Monthly Archives: January 2012

Lower the gangplank

The waiting is almost over, my friends!  Just a couple of hurdles left, then we board the Norwegian Spirit in New Orleans on Sunday (22nd).  The hurdles I mentioned are that we are under a winter storm watch for tonight, then of course there’s the drive itself.  Please let’s don’t have icy roads for our long drive south.  We plan to leave mid-morning to drive to Jackson, Mississippi, about 10 hours from here.  So, weather permitting, we’ll be there tomorrow night, then finish the trip to New Orleans on Sunday, about 3 hours.   We’ll drop off the car at the storage place, then the nice folks there will run us over to the cruise ship docks.  The ship departs at 5:00PM.  We are some kinda excited!  I’ve included our itinerary below so you can see where all we’ll be.  Wish us luck!   (note to burglars: we have a house-sitter this time, and she’s accompanied by our fierce watchdog Millie!)

Mini-rant

I bet you remember early childhood, yes?  You might not be able to put your memories in exact order, but you’ve likely got a lot of them.  Besides interactions with Mom ‘n Dad and other relatives, which are great memories, you certainly remember great play times.  If you were a boy, you might remember toy soldiers, little cars, truck, trains, airplanes.  If you were a little girl, you have fond thoughts about favorite dolls, dollhouses, pretend cooking, all that.  For most of you, there was a TV in your house, and you probably had rules in your house about the amount of watching you were allowed.

Now, it seems that everything has been turned upside-down.  Kids have video games, either plastic boxes attached to the television or maybe even hand-held.

Recently I observed a couple of things I found disturbing.  The first was watching a family on the way in to the store and little Junior was totally engrossed in a DSI or equivalent.  His mother was trying to get him up to speed so they could actually get IN to the store, but his attention never wavered from the little box in his tiny hands.  She finally picked him up and in-transit he was hanging over his mother’s shoulder continuing his absorption with the toy(?).  Then, most recently, I was furtively watching a couple in a neighboring booth at the restaurant.  Dad, Mom, plus 11-year-old son were dining together.  Well, Mom and Dad were dining, #1 Son was attached/focused/entranced/in-thrall because of the DSI-type device he had on the table in front of him.  All through their meal this continued.  When they (Mom & Dad) rose, indicating it was time to leave, son was curled up in the corner of his side of the booth still playing.  They almost had to drag him out.  The kid wasn’t whining or complaining, he was just pretty much oblivious to their entreaties.

It seems to me that today’s parents (some, not all, of course) are removing the child’s opportunity to build memories that are attached to the “usual” playthings of childhood.  Their memories are built around ‘beep beep boing’ instead of pleasant times expanding their imaginations with ‘regular’ toys.  Do the kids get outside much at home?  I rather doubt it.  They are in a corner somewhere, quietly playing with the video game, their minds ‘switched off’ to the outside world.  What has apparently happened is that the parental unit has chosen to provide the kid with an electronic nanny to provide entertainment and to keep the little guy from pestering Mom with their needs.  It is likely that social interaction with childhood peers has fallen by the wayside, also.  How about homework?  Is that suffering?  I don’t know but I have my suspicions.

Maybe video games are somehow outside the realm of ‘parental guidance’.  My advice?  Parents, take those things away from them, make them seek PLAY, make them seek PLAYMATES!  This is a radical idea, but for the sake of the young minds in our care, let’s think about putting the video devices away, just until Dick & Jane are 21 years old and can make their own decisions.

Am I just a fuddy-duddy?  Am I totally wrong?

Storytime – Novel Travels

This was crazy! I mean, it was working just as they promised, but he was really having trouble wrapping his head around this. He remembered the original movie from all those years ago, Arnold Somebody was the main character, and they injected him with drugs and implanted memories, and convinced him that he was enjoying a vacation on Mars, of all places.  Nowadays, they could inject you with drugs and implant memories that would place you into the storyline of a novel, any novel you chose.  It was all so realistic, so intense, and sometimes, so frightening.  But, as long as you followed the rules, it made for some really great memories.

Henry was cold and wet; he didn’t have the right overcoat or raincoat or whatever, and the snow was coming down harder than ever.  Bedford Falls, New York. It seemed like such a good idea at the time, but the reality of it, if that’s the right word, was all different.  He had enjoyed wandering around the small offices of the Bailey Building and Loan, and also had a good time at Nick’s Bar (used to be Martini’s), but being out here by the bridge waiting for George Bailey to appear was starting to get a little tedious.  He had seen George and Clarence earlier in the day, saw George chase Mary into that other saloon place, now it was time to wrap this up.  He just wanted to follow George home from here, join in the merriment and the money counting and maybe get a chance to congratulate Harry Bailey before his time was up.

He heard running footsteps in the snow and slush, getting closer now.  George Bailey burst into view, looking all disheveled and frazzled.  George ran right by Henry and then out onto the bridge, stopped and leaned on the railing.  It looked like he was making his prayer.

