Sunday, September 29, 2013

So ends September

For some reason -- for whatever unrecognized reason -- I decided early on this month that I wanted five posts: Five September Sundays = five posts. Some subconscious superstition, I suppose. Anyway, moving right along, this photograph is sort of historical in nature, as my other recent photos have been, if, in fact, events four years ago should be relegated to history as opposed to the "immediate past." (Never mind. Semantics drive me crazy.) It was taken in Warsaw, Poland. The towering building is the Palace of Culture and Science. I passed by it a number of times by tram and on foot, including twelve trips in six weeks to a dental office. I caught up on my dental work in Warsaw. The price was right and, beyond that, the dentist was an attractive woman (blonde) who spoke perfect English, had studied in France, had lived in America for three years and made a number of passes at me. Primary among them was to make a trip to Florida with her when my dental work was completed. Perhaps, I should have, but I am a gentleman, sort of .... all right, that is a story in itself. I picked this photo for this post because I never did see the inside of the palace, and I wish to return to see it and to walk the streets of Warsaw once again. I had a wonderful time there. As for the music accompanying this post, I decided to include another offering from Badfinger. This song, "Without You," is the band's best, I think. I also think music frequently is best when the influence of an organ is present .... like at the end of this song. Besides creating a wondrous, haunting sound for me, it brings back memories of a long, lonely, snowbound winter.

I am glad I stayed up late tonight

Quiet .... do not bother me .... please .... I am thinking .... plotting, pondering, planning .... scheming .... spinning my wheels ..... hmmmm ....

Well, not exactly, but I really am thinking. I also am wearing new cowboy boots, trying to break them in a bit. I am not sure if I look like Roy Rogers or Gabby Hayes with my jeans tucked into the boots. You do not recognize the names? Then, you must either be very young or without cable television.

The boots are absolutely beautiful. They are Tony Llama boots. I ordinarily do not pay attention to brand names (you probably guessed that), but this time I decided to abandon my usual pedestrian style and to run with the big boys. I had best be careful or I will take up smoking cigars again and drinking bourbon with branch water. As for Western dress, boots are as far as I will go. I have not had a cowboy hat since I was five or six, and have no thoughts of buying one.

Today was a strange day. Actually, most days are strange days from my point of view. Anyway, at some point during the early afternoon, I made a decision. A family obligation has tied my hands behind my back for the past two years. Then, just as the bonds began to come free, an early August storm caused me problems in terms of damage to the house. My thought is that the repairs/renovations which are required as a result of the storm should be taken care of by mid-November. Those which are unfinished by that time would have to wait until mild weather returns in the spring. This is Minnesota, you realize.

So, my afternoon decision today was to return to Warsaw about mid-December for Christmas and New Year's Eve, and then move on to who knows where for a while.

After I had made this decision, I checked the availability of December airline flights. Next, I began writing an email to inquire about my "old room" at The Duval. I had stayed there the initial two weeks after my first arrival in Warsaw.

Only an hour or two had passed when the telephone rang.

When I heard the news, I was a bit stunned: Another family matter has arisen which might create a new situation which would ground me once again. It probably will be at least two weeks before I know if I am simply delayed or must postpone. Time answers all questions -- at least, all earthly questions.

The clock has moved, I have gotten a bit older, the sun and the moon have roamed across the sky some distance -- but, has anything else changed? I am sure it has -- somewhere -- but not in my world. I still feel like I am Fram Actual -- Fram the Fortunate -- but life rules us more than we rule life, and it is best never to forget that simple fact.

So ends September, not with a destination, but with a new question mark.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

My Dixie dear & other thoughts

All that glitters is not gold .... or is it? Here is one more photograph from an "adventure in the days of old," the location and the subject of which, I assume, a few people might recognize. For any who do not, once again I will (for now, at least) allow these things to remain a mystery. Perhaps, I should put a warning notice on this post because it sort of is about suicide .... but, only in an analytical sort of way. The music ties in for two reasons -- one obvious, one unknown. Obvious (maybe): Two of the four original members of the band Badfinger -- Peter Ham and Thomas Evans -- committed suicide. Ham wrote the song and is the lead singer for "Baby Blue." Unknown (for sure): You might note that the song is being sung to a young lady named Dixie. Well, the first young lady who ever chased me and caught me was named Dixie, and, like the lyrics go, I still hold a special love for her. She was absolutely sweet and breathtakingly beautiful. I am not exaggerating. I could not believe such a stunning, big city girl would ask a country clod like me to be her boyfriend. This, the day after we had met, when I thought I would never see her again. We were both twelve, by the way, and bravely entered our teenage years hand-in-hand. First love. She and I still exchange occasional notes.

