542. Trivial Passages

Image result for trivia bar contests picturesWe finally did it! Our Wednesday night trivia team persevered through the twists and turns of  trivial competition and wound up winning the final question about airport abbreviations to finish with 45 points, just one thin point ahead of our closest competitors, the hated Flying Squirrels. They are a bunch of teachers, I think, with broad coverage of many subjects. They usually win, but not last night. No way, baby. We, the Snarky Sharkies, prevailed. For one glorious moment we are masters of useless information. The thrill was ephemeral, though, as if we had won the bubble blowing tournament for Bazooka Bubble Gum with a 14 inch pink bubble of hot exhalations. Yes, and then it was over. Pop!Image result for nerds celebrating gif

“We’re not going to Disney World. We’re not going to Hollywood either.  We’re just going home!!! ”

Not sure why it’s briefly exciting to win a competition about things that have little meaning or application in real life.  Well, no, the brief satisfaction is like killing flies in your kitchen in July. The annoying buzz and blur ends. Silence reigns again. Nonetheless, I find it fascinating how we arrive at answers via associations with emotions or parallel memories.Image result for neural pathway gifs

For instance, one question went something like this:  a shiny fish; also a process of extracting (metal) from its ore by a process involving heating and melting. Well, I did my mental scan, which lead me to the old white Frigidaire refrigerator in my parents’ narrow kitchen that I wallpapered in vinyl blue and white floral paper with one ugly blue wall behind that helpless fridge, forced to accept the desperate decor of that kitchen. Inside the meat drawer in a plastic wrapped Styrofoam tray I could see little shiny fish my father used to eat on rye bread with horseradish. What were they called?  Not sardines, though he also ate those. They came in a flat square can with a key that unrolled the top. Not anchovies, or fish bacon as I recall them; he ate those on pizza. Ummm. What were they called? From the ether that separates time and space, it came to me: Smelts. That’s it.Image result for smelts pictures

I used to feed them to my black cat Stanley. He was a stray with a white chest badge and white body hair where men have hair. I persuaded him to follow me home from the playground one day. He was a muscular brute who a few years later was hit by a car on The Parkway during the winter. I remember the season because the ground was hard and I could not get all of Stanley buried behind the rose of Sharon bushes at the back of our yard. Suffice it to say that Stanley waved one frozen paw at our kitchen window till spring. Eventually nature lowered his salute into worm food. Image result for partially buried cat pictures

Trippy stuff. The mind is a powerful engine with limitless powers, so it seems. Question 10 of Round 1 had to do with television: her career was launched in the 1990’s though the show she starred in, My So Called Life, lasted only one season. I could instantly envision my oldest daughter watching this t. v. girl struggle with growing up in the 1990’s. Our television screen was maybe 19 inches and sat upon an end table at the intersection of two identical pink and blue brocaded couches we special ordered from North Carolina and have since gotten rid of. Erin would lie on her stomach and stare from 32 inches away at Angela Chase, a 15 year old girl in Pittsburgh. It was compelling drama. Across the void of 25 years her name came to me, Claire Danes. How?  I have no real idea except I loved my daughter and she loved Claire Danes a long time ago. I whispered my answer to my new son-in-law Zach. He was stuck on two female leads from movies made in the 1990’s, certain that the answer was one or the other. “Okay”, I said, “but neither of those is right”. 

“It’s either Jennifer Love Hewitt or that other girl…Melissa Joan Hart. But which one?”

“Neither.”Image result for claire danes pictures

I was overridden but not swayed. When Claire Danes came up as the official answer, I was just feeling the warm pulse of my daughter’s memory flow across my heart.Image result for awkward 15 year old girl pictures

What else? you ask. On 13 May 1897, this Italian inventor sent the world’s first ever wireless communication over open sea across the English Channel. Well, the only Italian inventor I could imagine who fit the time frame and the task was Marconi, but I first thought “macaroni”, which is also Italian. As the names came rolling in, I was amazed at their futility– Da Vinci, Tesla (not even Italian), Gucci, Alexander Graham Bell (also not Italian) and Samuel Morse (a.n.I.). I began to hope that the curse of stupidity had landed on another table. ‘Drink strong beer’ was the message I tried to send out telepathically, sort of like Marconi without any wires or cables.Related image

I don’t know if anyone else in the bar picked up my signals, but I cannot be sure that they didn’t. After all, I was elected president, I mean, we won the electoral college of triviality. And Crooked Squirrely lost. So I must have a high I.Q. and be, like really smart. Right? In fact, over the half time interim, I walked outside to save a cat from a storm drain. No one witnessed my bravery, but that’s okay. Fake news outlets would only pillory my heroism. Which leads right in to the “dilly dilly” question that everyone got right. What White House employee just had his secret clearance downgraded? The correct answer as you know was/is Jared Kushner. Talk about awkward. Image result for jared kushner photos

But I have a thought: what if all the recent expatriates from the White House got together and formed a trivia team?  Hope, Jared, Mike, Moochi, Spicey, Flynn, Omarosa, Bannon, Price, Priebus, oh crap! There’s a limit of eight per team. Maybe they could sub out every other week. What else do they have to do but testify?


