Monday, January 28, 2013

Three voices in time & a squirrel

Is this the place with the free peanuts ?? .... I am not sure why I started, but the first autumn after I had moved into this house I began providing peanuts for the neighborhood squirrels. They progressed from eating outside, to coming into the patio and eating there on rainy days, to coming into the patio all of the time, to taking peanuts from my hand. Sort of silly. But, everyone, even squirrels, needs a sanctuary now and then -- or, at the very least, a refuge from the outside world.

Because it was January

Sort of picking up on where I left off a few days ago ....

Another of my mantras (which you have seen written here before) has been this: "By the time I was age twenty-five, I had done everything there was to do on earth in one form or another, in one sense or another, in one way or another."

Believe me, I had.

So, now, a year or two or three down the road beyond age twenty-five (hmmmm ....), why do I feel like I have missed out on so much?

I think the answer is relatively simple. A man is never satisfied. Never, ever, never.

I do believe man is from Mars and woman is from Venus, and had written as much long before someone else wrote a book to that effect. It should be obvious to the simplest of minds. (Unfortunately, it is not.) But, in terms of satisfaction, man and woman are the same. This is the snake in the Garden of Eden. This snake's name was satisfaction, curiosity, insatiability.

One of my favorite characters with whom I have become acquainted from my study of history and with whom I occasionally bring into my posts is Sir Richard Burton. I do not mean Richard Walter Jenkins, AKA, Sir Richard Burton, the 20th Century actor, the husband of Elizabeth Taylor, the Welshman. I do mean Sir Richard Francis Burton, the 19th Century soldier, the explorer, the writer and translator, who lived the life of ten men in the span of a single lifetime.

Perhaps, Burton's most remembered comment in response to a question about why he lived the life he did was this: "Starting in a hollowed log of wood -- some thousand miles up a river, with an infinitesimal prospect of returning! I ask myself 'Why?' and the only echo is 'damned fool! ... the Devil drives!'"

I wonder if there is enough vinegar left in me to ride shotgun another time or two with the Devil. You do not recognize the expression? Use your imagination.

A thought about crazy & crazy

All one has to do is to look at a photograph of Franz Kafka to know that he was a bit crazy. Well, if you prefer, use the words strange, different, odd. Maybe, off in his own world. I still choose to use the word crazy.

Whatever you might think, I think there is no more strange, different, odd, crazy short story (or, if you prefer, novella) than Kafka's "The Metamorphosis." I re-read it a few days ago, probably for the thirty-third time. If you never have read it, you should receive a refund on the money spent for your education.

Before I become too insulting and sarcastic, I will slide over a touch. Many writers, critics and educators have a tendency to consider science fiction to be third-rate fiction. If it were not for that fact, I think Kafka's marvelous masterpiece would be qualified as science fiction. Show me other "ordinary" fiction that even verges on being so far "other worldly" when placed alongside "The Metamorphosis." Then, tell me how you would categorize it in your library.

I mean, categorize it other than being a story written by sort of a madman.

The man standing next to you

A few days ago, the son of a man I knew briefly in Florida a lifetime ago sent me an email asking one question about his father. I had mentioned this man in passing in a post a while ago, but had not done so in a clear and understandable manner. The son had seen my post, and he had a question.

I replied in an email back to him with an honest and truthful answer, but I did not offer any other information or commentary.

I had met this man after he had been in the Marine Corps and before I was in it, and the arrival of the email from the son surprised me and stirred some memories and gave me a reason to smile: If you lived to be one thousand years of age, you probably could not guess the question he asked or the answer I gave to him. I will never tell you, either. I can keep a secret.

Life is a wonder. You never know who might be standing next to you on a tram or sitting on the stool beside you in a bar or who is just ahead of you in the line at a fast-food restaurant. You never know .... do you? And, on rare occasion, you might be amazed if you actually did know.

