Thursday, April 30, 2009

Three gifts join together & she smiles

What do two necklaces and a digital camera have in common?

The intersection of three gifts stirs memories

This is a lazy day accident of coincidences piece of writing.

A few days ago, I received a used, digital camera as a gift from a friend. I will not mention some of the places this camera has been. It might stretch the limit of my credibility beyond the breaking point among some readers.

In any case, it is a very well-traveled camera, and it came without an instruction booklet. So, I was practicing with it while trying to learn a bit about its operation. One of my practice shots turned out to be of two other gifts. This was not intentional. Just happened.

During one of my never-ending, altogether too short conversations, also a few days ago, I had mentioned how Native Americans are great gift givers. I have received a few over the years, and my practice shot with my gifted camera turned out to be two necklaces given to me by Native American young ladies a few years back.

Shown on the left is a necklace made by and given to me by a young lady of the Assiniboine tribe as a farewell gift when I left Montana. The Assiniboine are "cousins" of the Sioux, thought to have parted company from the Yanktonai Nakota Sioux about 500 years ago.

The necklace on the right was made by and given to me as a gift by a direct descendant of one of Sitting Bull's sisters, a Hunkpappa Lakota Sioux, after I had interviewed her for a newspaper feature article. She carried within her the oral traditions of her family. Both these necklaces are suspended from a floor lamp in my computer/gun/book room.

And, yes, that is the barrel of a shotgun in the background, leaning against the wall. Some things are completely predictable, are they not?

A gift revealing other gifts, all revealing memories = pleasant experience.

My mind seems to reside in my fingers ....

Some time ago, possibly as long as a month ago, I closed my eyes and allowed my fingers to think. Some of you might recall I have done this before. When my fingers stopped typing, the end results did not seem complete to me, so I never posted them, thinking I would rework them. This never happened, so the "product" remains unfinished. Since I doubt I ever will return to rework these end results, today, I decided, what heck, to post them anyway. It is the thought that counts, right?

Her lasting smile

A woman is she who fears not the woodlands
In the dark of night
And who knows magic there exists, and spirits.

A woman is she who fears not the river waters
In the midst of rapids
And who knows there is danger and thrill alike.

A woman is she who fears not the man she loves
In the face of his anger
And who knows her kiss will conquer his spirit.

A woman is she who fears not to learn from before
In the depths of craft and tales
And who knows everlasting truth from the guile.

A woman is she who fears not to dwell with a man
While she lies in his bed
Until they live as friends as well as lovers.

A woman is she who fears not worldly life
While her children rage
Until they, too, understand their own presence.

A woman is she who fears not to be the catalyst
While all others falter
Until threat has passed and life thrives again.

A woman is she who fears not to seek the light
While her earth-time ends

Until she sees him clearly, as he awaits her.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

You are what you read, like it or not

Time stops when you read books about the past and, better yet, written in the past. Sorry, but I am biased beyond belief about the quality of books now when compared to then. Some notes regarding a couple of the books in the photograph: Mari Sandoz is a woman I could not agree with philosophically, but is one I would worship for her strength and intelligence. "Old Jules" centers on her father. "Pine Ridge 1890" is nonfiction about the battle at Wounded Knee (I refuse to call it a massacre because of the causalities on both sides), and consists of first-hand newspaper accounts written from the battlefield. Live it, breathe it. The books balancing on top are among those written by O.E. Rolvaag. His novels are about Norwegian immigrants to the U.S. a century and more ago, any one of which is worth a dozen of the typical novels published today. This I do not think, rather, this I know. You are what you read.

Once upon a time, men were & so were women

It rather surprised me the other day when people started rattling off the names of their "favorite living" poets. I did not think that many people actually read poetry these days. (Well, I guess I still do not believe many people read poetry; but, instead, a "very select" crowd comes to visit me who actually are seekers and searchers.) Neither did I think there would be many (maybe not even any) who had a favorite living poet.

No one seemed to disagree with me, however, that the predominant form of poetry today seems to be found in musical lyrics.

Reflecting further on this, I realized that I no longer have a favorite living novelist, either. I always have been hard to please, says he, not at all facetiously. Norman Mailer probably qualified as my last living favorite (unless I have forgotten someone still here among us), although 20 years ago he would not have been at the top of my list. Basically, he got there by being the last man standing. Other "more favored" writers were around back then.

Most novelists I read are well established. Many fall under the category of writing "literature" as opposed to "popular" stories. Some few, I think actually fall into both categories. I am more and more into reality the older I become, although science fiction and historical fiction were once among my favorites, and I still dabble with them now.

Five or six years ago, I began concentrating on reading books written during or about the last 50 or so years of the 19th Century and the first 50 years of the 20th Century, with the focal point being those closest to the year 1900. It was as much a research project as a reading exercise. I wanted to know, through books, what it would have been like to live during that time frame. Without a mechanism for time travel, books are all we have to accomplish that sort of a "jump."

Among novels, I read Jack London beyond what I had during college. More (all) of O.E. Rolvaag and most of Ambrose Bierce. I became acquainted with Mari Sandoz and Willa Cather. Reading their novels and others spilled over into reading biographies of the authors, which spilled again into reading travelogues of journeys in America by the likes of Robert Louis Stevenson and Henry M. Stanley.

Most people (then again, maybe not) probably have heard Stanley's famous quote, "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?" which he made upon locating the Scottish missionary in Africa. Few know (well, I have been wrong before) that he traveled in frontier America in places like Kansas and kept a journal. Will Bill Hickok and General George Custer are a pair of the contemporary gentlemen of whom he wrote while touring America during the magical era of the latter 1860s.

Such was the tip of my reading iceberg. I assume you get my drift. With mountains of material from which to learn how things once were, why spend much time on the popular fiction of today? Especially for a history fanatic like me? I already know today. I am here, and am perfectly capable of doing my own interpretation of now, thank you. Give me what I do not know.

Somehow, I do miss not having a "favorite living" poet and a "favorite living" novelist. It is a most difficult role to play, being he who is hard to please. Still, I am not so sure the blame about not having a favorite rests upon my shoulders alone. It might be the inevitable result of the actual quality of the writers and the publishers of today.

When all is said and done, so what? I am a reader, not a blind follower. This should be the role each of us should play. No matter what I say. No matter what anyone else says. Pick up a scent and get onto the trail. Find your own books, just as you find your own life.

Music Note: Listening to a Christian band, Stryper
Specifically, "To Hell with the Devil" ....
Some lines from "Calling on You:"

Inside of me there is a lonely place

Sometimes I just don't know it's there
But when I'm all alone
That's when I have to face...

The part of me that needs someone
To be by my side that's when I call on...

You, You make my life complete
You give me all I need
You help me through and through
I'm calling on you

I can't explain just what You do to me
My love grows stronger everyday
You give me love, You give me company
And when I have to face the rain
You bring sunshine into my life

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Another day on the glorious range

Here are three more which had their turn at the shooting bench on Saturday. At the top is a Colt 1911 Government Model in (as always for me) .45 caliber. Like all my 1911s, this one has been tuned internally to ensure reliability and accuracy, and is wearing Hogue grips in Kingwood. Below it is a Smith & Wesson Model 60 revolver in .38 Special caliber. It also has Hogue grips, these in Tulipwood. Resting at the bottom is my Colt Mustang in .380 / 9 mm Kurtz caliber. It, too, has been internally tuned, and the original grips have been replaced by rubber Pachmayr grips to better fit my hand.

How did you guess? Did the photo give it away?

Range time, trigger time, good time on Saturday. There is more to it than just the feel of recoil and the scent of cordite and the sight of the hit. Probably no one who does not share the "up close and personal" affection for shooting sports ever considers some of the extra benefits. Allow me to back step for a moment.