242. One crisp fall day

Some days call your name with a different slant of sunlight or a final cricket chirp as you close the windows to your bedroom for the summer’s end. We humans notice sensory changes through the bodily inputs of smell, sound, sight, touch, and taste. Even the subtle ones like lowered humidity or wind direction can trigger our minds toward preparing for the winter or pull on emotional strings of past losses and grief. As I mowed the grass this past weekend I bumped my head against a winesap apple, strode under a Bartlett pear, pushed around sleeping butternut squashes, and came out alongside a heavy grape vine pregnant with zesty purple fruit. Glorious, glorious abundance from little past efforts on my part. But the devilish deal is this: to eat of this fruit is to simultaneously accept the end of the growing season. It’s not bittersweet, but the moment is tangy and crisp, poignant. The older I get, the more I feel the silent sting of these days. I pause just shy of melancholy. Then again, I could be overthinking this experience.

In vain attempts to lengthen summer my wife and I have scheduled warm southern fall trips in October. Last year it was the Gulf Coast of Florida. Wonderful, yes, but it felt like a magic trick to fly two hours and gain a month of growing season, like a rabbit came out of a magician’s top hat and hopped away. This year it’s out to Arizona. I know it will feel fantastic to recapture the heat and feel my body relax in the Arizona desert warmth. The catch is coming back to instant chilly weather, dampness, and dreary low sunlight days. What would you rather do: leave Baltimore or come back to it? Springsteen wrote a song about it, Hungry Heart. What’s an old guy to do?  I can’t stop time or ignore the delicious fruits of the moment I am in. Do I eat and die, or fast like a fanatical anorexic who fears death so much and thereby only prolongs a slow version of it? I suppose the longer I reside in the desert, the more change I’ll come to see. The desert is subtle, blogalinas.  However, no land can be immune to time’s relentless march. No rabbit will hop from a sombrero in Tucson, nosirree. More like a gila monster will crawl out of a boot, to be culturally and geographically correct.
So, as this day warms up into an early autumn gem, I’m confused. My body knows the sunlight is lower octane now; it’s welcome but not celebrated.  I suppose I’d celebrate this  very same day in the early spring, but no. This day promises less not more. So I resign to pull up the squash plants, and yank up the late beans and peppers. I remember one last hill of red potatoes that need to be exhumed. Soon enough even the green grass will fade to muddy brown and then a frosty white. It’s time to draw in the frivolous furniture of summer days and the fragile potted plants on the deck.  Wind up the hoses and drain them in the process. We’ll babysit all of these seasonal items for another six months and do it all again on the other side in April. Yet I find myself pausing longer at these changeover moments. How many times will I repeat these mundane tasks? Not to be morbid, my bloggerators, but to be realistic I count 20 years of life expectancy in my expected assets accounting column.
As I see it, I’ll have about 15 years of retired life if I die on time. That’s an appropriate book end to my life. My first 15 years were spent in pre-tirement, I suppose, with the middle 48 spent entirely in tirement. No wonder I’m tired.  In my first 15 years I learned how to be a functional adult, although there is still some debate about that claim.  So figuratively speaking, my life will be a fat book of 48 years secured by two fifteen year old bronze book ends. On my life’s tome I’d like a nice leather binding with gold lettering, “Burrito Special Vol. 1” deeply tooled into the cowhide. Wait. I think I’m overthinking this thing. Left unsupervised, Irish people tend toward melancholia, tragedy, and the morbid. Halt!!
I actually ate that winesap apple. It was shockingly delicious. I insisted that my wife take a bite…forget the Garden of Eden allusion. Her name is not Eve. Later she made a butt kicking roasted butternut squash soup. And I’m considering harvesting all those grapes for juice or jelly. The pears don’t soften up till October.  Perhaps that’s the answer to my unechoing silence:  enjoy the harvest now. Live abundantly and gloriously. Laugh at death. He is simply doing his job, scything away daily without benefits, days off or any retirement plan.  Death is merely a UPS delivery guy in black, minus the truck. Just sign for the package and he’ll be on his way.
Then there’s that other thing called eternity. I can’t get into that right now, my little chinchillas. I have to do some billing and  then vacuum. Also, there’s someone at my door with a package.