Friday, January 18, 2013

I'm afraid I can't help it

Guns, guns, guns are the talk in America today. Some people love them; some people hate them. I am a lover -- in more ways than one. Moving right along, here is a photograph of a young man from the Wolf Clan firing a Springfield M1A last August. It is the civilian version of the M-14, which is among the rifles I was well acquainted with while in the Marine Corps. This is a semi-automatic, as opposed to the military version, which could be switched from semi-auto to full automatic. It fires 7.62 x 51 mm (.308 caliber) ammunition and has a twenty-round magazine. Before we dwell too long on weaponry, allow me to turn your attention to the music. There are so many wonderful songs during the hour of David Bowie music posted here that I am drawn into the lyrics and the melody of all of them. One, in particular, brings tears to my eyes whenever I hear it. But, in the interest of brevity, I will stop writing about the music now and mention only a few lines from just one song (not the tear-bringer) to engage your curiosity:

Yeah, I'm afraid of Americans
I'm afraid of the words
I'm afraid I can't help it
I'm afraid I can't
I'm afraid of Americans

No doubt, end & beginning are the same

I often think what I am writing here are words which travel not north or south, not east or west, but in a circle.

How many times, for instance, have I written that January is one the two months of the year which seem to be the cruelest to me personally? How many times have I written that I hibernate during January and February? How many times have I written that January 16 is the mid-point of FramWinter? How many times have I written that I joined the Marine Corps in January? How many times have I written that I began my "adventure" on the sea of blogs in January? How many times have I written that I will never spend another January alone, but always seem to do just that?

The numbers are not really excessive, but I have done this several times, hence, the perpetual, circular motion of my posts: Each year beginning and ending in the same place, with the same words.

Soon, I will be five years older than I was when I first came to the blogs and wrote my first post -- which I did on a blog that no longer exists, incidentally. It ceased to be in a matter of two or three weeks, and overlapped with this blog for a week or so.

Back on topic: Many things can happen in five years. A person, obviously, can experience many changes -- emotionally, mentally and physically -- over a span of five years.

Five years can be a span. It can be like a bridge, crossing from one point of land to another. Or, in this instance, it can be like a bridge of personal evolution, crossing from one persona to another. In a sentence (more words), I do not think I am the same person I was five years ago. Same face, sure; same memories, yes; same history, of course; but, a river, a chasm, a stage of life has been crossed.

I suppose this could be interpreted in the context of another circle of my words: The "incarnation" from one life (or lifestyle) to the next. For those unfamiliar with my use of the term, I designate my Marine Corps years as one "incarnation" of my life; my journalism days form another; my experiment (not to be confused with experience) as a teacher makes up another; my work in corrections is another; and so forth. The same man, yes -- but, a very different man, as well, who sees the world in a different manner and, at times, lives his life as a different person. This is my definition of an "incarnation."

But, no. This time I mean change even beyond that. I mean real change, as in moving from one stage of life to another. Some of you -- those who actually do read my words here and have the vision to see beyond the surface of some of the posts -- might understand what I am saying. As for the rest of you, you are free to interpret this circle of words any way you choose. In the meanwhile, the beginning approaches the end .... or is that, the end approaches the beginning?

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Some guns, some songs do not fade away

Ordinarily, I might apologize for the quality of the photograph, but since I did not take this one, I will fore go those words. This, however, is my pistol as it was shown in a photo accompanying an advertisement. I bought it and it arrived on Wednesday. I had meant to take a photo of it and a companion piece for this post, but forgot to do so before bringing it to a professional gunsmith on Friday for some repair work. So, you have here an advertisement photo. The pistol is a Browning/Fabrique Nationale Model 1900. In this case, the model number denotes the year it officially came into being. American gun maker genius John Browning patented it in 1895. He made arrangements to have it manufactured by Fabrique Nationale in Liège, Belgium, and the first ones emerged from the factory in 1899. After some modification, it was designated the Model 1900 and 724,550 were completed before production stopped with the beginning of World War I. Mine was among the last to be made. It was a soldier's gun from the beginning, and one can only imagine how many still are buried in the mud of Belgium and France, remnants of the bloody trench warfare from "the war to end all wars." The ninety-nine years mine has been around are evident from its worn and somewhat scared appearance. A few days ago, a friend asked for my advice about a rifle he was considering buying. Without going into detail, I told him I was a poor one to ask for advice regarding firearms because I almost always go for what I call "nostalgia guns" -- ones that are old, are made of steel and wood, have seen history and, perhaps, even have made a bit of history. The ones which have beauty and grace, and feel good to hold in my hand. Once again: Old coins, old books, old watches, old guns. I wish I could absorb their journeys and their "experiences" into my own sense of consciousness. And, the music for today: A few weeks ago, I posted an entire concert by Rainbow from 1977 in Munich, Germany. Here is another complete concert, this one from 1995 in Dusseldorf, Germany. Ritchie Blackmore is the only member of the band who appears in both concerts. The vocalist here, Doogie White, performed just a few miles down the road from where I live now with another band about two months ago. Some guns, some songs, some guys do not fade away; they simply are there until they are gone. Until they vanish. Uffff .... Woof .... Poof .... Pooooffff ....