Pick your own moment to place the period

Death fascinates me.

I assume everyone thinks about death now and then, and I have encountered a few people who like to talk about it and theorize about it and, like me, are fascinated to some extent by it. As a college boy, one of my friends was a "brand new" Catholic priest. He and I would argue (whoops, I mean talk) for hours about death, suicide, god, religion .... well, you get my drift.

The only thing that worries me along these lines is that if death truly is the end, I will not realize it and be aware of it and, consequently, I will be unable to complain about how boring and tedious it seems to be to me. (That sentence was half-serious; half tongue-in-cheek.)

What brought death to mind was the recent suicide of one of my mother's cousin's sons. I am not certain of the correct terminology for my relationship to him, and I am not curious enough to do any research to learn it. Anyway .... this fellow had some legal problems, so to speak, and was "lying low in old Mexico," the last I had heard. (Sort of sounds like something out of a wild west film, hah?) He is back home now, in a manner of speaking.

He was the second relative of mine to do himself in -- at least, the second of whom I am aware. The first was Hellik, one of my grandmother's brothers. Health problems were the motive behind his action.

I was still in high school the first time someone I personally knew killed himself. That fellow was age twenty-five and the best shot with a rifle I had seen before or have seen since. His wife was running around on him. I sort of think he went out with style and like a real man. He did not shoot his wife. He did not shoot his wife's lover. He only shot himself, and he did it with his favorite rifle.

One of my high school classmates killed himself about a decade or so after we had graduated. Money problems.

The man who was my best friend for a few years killed himself. It took him three tries and a lot of liquor. He was intelligent and handsome and had a charming personality. Those three ingredients could not win out when battling clinical depression.

My favorite suicide in literature is that of Carlo Alfred Thomas "Cat" Shannon in Frederick Forsyth's novel, "The Dogs of War:"

He died a month after the coup, the way he had told Julie he wanted to go, with a gun in his hand and blood in his mouth and a bullet in the chest. But it was his own gun and his own bullet. It was not the risks or the danger or the fighting that destroyed him, but the trivial black mole on the back of his neck. That was what he had learned from Dr. Dunois in the Paris surgery. Up to a year if he took things easy, less than six months if he pushed himself, and the last month would be bad. So he went out alone when he judged the time had come, and walked into the jungle with his gun ....

At least there is logic to such an ending -- nothing to do with losing a woman or losing money or mental disorder. Maybe, Hellik and Cat Shannon had it right: When the end of your story is inevitable, pick your own moment to place the period.


Sunday, September 15, 2013

Wandering, winding words while wild

The ship coming from nowhere going to nowhere. Destination unknown. The mysterious voyage. I am not at all certain how to label this photograph. Of course, I really do know the port of origin and the next landfall because I was a passenger on it, but I prefer to keep those things a mystery. Life is a mystery -- except to those with a deep religious faith. All right, I will stop with that thought .... now, for the music. Eddie Money is not among my favorites .... not even close .... but anyone who can make the adjustment from being a New York City cop to a rock singer has to have a few good points .... and, anyone who was not and still is not absolutely crazy about "Ronnie" has no conception of what the word "hot" really means. Ice, baby, ice, and I am not talking about Mustangs. The second piece is, of course, Ronnie Spector herself (once married to "Gunslinger Phil") performing "her favorite song" in 1987 with a pair of spectacular backup singers. If you do not recognize these three women, you have missed some of the best years in the existence of the rock and roll universe. Finally, I do not feel there is a more perfect song to win a man's heart than, "Be My Baby," nor a more perfect voice than Ronnie's to sing it.

A history of something; of what, I am uncertain

I am feeling a bit wild tonight. Do not ask me to define that, but the long and the short of it is that I am beginning to roll into high gear about the repairs/renovations to the house. It is time to "kick butt" in regard to contractors, in a manner of speaking; time to pick and to choose. Some of these guys are just ridiculous. They have the Barack Obama complex, and think they "deserve" to have you hire them rather than they having to "earn" your confidence before you hire them. Whose money is it? What a mess this country is becoming.

Moving right along, I am not sure there are more than four or five people who have been here, with me, since near the beginning when I began this blog in January 2009. Only two from that time frame still leave comments regularly. There are a few others who I know visit me here on occasion and, sometimes, leave their written words. Very few. Time has swallowed up most of them.

