Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Archaeology, travel & a kiss or two

No, this is not a painting of George Armstrong Custer at the Little Big Horn. Until the time of the Custer battle, the destruction of Captain William Fetterman and eighty other cavalry troopers, infantrymen and civilian scouts at the hands of two thousand Lakota Sioux warriors near Fort Phil Kearny in Wyoming had been the single-most greatest defeat by the U.S. Army during the Plains Indian Wars. This painting, "The Fetterman Fight," by Montana artist J.K. Ralston, illustrates the battle which took place 147 years ago -- on December 21, 1866. A couple of points: The painting is very accurate in a topographical sense + I like to sleep on old battlefields = I spent a night in 2001 sleeping on the pinnacle of the rise at left center in the painting. This is the location where Captain Fetterman's body was found and where a monument stands today. If you wish to know what this has to do with New Year's Resolutions, you must read on a bit further. Ah, yes-s-s-s, the music. I have been known to say Grace Slick is my favorite female rock voice .... but, I also have been known to say it is the voice of Ann Wilson or of Stevie Nicks or, in a sentimental sense, the all-round performance of Jan Kuehnemund (RIP). No matter which has the edge (and, there might be others, too), I enjoy all of them and have Stevie on stage with this end of the year post.

I solemnly do pledge
I cannot recall the last time I made a New Year's Resolution.  I recall thinking about them; I do not recall making them. This, probably, is because, as happens with most people, I know I will forget them in a matter of days.
On occasion, none associated with the arrival of a new year, I have made up my mind to make a change in my life and done it. One such change was to quit smoking. One day, I woke up in the morning a man who smoked three-plus packs a day, as well as a cigar or two daily, and an occasional pipe load in the evening. That night, I went to bed a non-smoker.
I am going to try a few resolutions this year. Nothing fancy, nothing major, nothing really permanent .... mostly for fun, I suppose, to see how long I last. So, in no particular order, here are a few resolutions I intend to make and hope to keep for and during 2014:
As noted in the "cutlines" for the painting/illustration, I spent a night sleeping on the site of the Fetterman fight. I also had spent most of a day there, and the only other visitors were a boy, his father and his grandfather, on one of those "generational trips," who stayed no longer than fifteen minutes. It was literally a dream for someone like me to have a rather significant battlefield all to myself for a day -- walking and wandering the entire length and breadth of it .... absorbing it and becoming part of it, listening to the voices of those who had fought and had died there.
A few years later, I returned there for a couple of weeks as an amateur volunteer during an archaeological survey of the battlefield. A few years before that, I had done the same thing at the site of an ancient Native American encampment in Michigan. So, this is one resolution, a rather simple one: I will find another archaeological project which accepts amateur volunteers and spend a couple of weeks walking or crawling, as the case may be, searching for the past. I think I would prefer a location outside the U.S. I want to touch the past again, rather than simply read about it.
A similar resolution is to return to Poland again, to spend a week or two in Warsaw, then to travel on to a town in Germany. Some of you might recall a post I wrote on February 24, 2013, and some follow-up information in an April 13, 2013, post about a Browning Model 1922 pistol that had been carried by a German airman during World War II. This is what I wrote April 13:
"I have identified the original 'owner' of the pistol. I know he was in the German Luftwaffe. I know his name, when and where he was born, and when and where he died. I know a few other things as well, but the only other one I will mention is this. He died in March 1945, less than six weeks before the war ended."
So, I wish to go -- and, I resolve to go -- to the town in Germany in which there is a memorial bearing the name of the man who carried the pistol I now have, as well as the names of others from this town who lost their lives during World War II. Just to add a bit of mystery for future revelation, I will not post the name of the town until I am there.
Another resolution is to kiss a woman I have never kissed before .... maybe, two ....
As usual, what I write gets longer and longer .... I think I will break this into two parts .... to be continued .... Happy New Year ....