As I have mentioned before, my physical fitness habits are sporadic, but always lurking in my mind. I will go into a routine that might last three months or might last a year. Then I will break from it for another routine, such as moving from exercise drills to running (I seldom do both), or break from doing any routine at all. I might stay away from any form of exercise for three months or maybe a year. This is to say I manage to keep in reasonably decent shape without being a fanatic about it.

Years ago, someone told me that if a person ever had been in really great physical condition, it is not hard to return to good shape even after a lapse of several months. That pretty much is true, and probably is the mental seed which originally got me going into an on-again / off-again system.

Now, back to the firearms' element. I think there is more to getting into shape again than a few pushups or a bit of jogging. My return includes shooting. But, I get bored quickly simply punching holes in paper, so I take off from there:

Try running 30 yards as fast as you can, then stopping to fire ten rounds. Think about walking away from a target, turning 180 degrees while drawing, and emptying the magazine while raising the pistol from waist to eye level. Think about running forward, drawing and diving forward, and getting off as many rounds as possible before hitting the ground. Great exercise, great for developing hand and eye coordination, great fun. Entertaining to watch, too.

Some people enjoy standing in the yoga master's stork pose; I think similar drills are fun if you are popping off a few rounds with a handgun while doing them. Go into a pushup position; hold yourself up with one arm while firing a handgun with the other hand and hitting the target. Good balance is one of the fundamental keys to good pistol work.

The proverbial bottom line to this is that anyone who has access to a location to safely practice with a handgun can turn the experience into one that not only provides fun and sharpens shooting skills, but also improves physical condition and associated attributes such as balance and hand and eye coordination. This is just a small sample of my habit.

It is near certain that someone reading this will mumble something about unsafe use of firearms. Sure, it is possible an accident might happen. There is a degree of risk involved whenever firearms are being used. But, these activities should not be done anywhere except on a private range, and should only be done by people who have years of experience handling handguns and firing them under all sorts of conditions.

Overall, I think these drills are safer than walking some big city streets or driving the highway in morning rush hour with freezing rain coming down. To each, his or her own.

Music Note: Listening to St. Paul's Vixen ....
Specifically, "Vixen"
Some out of sequence lines from "Cruisin':"

And you got that feeling again that tonight could be so much more

You walked in looking for someone, for something to share
When you walked in, I was already there

Can't you go any faster? -- That's better

I think it's time, yeah it's time we broke the ice
You know that this sort of thing, it did already happen twice
I wanna rock, I wanna roll, I wanna eat into your soul
Just push into the litter, whenever you lose control

Let's go cruisin' (cruisin'), I wanna go cruisin' into wild times
Let's go cruisin' (cruisin'), gonna ride it out to the red light

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The poetry of song lyrics & the human voice

The human voice can transform poetry to song, and into magic.

Name your favorite living poet ....

Not very long ago, I was in an all too brief a conversation in which poetry and music were mentioned in the context that the lyrics of many songs form poetry.

Poetry is alive and well today, but does not hold the stature it once did. How many people can come up with the name of their "favorite living" poet? All my own favorites are in the ground.

I have long thought that one reason poetry and "professional" poets are fewer in this age is because of the explosion of music since World War II, most particularly since the 1960s. Yesterday's poets are today's musicians. To read the lyrics of many songs is to read poetry.

Poetry might be inspired and sometimes is inspirational. Put the poetry to music, and emotional responses are heightened to even greater levels. Part of it is to be found in the melody. Part of it is to be found through the magical quality of the human voice singing the poetry. Personally, I even prefer hearing poetry being read than simply reading it myself. The human presence in the form of a voice puts additional life into elegantly written words, and the notes of music to create a song unite these three elements into an entirely transcendental form of art.

Agree or not with me about poetry, I doubt anyone would have the slightest problem naming their "favorite living" singer or band. Hence, tonight's "poetry" reading:

Band: Queensryche
Album: Empire
Song: Silent Lucidity

Hush now, don't you cry
Wipe away the teardrop from your eye
You're lying safe in bed
It was all a bad dream
Spinning in your head
Your mind tricked you to feel the pain
Of someone close to you leaving the game of life
So here it is, another chance
Wide awake you face the day
Your dream is over.... or has it just begun?

There's a place I like to hide
A doorway that I run through in the night
Relax child, you were there
But only didn't realize it and you were scared
It's a place where you will learn
To face your fears, retrace the years
And ride the whims of your mind
Commanding in another world
Suddenly you hear and see
This magic new dimension

I - will be watching over you
I - am gonna help you see it through
I - will protect you in the night
I - am smiling next to you, in Silent Lucidity

--spoken during solo--
[Visualize your dream]
[Record it in the present tense]
[Put it into a permanent form]
[If you persist in your efforts]
[You can achieve dream control]
[Dream control]
[How's that then, better?]
[Hug me]

If you open your mind for me
You won't rely on open eyes to see
The walls you built within
Come tumbling down, and a new world will begin
Living twice at once you learn
You're safe from the pain in the dream domain
A soul set free to fly
A round trip journey in your head
Master of illusion, can you realize
Your dream's alive, you can be the guide but...

I - will be watching over you
I - am gonna help to see it through
I - will protect you in the night
I - am smiling next to you....

Thursday, April 23, 2009

All I want is a Garden of Eden & a Holy Grail

Today, kind ladies and gents, we open with a photograph of Fram the First, Fram Actual and Fram Impersonator. We leave it to you to decide which among which is which. The photo was taken at the semi-weekly bagpipe and bugle corps competition held at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Lots of folks up there enjoy hearing the pipes, and especially appreciate seeing real men take to the field during the summer months before the wimp Packers arrive for the football season.

Paradise Lost ....

Part II -- The Search Resumes:

After reading Part I, do you blame me for occasionally being a bit bitter and, at times, occasionally slipping into a melancholy mood? It is not that I have it bad; it is that I do not have what I require to prosper, which is no one's fault but my own, and the process to remedy my situation is under way.

Now, moving right along, I do have a little more whining up my sleeve. I am certain anyone who actually reads me knows that I lean toward the conservative end of the spectrum. I like to think 60-40. I am certain a true liberal would change those numbers. I am much more of an issue guy and a vote-for-the-best-candidate type of guy than I am a political partisan. Which is one reason I am so disgusted with both political parties, and the general dynamics of society in America today.

Before any of you knew me, about a year ago at this time, I went on record as saying I would leave the State of Minnesota if Al Franken were to be elected state senator. Seriously. I do not want to live in a state where a majority of the voters would elect a third-rate comedian, extreme-left-wing nut with absolutely no qualifications or credentials appropriate to the position, to represent them in a body of 100, whose members are among the most powerful people on earth. On the plus side, I have gained an understanding of why so many people live and breathe Paris Hilton: Celebrity trumps intelligence, talent, knowledge, experience, common sense -- absolutely everything else.

For those who have no clue what I am talking about, Franken was the candidate of the Democrat Party for the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican Norm Coleman. The vote last November was so close that a recount was required. The recount process and ensuing court action still continue but, right now, it appears Franken will be declared the winner by the margin of a few hundred votes.

It looks like it is going to happen, that Franken will be going to the Senate to represent Minnesotans. I am both embarrassed and ashamed about living in a state where such idiocy could occur. I will get over that, of course, but not while I am living in Minnesota.

Which returns us to my summer plans. This election gives me another excuse to move on. How is that for rationalization? Admit it, true genius behind the madness. I can find an excuse for almost anything.

Thomas Wolfe was right: "You Can't Go Home Again." Well, it has been a negative experience in my life, anyway. Always move forward, never backward, until you get it right –- or run out of time –- whichever happens first.

