Wednesday, February 27, 2019
Sort of the last trail .... it is in the sense that it is the driveway to my Dakota home. Around the bend in the distance is the house. The property beyond and on both sides of the road belongs to me and my children, and I have been thinking about building a second house somewhere in those woodlands, high on a hilltop so I can look out at the Missouri River in the distance. Be a nice place to grow old .... maybe ....
Alles Gute zum Geburtstag, Großvater
Today is my maternal grandfather's birthday. He was sort of a full-blood German. I say sort of because his/our ancestors went from Germany to Russia and spent a couple of generations there before packing up and moving on to Manitoba, Canada, and from there to North Dakota and then to Wisconsin and finally to Minnesota -- so, who can know with exact certainty what genes may have entered the family tree during those stopovers.
Whatever .... he was pretty much confident he was one hundred percent German and he grew up in a household where German was the everyday language, both spoken and written. I have a few letters exchanged between his father and his mother written in the language of the "old country." Who am I to argue with his claim to be German?
Like many people -- most people, probably -- I wish I would have spent more time talking with him and learning about him. But, I was young and he was old and the two often are like oil and water. I see it now as my loss, but I will not dwell on loss and sadness because the moments when we were together were good times and happy times.
Included is my favorite song, "A Man I'll Never Be," from among those recorded by one of my favorite bands, Boston, set to paintings by my favorite Impressionist artist, Claude Monet, in one of my favorite places on Earth, Monet's garden at Giverny in France. Grandpa was into polka and waltz and country music, but I will take a chance that he would have approved of Boston and I know he would like Monet and the flowers of Giverny because he maintained two gardens of his own –- one with vegetables and another with flowers.
Alles Gute zum Geburtstag, Großvater....
Wednesday, February 13, 2019
Here is one of the clay/stone tablets on which the story of Gilgamesh was written. It probably is the oldest surviving written story on Earth. It comes from Ancient Sumeria, and was originally written in cunieform script on a dozen clay tablets which have their origin more than 3,000 years ago.
Where have I read this before?
A number of years ago I read the story of Gilgamesh.
Never heard of him or of his story? Not surprising.
Gilgamesh is the protagonist in a narrative poem written in ancient Mesopotamia and centers round his life as the king of Uruk -- modern day Iraq. He ruled in the neighborhood of between 2750 and 2500 BCE. The tale is derived from several poems written about him, which serve as a background for the events in the "Epic of Gilgamesh."
The story has been recovered mainly from twelve clay/stone tablets. Fragments from several other versions found have added some missing details to create a more comprehensive story, although even today some parts of it are missing. The oldest tablets date back about 3,000 to 3,500 years. The story deals with Gilgamesh and his relationship with Enkidu and his failed quest for immortality, following the death of Enkidu. In this way, it is reminiscent of Adam and Eve.
A particular segment of the tale sounded more than a little familiar. Hmmmm .... is that not the story of Noah from the Bible? Sure enough. Gilgamesh encounters Utnapishtim, the Mesopotamian Noah who survived the "Great Flood" by building an ark and taking his family and livestock aboard. The story of Gilgamesh includes sort of the story of Noah/Utnapishtim, with more details and more sex.
A synopsis, leaving out the sex: Utnapishtim tells Gilgamesh how the gods decided to flood the world and eradicate mankind. However, Ea, the god of wisdom, warns Utnapishtim of the flood and instructs him to build an ark and take his family and livestock aboard. The gods regret flooding the world and vow to never wipe out humanity again. Utnapishtim was granted immortality by the gods as a reward for his faith.
Which brings me to me in modern-day Minnnnneeeessoooottaaaa. January set several records for the coldest this and the coldest that, as well as instances of the hottest this and the hottest that. February is in the process of setting records for the snowiest this and the snowiest that -- which is the current dilemma I am facing.
Twenty-six (26) inches of snow have come down in the past eight days, and more is promised on Saint Valentine's Day. Those figures are hardly astronomical, but they are something less than fun when it comes to shoveling and getting out and about. I am thinking about rounding up all of the dogs in the neighborhood -- and there are lots and lots of them, plus at least one fox and a few coyote -- and undertaking an expedition to secure "grub" and other essentials.
Yep, I am exaggerating, but just a bit, and I am beginning to feel something like Alexander McKeag in James Michener's novel, "Centennial:"
"It was a bad winter and he (McKeag) was soon snowed under. Drifts covered him and once more he lived at the bottom of a cave. Since he had survived such entombments before, this one did not cause apprehension, and there was one change which brought a measure of contentment. Each day at sunset, after he had crawled back into his tunnel, he brewed himself one small cup of lapsang souchong, and as its smoky aroma filled the cave, it brought visions of ...."
