Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Just So

I recall growing up in a time when there wasn't a lot to do at night. We had two black-and-white TVs. One console type (back in Grandma's room, which didn't get frequented too much because of reasons explained previously) and a portable one on a really cheesy metal stand with wheels. That way it could be wheeled to the screened porch, or the living room, where it usually was.

The day came when a color TV was purchased, and the old B&W was relinquished to the Dining Room where I was usually left to sit by myself and watch TV.  I Love Lucy and Gilligan's Island. Batman, Hogan's Heroes, Get Smart, and the Twilight Zone only came on once a week. No longer did I have to sit through my parent's shows for entertainment (News. COMBAT! More News. BONANZA. The Prisoner (WTF), or The Rifleman).

Easy to understand why I looked forward to Mom reading me a bedtime story. I think my favorite book was Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories. In it were the most outlandish explanations for how things came to be as they are - like How the Elephant Got His Trunk, How the Rhinocerous Got his Skin and How The Leopard Got His Spots. It was a simpler time, in the high and far-off veldt, or on the banks of the great grey green greasy Limpopo River.

Imagine yourself in the midst of your own Just So Story. How did you come to be the way you are? Certainly not as important as where you are going, or how you will get there. For You are neither the Kangaroo nor is the World Yellow Dog Dingo (always chasing after you, always hungry, never getting nearer, never getting further, grinning like a coal scuttle - he had to!). But someday, Best Beloved, if you have enough time, there are no reruns on and if you have still not forgotten about the suspenders, I just may tell you of how The Rusk got his Thick Skull.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Choices We Make

One of my favorite characters in Seinfeld is George Costanza. Neurotic, insightful, a good foil and friend. Typically able to look at the issues of the day from his own perspective, and always able to put an unforeseen twist into the way you look at things.

In a classic episode, he decides that everything he's done in life to that point has got him to where he is. Not particularly insightful, but from there he decides to do the OPPOSITE of everything he would normally do and his life takes off in a series of unimaginable successes. Yet when we find ourselves in that situation, how often we cling to our comfortable, self-willed way of doing things.

Take for example the family football pool this week. Oh, I clearly saw the outcome of every game, boldly picked the winners and sat back waiting for the glorious accolades of my omniscience. Imagine my dismay when only 3 out of 15 turned out right. Ah, if only I would have done what George would have done. Or the opposite.Sometimes your own best intentions leave you not where you wanted to be, but always where you are.

Friday, September 24, 2010


I remember a most excellent sermon delivered by the late Reverend Jim Snow. Actually, all of his sermons were excellent but this one in particular stuck with me. It had to do with that feeling you get when you reach into your jeans and find a $5 bill. The gist of it was, that God is like that too. Found in unexpected places. I recall telling him on the way out that I knew exactly what he meant, that I had found him in me.

I always thought of God as being a big thing - after all, there's a lot of ground to cover. But recently I've been able to see God's work in all things, and to know that I carry him with me all the time. There is no token or chip or $5 bill, but he's there in my pocket nonetheless. I kind of like carrying God in my pocket. It's only fair since he's been doing it to me for a long time.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Attention to Detail

Starting out, I wanted to try and get the big things right. I found the key to doing that was sweating a lot of small stuff. Before I knew it, big things were going pretty well. Tending to stick with what worked, more sweat was generated on small stuff and big things went on autopilot. Big mistake.

Sand castles are created from the organization of many small things, all part of the Whole, with a larger purpose in mind. You need a solid foundation and a vision, which can change during the course of construction. And once built, maintenance is required for it to "last". For all castles made of sand slip into the sea, but they are great fun while they last, built from small things but always a part of a much bigger thing - being at the beach.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Falling Down

New Pedals
Yesterday it was time to man up and install my clipless bike pedals. I'd been putting it off because I'd been told at first you always get your foot stuck when you need to get off, and fall right over. So of course, as advised, I practiced the night before while leaning against the wall. It seemed pretty easy.
And then.
As we stopped at a crossing, I anticipate the need to click out. Strangely, now I want to rotate my foot the other way. Then the right way. Then foot not coming out. Panic. Foot comes out, but leaning on opposite side and not moving. The result? I fell right over. At least I had the sense to roll and just take it on my back. Bridget said it was "gracefully done". I wasn't so sure.

It is said life isn't about falling down. It's about getting back up.  Don't be afraid to try new things or of falling down. And no matter how hard or how far you've fallen, pull yourself up by the bootstraps, rub some dirt on it, laugh at yourself and move on. Subsequent attempts to click out went without a hitch, and the ride is much better with clipless than without.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Trash Talking

With the new NFL season ready to roll, the family pool is ready for 'adult free swim'. Unfortunately after week 1 (or maybe the first cannonball) the pool may be closed due to multiple Baby Ruth sightings. Each year contestants pit their prognosticating abilities against each other in a winner-take-all glory ride ending with a fabulous prize ceremony. Gene, why don't you tell the contestants what they'll be playing for?

Thaaat's right Bob, their name will be etched for all eternity in the "Because It's Football" trophy, the "Wide Left" pie tin and the "Bottom of the Barrel" likeness of... the bottom of a barrel. Unlike the Newlywed Game, prizes are NOT theirs to keep forever. They MUST be returned to the league office each season for recycling. Of course during their absence, they are coveted by their Owners who generally keep them proudly on display, to be envied by all. Some winners have been heard in their closets late at night, stroking their (treasure) while cooing "My Precious...". Yeah sure. you were polishing "your trophy".

And now a word from our sponsor. Did you ever stop to think what would happen if you never took out the trash? You keep generating it. It would build up until it would be like the Monk episode when the Sanitation Department went on strike in SF. Or worse, because it would be in your house. Life is like that too. Take out some trash today, and stop generating. Eventually, you'll have a clean house.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Tattoo You

I spent a lot of time with my Mom growing up. She was pretty cool. She could do just about anything, had a subliminal way of teaching, and shared the joy of learning.

She taught me how to use a paintbrush with precision. As my brother and I were avid car model builders, this was a crucial skill since I was 3 years behind the learning curve. Mom would help me with the really tricky parts like putting custom trim stripes on the Batmobile and painting the Dynamic Duo in Green Hornet colors. Of course this was considered a Blasphemy at the time but later my vision has been discovered by action figure toymakers looking to pry additional nickels from children's pockets.

My Mom had skills. She was an exceptional seamstress, which was important if you were wearing recycled jeans, with an extended corduroy cuff to lengthen them and a tapered insert to make them bell bottoms. She made my brother and I the Errol Flynn dueling shirts out of some kind of satin. They were fitted, with a lapeled v-neck collar, flared sleeves with french cuffs. She made me a lined denim suit jacket with matching vest, and of course all kinds of ordinary things. All to help the tragically un-hip feel cool.

She was an artist in many ways. Patient and kind. She loved nature, a good joke, a job well done, a good book and later in life - golf. Like my Dad she tended to let us find our own way in life, which despite all example proved to be quite painful at times. I am fortunate to have known her, and even more so when I get glimpses of her traits that are indelibly etched on me.