Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Winter, Christmas, guns & a young lady in red

Back on November 30, you might recall, I ran a post entitled, "Seven, there were seven .... waiting for eight." The reference was to the number of revolvers pictured. Well, here is eight. I have had him for a while, but just got around to taking his photograph. He is a Smith & Wesson, like the others in the November 30 photograph; a Model 29-4, .44 magnum; another like the "Dirty Harry Callahan" revolvers, but with a short, three-inch barrel. This guy is twenty-eight years old and in what I would estimate to be ninety-seven percent "like new" condition. A handsome lad, is he not ?? He has been fired a bit, but never carried. More importantly, in a world where guns are manufactured in the multi-thousands and often in the millions, there are only 2,532 like him. He was a "special order/special run" for a distributor. The ring, incidentally, is my current left hand "pinky" ring; the shades have been around (like really around) and sort of qualify as memorabilia.

Some of the lyrics from
"Forever Young"
composed by Bernhard Lloyd, Frank Martens & Marian Gold

Let us die young or let us live forever
We don't have the power but we never say never
Sitting in a sandpit, life is a short trip
The music's for the sad men

Can you imagine when this race is won
Turn our golden faces into the sun
Praising our leaders we're getting in tune
The music's played by the madman

Is there any wonder why she lives in my mind?

Welcome to the first day of winter. It began at 4:44 a.m. for me. The weather told me winter actually had arrived a few days earlier. When I awoke last Sunday morning, a foot of snow was on the ground from accumulations the past few days and the thermometer read minus twenty (­-20) degrees Fahrenheit [minus twenty-nine (-29) Celsius]. I dislike everything about winter other than its beauty, but I cannot imagine living without it.

I really have nothing I wish to write -- to say -- but I wanted to mark the official beginning of winter and I wanted to publish the photograph of Smith & Wesson No. 8, as I said I would .... and, I guess, I wanted to say Merry Christmas.
The season is a battle for me. I have written here before, so you may have read here before, that I have not been inside a church since I was fourteen other than for weddings and funerals. Every Christmas, I think about going to a service sort of to relive and, maybe, to reawaken the religious spirit of Christmas I felt as a boy .... but, I never have made it yet. Never will, probably. It is not important, but it is bothersome.

My memories have been working overtime lately. Too much music from the past, possibly. Songs evoke memories and bring back people and places .... faces, especially. Like right now, the song, "Lady in Red," is playing. It brings back Sandy.

Sandy was a married girl who left her husband and moved in with me. Mind you, I did not ask her. We had a few "encounters." Then, in the middle of a summer night, she called me. She had been fighting with her husband. She asked me, in a whisper, to come and get her. I did. She ran from her house to my car wearing only a nightgown. She stayed with me that night .... and, the next day, the next week, the next .... 

I went downtown to a saloon one evening, leaving her behind. An hour or so later, the bar fell silent. Imagine the proverbial "little black dress," except in red. Sandy, in such a dress -- red and short and tight -- and wearing red, spike heels, was strolling down the length of the bar, looking for me. All eyes in the bar were on her when she spotted me and when she walked over to me and when she sat down on my lap and when she gave me a long, sweet kiss. Such a moment .... is there any wonder why she lives in my mind?

That was in August. I was a poor, college boy, too non-committal for her because finishing college was my priority at the time. She eventually moved in with a girlfriend, the person who originally had introduced us, and we saw each other a few times a week. Early in December she went back to her husband and they moved to California. The girlfriend who had introduced us talked her into it, I think .... going back to her husband, I mean. The girlfriend had her own "plans" for me .... I know.

Baby, this story came out of nowhere. Well, not exactly. It almost certainly would never have happened in this post had not the song, "Lady in Red," come up on my "classic rock" radio station .... and, and, and if I had not learned a bit about the characters in a novel entitled, "The Unbearable Lightness of Being," by Milan Kundera, through reading a post on another blog a while ago. It got me thinking about "characters" in my life .... and, then, came the song playing on the radio.

This story is considerably longer and more complicated, of course. In fact, I just cut most of what I had written here from the post. One of the more "combative" elements occurred when Sandy's husband went after her in my proximity; two of the more "intriguing" elements involved me working for her mother at a resort and, much later, hoping to encounter her at the funeral of her father some years after our parting.