Whoa, wait, slow down, hmmmm .... what was the name of that brew again?
By the way, did I mention that Gilgamesh finally gives up on his quest for immortality ....
Sunday, February 10, 2019
Tuesday, February 5, 2019
Recognize her? To the left is a young Linda Maria Ronstadt at the peak of her profession in the realm of music. To the right is Linda Maria Ronstadt, age 72, no longer a singer, not by her own choice, but because Parkinson's Disease has robbed her of her ability to sing. Accompanying this post is a video of her performing, "Tracks of My Tears," when she was a world-reowned singer. Also present is a video of the Rolling Stones on stage doing, "Out of Control," on March 25, 2016, in Havana, Cuba. In stark contrast to Ronstadt, the Stones similarly are all in their seventies, but seem to have the energy of teenagers. What is longevity without good health?
Tell me how have I changed
You never know where a sight or a sound will take you. Do you?
I turned on the television a while ago and saw a familiar face on the screen. It was Linda Ronstadt, immediately recognizable, although it was a considerably older version of the youthful face I was accustomed to see singing songs beautifully. She is 72 years old now, a victim of Parkinson's Disease and can no longer sing.
I compare this to the Rolling Stones, who I saw in Minneapolis in 2015 and who will be on tour again this year. I am not sure when the birthdays are for the guys in this outfit, but as of right now the oldest is Charlie Watts, 77, followed by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, both 75. Ronnie Wood is the junior member. He is 71.
If anyone needs evidence that life is not fair -- and, for that matter, that equality is a "legislated" thing and not an "actual" thing, all one needs to do is to compare the lives of these individuals.
I am certain there are people who wish they could exchange lives with Ronstadt, despite her struggle with Parkinson's. She had a fabulous career signing rock and country rock, beginning in the 1960s. She was lead singer for the Stone Poneys, the highly-publicized girlfriend of then-governor of Nebraska, Robert "Bob" Kerry, who had won the Congressional Medal of Honor as a Navy SEAL in Vietnam, was on the cover of Time and Rolling Stone magazines, was the highest paid woman in rock music, and on and on ad infinitum.
But, in my mind, the acclaim and the prominence of early life cannot make up for the end of life suffering from Parkinson's Disease. My maternal grandmother spent the last seven years of her life with Parkinson's in a nursing home. When she was medicated, she was little more than a zombie, essentially not knowing who she was or where she was. When not medicated, her mind was clear and her memory good, but she was in pain and constantly trembling.
During the course of her television interview, Ronstadt said: "When you've been able to do certain things all your life, like put your shoes on and brush your teeth or whatever -- when you can't do that, you sort of go, 'What's this?'" she says. "You know, what's happening here? Come help me with this. And then you have to learn to ask people to help, and that -- that took a little doing. But I do that now, because I need the help."
What probably got me thinking about this other than seeing Ronstadt on television and knowing that the Stones were again on tour was encountering Ronni Rae Rivers singing, "It's Only Make Believe." I have heard the Conway Twitty version countless times and, to be honest, I did not recall he was dead. I set out to jolt my memory about how and when. I learned that Twitty became ill while performing at the Stafford Theatre in Branson, Missouri. He died of an abdominal aortic aneurysm on June 4, 1993, at the age of 59. Hmmmm .... pretty young guy in the overall scheme of things ....
After listening to the Ronni Rae version of the Twitty song, I listened to Twitty's version a few times and to the same song sung by other singers. I do think no one can sing it as well as Twitty, but Ronni Rae is my first choice for a performance of it by a woman.
Returning to Parkinson's for a few words, here is another quote from Ronstadt: "They're learning so much more about it every day. If not, I mean, I'm 72. We're all going to die. So, they say people usually die with Parkinson's. They don't always die of it because it's so slow-moving. So, I'll figure I'll die of something. And I've watched people die, so I'm not afraid of dying. I'm afraid of suffering, but I'm not afraid of dying."
Ronstadt has the words and the attitude to face life head on .... she evidently knows and understands herself well. She is a courageous woman and merits the best wishes and prayers for serenity and peace.
Yep, life goes on, with or without Parkinson's, with or without equality. In the meanwhile, the nearest the Stones will come to the Twin Cities on this tour is Denver and Chicago. I just might gear up and head on out to catch a show.
This might be my last chance .... I mean even the Stones cannot last forever .... can they?