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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Fantastic Trips That We Have Stumbled Into - Estes Park and Trail Ridge Road

As We have already bored you with the story of Jerome, Arizona and how Mr. Bobby and I were once young and somewhat adventurous, I'll tell you about what started us on being old folks that plan out trips to Kroger's which is very close to where we live. At the time of this adventure, we lived in Dallas, Texas. It was coming up on Labor day weekend ... 3 whole days for a road trip so we decided to try and make it to Colorado to see the Rockies, though they didn't start playing until some 15 years later. I really have no memory now of why we thought we could make it there and back in 3 days. So anyway, off we went ... I don't remember much of the first part of the trip but we drove up into Oklahoma through one of the Reservation towns and then over into Dorothy's Kansas. Kansas was different from what either of us had expected ... green with miles and miles of rolling hills ... and eventually I could see that we were approaching something off in the distant haze ... probably mountains. I asked Mr. Bobby if those could be the Rockies. He said "no", that they were the famous Grassy Knoll Mountains. I told him that there were no such things. He then treated me to hours of discourse on how famous those mountains were and their history. By the time Mr. Bobby was finally tired of talking, you could see that the little white cloud structures were the snow capped peaks of the Rockies. We were driving along to the Rocky Mountain National Park and went through Estes Park, Colorado, a really beautiful town at the foot of the Rockies. As we began to ascend, we saw the stately Stanley Hotel off to the right. Just then the car started to sound like it was having problems. Fairly young and very stupid, we kept going. We made it to the entrance to the park and the park ranger gave us some nice looking brochures and pointed out one that he said that we should read before we proceeded any further. We just kept driving. I saw a sign post that said Trail Ridge Road and, since it looked interesting, we turned off onto it. No shoulder and very narrow and steep. Soon we were above the tree line. Mr. Bobby was driving very slow now and there was a lot of traffic on the road, especially behind us. I looked over to see what was going on. He only had one hand on the wheel. His right hand was pressing down on his right leg and the accelerator was all the way to the floor board. We started sliding backward. I tried to help him press his leg down, we obviously had something very wrong with the car. He did manage to get into a scenic overlook and somehow he got that car "that only wanted to go backwards" over the continental divide. Once we were driving down the car started acting better. We did find a garage, they took a look at the car but didn't find anything wrong. We realized that we needed to turn around and get back to Dallas. I was very brave and stayed in the car, crying my eyes out as we crossed the continental divide again and the car acted up. We did make it to another garage, where they found nothing wrong. We made it back to Dallas before noon on Wednesday. We had no problems with the car the rest of the week. We decided to have some fun on the weekend by going to the horse races in Louisiana. We took off on Friday afternoon and as we were getting closer to Louisiana, I saw a sign saying Estes Park. Yes, the car started acting up and we decided to turn around and head back to Dallas. The car spent part of the following week in a garage being checked out and got a clean bill of health. The next weekend, we tried again. Sure enough, when we got to the sign Estes Park, the car acted up. Back to Dallas. Mr. Bobby took the car in and had them pull the engine out. This time they found it -- a cracked piston. Mystery solved. I learned a couple of things that have stayed with me all these years -- beware of any sign saying Estes Park and always read what the park ranger recommends that you read. Trail Ridge Road has the same type of warnings as does Space Mountain at Disney. - Miss Carol Well, that's her version ... pretty close to the truth, as far as it goes ... that is, as she knows or remembers. Indeed we had a long weekend for a road trip and at some point, before or after we started, I decided to try to visit the Rockies ... but she didn't know that! It was probably when visiting the trading post on the Reservation in Oklahoma ... a great disappointment when compared to my expectations based on previous visits to some in Arizona back in the 1960's. At the time I had already been in every State sans Alaska ... an oft planned trip that never materialized ... but, had never been in western Kansas or anything outside of the Denver Airport in Colorado ... so I headed the Yellow Monster west with Pike's Peak as my secret objective, having yearned to so do since first hearing of Pecos Bill's adventures in school! Kansas truly was a most pleasant surprise ... mostly flat I guess, but as we got into western Kansas, we were struck by the green grass in the fall no less, and the rolling hills ... a pleasant surprise and a pleasant drive too. As we topped the hills, you could see what appeared to be a range of mountains far in the distance ... Carol thought they might be the Rockies but I assured her that the Rockies were much further away ... that these were most probably the famous "Grassy Knoll" mountains. What triggered that response is something that only Mr. Cranston knows but her protestations not withstanding, she fell for it hook, line and sinker! They really looked like a wide weather front moving in, more than anything else, methinks! We could only see them as we crossed the hills and soon their image was momentarily forgotten, while I waxed on about their history during pioneer days ... and we concentrated mostly on the scenery to the north of us. Then, all of a sudden, out of the blue ... appeared these gigantic monsters right on top of us, or so it seemed ... the Rockies!! Agenda accomplished ... to plagiarize a friend of ours ... Unbelievable!! A sight to behold ... the "West" is full of 'em, all unique ... and that one takes back seat to none! We drove to Bolder City ... spent the night near the Air Force Academy ... had breakfast at MacDonalds and headed for the Rocky Mountain National Park, going through Estes Park ... as Carol said, a really beautiful little town. She knew of the Stanley Hotel, I did not ... but it looked like something out of a storybook ... a grand hotel, indeed! The brochure that we were admonished to read ... strongly suggested that expectant mothers and those with any type of heart problems might consider an alternate route and also indicated the common problems cars experienced, how to avoid them and what to do in case you didn't. Had we so done, there would be no story, methinks! Like Carol said Trail Ridge Road was very narrow and steep with no shoulders ... interesting indeed! To make things more interesting, the 5,100 pound Yellow Monster with its 460 Cubic Inch V-8 and Carter 4-Barrel didn't like Trail Ridge road and the higher we went, the shower it went ... with it floored, it was losing speed and power, down to under 6 mph in low when it locked up ... no fun navigating, going backwards without power ... and seeing the long drop off inches away ... Carol mentioned holding my leg down ... my knees were shaking so bad that we had to hold them down! I somehow made it to a small, empty scenic overlook area large enough to accommodate the car and rest. How we survived and the car's restarting can only be explained by Devine intervention ... any fool in his right mind knows that the thing to have done would have been to turn it around and go back down the mountain! Truth is, it would have been more than a little hard for me to turn that 19 foot vehicle around in the available space ... I grew up getting full service ... had her filled with Amoco unleaded "white gas" ... 