We are approaching May, and my plans remain on schedule, which are to travel in Greece sometime in July or August, with an anticipated stay of three or four weeks, then move over to southern France for at least another week to decide whether I might want to try living there for a year or so.

I think such an extended stay is unlikely now. Instead, it is more probable I will return here and do something similar to what I did a few years ago. At that time, I sold Sanctuary/Refuge. I quit my job and, in May, left on a driving tour that ranged from Canada into Mexico and lasted until October. That was my "battlefield tour." This would be my "find-a-place-to-hang-out-for-a-while tour."

In the meanwhile, there are travelers here among us. Know of any "neat" locations? Not too far north; not too far south. Any suggestions where I might find another woodland hilltop very near, if not on, water? I am not looking for much, only for the Garden of Eden and for the Holy Grail. Is that being selfish of me?

Music Note: Listening to Minneapolis' Soul Asylum ....
Specifically, "Grave Diggers Union" ....
Some lines from "Runaway Train:"

Runaway train, never going back

Wrong way on a one-way track
Seems like I should be getting somewhere
Somehow I'm neither here nor there

Can you help me remember how to smile?
Make it somehow all seem worthwhile
How on earth did I get so jaded?
Life's mystery seems so faded

I can go where no one else can go
I know what no one else knows
Here I am just a-drownin' in the rain
With a ticket for a runaway train

Everything is cut and dried
Day and night, earth and sky
Somehow I just don't believe it

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Who is that couple? & Paradise Lost

A reader submitted the illustration shown today. The opinion of the reader was that it was likely I had been the model for the "wolfish looking gentleman," but wondered who might have been the model for the young lady. Well, my suspicion is that the illustration is very old and was based on some story involving Fram the First. Which means, of course, I have no direct knowledge of the identity of the young lady. It is too bad the illustration is not in color. I think color might reveal more clues regarding both these individuals.

Paradise Lost ....

Part I:

In one of my other "incarnations" (not in another time, this was only a few years ago), I was not living in a metro area. I was living in the country, not in a wilderness setting, but in a quiet, somewhat secluded place, in a nice house surrounded by seven acres of partially-cleared woodland.

The house was atop a ridge line, and there was a clear view at least a mile or two in any direction and five or six miles in a couple of directions. The view was of woodland and water, with an occasional house on another hilltop and some lake homes three or four miles off across the water.

My house was the last one on a mile and one-half of private road. It was about a quarter-mile to the next nearest home. My acreage was designed so that no one could ever build closer to me than that quarter-mile on two sides, while the other two sides were undeveloped federal woodland.

The only negative part of the location (to me) was that it was not actually on the water. But, I could live with it (or, rather, without it). There was a state-operated boat launch ramp and a public swimming beach about two and one-half miles away and out of sight from my house.

In the morning, I could get up, grab a cup of coffee and, if I wished, go out on the second floor deck and fire off 10 rounds (or 1,000) at a series of targets I had set up at varying distances out to about 40 yards. I had a 60-yard range set up in another area, and a walk-through-the-woods combat course. See me smiling?

It was a rare day when there were not deer and wild turkeys waltzing through the yard. Rabbits, squirrels, dozens of bird varieties including eagles were present year-round. In the spring, millions (I would estimate) of geese would fly over going north. For three days or more, night and day, as far as a person could see in all directions, there would be geese in flight. Monarch butterflies came through on migration in late August or early September. For a night or two, the leaves on trees would be replaced by butterflies.

Coyotes passed through the yard regularly. A few times, under a full moon in winter, I was awakened by a chorus of howling coyotes, who had literally surrounded the house and were only a few feet away. Mountain lions occasionally were sighted in the area, but never any by me (unfortunately).

For the uninitiated who might be wondering how I could be spewing hot lead from my deck and have such a vast number of critters hanging out, the answer is simple. It seems most birds and many animals know the difference between target shooting and hunting. Seriously. I could be at a bench shooting, and 10 yards behind me, birds would be flocking at the feeders. I could quit shooting, walk into the house, look out a window and see three or four does with their fawns come walking through the yard.

Anyway, it no longer is mine. What I considered to be a refuge from the world might be considered isolation from the world by another. I can understand that, but I wish "another" would have figured it out beforehand rather than after the fact.

Music Note: Listening to Metallica
Specifically, "Garage, Inc." ....
Some out of sequence lines from "Whiskey in the Jar:"

She swore that she'd love me, no, never would she leave me
But the devil take that woman, for you know she tricked me easy

Being drunk and weary I went to Molly's chamber
Taking money with me and I never knew the danger

Now some men like the fishing and some men like the fowling
And some men like to hear, to hear the cannonball a-roaring
Me I like sleeping, especially in my Molly's chamber
But here I am in prison, here I am with a ball and chain

Musha rain dum-a-do-dum-a-da
Whack for my daddy-o
Whack for my daddy-o
There's whiskey in the jar-o
Whiskey in the jar-o

Musha rain dum-a-do-dum-a-da
Musha rain dum-a-do-dum-a-da
Musha rain dum-a-do-dum-a-da
Musha rain dum-a-do-dum-a-da

Monday, April 20, 2009

Perception is in the eye of the beholder

Do any of these slogans fit your perception of a Marine?

Is perception actual, or based on cliché?

A conversation a few days ago sent my thoughts back to the concept of perception, centering more upon persona this time. I am going to take another run at it from that direction.

Ever see a motion picture or television show where the cliché good cop / bad cop comes into play? Unless you never go to movies or sit in front of a TV, undoubtedly you have. It not only is a ploy used to get a suspect to talk, but sometimes it is the real thing simply because of the individual police officer's perception of how officers should act in public, should treat civilians on the street and should act around their colleagues.

Most of us have observed "on duty" police officers at work, possibly in a situation after personally being stopped for a traffic violation. Some officers are friendly and smiling, some are all business and straight faced, some act cocky and jaunty, some come on like Mr. Tough Guy and scowl. Officers are trained how to behave in public, but some develop their own habits and standards based on their own personalities, education and levels of experience -- their own perception of themselves.

This is true in all lines of work, I think, but it just seems more obvious (to me, at least) when encountering people in uniform.

Think Marine Corps. Another sample of T-shirt slogans offers illustrations of attitudes adopted by individual Marines. "Improvise Adapt Overcome" is a useful motto for members of the military and civilians alike, in any occupational area. "Defending Our Nation" is appropriate for all branches of service. "I Fight What You Fear" is pure Marine bravado, a shirt for only a zealot to wear. "Any Where Any Time -- Marines" and "Death Smiles at Everyone –- Marines Smile Back" could be taken as bravado, as well, and might be, but more likely reflect an attitude of pride in willingness to be the first into any battle. Those two sort of demonstrate another cliché, which is fighting for the buddy next to you more than for any nationalistic ideal. The final one, "Marines –- Death Before Dishonor" falls into a warrior ethos that has existed here and there since time began. It was a code followed by the Spartans at Thermopylae and most men, if not all, who fought and died at the Alamo.

The long and the short of this is that I do not think you would encounter many Marines who would wear all six of those T-shirts. Perceptions of what a Marine is (or should be) vary widely, even among the members of this rigorously trained and indoctrinated organization. Concepts, overlap, most certainly, but not all of the "Devil Dogs" think of themselves like that or act like that or want others to view them like that.

Which leads me back to the starting point: how we perceive ourselves and how others perceive us. The conversation which started me thinking about perceptions once again included discussion about shyness. I was told that I seemed to have considerable self-confidence and was very assertive in my behavior. My first thought was, no, I am more the quiet, withdrawn type.

Realization came an instant later that how I perceive myself in a given situation was the key. It all depended on what "role I was playing," which of my characters happened to be on stage at that moment in time.