Sandra Kay H. was a magic girl, but magic never seems to last for me .... I still see her face clearly, smiling at me, pledging love that did not last .... an absolutely beautiful, blue-eyed, blonde girl personifying her German descent .... whatever .... so, now, back to the snow and the cold of winter and guns and classic rock and books and who knows what ....

One of those books probably will be ".... Lightness of Being." Kundera reportedly did not like the film version and said it did not do his book justice; so, I will skip the flick. I am curious, though, to learn if the novel's characters are more fascinating than my own ....

.... my own .... those who have mingled within my own reality .... hmmmm .... imagine that ....

Uffff .... "Lady in Black," just came on the radio and memories are stirring .... uffff ..... I am laughing .... no more thoughts this evening other than ....

.... Merry Christmas ....

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The tracks of a hunter

With the wind huffing and puffing at about twenty miles-per-hour, the tracks of the hunter are rapidly diminishing as they fill with blowing snow and, in just the few minutes since he passed by, have been obscured to the degree even skilled trackers could not identify the creature which had left them unless they actually had seen him. It so happens I did see this hunter -- a coyote -- leisurely lope along less than a dozen feet from my house. Since he obviously was not going to stop and wait for me to retrieve a camera and pose for me, I decided to wave to him as he strode by and to collect my camera from within the house and to record his brief appearance in the form of photographing his tracks. The last time I saw a coyote here -- very possibly the same guy -- was last summer as he walked down the middle of the street in front of my house: No snow, no tracks, that time. By the way, at noon today when the coyote paid his visit, the actual air temperature was four degrees Fahrenheit or fifteen Celsius. His shaggy, ragged fur marked the hardship of his winter existence. He is a brave fellow, to live in the midst of his enemies. His tracks are gone now, made invisible by drifting snow .... as if he never were ....

A lesson from the military treatise
"The Art of War"
written by Sun Tzu

"It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles ...."

A verse from the song
"White Wedding"
composed by Billy Idol

There is nothing fair in this world
There is nothing safe in this world
And there's nothing sure in this world
And there's nothing pure in this world
Look for something left in this world
Start again come on

The lines from the scene when 
Thomas Crown lands his glider aircraft
in the 1968 film
"The Thomas Crown Affair"

Gwen: I wish you wouldn't always undershoot the field like that.
Thomas: Why?
Gwen: Oh, come on, Tommy.
Thomas: Well, it'd end all my worries.
Gwen: What do you have to worry about?
Thomas: Who I want to be tomorrow.

Here we go with "big oil"

This post was not planned, so I really have not much of anything to say. I would pause for a moment, though, to comment on president-elect Donald Trump's decision to nominate Rex Tillerson, the chief executive officer of Exxon Mobil Corporation, to be the next secretary of state.

I do not like the choice, not because of Tillerson's familiarity (some say coziness) with Vladimir Putin, the president of the Russian Federation. I sort of go along with the "know thy enemy" theory. What I do not like is having any senior official from "big oil" in any cabinet-level position -- most especially one as critical to the well being of the United States as is the secretary of state.

As I often have noted in the past, I am a conservative in most regards -- not a Republican, but a conservative -- and my trust and respect for the realms of corporate giants is about a two on a scale of zero to ten. This is particularly true of "big oil."

The basis for this position is its frequently demonstrated condition of excessive corporate greed and my own somewhat excessive environmental principles. My religious concepts blend and merge with pantheism, which favors environmental preservation far higher than unbridled economic progress, and my actual political affiliation is connected to whatever issues appear to be important from my point of view and to whichever candidates I am in most agreement with at the moment.

That has been the long way of saying I find the nomination of Tillerson unsettling. We shall see where it all leads.

On stage tonight, Donnie & the Geriatrics

Some rock singers and musicians have a characteristic of expressing their musical emotions with exaggerated facial expressions and by pursing their lips. Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, for instance, is a frequent "lip purser."

Enter Donald Trump. While he seems to have lessened a bit his habit of constantly making exaggerated facial expressions and lip pursing, Trump seemed like he was always doing it back during the primary season, especially when he was engaged in the debates or speaking to crowds of adoring "fans." I remember often thinking during those times: "Trump must envision himself as a rock star."