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Norwegian Bachelor Farmer

Before you become too critical of my photograph, remember, for me it is meant as an illustration to accompany the words in the post, not as a representation of any manner of "good photography." Although, I have won two contests in journalistic photography and I can take an occasional neat one when luck is on my side. This photo is to illustrate the current wolf lair of the "Norwegian/German/American Bachelor Whatever" = me. Put simply, this is still another view of where I dwell at the moment. So, read on if you want the rest of the story. The music is Sarah Brightman and her "A Winter Symphony" album. A copy of this arrangement was given to me as a going away present in December 2009 before I left for Europe. I listened to these songs over and over again back then. This music has both enjoyment and symbolic meaning for me, and probably will have for every Christmas as long as I walk the Earth.

Remembering childhood & Christmas
You probably have to be from Minnesota -- or, maybe, from the Dakotas, Iowa and Wisconsin, too -- to have heard and to understand the concept of the "Norwegian Bachelor Farmer."

Well, I am not going to try to explain it to you in detail, mostly because the details vary depending upon who is providing them. In a sense, the words are self-explanatory. What amazes me is how many of these fellows there were, and, still are, if you simply look for them. I have a cousin who is among them right now. I know of families who are not of Norwegian ancestry, but, never-the-less, who boast or tease or joke about having a Norwegian Bachelor Farmer among their numbers. The image emerges from an actual historical character evolving into folklore.

One note in background data: Germans, followed by Norwegians and then by other Scandinavians, were the primary immigrants to Minnesota during the 19th and early 20th centuries. This is when and where stories of the Norwegian Bachelor Farmer originated.
I have written four posts in recent days, but "torn" them up simply because it is Christmastime and I am trying to be nice for a few days. This is difficult for me, a devotee of "Bitter Bierce," as I occasionally point out. It is my nature to be doubtful and skeptical. We shall see how this post registers.
Since my mother died a number of months ago, my thoughts frequently have gone to my childhood. Since it is Christmastime now, my thoughts frequently are merging with childhood Christmases -- the ghosts of Christmas past. They are all good, pleasant, comfortable ghosts.
I have mentioned in previous posts that my parents were divorced and, for all intents and purposes, I grew up without a father playing an active role in my life. Until my mother re-married when I was age sixteen, we lived with her parents. Consequently, Christmas was the four of us when I was a child -- grandpa, grandma, ma and me. But, on Christmas Eve, there was a fifth member present -- my grandmother's brother, Harry -- our Norwegian Bachelor Farmer.
And, I have mentioned Harry in past posts, too. He is the one who taught me how to shoot shotguns and rifles and handguns when I was ten years old. He is the one who taught me how to drive, beginning with sitting in his lap and steering, long before my feet could reach the pedals. As my legs grew, I "graduated" to sitting on a wooden box and, finally, on the car seat itself.
Harry was more than a farmer, although he operated one for a number of years. He had gone off to war as a young man and seen a bit of the world before he came home to take over a family farm. At a point along the way when economics dictated, the farmland was leased out to "corporate operations" (the curse of American agriculture, from my point of view) and he took over the task of running the police force in a small Minnesota town. I suppose he turned into the Norwegian Bachelor Cop when that happened.
Harry was a "career bachelor." He never married, never had a family of his own. What he did have were siblings who sort of looked after him in many ways. He came to our house every Christmas Eve for supper and participation in the gift-giving. On Christmas Day, he went to another sister's home for dinner.

In a way, he had life good in that sense. Most Sunday and holiday dinners were consumed at the home of one of his sisters; he had his own house in the country in which to hang his hat and he lived life free as a bird -- working, hunting, fishing. He was an always-welcome guest in the homes of four sisters who lived nearby. There was no one to put the reins on him. He had no real responsibilities to anyone or to anything other than to himself and to his work -- but, he also gave as much as he received, and was there to help whenever and wherever he was needed.

Anyway, I had very good Christmases when I was a boy. They form the basis of wonderful memories -- including some of our family's Norwegian Bachelor Farmer. I hope this Christmas is forming a wonderful memory for those who pass by this way and who read these words. Merry Christmas ....

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Over the river & through the woods to ....