As an "on duty" reporter, for instance, I can approach anyone (and often have) and ask any question, carrying with me a persona like I am the most important guy in the world and I am giving them a break simply by talking with them. If I were an "off duty” reporter, so to speak, and in a social situation and simply wanted to meet some of these same people, I doubt I would have the nerve to do it. I suppose the easy solution here (for me, at least) is to always think of myself as an "on duty" reporter.

This is my perception (beyond the chameleon characteristic) of what a "good reporter" should be –- assertive to the point of aggressiveness; confident to the point of arrogance; fearless to the point of recklessness. Sort of like a Marine, but with a pen and a notepad instead of a rifle. How others perceive me, I really never have thought about (or really cared about) in the past. I think I might now.

Music Note: Listening to Journey ....
Specifically, "Escape" ....
Some lines from "Stone in Love:"

Those summer nights are callin,
Stone in love
Can't help myself I'm fallin
Stone in love

Old dusty roads, led to the river
Runnin slow
She pulled me down, and in clover
We'd go round
In the heat with a blue jean girl
Burnin love comes once in a lifetime

Oooo the memories never fade away
Golden girl, I'll keep you forever

Sunday, April 19, 2009

In my beginning, there was the Colt 1911

Here are three more of my handguns, ready to play or to work.

Driving, shooting & music go well together ....

This is a lazy day (night) post. Drove my Mustang "boy racer" style on Saturday. Fired three handguns on Saturday. Listened to rock music on Saturday, mingled with the sound of the gunfire. That makes for a good day, in many respects, for me.

To show the culprits in this escapade. On top is a Smith & Wesson Model 629. It is a .44 Magnum, and this is a more recent version of the revolver made famous by Clint Eastwood in his "Dirty Harry" movies. I can "pop" two-liter pop containers at 40 yards with this baby. (I do have lots of babies in my life, do I not?)

Next is my carry (if and when I carry) Colt, Model 1911, Gold Cup, National Match pistol in .45 caliber. It has had a bit of custom work, visible on the outside, but the more important work is on the inside. It is a greater shooter.

Finally, on the bottom, is my concession to modern handguns. It is a Glock Model 30, which also is .45 caliber. It is my house pistol, my back-pocket pistol.

Incidentally, what might appear to be designs on the slide of the Colt 1911 are simply clouds and blue sky reflecting on protective oil. Sort of a neat look, though.

Personally, I cannot understand why an average, normal person would be afraid of firearms. Take a pistol course from a trained, professional, licensed instructor, and I think eight or nine out of ten would fall in love with shooting sports.

I cannot imagine life without firearms. There is no need to be a hunter with them but, I think, there is every need to increase the number among us who believe in the personal rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Only tyrants wish to disarm the common folk. Remember that, or your descendants will live to regret your lack of courage and wisdom.

Music Note: Listening to "Yes" ....
Specfically, "The Yes Album" ....
Some lines from "Starship Trooper:"

Starship trooper, go sailing on by,
Catch my soul, catch the very night.
Hide the moment from my eager eyes.
Though you’ve seen them, please don't tell a soul.
What you can't see, can't be very whole.

Speak to me of summer, long winters longer than time can remember,
Setting up of other roads, travel on in old accustomed ways.
I still remember the talks by the water, the proud sons and daughters that,
In the knowledge of the land, spoke to me in sweet accustomed ways.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Young ladies & cars sometimes are special

Slim, sleek, somewhat non-descript; it's all in her personality.

Ice Ice Baby ....

To say I have been neglectful of more than a few things the past three months would be an understatement. It has been a bad winter for me in several respects. Today, I decided to take out my 1991 Mustang, which has been resting idle in the garage, untouched since early January. You guessed it. Dead battery.

I bought this Mustang new. In another two years, with 20 years under her belt, I understand she will be considered a "classic car." The odometer reads 55,251. Know of many 18-year-old automobiles with only 55,000 miles? She is a GT with a 5.0 engine and a five-speed transmission = one hot car. I blew the speedometer on the day I bought her, and never fixed it. Give me one reason why I should.

She is not a vehicle in which a person wants to drive on a journey much longer than 50 miles. She runs close to the ground; the suspension is stiff and tight. This car is meant for running fast and taking sharp curves at high speeds, also meaning she is not designed for driver or passenger comfort. No lean, no sway, no drag, no bounce. She wants to challenge the wind whenever she is on the road, and the driver's butt and back pay the price for the thrill. Your body feels every ripple in the road that her body feels.

Before this one, I had a 1982 (you guessed it again) Mustang GT with a 5.0 engine. She had the words, “Ice Ice Baby,” painted on each side of her. If you cannot figure out why or where those words came from, do some research. I am not your daddy. (At least, I do not think so.)

It was not wise in dollars and cents for me to sell my old baby when I did, but I am not a late night talk show host who hoards vehicles. (Although, I did have five cars at one point -- dumb.) A stunningly beautiful young girl bought my former baby (at a discount price; wonder how she managed that?) so she could have a Mustang which matched her boyfriend's Mustang identically. Absolutely unbelievable. That girl is one in a million or a billion or a trillion. Really, have you ever heard of that?

This young girl would have been willing to pay a premium price for my baby. No way. This young girl was too special to pay a premium price. And, if you think I was "snookered" by a pretty face, I tell you this: I saw both cars, side-by-side, at a car show about a year later. My old baby never looked so fine when I ran her. She is well loved and she knows it and she shows it. I knew this would be true from my first meeting with the young girl who bought her; a young girl cannot hide her love for a young boy or for a particular automobile. Real, real love, I tell you true.

My current baby gets to rest another day with a battery charger to keep her company. I have a lot of words and gifts to give her to make amends for my neglect this winter. But, she is a real lady, and I am sure she knows I still love her. We all have bad times, and she understands that, and maybe even is grateful for being allowed to hibernate throughout this cold, snowy winter.

Saturday is tomorrow. We will talk it over then, and she and I can run a couple of roads. We will turn up the music and outrun the wind. We will shake more of the winter dust and cobwebs from ourselves. We will fall in love all over again.

Music Note: Listening to Queen ....
Specifically, "A Night at the Opera" ....
Some lines from "I’m in Love With My Car:"

I'm in love with my car

Gotta feel for my automobile
Get a grip on my boy racer rollbar
Such a thrill when your radials squeal

Told my girl I'll have to forget her
Rather buy me a new carburetor
So she made tracks sayin'
This is the end now
Cars don't talk back
They're just four wheeled friends now

When I'm holdin your wheel

All I hear is your gear
When I'm cruisin' in overdrive
Don't have to listen to no run of the mill talk jive

I'm in love with my car
Gotta feel for my automobile
I'm in love with my car
String back gloves in my automolove

Thursday, April 16, 2009

For every prince, a movie star awaits

Grace Kelly, Princess Grace of Monaco, certainly had her choices.

Do girls still dream of being a princess?

Not too many days ago, I was sort of talking to someone about "handles" or "nicknames" for use in blogs or in forums or in chat rooms. I asked her which "moniker" she would choose to use. She said, Grace Kelly. That started the wheels cranking, so I did a bit of research on Princess Grace.

The first thing you will notice, and I am certain you will agree with even a quick glance at the cluster of photographs, is that Grace was a very attractive young lady. Assuming there is no need for a left to right or clockwise explanation, Grace is shown with William Holden. She won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in "The Country Girl," which also starred Holden and Bing Crosby. She is shown with Jimmy Stewart as they appeared together in Alfred Hitchcock's "Rear Window." Cary Grant was her partner in another Hitchcock production, "To Catch a Thief." These gentlemen and other movie stars of their generation were among the men in Grace's life.

So, who is the guy dressed up like Napoleon she is shown standing next to? Looks all right, I guess, but maybe a little silly since they are not appearing in a movie together but, rather, in a wedding. Of all the men in her life, Grace picked an actual prince to marry, Prince Rainier III of Monaco.

