlighted a sports movie that made even men cry called “Brian’s Song.”  The movie was about friendship between men of different backgrounds who were competing for the same job on a football team. So, the movie inspired me to note a few other sports movies, that echo longer, due to the story and/ or circumstances. There are many sports movies that can easily be forgotten, so those that are not have a reason for lasting in our memories.

To me, the most profound sports movie is called “Invictus” which chronicles the greatness of Nelson Mandela using the example of the national rugby team. Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon star in the movie directed by Clint Eastwood. Mandela would not let the Springbok team favored by white South Africans lose its support and galvanized a whole country behind it as it hosted and won the world championship. The team was a metaphor for inclusion and showed why Mandela was able to bring a fractured country together. Mohammed Morsi should have taken notes when he took over Egypt and he may still have a job.

“42” about Jackie Robinson becoming the first African-American major league baseball player is of the same ilk. The story is far more than about baseball, as Robinson (played by Chadwick Boseman) and Dodger owner Branch Rickey (played by Harrison Ford), showed a huge amount of courage to break the color barrier years before the Civil Rights Act. Both received death threats, but Robinson had to face so many obstacles, hatred and abuse by racists, fans, players and even teammates and do so, without responding with anger. Many people would not be up to this challenge and, at some point, would have reacted. By example, he helped pave the way for others.

A movie some might be surprised is on this short list is “Bull Durham.” The reason I picked this one is it captures the camaraderie of teams quite well and shows the not so glamorous side of baseball in the minor leagues. But, the movie is about an old player and unique woman mentoring a young talented pitcher with a “million dollar arm and a five cents head.” Kevin Costner plays the veteran catcher, while Susan Sarandon plays a unique and astute baseball fan. Ironically, Tim Robbins, who becomes her husband in real life, plays Nuke Laloosh, the pitcher who needs seasoning. It also provides advice for that would resonate in the non-baseball world.  Here a few:

– Strikeouts are fascist. Throw more ground balls, they are more democratic.

– Don’t mess with a streak. If you think you are on a streak because of….then you are.

– I am not interested in anyone who is interested in that boy.

– Don’t think, just throw.

But, one you may not have seen is a worth the watch – “Bang the Drum Slowly” which is similar to “Brian’s Song,” but about baseball. It stars Michael Moriarty as a pitcher who will not play unless his catcher played by Robert De Niro can play. The catcher has cancer, so this will be his final season, a secret only Moriarty knows.

There are several others that could have been highlighted. “Hoosiers” with Gene Hackman as the imperfect coach of a high school Indiana basketball team that beats all odds to win, is excellent. “Field of Dreams” is also excellent where Costner creates a baseball diamond in his corn field and has the best game of catch at the end. “Seabiscuit” and “Phar Lap” are two movies about race horses and people who should not win, but do while overcoming great adversity. The latter is an Australian movie and is worth the watch. “The Greatest Game Ever Played” about a teenage golfer, Francis Ouimet, who beat three of the best golfers in the world is a little cheesy, but excellent. “The Lou Gehrig Story” is cheesy at times, but with Gary Cooper playing Gehrig, it is worth it. And, even “Rocky” is a classic, although they should have stopped at one.

Let me know your favorites. I know I have left off some good ones,but would love to hear your thoughts.

They’re all my chairs, but you can sit in that one (a reprise)

I wrote this post in tribute to my grandmother on her birthday seven years ago. She was Thanksgiving to me.

My grandmother, who we called Big Mama, lived life large. She was quite the character and was unlike the acquiescent namesake in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.” She would tell you what she thought and was usually pretty funny in so doing. The title of this post is one of her familiar sayings. When she would get up from her chair to go in the nearby kitchen to begin cooking, we would ask if we could sit in her chair. To which she would respond, “They’re all my chairs, but you can sit in that one.”

Big Mama would have been 103 on her birthday next week, so she is in my thoughts. Although, she died fifteen years ago, her memories and funny stories echo and certain events will bring them to the forefront of my mind. In addition to being a character, she was a person of character. My grandmother had a tough time the last ten years of her life, as she worked on her feet most of her life as a clothing sales person. With osteoporosis, her body would begin falling apart and she would often fall breaking things. In fact, one doctor said he believed her hip just broke, then she fell.

She ran the Boys and Men’s Clothing sections of the stores where she worked in a large, small town. Her clients were lifelong, as men would get out of college and go see her to be fitted with a business wardrobe. My favorite story about Big Mama was when she teased her cheap boss in front of the President of the company who had come to visit. After lending the President her pen to write something down, he put it in his pocket. She said, “Sir, that is my penMy boss is too cheap to buy us pens, so I brought that one from home.”  That got a chuckle, albeit a nervous one from her boss. She made the company so much money, she would not get chastised for telling the painful truth.