229. Summer, Glory has arrived

poppy field of poppies flowerIt finally got here, sum-sum-summertime. And how glorious these first few days of June have been– crisp, clear, perfumed with honeysuckle and fresh cut grass, and all the various trees in fragrant flower. The glacial ice of my marrow is melting unconsciously, just as it had dried and frozen in December. Tension grew in all my cold muscles and achy joints as I clenched up in the long cold months of winter. But now the days are like cream cheese and butter oozing across a toasted bagel, seeping into every pore, healing the squinty-eyed mood moles hidden within. Hold that thought, bloggums: now slather some freshly made strawberry jam all over it. Man! That is exactly what I’m talking about. The simple delights of daily desires quenched. Fire engine red poppies the size of grapefruit halves are standing proudly outside my sunroom windows facing south. No wonder opium is magical; the poppy flower in bloom is a fantasy on a tall stalk all by itself… half balloons pulling themselves high above the garden’s gravity. The fish pond waterfall  behind them gurgles out a call of nature, water music accented by the many birds that happily chirp around our yard. There’s a purple martin sipping a, well, a martini, of course. Awesome. Ohhhh, feel the mountain of tension slide off your shoulders, my tired blog miners. Summer has come like a cold draft beer to our parched senses…aaahhhh!

Glory hallelujah.No, that’s not a picture of my fish pond, but it’s close. Mine is bigger and clogged with maple helicopter pods at the moment. Who cares? It’s summertime and the living is easy. I’ll clean it before you visit. Okay?  So the sun seems to provide psychic energy all around, don’t you think? Not only does photosynthesis stir up the greenery, but something like psycho-synthesis stirs in humans throughout the summer. They get more sensually connected by spending extra time in nature. They sweat away toxins. And happiness shows up like a gold finch or a hummingbird one warm morning. You can’t help but smile at these glorious creatures and their beautiful busyness. They make frenetic two year olds look lethargic. Joy rises as surely as a poised iris in June…magically.

Just articulating these summery things causes my guts to untwist while all the little muscles in my face relax. Deep breathing feels right now and not at all forced. Inflammation deflames somehow. It’s not scientific but beatific. Feeling blessed. There’s a major difference between feeling blessed and feeling happy. Happy just happens. It’s root is hap, or luck.  Blessed implies a Blesser and a relationship; it’s no accident to be blessed or anointed. Imagine walking down the street and finding a hundred dollar bill under your shoe. That’s luck or hap. Now imagine a lovely card with a hundred dollar gift in it from a loved one. That’s a selected, intentional blessing. “I was thinking of you on your graduation, birthday, anniversary.” Naturally you react differently to these two scenarios. The expression “Even a blind pig finds an acorn now and then” reflects luck or happenness. However, if you feed your beloved pot belly pig totally organic Asian red oak acorns from your sanitized hand, well, that’s a swine blessing. Don’t do this at home by the way without diapers on. And look under your shoes. See any Benjamins?Ben looks so dour in his dandy puffy pirate shirt. He could use a double shot of summer’s tonic. He needs to shed some layers, maybe shave his head bald for the season. Wax it.  Tan. Get an earring. Start surfing, Dude. Flow like David Crosby. There you go.

Just flow. “I almost cut my hair… but I didn’t and I wonder why, may be I feel like letting my freak flag fly.” Freaky!

Okay, enough non-filtering about. I have a season to paint like Monet. Hey, how about this one? It’s a beauty.Words don’t do such a painting justice anymore than words capture music, but that’s all I’ve got to offer, blogsmiths. Exotic colors explode in the light better than consonants can explode into mental concepts in one’s neocortex without hallucinogenic flares. Other parts of the brain process color and music, which is only right, far from accounting and bookkeeping functions. And that’s what summer continues to pulse out at us weary humans– colors, warmth, textures, tastes, sounds, smells and sensuality that have lain dormant since last fall. Out they come, not frozen and merely defrosted, no. It’s all fresh produce. So let the bullfrogs croak like lusty blokes. Let the crickets chirrup their little clarinets. Let the neon lightning bugs blush bashfully in humid air. Let the cicadas ge-ge-ge-get going like they da-da-da-do. Big copper moons will rise in the eastern night skies and set like fried cheese by the early morning light. Let wonder wash over us again and again.

 I fully realize that my style of writing is associative and tangential, vinelike  with a cornucopia of images at each tendril. Such growth can easily get out of control and require an editor to prune back the verbiage… come fall, perhaps, but not today. My kiwi licorice limbs are reaching out for support, clinging even to one another in their urgency to thrive before they helplessly collapse. When I was younger I didn’t even possess this much discipline and often drove my sentences into mineshafts and off cliffs while trying to capture elusive moments, feelings, and epiphanies. My artless word bouquets often drooped and decayed without direction or notice. I’m not so sure it’s any different today, I just lack the worry about others’ approval now, which is freeing. I hate having to explain myself to folks who can’t get it to begin with.

So let me finish with a big crescendo, bloggles. In the beginning was summer, and it was good and pure like childhood. And the rest of our lives are spent returning there.