It would not be inaccurate to describe Monaco as a tiny country -- sort of an old-fashioned city-state. The same family has ruled it since the 13th Century. It is a place the rich and the even richer like to hang out. Next time you cruise the northern edge of the Mediterranean Sea in your yacht, you might decide to anchor in Monte Carlo and test your luck as a high stake's gambler.

It is entertaining to speculate more than 50 years after the fact why she chose the man she did. Nice looking man, with his own castle and money to burn. That probably answers the question right there. Security and a family as a real-life princess vs. life as a glamorous movie actress. What a choice. She only appeared in 11 movies, and had a couple of opportunities later in life to do others, but those did not work out. She died in an automobile accident in 1982 at the age of 52.

Even more curious I am than to know why Grace chose being a real-life princess over a motion picture diva is to know why a young lady of today would choose Grace's name to be her "handle" or "nickname" or "moniker" for use in a blog or in a forum or in a chat room. Still hoping to be a real-life princess, maybe? I assume that it continues to be the dream of every little girl and, perhaps, a thought that lingers forever in the minds even of a few big girls.

Music Note: Listening to Queen ....
Specifically, "Queen Rocks" ....
Some lines from "I Want It All:"

I'm a man with a one track mind

So much to do in one life time (people do you hear me)
Not a man for compromise and where's and why's and living lies
So I'm living it all (yes I'm living it all)
And I'm giving it all (and I'm giving it all)

I want it all I want it all I want it all and I want it now

I want it all (yeah yeah yeah) I want it all I want it all and I want it now

I want it
I want it I want it

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Hi there, my name is Billy Pilgrim

Have you looked out of your window recently?

Welcome to the planet Tralfamadore ....

I know I have mentioned that I really enjoyed growing up in a small town setting, and that I once wished I could be age 11 forever. (Now, now, now.) Around town, Fram the First and I often were referred to as the Fram boys. A few people confused us with La Framboise, who lived a few blocks away, but that never was a big problem.

I’m sorry. I’ve just got to stop doing this. I start out by telling you that Fram the First is my ancestor. Then, I am the reincarnation of Fram the First. Next, Fram the First and I grew up together, playing our fiddles and dancing in the streets. I would imagine a few of you by now are asking, is this guy losing it or what?

Yes, I’m sorry. Remember, a few days ago I said I was revealing too many personal details about my life? Well, I've been trying to confuse everyone since then just to throw you off course. I apologize.

Actually, none of these scenarios is real. Actually, none of what you think you are experiencing at this moment is real, either. You all are in a drug-induced state and have been abducted by aliens. Didn't notice that your breakfast this morning tasted a little funny, did you?

You are being transported to the planet Tralfamadore, where you will be met by Billy Pilgrim. He will assign you to a residence hall, and from there you are on your own until orientation tomorrow. Good luck, and please wake me when we arrive.

Music Note: Listening to Cheap Trick ....
Specifically, "The Greatest Hits" ....
Some Lines from "Surrender:"

Mommy's alright, Daddy's alright, they just seem a little weird.

Surrender, surrender, but don't give yourself away, ay, ay, ay.

Whatever happened to all this season's losers of the year?
Ev'ry time I got to thinking, where'd they disappear?
When I woke up, Mom and Dad are rolling on the couch.
Rolling numbers, rock and rolling, got my Kiss records out.

Mommy's alright, Daddy's alright, they just seem a little weird.
Surrender, surrender, but don't give yourself away, ay, ay, ay.


Sunday, April 12, 2009

Wait-wait, I never had a chance ....

Easter bonnets are Easter bonnets, but, I mean,
I think I melted ....

I think I am in love, but where did she go?

Have you seen this woman? I was out for a bite to eat earlier today and she walked into the restaurant. All the tables were full, mostly with the Easter Sunday after-church crowd. She walked over to my table and asked if I would mind her company.

You actually think I would say no?

We ordered, we ate, we talked for maybe an hour after finishing the meal. She said she was going to a movie, and asked me if I wanted to come with her.

You actually think I would say no?

As we walked from the restaurant, I dropped my newspaper and bent to pick it up. When I looked back, she was gone. I mean gone, as in vanished. I looked for her outside, went back inside, then outside again, and waited for 17 or 23 minutes. She was gone.

She said her name was Norma Jeane. I did not catch her last name. If you see her, give me a call and let me know where she is, will you? I am in the mood for an afternoon at the movies.

Music Note: Listening to White Lion ....
Specifically, "Pride" ....
Some lines from "Wait:"

I never had a chance to love you
if only our love could show you
I never wanna be without you
no I never had a chance to love you
now I only wanna say I love you one more time

Saturday, April 11, 2009

David Douglass, a 19th Century chameleon

The essence of the river is to always move forward. Those who travel upon it must sometimes stop to rest, and then can only watch the water move along without them.

So, you think you have a tough life, do you?

David Bates Douglass was a lover of books, a soldier during the War of 1812, a teacher, an engineer and, as will be obvious here, an explorer. Later in life, he became a college president. He also was a chameleon, it seems to me. Here are some words from one of his journals, these particular entries written in the year 1820 while on an expedition over land and water in what 38 years later would become the State of Minnesota.

By David Bates Douglass

July 12 – Took leave of the St. Louis (river) about 6 this morning and commenced the ascent of the Savanna (river). The difficulties of this river we had been taught to anticipate as even greater than those of the St. Louis, on account of the shags (growths of weeds) which break the canoes unless the water be very high .... The ascent was rather tedious, pushing the canoes forward with poles through a continual series of narrow short turns, but nothing more. The breadth of the river for 12 miles averages 12 to 20 yards. Beyond this its banks lose their upland character and become more open, inclining to marsh. A few miles further they become decidedly so, insomuch that in some places the river is almost lost among the high grass, reeds and wild rice. The water is always, however, sufficiently deep. At half past one we reached the portage 25 miles by the river and discharged our canoes.

A mile below the place of discharge the river separates into two branches both of which take their rise in the tamarack swamps a few miles on each side; we took the northern one. This portage for the 3 first poses is considered very bad, and the Doctor and myself went forward to ascertain the fact. For almost the first time we verify the representation in all its awful particulars. Going two hundred yards from the creek we found ourselves in a desperate tamarack swamp as full of water as a sponge. The poles which had been laid were of little service. The canoe men had to spread beyond them and the single loads hurt their feet on the rough sharp points so much that they betook themselves of choice to the mud.

The Doctor stopped at the first pose. I with my 100 pound pack as before pushed on, keeping to the poles as much as possible but obliged some times to quit them at the expense of footing myself in 2 ½ feet of quagmire. The second pose was much the worst and to add to the misery, a smart shower of rain came on when I was in the middle of it. Reaching the end I proceeded on without resting and soon after found myself on firm ground to the third pose. The canoes (3 of them) came up soon after and were carried two poses farther. This, with 7 kegs to the third and 3 to the first pose, completed the day's work which our pilot again considered a very great one. Returned to the creek where our tents had been pitched with every disposition to consider a supper of unleavened bread a real luxury and a bed in the wet earth a solid comfort – rain and mosquitoes to the contrary notwithstanding.

July 13 – Recommended the portage and by 12 o'clock got all our baggage over the three bad poses. Our men, however, suffer much fatigue .... By 6 in the afternoon continuing our labour we got up to the middle of the portage – road tolerable good. While the latter loads were bringing up, I walked forward to the end of the portage and paced off the distance and took the courses. The mosquitoes which had been very troublesome on the rivers St. Louis and Savanna became almost intolerable here. Joined to the sandflys and gnats, each vying with the other in the vigor of their attacks, they almost drove me crazy during the short time. We have here also a new enemy in a large sort of horsefly who pierces the skin with the pain almost equal to that of a wasp’s sting. No one who has not been exposed to a similar inconvenience can appreciate our suffering from these insects.