I had thought I would do just one post this month. That is why the last one was so long. Three segments plus the photograph and its lengthy cutline = a month's worth in a single post. But, my fingers got the better of me again. They just start typing at times, no matter what I think or want. So, here is another post for December. You will note the assorted archery gear on the table. My senses are confused. I wish to be using them, but this hardly is the appropriate time of the year in my part of the world. And, as I often do, I am tying my archery thoughts in with the novel and subsequent film, "Deliverance," by James Dickey. I have written posts about Dickey and his masterpiece in the past. But, to return to the topic: A few days ago, I was asked to go on a mountain hike this spring. My reply was, "Make it a river canoe trip and I will consider it." This has been on my mind since the suggestion was made. But, back to "Deliverance:" The bow on the table is my Bear Kodiak Magnum, the Ferrari of recurve bows during the "Deliverance" era and a collector piece today. In the film, Burt Reynolds (Lewis) used a Bear Victor Kodiak take-down and Jon Voight (Ed) used a Bear Kodiak Hunter. By the way, there is no music with this post. It has been replaced by a clip from "Deliverance" and another of Dickey reciting his poem, "For the Last Wolverine," and another depicting a bit of Zen archery, Japanese style. I think my mind is swirling at the moment -- lost in summertime in the midst of woods, water and wilderness. Christmas? Did you say it is nearly Christmas? Are you sure?

The illogic of logic ....

It seems strange when thoughts enter your mind at illogical times.
Today, I was thinking about archery, about spending some time sending arrows into targets. Why this did not enter my mind last summer -- when temperatures were mild and days were sunny -- I cannot imagine. I only know that today I found myself stringing a bow, placing an arrow upon it, closing my eyes and drawing the bow string back, back, back.
I suppose I could have let the arrow fly, broken it and put a gash in the wall (probably put the arrow through the wall), but, I did not. I relaxed the bow string, put down the bow and sat down on a love seat to think about it.
My interest in archery probably began with seeing it in films. I recall having bows and arrows before I was in school; taking money from my savings to buy materials to make my own arrows while I still was in elementary school; hunting big game (as hunter slang would put it) with archery gear before I was out of high school.
Among my favorite books as an adolescent was, "Zen in the Art of Archery," by Eugen Herrigel. Without reviewing or discussing the book, in short I believe I "learned" from it to be somewhat adept at becoming one with the bow and the arrow and the destination of the arrow. (For those unaware, I also became quite fanatical about Japanese-style judo for a few years, and actually taught it in two widely and wildly different formats.)
Later in life, I became enthused about James Dickey's masterpiece, "Deliverance," which involved three loves of my life at the time: Wilderness survival, canoeing and archery. One of my favorite paragraphs in "Deliverance" is this:

"Lewis is still a good shot, and it is still a pleasure to watch him. 'I think my release is passing over into Zen,' he said once. 'Those gooks are right. You shouldn't fight it. Better to cooperate with it. Then it'll take you there; take the arrow there'."
Those lines really are poetry more than they are prose. Dickey was more a poet than anything, I think. I have written posts in the past about him and about "Deliverance." I once heard him speak as a guest lecturer at the University of Tennessee, and was among a few able to talk with him for a while after the event.
Why am I writing this piece? So much of what happens to us is because we are at the right place at the right time or the wrong place at the wrong time. Why do I think of archery now, when the temperatures are ranging to a dozen degrees below zero Fahrenheit and there are four or five inches of snow on the ground? Maybe, it is because so much of what we want –- or think we want -- is distant from us in time or space .... which might be a major factor in why we want it: It is inaccessible.
I cannot go back to places or to people in the past (although, I have tried), but I can bypass contemporary time and/or space and go to people or places simply by boarding an aircraft and traveling to my destination. In other words, I could fly to Florida tomorrow and shoot arrows until my arms and hands are able to do it no longer. Or, I can defy contemporary time and/or space and stand in the Minnesota cold and snow and "become" one with my arrows on their flights to the targets.
I think our minds are as strong or as weak as we allow them to be, but, sometimes, we cross one too many rivers on our journey through the woods and on to the sea.