Yet, when I think about Big Mama, I think of Thanksgiving. Our ritual was to pack up our family and go to her house for the holiday. The family of one of my mother’s sisters would attend as would several of Big Mama’s close by siblings and their spouses, whose kids lived far away. Even after she could not walk much, my wife and I would go and she would direct us on how to make the various dishes. With her fingers ravaged by arthritis, I would tell her as she would micromanage too much, “Big Mama, don’t point that crooked finger at me,” to which she would laugh. To do this day, I make Big Mama’s cornbread dressing, which is the name it is given. To me, it is my way of paying it forward, as our house has become the go-to house for Thanksgiving.

Big Mama was the next youngest of a family of twelve. The rhythm method was not very effective as a birth control means. She got her large personality from her mother, whom everyone in the community called Mama, even my mother and her sisters. Mama was also the local medicine woman, as the hospital was so far away. Big Mama told us the story of her younger brother who knocked his front teeth out as he attempted being a gymnast unsuccessfully. Mama sat him down and boiled some water, while she rinsed his teeth off. She placed a towel in the hot water and gave it a quick rinse and told her youngest son to shove the towel into his gums. The gums swelled up and she jammed his teeth back in and they held. Big Mama learned from the best.

I have written before about my quiet grandfather. He and Big Mama were a perfect match, a yin and yang. My grandfather that I knew was my step grandfather, as Big Mama’s first husband did not stay home very much. She divorced him at a time when few people did, so it shows that she was not going to live with her mistake any longer. Being a small community, everyone understood. But, her greatest heartbreak was when she had to bury her youngest child, my favorite aunt. No mother or father should have to bury a child. I cannot imagine a greater heartbreak. While hard, we are heartbroken, but less surprised when we have to bury a spouse as we know that is part of the pact. Yet, a child should outlive his or her parents. Even when the child is in her fifties, it is still hard, especially after the child had health issues all her life.

She mourned my aunt’s passing until she died. Like any mother and daughter, they butted heads, but loved each other greatly. We all did. Big Mama, you are the best. You are one of the biggest characters I have known. You also were a person of character. We are better for having known you and you are still missed. Happy Birthday.

Travel safely, be well, respect flight attendants

Here in the US, my favorite holiday is upon us, Thanksgiving. I encourage everyone to travel safely, use meditation and patience to remain calm and be well. A little more walking or aerobic activity to counter vent the calorie intake would be wise.

Also, try not to accost the flight attendants. When wound up passengers do that, they are like the monkey climbing a tree – at some point they bare their hind end. I did see where airline attendants are learning self-defense techniques to ward of those wound up few

For some reason, these wound up few believe being made to follow the rules to protect everyone is a personal affront to their liberties. Just like any set of rules, you know them beforehand. If you don’t like it when on the plane or after a few drinks, then you missed your chance to vote with your feet. Once on the plane, the best advice is to sit down and shut up.

I mention this as I learned yesterday that seven anti-vaxxer doctors have now come down with COVID after attending a conference together. This follows on three months of five anti-vaxxer radio hosts, unfortunately getting and dying from COVID. One of the now sick doctors was mad at his father, who at the age of 99 had gotten both doses of the vaccine. I do not wish COVID on anyone, but I am not surprised when unvaccinated people come down with it.

As for me, I am scheduled to get the booster after Thanksgiving. My sister got the booster two weeks ago and had zero complications. With her job and other health issues, being fully vaccinated is key. My wife will, be getting hers after me.

I am aware of over fifty people who have had the vaccines, with only a few sore arms, some fever or body aches just afterward. What I find sad and amusing is some folks would rather take an animal de-wormer which is not meant for humans than a vaccine that has been tested and has data to support its overall efficacy. No drug is perfect without some side effects for a small few (just read the warning labels), but a de-wormer? Really?

So, count me in the vaccine camp, the human one. That is what I am going to do, as it protects me and others. Unfortunately, we are not out of the woods yet, as the numbers are expected to uptick again. Getting things closer to fine takes some effort, a community effort.

That is what communities do. They help each other out. Some guy named Jesus said that. Also, Gandhi talked of a community’s greatness being measured how they take care of the less fortunate. Neither person mentioned beating up flight attendants.

So, travel calmly and safely. And, be well.