July 14 – The last night has been uncommonly cold for the season and the dews as we have lately experienced extremely heavy. Commenced the final work of the portage before 4 o’clock, and at 12 had conveyed everything far beyond the second pose from the end – nearly half were to the end of the portage when our walking party .... arrived with a party of Indians. They had been upwards of three days on the walk to Sandy Lake, the distance of which, from the Portage au Coteaux by their route, they estimated at nearly 70 miles. They speak of the great part of the country as marshy and marish (marshy) inclining to ponds in many places, and the woods as being greatly obstructed with windfalls.

Now, some more background information ....

David Bates Douglass was part of the Lewis Cass expedition of 1820 assigned by Secretary of War John C. Calhoun to explore the northern Great Lakes and go on into the upper Mississippi River region. I decided to post these journal entries for two reasons. To begin, this includes details of the portage from the St. Louis/Savanna rivers toward Sandy Lake, west of Duluth, Minnesota. I have "run" this portage, with the journal of David Douglass in my hand, and have first-hand acquaintance with the descendants of his horseflies and mosquitoes. (By the way, "Wolf Lake" is along the trail.)

The portage trail probably will be there forever, a deep rut, much of it in water ranging from ankle to knee deep, cut and worn by the feet of thousands of travelers over the course of thousands of years. The trail belonged to ancient Native Americans before we white boys took to it, and then later abandoned it for concrete highways.

The other reason is to illustrate that there is a very distinct difference between taking a float down a lazy river between point A and point B in a rented canoe, and retracing (if not actually reliving) history. Such experiences, for me, are undertaken to know and to feel as best as I am able the reality of those who have come before me.

Many places yet remain where it is possible to hear only the natural sounds of nature, to look at the sky and see no jet trails and, in that manner, jump 100 years or 10,000 years into the past. During such minutes, sometimes stretching even into days, it can as easily be yesterday as it is today. The only sense of time that exists is that which you allow to be in your mind. It is a glimpse of immortality.

Music Note: Listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd ....
Specifically: "Lynyrd Skynyrd – Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd"
The lyrics from "Free Bird:"

If I leave here tomorrow
Would you still remember me?
For I must be traveling on, now,
'Cause there's too many places I've got to see.
But, if I stay here with you, girl,
Things just couldn't be the same.
'Cause I'm as free as a bird now,
And this bird you can not change.
Ohhhhh And this bird you can not change.
And this bird you can not change.
Lord knows, I can't change.

Bye, bye, baby it's been a sweet love.
Though this feeling I can't change.
But please don't take it so badly,
'Cause Lord knows I'm to blame.
But, if I stay here with you girl,
Things just couldn't be the same.
Cause I'm as free as a bird now,
And this bird you'll never change.
Ohhhhh And this bird you can not change.
And this bird you can not change.
Lord knows, I can't change.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Etienne Brule, a 17th Century chameleon

Following the shadow of Etienne Brule: Much of the magnificence of the Lake Superior shoreline still exists today as it did yesterday.

He hunted and found a fantastic intangible ....

Today, I "hired" a fellow to write something for me. Bruce Catton was a journalist, a historian and a pretty remarkable guy. He won a Pulitzer Prize for his books about the Civil War. He was one of the founders of American Heritage magazine. He enjoyed writing about colorful characters. One of the characters he mentioned in one of his books was Etienne Brule, a Frenchman who came to America in 1608 at the age of 16. Brule spent more than 20 years wandering and exploring the wilderness. He was a chameleon of the first order and, undoubtedly, his contemporaries thought him to be more than a little queer. Basically, he saw the world for what it was, not for what other people told him it was. Meet Monsieur Brule.

By Bruce Catton

Etienne Brule .... had better luck. He hunted a fantastic intangible, found it, made the most of it, and vanished at last into bloodstained legend, his final thoughts unrecorded. He wanted to get to the fabulous back-of-beyond -- to discard everything he had been taught in seventeenth-century France and find out how it would go with a man who followed total loneliness into the loneliest forest on earth -- and he did precisely what he set out to do, which is more than most men ever do. The result was something he had not foreseen. Discarding civilization and making himself total uncivilized, he nevertheless dragged civilization after him, which is why no one today can go where he went and see what he saw. By escaping into the wholly primitive, he helped to destroy it ....

The interesting thing about this is that Brule himself begged (Samuel) Champlain to send him into the wilderness. It had bugged him, and it drew him on to a mutual catastrophe .... Brule saw something far beyond, and it was this far-beyond that he wanted. So away he went (in 1610 at age 18) -- up the Ottawa River, over Lake Nipissing, down the French River to Georgian Bay, along the coast to the pocket where the land runs north-northwest again to Lake Huron, which is deep and wide and blue and cold and deadly -- and he was the first white man to see any of this, the first to escape entirely from the tight limits of Europe, the first one free to explore himself under the guise of exploring a new land. This is very strong wine. It is much as if, today, a man landed on the moon and found the gates of fantasy wide open, with an enchanted garden waiting to be entered; if he went in, he might die there, and he knew this perfectly well; but as a young man, he also knew the final value of life better than the old do, so in he went, and there he died, and if he could have come back afterward, he would not have undone any of it ....

Brule had many adventures, obscure and apparently pointless. He wandered all over the high country, getting into Lake Superior and coasting along its magnificent and deadly shores, seeing the copper country .... and going to the great harbor that lies under the long sand bar behind which Duluth now climbs the hills to breath-taking beauty ....

He went back to the Huron country and turned south and east; got into up-state New York and was caught by a party of Iroquois, who prepared to torture him to death and began pulling out his beard by the handful, just to give him a foretaste. Brule threatened them with the wrath of the Great Spirit; at which moment, in the most unbelievable story-book fashion, a thunderhead that had climbed the sunny sky unnoticed exploded in a great blast of bumping noise and blinding fire, so that the Iroquois were suddenly converted and tried to atone. They untied him, gave him a big dinner, and sent him on his way with their best wishes.

He kept going .... and returned to the high country, where he lived here and there. It is easier to say this than it could possibly have been to do it. He was not just living among the Indians: he was living among an all but infinite number of different tribes of Indians, some of whom felt this way, while others felt that way. Make friends with one tribe, and you make enemies of another, and your life is poised on a knife edge, all the time. Also, the Indians had taboos, superstitions, and social codes that nobody knew about, and a man could lose his life if he pushed too hard against any of them.

For years, Brule played the game very well; that is, he stayed alive and had exactly the kind of life he wanted to have, becoming -- as happened afterward to many another man who wandered away from the settlements -- more Indian than the Indians. He seems to have disconnected himself completely from all his old ties. The English fought the French, and Brule did not know which side he was on, going with the English for a time and then at last picking up the old threads again with the French. In the end, he managed to make a fatal mistake in dealing with the Indians; if he could forget that he was a white man, they could not, and at last -- in a Huron town called Toanche, whose site is lost in the gloom of wilderness prehistory -- the red men found that they were mortally tired of him. They clubbed him to death, and then, according to legend, they ate him; so, in 1632, his story ended forever.