Saturday, December 7, 2013

The metamorphoses of December

There are historic events which affect us personally even though we were not directly part of them. Today, December 7, is the anniversary of one such event: In 1941, Japan launched a surprise attack at Pearl Harbor on Oahu, Hawaii, to bring the United States into World War II. The worn, bent "Remember Pearl Harbor" pin with the artificial pearl in the photograph belonged to my mother. She wore it as a school girl. The bayonet (long blade) was brought home by a soldier who fought in Europe during WW II. The KA-BAR Marine Corps combat knife (short blade) was made in 1943, carried by a Marine during the battle of Okinawa during WW II and again during the Korean War. (It also has been a few places with its second owner.) The pistol, a .45 caliber Colt Model 1911, is of later vintage (made in 1963), but ones like it were the official side arm of the U.S. military for more than half a century. The "clip" of ammo is .30 caliber armor piercing (black tip) for the M1 Garand, the primary U.S. military rifle during WW II and Korea. Yesterday's enemies often become today's allies, but the memory of both the good and the bad of a nation's history should never be forgotten. From my biased viewpoint, the most important area of study for young students is history. Study of the past reveals the answers to most questions, whether by or about an individual or the civilization of which he is a part.

Metamorphosis ....

Franz Kafka was thirty-two years old when "The Metamorphosis" was published. It took me a few years beyond that age, but I think I finally have realized what he had experienced and what he meant. What I am saying is that I think this short work of fiction is not all fiction, but an account of an event which occurred within his mind, if not actually to his body. Not all of us, but some of us, undergo a metamorphosis during our lifetimes -- perhaps, more than one.

It is tantalizing to imagine where our minds might carry us should we find ways to cut the societal bonds which encase them and to block out the constrictions which our bodies place upon them. In terms of metamorphosis, I looked at a photograph of a high school football team a few days ago. I recognized no one, not even myself. Everyone, including myself, was a stranger.

Of course, I am speaking more in a figurative sense than a literal one. I still recognize the smiling face as my face, but I do not know who he was and have a difficult time accepting that he ever was me. It is like seeing a photograph of someone I once knew, but have not encountered for years and remember only vaguely. Do you understand? Probably not. We shall leave it at that ....

Religion ....

The cruelty of this world is that we eventually have to say goodbye to everyone and to everything we love and hold precious in our lives. For this reason, it is easy to understand how religion entered our thought patterns as a primitive species. But, there are those like me who use that same fact as a reason not to accept a de facto god or an organized religion. That said, we should allow everyone who wants organized religion to have it without suffering secular ridicule from we, who are incapable of finding religious faith.

I am among those who do believe religion, in particular, Christianity, is under attack by any number of sources in the United States and around the world. In some countries, Egypt, Pakistan and North Korea, for instance, Christians have been imprisoned and even killed. At the risk (he says with a smile) of being labeled an infidel and a Crusader, I feel obligated to defend organized religion although I, personally, do not believe in it. This is my position because, unlike the current resident of the White House and some members of Congress, I do believe in the rights and responsibilities outlined in the U.S. Constitution.

For many, religion was and is a way to accept the harshness and difficulties we face in life. Living life today for most of us -- at least those of us who live in counties with relative economic and political stability -- is simple, easy and without much threat or danger. We are the lucky ones among those who have inhabited the earth to this point in time, and luckier still are those who genuinely possess religious faith to help them through the rough times.

Whatever ....

The third part of this had been meant to be about the dishonesty and corruption among politicians, in particular on the part of the one occupying the White House. But, I suppose I am not quite ready to print that yet. It is coming. I will wait for our megalomaniac president to mire himself even deeper in the quicksand of his own deceitful words and actions. I think it has been three or four years since I first pointed out Barack Obama is a habitual liar -- very possibly, even a pathological one -- but it takes time for "true believers" to actually see beyond the counterfeit smile of their idol. Some never will because his failure is their failure in selecting him.

So, instead of continuing down that path, I will mention that December 7 also is the anniversary of my argument with wife No. 2 -- the quarrel which eventually led to our divorce. I finally am getting used to living alone, and I need to write about that. Sometime. Not now. This post is getting very long just as it is. But, I do wonder how others living alone feel about it. Tell me, if you would, please.