'bout all I could do was point it in the desired direction and step on the pedal. Besides, a group on motorcycles passed by going toward Estes Park so surely I could make it to the top ... so it was to the top or bust ... proof positive that I was a fool, just not in my right mind. We somehow made it, crossed the Divide and the car did perform better going downhill ... we stopped at some nice tourist area ... at Grand Lake, methinks, rested and had lunch. The area was so beautiful ... it remains among my favorite places, one where I would have liked to live, at least much of the year. Given our experiences of the day, we decided to get off the mountain rather than stay ... but we experienced no further problems with the car. I said earlier "Agenda Accomplished" but not quite ... remember my dream to visit Pike's Peak ... it remains an unrealized ambition. No Pike's Peak for us ... we drove back the next day, avoiding elevations whenever possible ... even the rolling hills in Kansas were cause for concern! However the Monster was up to the task and we made it back to Dallas without incident. The next week we headed off on another "day trip" ... this time to Louisiana Downs,190 miles ... well, we thought it was going to be two days but turned out to be but one. Things went smoothly for the first 130 miles out ... when we saw a road exit sign ... which we both read aloud "Estes Park" ... causing the car to begin malfunctioning and performing as it had the previous weekend in the Rockies! We babied the car to the next exit and from there to a service station ... they too could find nothing, suggesting that we had perhaps gotten water in the tank but we had the oil changed, bought ice and cold cans of Coca Cola and headed back to Dallas, driving slow and pausing ... putting ice and cold Coca Cola on the carburetor whenever it seemed to be faltering ... basically uneventful, other than the smell. Back in Dallas, the car underwent a complete examination but all they could find was some white residue in the fuel line ... after fixing that, the car worked fine! Undaunted, we again departed for the races the next weekend! 130 miles out was again the sign and though we didn't say it aloud the car saw it ... and it was déjà vu, all over again. I know it's unbelievable but it really did happen! It turned out that we had a cracked piston. Evidently, the distance, all of which was Interstate, traveled at the same speed using automatic speed control, was what it took to heat things up and cause it to malfunction ... We eventually got to Louisiana Downs, but not in the Yellow Monster!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Why ... do we think the way we do?

Remember back in early 2008 ... the news was that in a poll of 3,000 British teenagers, almost one fourth thought Winston Churchill was a fictional character ... actually 23% ... same as Florence Nightingale. However, they both had to take back seats to King Richard I. Almost half ... 47% thought "Richard the Lionheart" to be a fictional character. Surely the estate of Conan Doyle designed and conducted the survey as almost 60% thought Sherlock Holmes real. Why do we think the way we do? I suspect that it has a bit to do with how we were taught ... at home and at school. For some time now, the emphasis in school seems to be split between making students feel good about themselves and passing some standardized tests to demonstrate they have a good grasp of the material. Sounds good, now don't it?! The focus we had in some of my classes in high school ... and most of my math and actuarial classes in college was somewhat different. We were graded "on the curve" subject to an arbitrary minimum "raw score" for passing. Additionally, the tests were designed so that achieving a perfect score (100%) under test conditions was impossible! The purpose being to allow the teachers to properly graduate the students. Of course, these days it's the kids who do the graduating. "I graduated High School" or "I graduated College" is what you hear from them ... and it shows! Winston Churchill was a fictional character ... bah humbug! At some time during my hour of strutting and fretting upon the stage, I reached the conclusion that we all share something in common other than being allotted but an hour ... not sure exactly when but probably somewhere in the first 10 minutes, for I remember it was a long time ago. Well, to be fair, it was more of a sudden awareness of what I then thought to be a simple truth than it was a conclusion ... that "we all believe that we're right!" Well, I'm no longer sure that it is a simple truth ... but I do still believe it to be a truth, sorta ... we all believe that we're right or that we don't know ... except on those rare occasions when we believe we're wrong. While I was in the process of trying to become semi-educated, I was frequently required to take tests ... many was the time when I believed that an answer I had given was wrong, and that belief was usually proven correct ... but not always. I remember once giving up in frustration and responding that I couldn't solve the problem ... to my surprise, I got full marks as the problem turned out to be a classical "unsolvable" that the professor included, for reasons never revealed. Better lucky than good, I took it! Sometimes you're wrong when you're right. On another of his tests, I remember getting my paper back with one problem having the notation "excellent approach, technique, execution - a perfect solution!" ... but receiving zero credit and "Read The Problem!!" written repeatedly in huge red letters across the entire two page solution. The test question had something to do with the problem, but wasn't asking for its solution. Believing that you're wrong gets kinda confusing for if you're right you're wrong and if you're wrong you're right! However, in usual context, we don't believe we're wrong ... to so do is nonsense and just doesn't compute. Indeed, if we conclude we're wrong, we change our minds and positions so as to believe that we're right. Another thing we all share in common is sometimes being wrong when we think we're right! All this may sound like nonsense too ... but that awareness served me rather well. I guess it was another way of telling me that if I knew "why" the other fellow believed as he did, I would have a better chance of changing his mind ... or mine. Frank and Winnie were like that, methinks ... oft was the time when they disagreed ... they didn't always think alike but they knew how the other thought.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Little 5 Points ...

Crowded StreetSome time back, a very young John Anderson went to town with his father ... the streets were crowded as they always were on Saturdays and John was more than just a bit excited ... something always unexpected happened when he went to town and he couldn't wait! Well this time nothing did, not unless you count the old beggar down on the corner shivering in his underwear ... he could have dropped dead or gone around totally naked and nobody would have noticed!
It reminds me of the reaction most of my posts get here in the Shop ... it makes a body wonder, not don't it?! We don't write for acceptance ... were we to so do, we would have long ago closed the closed the Shop! This here is just a look back ... maybe it'll bring a smile or three to some faces, wrinkled like mine and help some bright, shiny and young ones better understand those of us who aren't ... hope so anyways! On Thanksgiving, my favorite sister was surprised to see me in dungarees ... doubt she's seen me wearing them since school days ... they still fit too, imagine that! It really brought back the memories ... funny thing was that I didn't start wearing them in school until the eighth grade ... always Levi Strauss!