Music Note: Listening to Bob Seger ....
Specifically, "Against the Wind" ....
Some lines from: "Against the Wind:"

And the years rolled slowly past

And I found myself alone
Surrounded by strangers I thought were my friends
I found myself further and further from my home
And I guess I lost my way
There were oh so many roads
I was living to run and running to live
Never worried about paying or even how much I owed
Moving eight miles a minute for months at a time
Breaking all of the rules that would bend
I began to find myself searching
Searching for shelter again and again
Against the wind
A little something against the wind
I found myself seeking shelter against the wind

Well those drifter days are past me now
I've got so much more to think about
Deadlines and commitments
What to leave in, what to leave out

Against the wind
I'm still running against the wind
Well I'm older now and still
Against the wind

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Dance resumes, chameleons unite & rock on

There were many emails, telephone calls, letters and smoke signals sent informing me how greatly the photograph of the dancers was appreciated. This was, of course, the photo showing Fram the First, Fram Actual and cousin Raisuli performing our infamous "Ghost Riders in the Sky" dance. An encore performance was requested by the management of the Doll Hut, and we had no recourse but to please our friends and our fans. So, shown here today, is a photo of our encore appearance. What? Oh. Yes. Right. There are four of us in this photo. That is cousin Andrii, son of Tarus, at the far end. He heard about all the adorable young ladies who call the Doll Hut their second home, and insisted on coming along. He is a bit of a show off, with a weakness for Polish princesses. I am sorry to have to admit there are a few among the Fram clan who are incapable of restraining their egos and unable to demonstrate a constant state of modesty.

The doorway to chameleon-land opens ....

Without yet having read the book, "Queer Theories" by Donald E. Hall, suggested by Rachael a couple of days ago in response to my commentaries about self-perception and the perception others might have of us, I feel like I am standing before a partially open doorway I knew might exist but never before actually noticed.

Simply from reading some of Rachael's interpretations of Hall's book and offering insights into her own rather unique life, I am amazed at the extent of the "chameleon" lives lived by some and the extent of the "queer" element as it enters into behavior patterns and habits.

Written by Rachael: "I have been many people in my years, living a variety of experiences that through choice or circumstance, has dictated how people perceive me. My differing selves reflect differing desires and goals that I have pursued. A certain awareness of these 'selves' has become apparent to me only recently."

Sound familiar? I think I said much the same only a few days ago here on this page, unaware that Rachael was engaged in the same self-examination.

More from Rachael: "Acknowledging our differing selves is not a 'multiple personality' disorder, rather the order by which we live our lives. It is being a chameleon, allowing a certain fluidity to govern our movement through time and circumstance. To accept this fluidity is to allow it to forever change our perception of our life, and from there, our world."

My own appearances as a chameleon have only been in an occupational or vocational sense, as best I am aware. Others, according to Hall's theories, might involve any number of activities or traits.

Rachael, in describing her own actions, went even a step further than I did in explaining her own abilities to walk two or more paths, whereas the "crowd" walks along the road as though it were a one-way street with no curves or crossroads. Like her, I know I have walked two distinctly separate paths more-or-less simultaneously, but did not mention that element in what I wrote in my earlier posts. Possibly, I omitted it because my post was getting to be pretty long; possibly, I left it out because I did not have the courage to mention it.

I am anticipating learning more when I read Hall's book and from Rachael, if she chooses to write more. I am particularly curious about motivations behind people becoming chameleons here and there along the way during their lifetimes. My own motivations have not involved deception (except, possibly, self-deception). Neither did my purpose involve any hope to gain money, friendship nor special status, which seems to me the most common reasons some might employ it. My motivation always has been to gain experience and to learn and, once having become an insider to a particular world, to excel, simply because I always have been competitive. Beyond that is the ultimate reason, the search to discover self-meaning and a true home.

I think this book by Donald Hall might be a good place for a few others who cannot seem to find a permanent niche in life to open and to read. Nothing to lose; maybe a little self-understanding to gain.

One out of 10 ain’t bad. Or is it?

It should be evident that the past three months have been a period (sort) of girl hunting and (very much) of introspection for me. In that sense, for the fun of it, I decided to come up with a list of 10 things I wish I would have done differently during the past 20 or 25 years. This is not a "big deal" list, such as marrying Jane instead of Judy, but rather an odds and ends list of a few things I wish I would not have missed out on.

As some might guess, heading this list is wishing I had attended more rock concerts. I saw enough professional football, baseball and hockey games to handle my requirements, although a few more would be nice. (Notice, no professional basketball games.) I have seen any number of stage performances, both those professionally done and amateur college or community productions. But, I've never been to an opera or a ballet, and have those on my next 20- to 25-year list. Mostly, however, I am thinking rock concerts. I have seen a number of the big-name and the best bands to come down the pike, but I wish it would have been at least twice as many.

Next on the list .... You know, right now, off the top of my head, I cannot think of anything else I missed out on that bothers me all that much. I guess that means I get nine free passes for something, or maybe just add items to this list later.

Music Note: Listening to Thin Lizzy ....
Specifically, "Wild One: The Very Best of Thin Lizzy" ....
Some lines from: "The Boys Are Back in Town:"

That jukebox in the corner blasting out my "favorite song"
The nights are getting warmer, it won't be long
Won't be long till summer comes
Now that the boys are here again

The boys are back in town
The boys are back in town
The boys are back in town
The boys are back in town
The boys are back in town
The boys are back in town
Spread the word around
The boys are back in town
The boys are back in town
The boys are back, the boys are back

The boys are back in town again
Been hangin' down at Dino's
The boys are back in town again

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Ghost riders, end of newspapers & en guarde

I cannot resist bringing you another photograph of Fram the First and Fram Actual enjoying an evening on the town. Many people in this neck of the woods are aware of our talent on the dance floor. Hardly had we entered the Doll Hut the other night when we were approached by a bevy of beautiful young ladies and asked to dance. The two of us, I mean, and no wisecracks. Got it? Anyway, we decided to perform one of the numbers we had learned as mere boys. It is called "Ghost Riders in the Sky." Here is a photographic record of our performance. What? Oh. Yes. Right. There are three of us in the photo. No sooner had we begun the dance when we were joined on the floor by cousin Raisuli. He recently had shaved his beard at the demand of his girlfriend, Eden Pedecaris, and was out on the town looking for solace. You might also note this is a very rare photo of Raisuli because it does not show him with his sword in his hand.

Newspapers are a good place to be from ....

As I prepare to depart from what almost certainly is my last job on a daily newspaper, I am thinking about a commentary written by Diva a few days ago. Read it, if you at all have been a newspaper fan during your lifetime.

Some of the words that follow I posted in response to Diva's column, and want to use them again here, as well as to add a few more. I used to think that only a few national dailies and some small, "home town-type" newspapers would survive the obvious decline in traditional journalism, but I am no longer sure even those will last. For some time, I've been adjusting to the idea of a world without an actual newspaper delivered to my door.

I began my journalism "career" as a high school sports writer. You might imagine my stories: "Led by the Fabulous Fram, our team clocked the bad boys last night." Nothing like being the reporter writing about yourself.

By the time I was a junior in high school, my morning regimen was coffee and toast while reading the Minneapolis Tribune. (Cigarettes came a few years later.)

In college, I did a bit of writing for the campus newspaper, not so much news as book and movie reviews. My first year out of college, I spent in a classroom teaching English and history. Did not like it. Mostly, what I disliked was being "locked" in a classroom all day long. I began looking for newspaper work, and found a weekly that would take me. A mere 10 months later, I jumped ship again and went to a daily. And, so it began.

Over a span of years, with some "sabbaticals" interrupting newspaper time, I worked on weeklies and dailies: small, medium and large. I promise you, working on a small-town weekly is by far the most difficult. You do every job there is to do, and you pretty much are doing it free of charge.

I have been a reporter, both general and investigative. I have been the editor of a medium-size daily. I have written straight news, sports, opinion pieces (editorials) and been a columnist. I have won a few awards from state and national journalism associations.

Being a reporter was fun. Running around, meeting people, interviewing people, being in the midst of some exiting events like a forest fire or a police stand-off, meeting some famous sports figures, political figures and literary figures, learning every aspect of local government and knowing just about everything going on in a community cannot be beat as enjoyable work.