And, in a few days, on December 10, it will be sixteen years since I quit smoking. Talk about a metamorphosis: Cold turkey from a few decades of three to four packs a day of Salems and Camel straights to absolute zero. I do expect to resume smoking at some point in time. I miss it, especially the cigar with brandy after a meal.

And, again, I will mention the music. In my last post, I included Jon Bon Jovi and his song, "It's My Life." It is a great song, I think. With this post, I include the same song, but this time with Bon Jovi performing it as a ballad rather than as the hard rock rendition which made it popular worldwide. The entire album, "This Left Feels Right," is on YouTube. Try it. I will bet big bucks you like it. I guess this just goes to show the accuracy of the cliché, "You cannot judge a book by its cover."

Hmmmm .... I guess that applies to politicians as well as to books and to music.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Winter reading vs. follow the music

Charles Krauthammer    Alan Dershowitz           Erik Prince

If you are in the mood for winter reading

I reviewed more than a few books during my time as an active journalist, but right now I wish only to recommend three without actually reviewing them. Do a bit of further research if, after reading these brief introductions, you think you might benefit from and/or enjoy one or all of these books:

Charles Krauthammer: "Things that Matter"

Krauthammer was a medical student when he dove into a swimming pool and emerged to spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair. Despite the crippling injury, he finished his studies at Harvard Medical School and became a practicing psychiatrist. As a political liberal, he changed fields and became a speech writer for Democrat then-Vice President Walther Mondale, eventually moving on into journalism. Over the course of a few decades, he transitioned to become a conservative. He writes that as a doctor, he was trained to be a pragmatist; hence, he saw that conservatism worked while liberalism did not. The book is a compilation of columns Krauthammer wrote as a journalist, and offers the reasoning and progression why he and others evolve from a liberal to a conservative political philosophy as they gain in knowledge about rights, responsibilities and freedoms. Incidentally, Krauthammer is a Pulitzer Prize winner for his newspaper columns.

Alan Dershowitz: "Taking a Stand"

I might label this book under the category of "know thy enemy" because many of the beliefs Dershowitz professes and many of the actions he has undertaken during his adult life I find somewhere between objectionable to downright offensive. He has spent his entire career teaching at Harvard Law School and defending in courtrooms those who often are indefensible (in my opinion). For instance, he was an advisor in the defense of O.J. Simpson at his trial for the murder of Nicole Simpson and Ronald Goldman. Never-the-less, the book is fascinating in the sense of understanding the world as seen through the eyes of those who believe in an extremely liberal social and political philosophy. There are times the best friends might be political opposites, and Dershowitz could easily be one in a strictly social sense. However, to me he seems unable to draw a line between legal concepts and justice, and is willing to act as a legal mercenary if he is paid well enough.

Erik Prince: "Civilian Warriors"

This is one fascinating story. Prince, originally from Michigan, dropped out of the U.S. Naval Academy, but after graduating from Hillsdale College became an officer and a SEAL in the U.S. Navy. For a time, he belonged to a SEAL/CIA "nasty" team. (Nasty is my term, since assassination teams do not exist under the official auspices of the U.S government, right?) After the Navy, he returned to run his family's billion-dollar business and later created Blackwater, which, in polite terms, would be called a private security firm and the world's largest private military company. A generation ago, it would have been called an outfit for training and supplying mercenaries to the highest bidder, which included (whoops, you probably guessed it) Uncle Sam. Is it not fascinating how rhetoric and semantics have changed the face of America? Prince explains how Blackwater often took the bullets and the blame when things went wrong for U.S. government operations and assignments in places like Iraq. Prince has vowed he never again would work for the federal government because of its corruption and dishonesty. I, for one, agree wih him.

FramWinter: November through March

Those who have passed this way at this time of year before know that I do not measure seasons by the calendar, but, rather, by their general arrival and departure in my niche of the world. So, then:

FramWinter began November 1. It will end March 31. Which is not to say winter storms cannot occur before or after those dates, but is to say this is a pretty accurate, general measurement of typical weather in this neck of the woods.