Sunday, January 6, 2013

A sketch & a letter drifting in time

Once upon a time we sat beneath a willow tree
Counting all the stars and waiting for the dawn
But that was once upon a time, now the tree is gone ....

A coincidental stranger or one of the players

Many things in life are inexplicable, with some few even of Twilight Zone proportions.

If there is anything consistent about my life, it is that I am inconsistent in most regards. To once again point out some of the key elements: I have had two careers, which I define as ten years or more in the same profession, a number of just-plain-jobs and a few years in the Marine Corps. I have had two marriages and two divorces, and could easily have had five. I usually move from one place to another every year or two or three. But, one thing consistent in my life has been my absolute fascination with the study of history. To me, coupled with pantheism, it verges on my personal pseudo-orthodox religion.

As usual, my thoughts are wandering. Cutting to the chase now, when I was purging my personal possessions in the summer of 2010, I kept an intricate pen and pencil sketch that I had purchased a few years earlier in an antique shop. A portion of that sketch forms my illustration for this post. It shows two young ladies debarking from a sailboat on an island or a point of land in a fair-sized body of water. The sketch is not dated, however, the paper on which it is drawn has a manufacturer's mark and date of 1892. My belief, then, is that the sketch was done in the 1890s.

Quite unrelated, a few years later my interest in history brought me into possession of a few letters written by a young school teacher in Minnesota to a friend back at her hometown in Michigan. In one letter, she describes how she and another young, single, school teacher had accepted an invitation from a pair of local young men to picnic on an island in a lake in southern Minnesota. They had gone to the island aboard a sailboat owned by one of the young men. He was a newspaper reporter and illustrator. During the picnic, this young man had made a number of rough sketches of their adventure, and had promised to work up two or three more complete and detailed drawings as gifts for the letter-writing teacher. This letter was dated August 6, 1895.

Of course, you know where this is going. I later confirmed that the teacher and the reporter/illustrator had existed, and that an island in a rather large lake adjacent to the town where they lived and worked had an island which was a popular destination for summer picnickers and outings by church and social groups.

Those are the main points of the story. The inexplicable element to the tale is the remarkable coincidence (What else could it be?) of how a pen and pencil sketch more than one hundred years old would be obtained at an antique shop by a person (me, in this instance) and, a few years later, a letter describing the origin of this sketch would be obtained by the same person (me, again) from people in another state via an online auction service?

There was no reason to think the sketch and the letter were related until after both were in my possession. I bought the sketch simply because I adored it and because I sort of fall in love with women in paintings, sketches and photographs who are long ago dead and buried. (Another element worth writing about someday .... maybe. I suppose it is a search for an ideal.) I bought the letters because I was researching life in late Nineteenth Century "frontier states" and wanted observations written by ordinary people actually living then. There was no visible connecting link at all until after both had come into my possession, which happened at different times from different sources and more than one hundred years after their origin.

So, is it simple coincidence that this happened? Probably, but I prefer to think there is a reason -- although I have no idea what the reason might be if there truly is one. I suppose I prefer to think that everything happens for a reason, even though this notion flies in the face of my pantheistic/historical philosophy of life. I have written here before that I sometimes think the "book" of our life has already been written and that we have no control over it. Predestination. I sometimes think that, but I do not want to believe it.
Some mysteries have no solution. Time has no boundaries. Love -- true love, I mean -- would never end if there really is such a thing. I have been both a journalist and, briefly, a teacher. Do I have a role as a player in this story, or am I simply the person whose curiosity led to a pen and pencil sketch and a letter telling their stories -- which was the same story -– more than one hundred years after the fact? Am I a coincidental stranger, or am I part of their story?

Something special ....