On impulse Henry went over to try to comfort George.  He knew it wasn’t in the script, knew they had warned him about this; “Don’t try to change things!”   Henry tended to be somewhat hard-headed at times, but soft-hearted always.  Surely, it wouldn’t upset things, just a comforting word or a gentle touch would be helpful.  He wasn’t really going to change things, was he?

Henry felt a firm hand on his arm, pulling him back from the bridge path.  He turned, was surprised to see two of the technicians from Novel Travels.  He started to apologize, trying to make them understand that he meant no harm.  “Look, fellas.  I was just going to…”  Now both of them grabbed him forcefully, led him off to a dark alley a block away.

“Didn’t you read the agreement?” asked one of them.

Henry was starting to get scared.  Yes, he had read the agreement.  Would they enforce it just as it was stated?  “But, but….” Henry was squirming now, trying to get loose.  They were so strong, so big and strong.  Henry was getting frantic now, pulling, twisting, but nothing worked.  “It’s only a story, just a story!”  It was then that he saw the big needle; Henry fainted.

He awoke, disoriented.  As the mental haze cleared, he realized he was back at the facility where they had launched him on his odyssey into Christmas 1946.  He was strapped to the table, just as before.  Surely they’d be releasing him in a minute or two.  He called out, “Hey, can somebody help me here?  These straps are way tight and hurting my arms!”  He saw white-coated people working, busy beyond the heavy glass, making adjustments on the banks of electronic instruments but ignoring him, if they even heard him.

“Mr. Edwards?”  A scientist-type man had walked up while he was looking the other way.  A very severe looking man, no sympathy on his face, all business.

“Why yes, that’s me,” Henry replied, nervously, hoping for the best.

“Unfortunately, we must now move on to the agreed-upon procedure, as specified in your agreement.  You did read it, I understand?”  Still a stone face.

“Surely you don’t intend…” Henry was almost stammering, consumed as he was by fear.

“Oh, indeed we do intend.  We must be harsh on all transgressors.  I’m sure you understand.”  Now a hint of a smile, but this smile was in no way comforting.  “We are the Data Librarians, and we must protect the stories.  No changes are allowed.  Others are participating; others will be participating in the future.  The stories must remain pure!  No variances are permitted!”

Henry was sweating now, his skin was slippery with it, but he felt clammy and cold with dread all at the same time.  “But, you must give me another chance.  You can’t do this monstrous thing!”

The scientist prepared the injection while his assistants set the dials on the fantasy projectors; all was in readiness.  As the needle entered his arm, Henry screamed one last time, then became silent.  His body relaxed, his respiration had slowed to almost zero, he was entering a form of hibernation from which he would not return.  His body would be maintained indefinitely, and his mind would still be operative, unfortunately for Henry.

As a transgressor, Henry was now an inhabitant of Dante’s Inferno.

Storytime – Gunfight

I sat on the old wooden bench, feeling the roughness of the grain and one pesky splinter trying to work its way through the weave of my worn-out pants.  I checked my revolver again, third time in the last hour.  The action worked fine, and each cylinder housed a deadly .44 caliber round; no worries on that account.  I slipped it back into the holster, giving it a final push to seat it in place.  I pushed the brim of my Stetson up a little, not too much, so I could watch the swinging doors of the cantina.  I squinted in the bright light of the afternoon sun and after a bit I moved the brim back down.  The heat was a physical thing; the occasional puffs of breeze brought only more heat instead of coolness.  I shifted my position to gain some measure of comfort and one of my spurs jangled in protest.  Should be anytime now, I told myself.

As if my thoughts had been transmitted into the cantina, the doors were pushed wide as a pistolero came out onto the boardwalk, directly across from me.  He stopped there in the shade of the long porch; perhaps for my benefit?  Was he trying to project power, his aura of machismo?  He wore a sombrero and had a serape draped up across one shoulder.  There were two gunbelts criss-crossed around his waist; shiny pistols filled his holsters.  He glanced my way, knowing beforehand that I was there, then cut his eyes quickly to right and left, just checking.  His gaze came back, rested on me.

Without losing eye contact he deftly rolled a cigarette, dragged the match against his leather chaps to ignite it.  Minutes passed while he slowly puffed; I hoped it was a symbolic last cigarette.  I got to my feet, re-adjusted my hat, double-checked to see that my Texas Ranger badge was still affixed and in full view.  I stepped out into the full sunlight, feeling the pressure of the heat pushing down on me, feeling a trickle of sweat working its way down my back.  He stepped out in response to my movement, still facing me, eyes locked on mine.

In a few measured steps I was in the middle of the street; he obligingly came out to be opposite me, perhaps thirty yards separated us.  It was going to be close work; no trick shots required, no aiming really, just a contest to see who could get their gun clear of its holster first and then send a messenger of death toward the opponent.  I watched his eyes, looking for the slightest flicker that might indicate the moment of decision.