I really would like to hibernate this year, more so than most years. I often say I have bear blood in my veins because, just about the time October is in full stride, I want to sleep and to forget the world until the sun awakens me around the end of March. Well, we shall see what develops between now and Yuletide. Perhaps, the end of 2013 is not too late to leap off some proverbial cliff and to discover what awaits below.

As for the music, this time around includes a pair of songs I have used in past posts. The first is representative of the "never a winter alone again" promise I made to myself during the winter of 2009 and failed to keep .... here I go again .... alone again, without you. The second is symbolic of my mood and my thoughts and my notion of going on the road for a while and following the music until I arrive at a place in the sun.

Happy Thanksgiving ....

Friday, November 22, 2013

November 22, Kennedy & other ghosts

There might be a few in the United States and around the world who actually need words to explain the events which were unfolding when this photograph was taken in the early afternoon of November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas. At least, I would hope there are not many adults who do not recognize the event about to take place: The assassination of John F. Kennedy, the thirty-fifth president of the U.S. The photograph comes from the Bettmann/Corbis Archive. The music today is almost cliché to this national tragedy, but seems appropriate, and a second video offers a glimpse of JFK's manner and style during press conferences.

So, here we are .... is it time yet?

Yes, I know. President of the United States John F. Kennedy was murdered on this day fifty years ago.

Like many Americans and, I suppose, many in countries around the world, I have my thoughts and beliefs and opinions and ideas about the who, what, why and how of this notation in the history of mankind. Where and when are established facts.

I will not write anything lengthy on this anniversary, but I will go on record saying that I do not believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. This is not because, as some claim, there is no way he could have fired three times in six seconds with a bolt action rifle and scored the hits he did at the range he did at a moving target. I can do it and, if I can, others can, as well. It is from a combination of many reasons that I have the beliefs I do.

A year ago, I wrote a post in which I admitted that I literally had passed over November 22 without recalling it was the anniversary of Kennedy's death, and that much of America was guilty of the same sin of omission or forgetfulness. I suppose a fiftieth anniversary is sort of a "magic number" and easier for the media to remember, because there has been story after story in the news about it for at least the past week.

I suppose what I wrote in my post on November 27, 2012, largely applies this to year, as well, so there is no use dwelling on this event or repeating pretty much what I wrote last year. So, read my last year's commentary, if you are the curious type.

However, I will note that certain "facts" related to the Kennedy murder which were not released in 1963 when it happened were to be given to the public fifty years after his death. That is what was promised to the American people by the American government back then.

So, here we are, fifty years later. Is it time yet? Honor the promise. Tell me those facts which were kept secret at the time of JFK's assassination.

Tell me.

.... Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Macbeth / Act 5, Scene 5
William Shakespeare

Look around you

We all live with ghosts.

Let me rephrase that. At some point in our lives, most of us begin to live with ghosts. I suppose it is related to conscience and sanity. There are people we have known who have died -- family and friends -- maybe, a few enemies, too. There are loves we have won and lost and betrayed. There are people we have mistreated or, simply, not treated fairly.

If you do not have people and situations such as these in your life, you either are very young or do not have a conscience. And, do you realize that point? That there actually are people who do not have a conscience? At this junction, if we were to acknowledge it, we would wander off into a discussion about the concepts of good and evil. But, we will not do that this evening.

I think I live with too many ghosts, and I need some way to forget them. Well, I mean, to push them into the background for a few more years. Until I am ready to confront them or to join them.

The ghost of Caesar hath appear'd to me ....

Julius Caesar / Act 5, Scene 5
William Shakespeare

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Hair & the 1903 Springfield rifle

Nice wood, on most of the firearms and on the cabinet. Modern guns have little beauty. Synthetic materials have replaced both wood and steel, for the most part, and while firearms once often had allure and mystique and art in their construction, these ingredients have been replaced by a phony bravado and film-fantasy appearance -- by macho ridiculousness in sort of an effort to make guns "sexy." The firearms in the cabinet in the photograph are old, their age ranging from 1894 to 1942 with most dating to the early years of the twentieth century. The cabinet is sort of new. I bought it in a moment of weakness last summer, but just this week managed to move it from the garage into the house. I might also note that the pitcher and the clock atop the cabinet are well over one hundred years old.