A few days ago, I was browsing YouTube when I re-encountered Billy Idol and this performance of, "Eyes Without A Face." Then it dawned on me: "That is it .... when Trump looks in the mirror, he does not see himself looking back. He sees Billy Idol."

Well, whatever, that is what I thought .... Trump stole his stage style and mannerisms from Billy Idol .... take a look for yourself ....

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

December 7, 1941 -- toughness, then & now

Nearly one-half of the approximately twenty-four hundred Americans killed during the Japanese surprise attack on American military installations in and around Pearl Harbor on Oahu in the Hawaiian Islands were aboard the USS Arizona, whose sunken remains are visible below the surface of blue-green lagoon waters. The structure above the battleship's remains is the USS Arizona Memorial. The ship itself is a National Historic Landmark and active military cemetery which holds the remains of more than a thousand Sailors and Marines killed aboard the vessel in the attack, as well as survivors of the assault whose ashes now may be placed within the vessel or scattered above it. Today marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of the attack which struck at 7:55 a.m. on December 7, 1941. 

Remember Pearl Harbor & hang tough ....

[Editor's Note: The following words were not written by me. They were composed by a hunting magazine writer named David Petzal. I am using them here because I think they fit perfectly with the commemoration of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Japanese surprise attack on United States' military bases in and around Pearl Harbor on the Hawaiian Island of Oahu on December 7, 1941.

Back then, students of history might recall, German and Japanese military leaders did not think American men and women had the physical or the mental toughness, much less the will, to fight back against aggression. It is evident the leadership in places like Iran, North Korea, the self-proclaimed ISIS state, China and Russia have the same attitude toward Americans today. Who knows, they might be right. So, then, here are some words to think about on Pearl Harbor Day 2016:]

.... toughness is endangered, and hunting is one of the few fields in which it is fashionable, necessary, and encouraged. Schools and colleges teach the opposite of tough. In these institutions, tough is as unfashionable as English grammar, common sense, and American history as it actually happened ....

.... A friend of mine, a handgun hunter, went on a sheep hunt in Alaska where no sheep were to be seen. The only way to find them was by walking, and so he walked. He walked until the blood soaked through his socks, and then through his boots. He finally shot his sheep, made it back to camp, and then he could walk no more. He is tough ....

.... The military, where toughness is still at a premium, can teach us much on the subject. At West Point, the maxim is "Embrace the suck." This means no matter what kind of wretched situation you find yourself in, it is the wretched situation you have chosen. Everything in your life has led you to this. Enjoy it. Relish it. Savor it.

Some toughness is physical, but much is mental. I know a SEAL who made it through Basic Underwater Demolition school, where everyone is made of whalebone and steel springs but the attrition rate is still 80 percent, by adopting the mantra: You'll have to kill me. I will not quit. I've talked with half a dozen SEALs, and to a man they say that what got them through it was resolve, not biceps.

Can tough people complain? In the military, pissing and moaning is practically a duty. For civilians it's more complex. If you don't pull your weight in (hunting) camp, your bitching rights are null and void. If you do your share of work, you may complain, but only if you do it with wit and style. Artful complaining can make a grim situation less so. Mindless whining turns mens' minds to thoughts of slaughter.

Is there a slogan for the tough? Almost. You've seen those T-shirts that say, KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON. I would change it to KEEP CALM, CARRY ON, AND SHUT UP.

.... hang tough.

[Postscript from me: The World War II generation has often been called "The Greatest Generation." Perhaps, the cornerstone of that greatness was the courage and the toughness men and women needed to possess simply to survive back then. There were no "safe zones" for them, no so-called "self-help" books or gurus, no food stamps, no unemployment benefits, no credit cards and the country just was emerging from The Great Depression -- well, you get my drift.

Those who were part of the World War II generation relied on themselves, on their families, their friends, their neighbors, their schools, their churches, their communities and on their own innate character, strength and will power. This is why the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor on Sunday, December 7, 1941, was only a knockdown blow and not a knockout punch.

That is why Pearl Harbor needs to be remembered as long as there is a United States of America -- as a lesson of what kept the nation safe from fascist, dictatorial regimes back then and what is needed to do so still today.]

Something special ....