In a newsroom, however, what money there is to be found comes from desk work -- editing, bossing, putting the paper together. I could not resist the money and moved up. When I think about it, I would rather I had not made the change. Money is money; being alive is more important. Just like teaching, newspaper desk work means being caged all day, meeting very few and learning very little. (Do I see stones flying through the air?) Works for many (obviously), not for me.

Now, traditional journalism is being replaced by a little real news and much junk news via the computer screen. This, I think, is an actual crime because there is absolutely no responsibility or accountability associated with who posts what on the internet. Political fanatics (people far beyond mere partisans) spread lies, hatred and propaganda onto the internet and call it facts and news.

You and your children and grandchildren, as they say, will have to live with it. In that sense, I feel sorry for you and your children and your grandchildren.

Back to me. For one reason or another, I have left journalism and newspaper work a few times along the way. I am doing it again, thinking (actually, knowing) it will be for the last time. There will be no more traditional newspapers to come back to in a few years.

As I told Diva, this does not bother me, because I have left newspapers a few times in the past and jumped into new places and new times and new work. I anticipate doing that again somewhere along the line between six months and a year from now.

When I was in junior high school, the brother of a friend of mine came home after being discharged from the U.S. Army 101st Airborne. From my friend, I had heard about his brother's adventures since his first day at jump school. I asked the elder brother if he had liked the Army, fully expecting him to say something to the effect that it had been great. His reply, made with a straight face and his eyes looking away from me, was, "It's a good place to be from." His words had a startling impact on me at the time. Those words sort of describe my feeling now, today, about newspapers.

But, like Diva, I will miss their presence and being able to sit down and read them over coffee and toast in the morning.

En guarde, you scoundrel ....

How many read my "Scaramouche" words, I have no idea, but one additional thought came to mind with hindsight. I have "played" with swordsmanship myself. I participated in the fencing club my final year in college. It came about accidentally through choosing a fencing class as one of the physical education requirements, liking it and being asked to join the club. Another element I have in common with Andre-Louis. I just hope the ending to my story is as satisfactory as was his.

Music Note: Listening to .38 Special ....
Specifically, "Special Forces" ....
Some lines from: "Caught Up In You:"

I'm so caught up in you
Little girl

Fill your days and your nights
No need to ever ask me twice
oh no
Whenever you want me
And if ever, comes a day
When you should turn and walk away
Oh no
I can't live without you
I’m so caught up in you

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Dance with me, baby & living Scaramouche

Since mentioning my childhood, there have been requests to know what I looked like back then. After pouring through virtually thousands of photographs, I have selected a pair to include with this post. At the left, you see me on what purportedly was my first real date. Naturally, I took the young lady dancing. Notice, if you will, please, how intently I stare into the young lady's eyes. They simply melt when I give them that look. Over on the right, we have a photo of Fram the First and Fram Actual practicing for our debut recital at Philharmonic Hall in Oslo, Norway. We looked so much alike back then, I am no longer certain which of us is which. No matter. We both rock.

Laughter grows in proportion to madness ....

(Being more-or-less a continuation of Saturday's piece, "The gift of laughter in a mad world.")

Andre-Louis, the "real-life" man in a novel; Scaramouche, a devilish clown, full of bravado: Two separate actual identities within one body or simply a skilled role player? Here is a master with a sword and an avenging killer with a sword; a leader, both political and real; a man who has never known his parents, a man who has seen his best friend killed, and man who just misses love.

There is no reason to go through the plot of the novel, "Scaramouche," in detail since it is the character which is most important here. The character is complex and multi-faceted, and takes on many roles during the course of the book. A few points:

Andre-Louis has been raised by his godfather, and has no knowledge of the identity of his mother or father. He swears to avenge the death of his best friend at the hands of a Marquis. He becomes a voice in the movement which later erupts into the French Revolution. He is forced into hiding because of his political activities, and finds shelter among a troupe of traveling actors. There, he dons an actual mask and assumes the role of Scaramouche -- a fool, a rogue, a clown. Along the course of the novel, Andre-Louis becomes a master of the sword, takes a seat in the post-revolution senate and proceeds to do away with the bad guys through a series of duels. Without revealing the twists and turns and surprises, Andre-Louis learns the identity of both his mother and father as the book concludes. Love, too, is found, in case you were curious.

Everyone has many roles in life, generally conventional roles such as parent, spouse, co-worker, possibly that of a supervisor, friend, enemy and on and on. Through these roles, perceptions are made about how we view ourselves and how others view us. But, how many of us purposely don a mask, as did Scaramouche, to hide ourselves? Scaramouche literally wore a mask. Most who wear them do so in a figurative sense. How many people lose themselves because they choose to wear a mask rather than to be themselves?

I am thinking more of the obvious here, at least in my own case. Why did I choose the Marine Corps when I was within a breath of going into the Air Force. It was not rough and tough vs. baby blue, either. Had I gone into the Air Force, I was signed up for para-rescue. These are the guys who chopper or jump in to pull out downed pilots in hot combat zones, or secure crash sites and assist survivors. My decision to become a Marine came because of my own self-perception of being more of a fighter than a rescuer. There are many instances where I know the perception by others of me being a Marine stereotypical gunman rather than an Air Force stereotypical electronics expert was the result of my decision about which branch to join and affected our relationships.

Another instance of perception is evident to me because I have worked in journalism and because I have been in charge of a prison unit which housed inmates who had committed every crime known to mankind. In the context of casual conversations or typical relationships, which do you suppose I will talk about freely or describe? How has simply stating this "other role" here on this page possibly (or probably) changed someone's perception of me?

More to the point of me, myself and I, what is it that compels me to search out varied experiences, which is another way of saying, compels me to wear many masks? What is my intent for doing this? My goal for doing this? Am I even in control of these decisions, or does something keep pushing me to change directions at nearly every crossroad? It is much more than hopping aboard a tour bus and visiting all the sites; it is hopping off the bus for a while now and then to actually experience and to be a functioning part of the site.

It no longer is any more uncommon for a person to have two or three careers rather rather than a single one, than it is uncommon for a person to have two or three long-term partners. One of the few things I am absolutely certain of is that I still have more masks to wear, and while I am wearing them, they will be real and not be a masquerade. What that will do to my self-perception and the perception others have of me, I am less certain.

The overriding factor here is my belief there is specific reason I am the way I am, which I think is true for each of us. I do not mean a genetic reason, either. If it were that simple, I would buy a boat, hoist the mainsail and let it run with the wind. I mean, while we all are linked by the commonality of being earthbound, mortal humans, I sense a certain spark that makes each of us a separate and unique entity -- each of us a snowflake, if you like, and I want to define my snowflake (if I am able) before it melts.

From the last few pages of "Scaramouche"

"But where will you go? What will you do?"

"Oh, something. Consider that in four years I have been lawyer, politician, swordsman, and buffoon -- especially the latter. There is always a place in the world for Scaramouche. Besides, do you know that unlike Scaramouche I have been oddly provident? I am the owner of a little farm in Saxony. I think that agriculture might suit me. It is a meditative occupation; and when all is said, I am not a man of action. I haven't the qualities for the part."

She looked up into his face, and there was a wistful smile in her deep blue eyes.

"Is there any part for which you have not the qualities, I wonder?"

"Do you really? Yet you cannot say that I have made a success of any of those which I have played. I have always ended by running away. I am running away now from a thriving fencing-academy, which is likely to become the property of Le Duc. That comes of having gone into politics, from which I am also running away. It is the one thing in which I really excel. That, too, is an attribute of Scaramouche ...."

Music Note: Listening to a classic rock music station on the radio ....
Currently playing: "The World I Know" by Collective Soul ....

Something special ....