Give me a head with hair

I had five inches of hair cut the other day.

This is the pattern which has been a constant during my life: Very short hair as a boy, long as a teenager, short as a Marine .... long to short and back and forth as a man. My hair usually has been worn rather long as an adult -- except when I have been looking for a new job.

I am not sure, but I think it might be time to cut it very short again and, probably, to leave it that way, not because I am looking for a new job, but because it is time for me to settle down and to make a few decisions about what I am and who I want to be during the next few years. Besides that, it is thinning with age, and it might be appropriate to throw in the towel in terms of long hair.

I always have preferred long hair on both men and women. I suppose for me, when thinking about long hair for men, my preference originates from the Bible and the story of Samson. His strength was in his long hair. In the Marines, the boot camp super-closely-cropped hair was symbolic of rebirth from the recruit's existing life into the Marine Corps. I did not agree with that notion then and do not now, and could tell you a story or two about peace-time Marines and war-time Marines and the way hair was worn.

Someday, maybe ....

Alexander the Great had his men cut their hair short so "the enemy" could not grab it and grip it in combat. Very logical and very practical, indeed. I suppose the question, therefore, is who to emulate: Samson or Alexander? I know my choice, and I have trusted the wrong woman a time or two to demonstrate it. Whoops .... I am assuming you know the story of Samson and his fate at the hands of Delilah. If you do not, I leave you to your own resources to research it.

I am not sure how to apply these thoughts to women. Their hair, I mean. Where does the concept of short hair vs. long hair come from among women? I do not know. Enlighten me.

Those are the questions, Horatio

I spent some time today "playing with" an old rifle I just acquired. It is a Springfield Model 1903. Which means its "brethren" went into action one-hundred-ten years ago. It was one of two rifles used by U.S. troops during World War I. My particular rifle was manufactured in 1930, between the world wars, and making it eighty-three years old.

Since this rifle is eighty-three years old and "began its life" as a military weapon, a doorway is opened to speculate about the hands which have held it and the places it might have been. When World War II began, American soldiers carried rifles such as it into North Africa and American Marines went ashore with ones like it at Guadalcanal. Production and use continued during the war despite the introduction of a new and improved rifle -- the M1 Garand -- which held on to being the primary U.S. rifle of war until just before the Vietnam era. Noted for their accuracy and range, many 1903s were adapted for sniper use during the Korean War and into Vietnam.

You have heard me often "say" here that I greatly enjoy old watches, old coins and old guns -- especially in the sense of thinking about who might have held them before they came to me.

There is nothing about our existence which is simple. Even the time-worn objects which come into our hands travel just as we travel from our beginning to our end. And, in my sorry excuse for a personal philosophy, Horatio, these objects have within them a Manitou which measures them and records what they have done and have seen.

Where has my new-old rifle been? What has it seen? What has it done? Those are the questions, Horatio. I hope it will begin to trust me and will tell me these things ....

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Happy 238th Birthday, U.S. Marine Corps

This is the United States Marine Corps War Memorial adjacent to Arlington, Virginia, National Cemetery as it appears at night in a photograph by Catie Drew. I was there once, while I was in the Marines, not at night, but on a sunny Sunday. I had traveled north, coming from a base at Quantico, Virginia, for a weekend in Washington, D.C. I would hope this site is a special place -- even a sacred place -- for every American and not just for Marines. A walk through the national cemetery and a visit to the Tomb of the Unknowns create an emotional awakening which is difficult to describe -- so, I will not even try. Today -- November 10 -- is the 238th birthday of the Marine Corps. Monday -- November 11 -- is Veterans Day in the U.S. Once called Armistice Day by Americans and still referred to by that name or as Remembrance Day in many other nations, it marks the end to World War I. Originally, the day was meant to pay homage to veterans of the "war to end all wars," but later was revamped to include veterans of all wars. Few people observe Veterans Day and fewer still realize today is the USMC birthday. If you are reading this, now you know and I hope you will devote a minute or two to dwell upon the significance of each. I looked at probably fifteen videos trying to find one that fit this post. I found nothing that took hold of me, but I settled on this one which briefly shows a ceremony at the American cemetery at Belleau Wood in France. It seemed to be symbolic of the Corps because it was Marines who stopped German forces advancing on Paris in their tracks there in 1918 and because it was a World War I battle and, therefore, linked to the origins of Veterans Day .... sort of a salute to the memory of both events, which are among those which shaped the world we live in today.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Are you having fun?