As most all barbershop regulars know, I grew up in Atlanta, Little 5 Points to be Bellbuckleexact ... but, my folks were foreigners ... Daddy from Draketown, Georgia and Mama from Bell Buckle, Tennessee ... both were but whistle stops. Temple TrainFor those unfamiliar and them what's forgot, Bell Buckle is in between Fosterville and Wartrace ... while Draketown is over in Haralson county, near Bremen and Temple. Time changes most everything and they both now have paved roads, electricity, hot and cold running water ... indoor toilets too ... not just the rich folks neither, most everybody does! Seems that even Little Five Points has changed ... ain't no more five and ten cent store, no Foster's Barbershop ... it's now described as "Cool Gay Little 5 Points, the five-avenue intersection that serves as upscale Inman Park's unofficial town square ... Bellbucklejust five minutes east of downtown by subway, Little Five Points has a bohemian sensibility that makes it a fun counterpoint to Inman's oak-lined placidity. You could easily spend a day and night exploring its shops and checking out the pedestrians: barefoot hippies peddling incense, dreadlocked moms carrying babies and thumping organic melons at the co-op, tattooed Harley riders propping up their bikes outside the Euclid Yacht Club bar" ... goodness!! Mama had a good job and made as much if not more money than Daddy ... that was before I was born. I never grew up ... still short too ... but, back when I was in the process, most all married women what had babies truly had the most important job of all ... staying at home and taking care of them babies ... meaning their children what lived with them, regardless of age, amd of course their husbands too ... my Mama was one. Time changes most everything ... not always for the best, methinks. Two of my best friends from before I can remember were Warner Overstreet and Buddy Edwards ... pictures show that we frequently shared playpens ... they attended my first birthday party ... and I theirs.
Warner's father was then assistant warden at "Atlanta" where he maintained a residence ... Warner and I sometimes played catch; baseball and football with the trustees that took care of their home. I was inside the "Big House" just once, maybe twice ... once that I remember, and once was enough. Work took them to Washington when Mr. Overstreet served as our top cop under Eisenhower, but they remained good friends over the years; Christmas and birthday cards, telephone calls, and always visiting when in Atlanta or Chattanooga.
Japanese FigureBuddy's Daddy was a career soldier, an army major seeing action in the Pacific and the family lived in Japan during the occupation following the war ... from them we received fantastic presents, including colorful outfits and fantastic puzzle boxes ... over 50 ivory, bone and jade figures too though none survived, that is to say I haven't seen them in over 50 years. Candy Stick However, the best part of being friends was that his grandfather owned a large candy company located in downtown Atlanta. We would sometimes visit the plant when it was closed and Mr. Edwards would turn on all the taffy, peppermint, and coconut candy making equipment ... his giant peppermint sticks and "all day" suckers were the biggest I've ever seen but the one I remember best and liked the most was the giant machine that rolled out big sheets of multicolored/multiflavored coconut that would be cut into "nickel bars" and packaged ... still a popular "dollar bar" candy, though smaller, and not nearly so good! I'm a product of Atlanta's public schools ... though I've yet to discern whether that's blessing or curse ... learning me letters and numbers at Moreland Avenue Elementary. It was there we heard wonderful tales of Alice, Mary Poppins, Tom Sawyer, David Copperfield and Uncle Remus ... made the Pledge of Allegiance each day ... prayed ... sang The Stars Spangled Banner ... Dixie and The Battle Hymn of The Republic ... and learned the songs of Stephen Foster ... Bach, Beethoven and Debussy too. It's said that the example set by your parents is the most visible part of your education, in more ways than one, methinks. Yes, there's more ways than one to say it but if you think nobody has, I'll take the credit ... it was visible in multiple ways too. Well, maybe not yours, but certainly that was true of mine! Seemed Mama was always at school ... checking up on me ... or bringing goodies for all the kids; making sure everyone had at least one present under the tree at the class Christmas parties ... Valentines for all in February ... dyeing Easter eggs for our hunts ... Krispy Kreme Truckhelping coordinate our paper, coathanger and Krispy Kreme drives ... and always going with us on field trips: to The Wren's Nest, The Coca Cola Company, The Symphony, Grant Park, Colonial Bakery, Public Library, Stone Mountain ... and attending all the PTA meetings! It may be hard to imagine or believe, but the first and second years that we sold Krispy Kremes, we charged fifteen cents a dozen ... the next, twenty ... and the school got a nickel for every box sold. MamaMama was certainly visible, all five foot two and 100 pounds!