There it was; I saw his eyes narrow just the slightest bit, his arms flexed slightly to begin the motion toward the holsters.  I knew it was time, time to kill this man as I had killed all those others.  All of them had stepped outside the law, all of them paid the final price.  I could feel the twitch, the anticipation, in the palm of my right hand; my gun hand.

I began my part of the dance, crouching very slightly as my hand moved ever so quickly in that practiced way, filling my hand, ready to launch the lethal projectile.

I glanced at my hand involuntarily; something was wrong, deadly wrong.  I heard the roar of the pistolero’s gun as I stood there dumbfounded.  How could this have happened?  I was in a gunfight but was holding my tv remote instead of my weapon.  And, why was I in my pajamas?

No more late-night burritos for me, amigo!

Where were you in 62?

I want a time machine.  I’ve been shopping, but so far no luck.  Ebay doesn’t have what I want, Craigslist has a few listed that would do in a pinch, but I have particular specifications for my magic conveyance. Here’s what I require: it needs to be a 1955 Ford.  It’s not necessary that it be a snazzy convertible or even a hardtop convertible, just a basic (probably two-tone blue) 1955 Ford Fairlane. It’s ok if it’s scratched up a little, maybe dented a little, maybe faded a little, it’ll still be exactly the right time chariot for me.

I plan to park it out by my garage where I can go out anytime and access my memories.  I will probably wash it and wax it; as we know, you can’t accomplish time travel in a dingy machine.  I want the seats to be comfortable, refurbished if necessary, the windows must be in good shape so I can see more readily into my past, and with a little luck the engine will start every time I want to hear the rumble of the glass-pack mufflers.  Maybe if the neighbors don’t mind too much I can ‘rack the pipes’ (rev the engine) occasionally, which should open the time portal for me and allow my trip to begin.

I want to go to Borger, Texas, sometime in the period of my junior high or high school years, around 1956 – 1961.  I know, I know, I didn’t own a 1955 Ford during all those years, but I just don’t have room to park a 1950 De Soto, a 1950 Ford, and a 1953 Ford – just the one vehicle will serve my purpose.  The movie that comes closest to describing my high school experience was “American Graffiti”, and the tag line for that movie was ‘Where were you in 62?’.  Pretty close, yes?  I’ll lean back in the seat, allow my eyes to close, maybe rack the pipes once or twice more, then head back in time.

My first trip in my machine will be to drive down Main Street, just about dark, on a nice summer evening.  Borger is on the ‘high plains’ of Texas, not far from Amarillo, and the humidity was low and we had no mosquito problems – summer evenings were always perfect!  Windows down, radio pumping out some early rock-n-roll music from KOMA Oklahoma City, 1520 on the dial.  The reception wasn’t perfect, sometimes faded in and out, but it was just right for us.  You saw it in the movie I just referenced, and that’s how it was.  Sometimes you waved and honked, sometimes you engaged in an impromptu ‘drag race’ from one traffic light to the next.  You knew most of the other drivers; you saw them in class or in the hallways all during the school year.

Maybe on the next trip to yesteryear I can go out to the Kone ‘n Burger, which was sort of our Sonic drive-in, but without speakers – we had real carhops.  No roller skates or fancy costumes, just kids we knew making some spending money bringing orders to our cars.  They’d bring out the tray and hang it on our windows, then make change as necessary from their little aprons they wore.  If we had a little extra money, maybe we’d get a burger basket, maybe just a hot dog, or if we had hardly any money just a vanilla Coke or a cherry Coke.  No, not Diet Coke, not in those days!  Some of the kids liked to go to the Jet Drive-In, but for me it was always the Kone ‘n Burger.  Sometimes you might not buy anything at all; you’d just go there and just drive round and round the drive-in, just as you saw them do on Happy Days, to see who was around.  Frequently the ‘driving round and round’ involved some racking of pipes and squealing of tires.  Ahh, the memories!

So many good times in high school and junior high.  Some memories not so good, but we tend to push those back, don’t we?  We just want to savor the sweetness of youth as it’s best remembered.

My time machine.  Come over some time, we’ll take a trip.

Boomer, we hardly knew ye

I decided to give Boomer up, since it was not fair for him to be saddled with me.  I’ve never had my own dog before, but I thought it might be interesting to try it.  Well, I discovered that I don’t have the required patience/energy/dedication  needed to tend to the needs of a young dog.  He was a fine fellow, but I failed him as a companion/owner, I must admit.  I didn’t have the energy to run with him, play with him, etc.

So, I found a nice fellow whose dad is in the Army and stationed at Fort Knox, south of Louisville.  He lost his large canine friend recently and was in need of a good doggie as a replacement.  I’m sure Boomer will do well in his new surroundings.

Farewell, good and faithful doggie!