While searching (mentally) for an illustration to accompany this post, I eventually thought of using this figurine. Actually, there are two figurines here. The dog has been glued to the base as an addition alongside the boy. As you might guess, the figurine was not originally mine, but it does have symbolic and very personal meaning for me. We will not bother with that element right now. However, we will note the word "January" at the base of the figurine and the time on the clock as 11:00 p.m. A new year is approaching. This thought has been on my mind -- a new year, I mean, and what to do about it. It is only two months distant from us, you realize. One of my "favorite" films is "My Favorite Year," with Peter O'Toole. Other than the fact I think O'Toole is the greatest actor alive (still) today and in this role demonstrates a wonderful comedic talent, the title of the motion picture fascinates me: "My Favorite Year." I have had some good years and some bad years, but I am not sure I have a favorite year. I still am looking for one to designate with that distinction. Next year? 2014? I wonder ....

There is only tomorrow

I read somewhere once upon a time that at a certain point in the life of a man, he will realize that he has all that there is to have, that he is all that he will ever be, that there is no more to life than what is now. Some men accept those things as fact and live with them; other men get a divorce, buy a convertible and find a girlfriend twenty years younger than themselves in a futile gesture to restore their lost youth. This usually occurs somewhere between the ages of forty and fifty, and is the so-called "mid-life crisis."

I wrote somewhere once upon a time that I was divorced (for the first time) at age twenty-three, owned a convertible (for the first time) when I was age seventeen and had an eighteen-year-old girlfriend when I was age thirty-four. (Is a sixteen-year spread close enough to twenty years?) So, what is there to do when you apparently begin to have mid-life crises while you still are a teenager yourself and have done it all long before the age of forty -- some of it several times?

Never mind. I do not think there is an answer to that question.

Hmmmm .... just a thought.

I think I might have come up with a temporary solution to a crisis at any age: Four or five concerts in four or five countries over the course of a year. How about next year? In 2014? For me, it might be enough to make it "my favorite year."

How about Wacken? I am a quarter German by ancestry, so I can visit an ancestral land while I am dancing in the streets.

How about Bonnaroo in Manchester, Tennessee? Some of you might have noted and recall that I have spent considerable time in and around Knoxville during one of those "once upon a time eras," and I love a southern accent.

How about someplace Alice Cooper is performing? I saw him in Detroit a while ago (a long while ago), so this time it would need to be out of the U.S. I am sort of hooked on his music right now. Not to mention (once again) the positively great guitars in his band, and his drummer, most probably, is the best performing on stage right now. Look at the second video here if you doubt me. He is a magician with drum sticks. I once was a drummer, and I cannot believe the skill with which he handles them.

There has to be at least one "classy" concert in this mix. How about Sarah Brightman? Actually, she will be performing sort of next door to me in Saint Paul in March and only a hop-skip-and-a-jump away in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, a few days later. Or, how about Andrea Bocelli? Maybe in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Valentine's Day?

You know? I just thought of another idea. I am wondering about going back to work again. What an unexpected idea .... work .... well-l-l-l .... sorry .... there are moments when forget myself and act like a nostalgic fool .... but, a press pass has been known to accomplish wonders at concerts .... but-t-t-t .... no, no .... no.

Whether he meant it literally or not, Thomas Wolfe was right when he wrote the novel, "You Can't Go Home Again." Periodically, I have to prove that over and over and over again to myself. And, going home includes past work, past women, past incarnations. They might exist somewhere in time, but right now, for me, there is only tomorrow.

Well, a bit of music in the form of live concerts during the months ahead is just a thought. I am open to suggestions.
To quote Alice, "Are you having fun?"

Something special ....