Most of what few lessons I've sorta learned ... what values I may have ... what I am, and the wee bit of knowledge I acquired ... I owe to me folks and their folks too ... to those teachers what took an interest in me ... and, of course, Mrs. Osmosis. Most but not all ... I owe a lot to our neighbors, our preacher, our family doctor who routinely made house calls; sometimes in the wee hours, and the Little 5 Points' merchants ... seems we knew them all by name ... and they us; certainly all our neighbors and those along the route from home to school ... more than that, most were friends. They all seemed to take a genuine interest in us, and we in them ... they all had an influence ... without them, I wouldn't be me. I had some very good teachers, in school and out ... but I guess none were more important than my kindergarten teacher and mother's friend, Mrs. Freeman. Folks just don't realize the trauma experienced by a four year old being abandoned and left with strangers and a gazillion kids they don't know, not to mention the burden of their parents' expectations resting heavily on their young shoulders ... no, they just don't realize. Mama and Mrs. Freeman took it upon themselves to make going to school that first year something to which I looked forward ... and they succeeded ... it was fun ... and I carried it with me! Movie TheaterHowever, no influence was greater than that of the Euclid Theater ... double features on Saturday, including a serial, cartoon and newsreel ... all for a dime! It jumped to twenty cents when I became twelve ... or rather, shortly thereafter when one of my FRIENDS ratted on me. Well, none save one ... our radio!! Ours was a large multibanded model ... Multiband radiofeaturing both long and short wave ... over which we occasionally picked up broadcasts from Germany and Italy. I would scan for hours, listening mostly to static in search of Morse coded messages.Hitler, Mussolini and Winston Churchill right in our livingroom ... imagine that! There were also English and sometimes American broadcasts of German and Italian speeches so we had some idea of what was being said ... but, hearing them live was somehow different ... scary! ... exciting! No, I didn't know what was really going on ... cities being destroyed, millions being killed and such ... thank goodness for that! But, I was proud to be an American ... seemed like everybody was ... Our 39 FordWe had a good car that lasted 11 years ... one of Mr. Ford's finest ... a 1939 Ford for which Daddy paid $600 new ... got his $600 back when he traded it in on a new 1949 Ford. My biggest concern with the new car was that it had no "running board" ... but my fears were unfounded ... the Varsity's carhops seemed unfazed! Cars were nice but since Daddy used ours in his work, me and Mama mostly used the streetcar when we needed to go downtown ... Trolleyover time they changed; first to trolley cars and then to buses ... taxis were reserved for emergencies and special occasions like attending the GWTW premiere festivities. Daddy routinely went to bed at ten ... his offices were in 5 Points too ... Big 5 Points, downtown ... left for work at 6:30 each morning during the week, usually getting back home around six ... sometimes later. Stone MountainWe made frequent weekend visits to the airport ... to Stone Mountain ... Grant Park ... the original Old Hickory House out on the Old Bankhead Highway ... Piedmont Park ... the Atlanta Penitentiary ... the Farmer's Market, back before it went inside ... the Varsity, and the Atlanta Auditorium. Tucker Car All were special treats ... especially the Pen where we visited good friends ... and the Auditorium with it's special events ... all night singings, the circus, the Globetrotters, and where I sat in Mr. Tucker's car. The circus coming to town was always an eagerly awaited event as was the Southeastern Fair at Lakewood! The radio's impact was far greater than just suggested ... it was my conduit with the real world ... Jack Benny, Fred Allen, Amos and Andy, Fibber McGee, Glidersleeve, The Amazing Mister Keene, The Green Hornet, Gangbusters, The Lone Ranger and the Atlanta Crackers! Don't get me wrong, I like good pictures ... Phil Niekro, the Mona Lisa, and Driving Miss Daisy being among my favorites ... and I guess it's true that one is worth more than a word or three, but when radio is compared to TV ... for some reason my brain just works harder and better when I close my eyes and let it paint the pictures than when someone else does the work for me. My early school years were during the war . .. but that all the teachers at Moreland were women was for a different reason, or rather a collection of different reasons. Teaching was one of the few avenues then available to well educated women ... which was good for us, and while we each have our own view, good for them too methinks. We received a good solid educational foundation and they well served a function of far more importance and more rewarding than afforded most of either sex, before or since. Yes, I learned me reading, writing, spelling, penmanship and arithmetic in those early years ... but none were considered more important than proper deportment; not by my folks, not by my teachers, and after a while ... not by me ... being on a first name basis with a hickory switch ain't what it's cracked up to be. I learned all that as well as most of what I know of history, geography, general science, our Government, and the English language too ... I was nothing special, we all did! Our music teacher Mrs. Youngblood, had coerced me into joining the youth choir ... Guitarand convinced my parents that I should learn to play an instrument as well ... sounded good to me as I had always wanted to learn to play the guitar and sing on the Grand Old Opry. Unfortunately, Daddy had other ideas ... for some reason, he agreed to spend the money but wouldn't agree to the guitar ... his son was to learn to play the slide trombone ... Tromboneand an exquisite instrument was ordered ... big sucker! Fortunately for the neighbors and everyone involved, fate played a cruel hand ... oral surgery and protracted orthogonal work spoiled his plans and the instrument was returned unused ... but, he never budged on the guitar or its lessons and the world was denied another George Jones ... that too was probably a blessing in disguise. As an aside, I had taken tap dancing lessons some years before when I was still just a little kid ... expected behavior back then, I guess ... that included some recitals and though I survived, my agent thought it best that I continue at Moreland rather than going on tour. Undaunted, she enrolled me in formal dancing classes, the summer following sixth grade ... another disaster, though I did learn the Hokey-Pokey. Some folks equate my interest in the "why" more than the "what" to psychoanalyzing, but the reason why has nothing to do with anything like that ... it just comes from my years at Moreland. Our principal believed that if you knew and understood the "why" ... you'd automatically know and understand the "what" of things ... it's the way they tried to teach us. Even when we were sent to the principal's office for being bad, they were more interested in "why" we had misbehaved rather that "what" we had done.
Bass HighWhat I had learned at Moreland held me in good stead at Bass High School, at least most of the time ... and I was again lucky to have some very good teachers ... but this time, there were the other kind too. I can't really remember exactly why I started wearing Levis in the eight grade ... probably because I didn't want to be called no sissy ... the girls liked boys what wore them too ... as did Mama since they withstood the punishment I inflicted better than the rest! I never really learned how to study ... not at Moreland ... not in high school or college ... still don't know... so I'm much indebted to Mr. and Mrs. Osmosis for most of what I learned. However, I learned a lot and ... especially from my mentor, the brilliant Mary Ready, under whose guidance I'm told I excelled. She taught me to go "outside the box" in my thinking, and exposed me to material not covered by the school's regular curriculum. From her, I once received the grade of "C" on both of my quarterly reports ... which unexpectedly averaged out to an "A" for the semester ... part of her efforts to get me to be all I could. For my many references to the Bard's brilliance, especially MacBeth, the Danish Prince and his girlfriend's daddy, you can blame Miss Fulton ... Keats, Lord Byron, Shelly, Browning, and Bobby Burns too ... she was a scholar, studied at Cambridge, methinks ... her specialty was the Bard. However, like my sixth grade teacher, Miss Brewster, she taught that those who use four letter words do so mostly because they know no five or six letter words. She didn't really mind appropriate, effective use of the vulgar, for which old Sam had a penchant ... but boy did she hate inappropriate use and obscenity. In High School, I also learned that we should profit from the mistakes of others ... the "why" ... we won't live long enough to make them all ourselves.