There are some bloggers who, if you fail to leave a comment at their blog once, will not leave another for you. Never mind if you are ill or on vacation or simply busy -- a comment is a comment is a comment. They are a commodity to be traded. There are some bloggers who, if you say something which upsets them, immediately drop you as a "friend" forever and ever. Some like that do come back after they have cooled down -- just like in "real life."

People are so different here. I always have wanted people to tell me if they do not like the illustration or the music or the words I have written in a post -- and, most importantly, to tell me why. I look for honesty and opinions and advice. Too many who post, I think, simply are looking for compliments and/or believe it is their role to make others "feel good" about their posts.

This is fine, I suppose, in the sense of making the one leaving an illegitimate compliment feel good personally -- sort of an ill-conceived concept of a good deed -- but it also is political correctness, and political correctness is one of the three or four things that is absolutely destroying America. Political correctness often also is lying.

It reminds me of the crazy concept occurring in schools and the workplace these days: Everyone gets a ribbon for participating, but there are no first or second or third place winners; no one fails a class; the person making fast food hamburgers should get the same salary as the person being shot at in an Afghanistan combat zone; the socialistic notion that if you cannot afford a cell phone, those who can should also provide one for the have-nots free of charge.

Anyone who does not think there is an upheaval, a revolt on the horizon, had best have their eyes and ears and minds checked.

Hmmmm .... I really went off on a tangent this time, did I not? Well, it is just that the blogs and the people here are a picture of society in general -- no more, no less -- and that bothers me at times.

I think I will close this post with words I left on another blog regarding the question of what makes us human; what distinguishes us from animals? Here are those words, slightly modified:

Just to throw a "monkey wrench" into the mix, I do not believe all Homo sapiens are human or possess humanity. While the ability to make fire or to act creatively or to save Planet Earth is within most of us, it is not within all of us. Genuine evil exists, I believe, both in the form of the devil possessing some and from circumstances such as genetic defect, brain injury or substance abuse.

I also believe our present species will eventually destroy itself and, probably, take the Earth with it. Neither religion nor philosophy will prevent this but, possibly, science can. However, in doing so, science would have to remove from us some of what makes us human (by contemporary concepts), creating a substantially altered species. In which case, in the distant future we would be relegated in the text books as the group which followed Cro-Magnon in the "evolutionary chain."

You do not like being demoted? Well, anyone who thinks we are at the pinnacle of the evolutionary ladder needs to think again. We really still are babes in the wood. The questions really are whether or not we will survive long enough to advance and if we are willing to give up some of the definitions of humanity as they exist today and accept changes science is capable of creating.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

You think there's any chance of it?

Oyez, Oyez, Oyez! This view of London Town might not be as pleasant, pleasing or provocative as the sight of a never-ending street in Paris, but to some of us anglophiles this is a contemporary look at what once was the center of the world. It also has been among the homes to a number of the most remarkable, fascinating, narcissistic and long-gone individuals who remain as vibrant today as they were when, centuries ago, they last felt the breeze in their hair and the sun on their faces. As for the music accompanying this post, one of the songs is directly linked to the film, "The Lion in Winter," about an episode in the lives of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, and about whom the words below sort of belong. The second musical piece is here for three or four reasons, which I hope you are bright enough to understand, appreciate, absorb and benefit from yourself.

Their words, not mine

As someone who is too old to feel the passion of youth, but too young to give up on finding lasting love, today I bring you the closing lines from a superb Broadway play, "The Lion in Winter," published by James Goldman in that far away year of 1966.

I doubt anyone reading this post other than myself actually has read the play (surprise me, and say you have), but a few of you may have seen the 1968 film version with Peter O'Toole (playing Henry II), Katharine Hepburn (as Henry's wife in exile, so to speak, Eleanor of Aquitaine) and Anthony Hopkins (as their last surviving son, Richard the Lionheart). And, not to be forgotten, probably the least-known actor among all those who have played James Bond -- Timothy Dalton -- here portraying King Philip of France.

By the way, if you are unfamiliar with Eleanor, do a bit of research. I think you will be amazed at her history -- astonished, if not genuinely shocked, at what a remarkable woman she was during her lifetime. She has to be one of the most fabulous women who ever walked the Earth, in my not so humble opinion. I doubt there has been one like her since her. Melding the ages by a few hundred years, I usually fancy myself in the image of Percival, but had Eleanor been Guinevere, I would prefer to have been Lancelot.

So, then, read the script, the words. Henry and Eleanor are about to part after having been together with "friends and family" at Chinon in France during the Christmas season in the year of our lord 1183. Imagine yourself, if you are able, to be walking near enough to Henry and Eleanor along the Vienne River in that medieval time -- near enough so that you are able to hear them as they speak to each other. Now, after you have read, have "listened" to them .... can you feel and understand what to be alive really is .... can you, do you?