In defining the true roles of government and education, our principal Mr. Scott used to say that if parents give their children the choice of vegetables and candy, the only people benefiting would be the dentists. I reverted to slacks in the eleventh grade and was later graduated without honors but with distinction. The distinction being that I was graduated! Hans Andersen What about young John ... what was all that about? Nothin' ... absolutely nothing! I made that up, but having a good nose for a story, it could have been the inspiration for an older John Anderson, aka Hans Andersen ... "The Emperor's New Clothes" ... a body just never knows. Lynda If you didn't enjoy this little excursion you can blame my sister Lynda, she's the one that triggered the memories! Some may think it shameful and/or gauche for me to have publicly proclaimed Lynda as my favorite ... well, I understand but truth is truth ... and the truth is that she's my one and only ...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Shoes, Tables, Art ... Corns and Bunions Too!

Men's FlorsheimsLadies ShoesHow many different shoe sizes are there? Hard to say, what with all the different systems and variances by manufacturer... but, it doesn't really matter, I say if the shoe fits, ... wear it! One thing's for sure, for every size there are a whole bunch of folks wearing 'em ... problem is, footprints, like fingerprints are rather unique and as a result, a whole bunch of folks have corns ... and bunions too. Jimmy will vouch for that! FerragamoIf the shoe fits, ... then wear it, but do try it on first. That's especially true for custom shoes ... what looks to be a perfect fit for us or someone we know, may have been designed for someone else ... HepplewhiteChippendaleTables are like shoes, methinks ... when I say table, some folks see a black mahogany, Chinese Chippendale ... others, a walnut Sheraton ... or maybe a Hepplewhite, and no doubt some, a modern three legged thing, painted white with a glass top ... we see what we want to see, and sometimes what we don't. I once wrote a piece for the paper on Chippendale Furniture ... and, in order to meet the deadline, I called it in ... it caused quite a ruckus ... for everywhere I had said Chippendale, it read "Chip 'n Dale" SheridanAbstractModern Art is like shoes too ... lots of folks are quick to tell you what it means but 'bout the only one who really knows is the artist and they're usually dead ... Hurt ToesShoes, tables, and art interpretation ... things with which one should not trifle ... unless you like corns and bunions. I know,"there he goes again" ... more recondite musings ... No, every onion has its layers but my musings are as plain as an old pair of shoes ... well, sometimes more like those custom Ferragamos, but most of the time I'm "more Chip 'n Dale" than Chippendale. While recondite may appear to be the rule rather than the exception, ... and though my name isn't Joe, I was just telling you that it ain't so! ... and in the few cases where the humor seems pointed, it may be, but I always use rubber arrows and they're usually aimed at folks other than imagined. Enjoy!

Monday, November 23, 2009

An Indian Wedding

Hello to the Barbershop … I know I have been missing out on all the fun here for about four days but I am back and back with something I did all these four days. Actually, I was out for a relative’s wedding and guess what, I will write that out for you all. I’m afraid not many of you would have witnessed an Indian wedding. But as and when I write this post, you must understand one thing. It’s India we are talking about!! The person getting married was Rajesh, my uncle. He is not young and not old, around 30. Not to forget, here in India, we believe in getting married only once with the sole intention of living a life together forever (in fact for seven lives). Also, it’s not you who decides upon who you are getting married to. There are a thousand factors that affect your life and decisions which are not being made by you. You need to be so careful in choosing from the pictures of your 'would be brides', that have already been chosen by your parents or some relative. This is arranged marriages we are talking about and not marrying someone you know or love. Doesn’t it sound weird marrying someone you never know?? But with the caste system so dominant still in India and love marriages being supported only in ‘very high social classes’, we still do not get married to people we love. (Let me mention, within three years I will become the first person in my family to marry my girl, the lady I have loved now for the past one year, SURPRISE!!!, will introduce her soon to the barbershop as an excellent writer). Yeah, coming back to the marriage, we start with the initial steps. First of all, a second person, not belonging to the girl’s family, not belonging to the groom’s family, places a phone call to both the families involved and tries to make a deal with both of them. He arranges a meeting and then tries to have everything set for all people to agree and mind it, it’s the elders of the family who will finally make the decisions and not the person who will get married. When the decision has been stamped by relatives all around the globe, the bride and the groom are allowed to meet, talk a little (and the bride is expected to be silent, if the bride talks a lot, she is criticized for being talkative), and then people say that both of them like each other because they talked a lot!!! I mean, it sounds so weird!! But I guess I mentioned it already, it is India you are talking about people. huh. Hmm, after these being done, you still have at least a month on your hands to prepare for the ceremonies lined up for marriages which start at least a week before the marriage. People from all around India who belong to the relations of your great grandfather also will fill up your house to actively participate in the marriage ceremonies. So, the house being full of so many people with everybody trying to be the center of attraction in all possible ways, sometimes the person getting married gets so fed up of the crowd, he tries running away to 'wonderland' where he finds some peace of mind and actually think of getting married. With a week full of ceremonies, you seldom get time to take some time out for yourself, get a proper meal, or a proper sleep. Things being done, the final day of marriage, the day begins with a lot of chaos with so much to be done in so less time. The groom gets ready for a “Baaraat”, I hardly know how to describe this in English, but will try. “Baaraat: can be classified as a happy procession that contains the people from the grooms family and his friends, who happily go dancing to the bride’s place where the main event of the day, the marriage, takes place. Let me describe, it takes a lot of time for Baaraats to reach from the groom’s place to the bride’s (somewhere between 1-2 hours and most of the time the distance is around 200 m). Now the main event begins with the groom and the bride putting a garland of flowers around each other’s necks. Pardon me for the use of poor English, I am finding it difficult to use correct phrases and words). After this being done, both the groom and the bride are made to sit on a stage, like one you have seen in movies similar to a king and queen sharing the throne and the people who have gathered to witness the wedding will be sitting right in front of them, like a pack of jury who find it their right to sit and criticize something or the other in the arrangements or the newly formed couple. The elders of the family keep themselves busy in the arrangements and in pleading people to eat and enjoy. Not going into the very details of all that the bride and groom undergo during the rituals that are necessary to marry them, I will write out a summary. The marriage rituals involve the use of a very important person, the “pandit alias pujari” meaning the priest. He maintains the position of the sole person responsible for conducting all nasty rituals necessary for binding two souls together. It is his responsibility to see that both the bride and groom start praying to the almighty to end the long day and let the bride go away with the groom. Some things need a change, they surely do. Being optimistic, I say that things are changing rapidly in India now. After the marriage is over, the bride and groom thank God for the ceremonies to be over than the marriage that took place, and happily drive away in a decorated car. That’s not the end of it but still some ceremonies remain at the groom’s place where a lot of people wait for the bride to come. She remains surrounded by the in laws for sometime and is not allowed to rest even after the long tiring day. The groom keeps waiting for his turn to go in and meet his wife!! It’s only at night that he gets an opportunity and then as said by Shakespeare, they live happily everafter!!!!!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Fantastic Trips That We Have Stumbled Into - Jerome

We have already written about our trip to the Amalfi Coast but before that we did quite a bit of impromptu traveling in the good old USA. It wasn't unusual for us just to throw some clothes in the car and start driving and then see where we wound up. In other words, we didn't research the trip before hand ... once, about this time of year, we took a day trip up to Oklahoma and wound up in Kansas. Mr. Bobby said he was looking for the "Grassy Knoll Mountains" ... never did find them but he didn't stop until we got to the Rockies. Another time, we flew to Las Vegas and spent a couple of days, rented a SUV and drove to the Grand Canyon. After that, we just kept on driving south. I don't remember the town we were in but realizing that we had to get back to Vegas, I was hard at work pouring over a not very detailed map and thought I saw an easy and quick way back ... through some small town we'd never heard of called Jerome, Arizona. Trip planning is an under-rated art form. Thinking back, I'm still not quite sure how but we survived Jerome and I really think that we deserve a T-Shirt. And why not? ... we got one when we drove to Hana on Maui! A different time, a different place ... a drive to remember! The road was just a narrow lane going up a mountain, sometimes wide enough for two cars I think. Too far to the right and you were off the mountain into the valley far, far below. Finally, finally we got to Jerome ... an old mining town precariously perched on the side of that mountain. It was old hippieville. A few shops, some restaurants, etc. Mr. Bobby had had it. He pulled into a parking lot and demanded that I drive down the mountain. I was real hungry too! We got out of the car on a perfectly flat parking lot and both had attacks of vertigo ... something neither of us is prone to do. Well, I started trying to drive but wasn't doing well. I'll let Mr. Bobby finish telling the story ... Miss Carol does have a good memory and a way with words too ... I don't remember no trip like that ... dang! I do remember something of her finding a short cut to where we wanted to go ... then driving through residential areas in this town looking for little posted signs indicating the way to this Jerome place ... almost turned around twice, thinking we had missed the signs and were lost. The danged road seemed to go straight up but it was so curvy, it almost seemed like a switchback ... had it not been for my outstanding skill and adroitness as a driver with nerves of steel, we would have never made it ... her having hysterics and beating me on the arm didn't help much neither! Like she said, we finally, finally made it to the top ... I knew she was hungry and suggested we have a nice lunch at one of the many restaurants housed in the old mining shacks but she was having none of it! Yes, I pulled into a parking lot just like she said ... but her memory is totally different from mine. She claims that parking lot was on a level but I suwannee, it was on at least a 45 degree incline probably more like 60. We could see the shacks, the shops, and the restaurants across the way ... and they were all on a slant too! Like she said, we had taken this route in an effort to save time ... and as pretty and interesting as it was, we really did need to continue on. I was real tired and my arm was still sore from the trip up so I suggested that she might consider driving down the mountain, at least part way until I was a bit more rested. Surprisingly, my charm won the day ... she agreed, and we got out of the car so we could switch seats and she could drive. A nickel fell out of my pocket ... I chased that sucker half way 'cross that "level" parking lot ... before giving up and watching it continue down the mountain, plum out of sight. I don't know what that "vertigo" stuff is ... but I was plum tuckered ... dizzy and couldn't keep my balance. It was time to go, and so we did! Now I don't want you to get the wrong idea ... Miss Carol is an excellent driver, especially on level, straight, four lane roads in the daytime with no traffic ... she keeps even that exciting so there's no chance of becoming road hypnotized. Like I said, she's good! It's all coming back to me now ... compared to the road we had traveled up the mountain to Jerome, the one going down was much easier ... wider and fewer curves too! But, boy, that baby was steep ... That really didn't bother me much for the SUV had five gears ... just put it in "low" or "double low" then sit back and enjoy the ride ... right? Wrong!!!! Our "Miss Know It All" is real smart, that's for sure ... but one thing about which she knows nothing is "gears," especially how to change them ... 40, 45, 50, 60 ... she was in a hurry, that's for sure. As the smell of burning brake pads increased, I calmly suggested she put it in a lower gear ... then shouted, demanded too ... I explained exactly what to do and how, time and time again, to no avail. She was frightened ... and I don't mind telling you that I was too ... 65, 70 and finally I prayed! She wouldn't listen but I think the good Lord did. She continued tightly gripping the steering wheel with both hands, but while she braked, I lowered the gears for her and we somehow survived ... set a new speed record to boot ... wound up on old route 66, methinks! I agree that we deserved a T-Shirt (No doubt they now have some) ... needed one too ... had to change me clothes after that ride! No doubt word of our adventure reached the authorities ... I understand the road is now safe and easy to travel ... and as a result, it's now a very, very popular place! No, we didn't file no report though I would have liked to get my nickel back, a 1937 buffalo. No, it was them hippies who saw us coming up the mountain ... seems they got all cleaned up and fixed a bunch of food ... raised such a ruckus when we didn't stay, the State had no choice but to fix things up!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Bad Day at Fort Hood