Henry: We're in the cellar and you're going back to prison and my life is wasted and we've lost each other and you're smiling.

Eleanor: It's the way I register despair. There's everything in life but hope.

Henry: We have each other and for all I know that's what hope is.

Eleanor: We're jungle creatures, Henry, and the dark is all around us. See them? In the corners, you can see the eyes.

Henry: And they can see ours. I'm a match for anything. Aren't you?

Eleanor: I should have been a great fool not to love you.

Henry: Come along; I'll see you to your ship.

Eleanor: So soon?

Henry: There's always Easter Court.

Eleanor: You'll let me out for Easter?

Henry: Come the resurrection, you can strike me down again.

Eleanor: Perhaps I'll do it next time.

Henry: And perhaps you won't.

Eleanor: (Taking his arm, moving to go) It must be late and I don't want to miss the tide.

Henry: (As they go) You know, I hope we never die.

Eleanor: I hope so, too.

Henry: You think there's any chance of it?

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Another view from the balcony drifting in time

Looking from the balcony to the right -- as was the view from the photograph in my last post -- brought forward an obvious question: What was the view from the balcony looking to the left? Well, here you can see for yourself. Pretty much the same in either direction. Perhaps, it is the "street of dreams" below -- an endless street with endless traffic. But, no, I do not think so. Whatever name you wish to assign to this street, the post today is little more than a look inside my thoughts at a given moment in time just as the photograph is a look inside the Parisian world as it existed for a moment in July 2004. As for the music, many bands tried to emulate the Beatles back in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Surprisingly (to me, anyway), hard rock, heavy metal Deep Purple was among them. I guess we are witnessing evolution in action. Anyway, here are the original members of Deep Purple performing "Help." Personally, I think it is better than the version by the Beatles. And, here is Dokken, too, with "Paris is Burning" .... I seem to have missed that party.

There always is the unexpected

Today began as yesterday ended.

I seem to have something cosmic on my mind, whether it is a whimper or a bang, I am not certain. 

It has been sort of a strange day for me. (How often do I write those words?) What seems strange about it is that I am preoccupied with thoughts of repairs and renovations to my house. Some of you -- most of you -- are not aware that a hail storm caused considerable damage to this house during the early evening of August 6.

These things (repairs and renovations) had never occurred to me before the hail storm. They form another unforeseen element which seemingly has fallen out of nowhere into my life and has, to a degree, taken control of my time and my thoughts.

The insurance company has agreed to cough up about $15,000 for damage. What should I do? Pocket the insurance money? Spend the insurance money on the repairs? Spend the insurance money plus a bunch of my own money and do a more substantial overhaul of the house since work will be going on anyway?

On the one hand, I do not feel like putting  much of my own money into the house because I really do not like being here and do not consider my residency here to be permanent; on the other hand, I have thoughts of dumping a lot of my money into it on the gamble the housing market will improve and I can sell it for a substantially greater profit later.

I might even go crazy and tear down the old patio and build a new and better version of it. I even am thinking of three sides of glass and heated for winter. It would be a fascinating place to lounge during a snowstorm or to sleep beneath a full moon. Well, that seems like a lot of expense for a place I do not actually want to be, but you see how my mind goes back and forth these days ....

Hmmmm .... hmmmm .... hmmmm ....

These are not thoughts I want to dwell upon right now, but I must because insurance money always has strings attached and winter is just around the corner. Winter is not a good time for repair and renovation work.
Then, too, I had to cash out a mutual fund account this week because it was losing money like a tree loses leaves in the autumn. This process began in May when Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke announced that the U.S. central bank would begin reducing its bond purchase program late this year.

A mini-panic of sorts followed, and I decided after four months that it was time to cut and run myself. I have a few months to find a qualifying, alternative investment, or I will have to give a lot of the money to an irresponsible, wasteful and increasingly corrupt federal government in the form of taxes at the end of the year. Again, like the house, not thoughts I expected to be dwelling upon at this point in time.

Back in 2009, I frequently thought about and wrote of leaving the U.S. The possibility has never been far from my mind, and it is stronger again now than it has been for a few years.
Back to the present.

I have had a DVD of "The Eiger Sanction" playing in the background (three feet away and bit to my left) over and over most of the day. I suppose it is a sign of my mind drifting and turning to past dreams that never materialized, rather than focusing on houses and insurance money and mutual funds and places I do not wish to be ....

Enough chatter from me for tonight.

Something special ....