Our language is certainly a mystery to me ... so many abuse it ... incorrect grammar, inadequate vocabularies and poor word choices are commonplace, increasingly so, methinks ... seemingly with most folks either not knowing or not caring. I do abhor such abuse!! The Shop's reminder that this is not a political place wasn't meant to suggest that its barbers didn't have their own beliefs or that they were expected to refrain from expressing them ... far from it! Your beliefs define who you are ... they'll usually serve you well, even when you're wrong! That's an awfully important notion ... beliefs ... that for which you're willing to kill and/or die! I've always thought that them what make the loudest noise usually make the least sense. For me it's a catch 23, that is, something a little more than a catch 22. I do admire the passion of the zealot ... while deploring the oft accompanying closed-mindedness! Without passion, very little would ever get accomplished and apathy would no doubt reign supreme. I've always had trouble with Tom Jefferson's posit that we're all created equal ... I knew better'n that when I was three and got a baby sister. Of course he did say men, I'll give him that! I guess all men do start out as little boys ... but God made them all different, not equal ... even identical twins are different! Mrs. Freeman, my kindergarten teacher, told me that Jefferson just wanted King George to know that we didn't believe in folks having special rank and privileges as a birthright ... folks have to prove themselves. That's what she said ... of course, I wasn't in kindergarten then. I agree that everyone should be able to proffer their opinion, if they have one ... that is, if they accept the inherent responsibilities that go along with so doing. The Bard had this to say about about the profferings of them what don't ... "tis a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury ... signifying nothing"! Against that backdrop, let me say that I truly think that most of us share similar concerns ... while our priorities may be different, we want good things for ourselves, our children, and theirs ... we want our country to be safe and secure and to be both financially and morally solvent. Every day it seems that we're confronted with one crisis or another ... and feelings are as strong as they are varied. The tragedy at Fort Hood has certainly been in the news ... while other things may have occupied my attention here in the Shop, I've seen and heard enough to know it's causing quite a stir! We can't help but know that there is a large contingent opposing our continued presence in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and other places, since we began the "war against terrorism" following the events of 9/11/2001. I sense that feelings among Jews and Christians currently run rather high against the Muslims ... though that could be a misconception. I've had some friends who are Muslim but know little of their faith ... my understanding being that it was laid down by Muhammad, their messenger of God, and that they recognize Adam, Abraham, Moses and Jesus as Prophets. My assumption and understanding has always been that its tenets serve its followers well ... certainly the three religions share the same God. If my understanding is correct, then I feel it is incumbent on the leaders within Islam to denounce terrorism and rid itself of those within its ranks who embrace it! I don't believe that the Creator of all that we know did it without purpose ... it was done a long time ago, that's for sure! I don't know the purpose but it was certainly was not for the rewarding folks for killing or invoking harm to others in his name ... for any reason, but especially not because of differences in belief. That applies to all religions, not just those three ... From what we read and saw as the drama at Fort Hood unfolded, an Army Major ... 39 year old psychiatrist Nidal Malik Hassan, killed 13 people, injured 30 more; considered the worst ever such incident on a U.S. military base. He himself was shot four times and for sometime in a coma. It's bound to be complex and as always, we're on the outside looking in ... and certainly it begs lots of questions as well stirring up many emotions, including fear, disgust, anger and hate. As expected, reaction was swift ... posits that it was a planned attack, long in the making, by some terrorist cell that had infiltrated the system were quickly followed by assertions that terrorism was not involved ... all well before anyone really knew ... or knows, methinks. One thing I know for sure, it was terrifying ... the killing of 13 and injuring of 30 more ... no, as horrible as that is, far worse things happen most every day. What was terrifying to me was the thought that such a thing could happen inside a, thought to be safe, military sanctuary ... in Texas, of all places. Interestingly but not surprisingly, there were conflicting reports concerning the Major ... reports from colleagues and personal acquaintances indicate that he argued with soldiers who supported U.S. war policy and from what we saw in an interview, with a former classmate methinks, he viewed the war on terrorism as a "war against Islam". That would seem to suggest, and does to me, that perhaps the Major was somewhat of a religious zealot who didn't try to hide the fact. Other reports would seem to suggest that the Major's primary motivation for being in the military may well have been for the purposes of education and personal advancement ... commonplace today perhaps, but somewhat different, methinks, from those who spent a winter at Valley Forge or a day on the beaches of Normandy. I well remember the interview of the mother of a young soldier that had been killed in Iraq ... bitterly deriding and debasing the President for placing her son in harm's way ... "It's totally unfair ... he only joined so that he could get an education!" While I can perhaps see some supporting logic, it seems risky as well as ironic that a follower of Islam would be assigned to counsel servicemen returning from a battlezone where the enemy had been identified with that faith ... especially a major holding the views attributed to him. Ironic too if it turns out that the one what shot him was indeed a woman. What happened at Fort Hood may or may not have been an act of a terrorist cell like those with which we've become familiar, but it's terroristic all the same ... most terrifying is the realization that the system allowed the incident to happen. In a town with but two barbers, always select the one with worst haircut ... a psychiatrist is only as good as his last haircut ... old Polish Proverb! I support our military and its presence wherever required to protect our long term best interests and those of our friends within the international community ... that's not meant to be political, evil knows no nationality and belongs to no religion. The world has become a small place, getting smaller all the time ... I believe we all share the same long term best interests; whether we realize it or not is another story. Hopefully the incident at Fort Hood won't become another political football game ... current mentality seems to be that all games must have a winner but it simply isn't true ... some of the very best were ties. I'm not a blogger, not in the usual sense ... but having missed much of the drama as it unfolded, I wanted to see what folks were thinking and saying ... Like I said, assurances came quickly that it wasn't a terrorist attack but from what I saw, the political activists saw it differently ... from both sides of the aisle. Yes, it seemed they saw it same way ... well intending, good folks all, methinks ... we do seem to come together in such times, but certainly their quills were filled with different ink. I was surprised to find some openly endorsing what amounted to an defensive isolationist policy ... I don't consider it political to suggest that totally unthinkable; for the world in which we live has become a very small place indeed and continues to shrink. What affects folks half way around the world affects us too and so we all have a vested interest in just about everything that goes on, whether we like it or not! Others sincerely suggested that the "War on Terrorism" was one that could not be won ... that we were attempting to impose our values and will on cultures steeped in traditions that doom all such attempts. That's a tough nut to crack and I won't even try ... we should respect all cultures, methinks, even those we find in petri dishes. However, cultures that endorse or tolerate terrorism must be changed ... no ifs, no ands, no buts! It's true that the declaration of the "War on Terrorism" was the resultant of the events of 11 September, 2001 ... not totally unlike that which followed 1941's day of infamy ... it was a straw that placed a heavy burden upon the camel's back. Regardless of how that "war" got birthed, it must be fought ... by mankind ... and hopefully won. The problem is, as it's always been, that most everybody shares an "end justifies means" mentality ... there are individuals, groups and governments with perceived vested interests that cause them to sit down when they should be standing up. If we are to long survive, we must all join together and demand of the entire international community that terrorism is neither tolerated nor endorsed ... by anyone, for any reason! As some know, I work off mind triggers ... it's easier of thinking up stuff all by yourself and I was prompted by some comments I saw regarding the spin being put on the incident to proffer the following ... it may seem off topic, taken out of context ... maybe even were it to be in context, but it was my reaction to what I had been reading, the comments there and perhaps elsewhere ... I too am tired of all the spin ... but that's how it's always been, and how it will always be ... for we're on the outside looking in! I don't know who it was what first expressed the notion "it's all about getting elected" ... for unless you do, you'll be on the outside looking in too ... and growing tired of all the spin. I think maybe folks long ago realized that they stood a better chance of getting elected if they told you what you wanted to hear ... rather than that which you did not ... spin! Daddy told me ... "Son, you can't tell a lot about a man by listening to his well rehearsed spiel" ... that was long ago, back when farmers hand milked their cows and got their water from wells! Of course, food cooked on a wood stove was hard to beat! When I was growing up, the differences between a democracy and a democratic republic was taught, indeed emphasized and stressed in school! I could be wrong but somehow I sense that is no longer the case; that somewhere along the way it got lost between the cracks. We like to call ours a democracy ... sounds good and makes us feel important, but thank goodness we're still not quite there ... democracies are doomed to failure, except in local settings ... for even were we all smart enough to understand all the complexities, we simply don't have the time to become and stay well enough informed to make the many decisions demanded of that form of government, at least not good ones, methinks. Maybe it was somebody else, but I think it was old John Locke who first plagiarized Polonius ... when he said in effect that the first responsibility of the legislator was to vote his conscience. If folks did that, there would be less need for party strategy, methinks. If we just vote for and elect them folks we know and trust ... and entrust them to vote their conscience for what's best for us and our country, there would be no need for spin ... straight talk would be just fine. It always bothered me ... when it came time for a big vote ... most all voted along party lines ... bah humbug! Regardless of our politics, I think a majority of us recognize the need for government to be conservative and based on the needs of the people rather than their wants, at least if it is to endure ... what's popular today, ain't tomorrow. Whether it's Sarah Palin or Practically Perfect Mary Poppins ... it matters not to me ... just elect folks you know ... forget about labels, and demand they vote their conscience for what's best for us and our country ... Just make sure they have a conscience! Dale Carnegie would have turned over in his grave had he read that ... it wasn't and isn't apt to win friends or influence people, that's for sure! The Right Honorable Edmund Burke too, for it was he to whom I meant to refer, and not John Locke! Guess I got lost or something ... I had and have no agenda relative to the issue ... twas just my reaction to what I had been reading, comments and such. However, for purposes of writing this piece and apologizing for my John Lock faux pas, I wanted to refresh my memory regarding the mind triggering comments and searched for my comment on sites I had recently visited ... I've yet to find it ... don't guess it matters much, I knew what I said ... and now you do too! It's easy to endorse the freedom of speech and religion ... the right to express opinions and beliefs ... and have those rights respected. Indeed, it's what we call being politically correct. Yes, it's easy ... real easy, but make no mistake, practicing that sermon ain't! Not really. No, I'm not talking about the preacher, I'm talking about his flock ... and no, I ain't talking about no religion neither ... The head zealot, the one with all the passion ... I'm sure that he thought everything well through ... wrote out his doctrine more than once, making sure it was danged near perfect, as best he could determine. Tom Jefferson and them boys sure did ... the "he" being replaced with "they," since they all signed up to hang together! The head zealot, whether singular or plural, understood it ... practiced what he preached ... was a leader and an inspiration ... that's why he was the preacher and they the flock! I visited some other sites too and their comments prompted my proffering ... You fellows are far more knowledgeable about such things than am I but I don't think we yet know enough about the man to pass judgment. No, not the fanatic who shot the folks at Fort Hood ... but rather, our president! I'm reserving judgment ... it's just my way, and my privilege to so do ... to me, everything's a privilege with accompanying responsibilities ... don't believe in entitlements. Forget labels ... how can we, as a people, elect folks about whom we know so little? ... don't blame Obama, at least not yet!! I was taught to respect the Office of the President ... Daddy said "be quiet, the President is speaking on the radio" ... I didn't know his name but I knew to be quiet! Then, when he went and died, we got a new one ... didn't need to know his name neither ... goodness, there's only one President! Truth is, not many knew him ... but he gave 'em Hell and was a good President too! We're the ones to blame ... not the President! I truly hope this young man does well and suggest it's in our best interests that we all pray for that! And when we're finished praying ... we must figure out how to rid ourselves of media controlled popularity contests that determine who the candidates will be. Until we do that, we'll continue to have folks in office about whom we know too little ... but we'll have two, four, six or eight years to find out for ourselves! After the fact just ain't the time to do it!! We're a republic, or supposed be ... but it smells like a democracy ... my guess is that most now think that's what it is! Our President had this to say ... "it may be hard to comprehend the twisted logic that led to this tragedy but this much we do know - no faith justifies these murderous and craven acts; no just and loving God looks upon them with favor. And for what he has done, we know that the killer will be met with justice - in this world, and the next" ... I think most of us will buy into that. Who is this Bob, really? Not quite the same as usual, huh?" bob, journalist is genuine. picks bob journalist's friends, and is true to the friendship." ... another one of them mind triggered things ... don't even ask, cause I have no idea from whence it came. Perhaps Jimmy Smith's perception isn't universal, but I sorta wish it was ...