Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Not Ready To Call Ghost Hunters

A strange thing happened one day last week. To get the true picture you need a description of my stove in my kitchen: just your basic old fashioned four-eye stove with an oven underneath. On my stove top I keep one of those scented candles in a jar. I've noticed that when I use the oven the heat will melt the wax and give off a fragrant smell (in this case, blueberry) - and this without lighting my candle. It has lasted for many years this way. Finally, my favorite pot holder sits in the center, safely away from the eyes.
One day last week I came home from work to find my candle moved out of its place on the back of the stove top and now turned face down on my potholder in the center. Of course I was shocked. It looked so deliberate.
The only other person who has a key to my home is my mom, and she wouldn't come over without telling me. And if she had I doubted she would turn a candle upside on my stove in lieu of a calling card or note! Also dismissed out of hand was the idea that someone might have broken in without leaving a trace of entry, turn over the candle, and then leave without doing anything else or taking anything.
I thought it was the weirdest thing, but went on with my evening. I remembered many years ago reading a book by the late Bishop James Pike, whose son had committed suicide, telling of finding clues (like a couple of safety pins configured in the clock position of the time his son died) around his apartment that indicated to him his son was trying to communicate with him from the Great Beyond.
Was this an attempted communication from one of my loved ones no longer a part of this world?
That was a solution I couldn't seriously entertain, so I went about thinking how this strange thing might have happened naturally rather than supernaturally.
My daily custom is to take my insulated lunch bag and load it up with drinks and snacks for my work day just before I leave for work. I use my stove top for this task because it sits right beside my refrigerator. Was it possible I might have inadvertently hooked the strap of my lunch bag around the candle and flipped it over as I pulled my bag off the stove in my haste to get on the road? I wondered.
I did set up this experiment and duplicated the upturned candle on the pot holder (perfectly centered, no less!) on the very first try. Mystery solved.
There resides in my mind no firm belief in postmortem survival, but I am open to be convinced. One big reason for my lack of belief is that none of my loved ones, my beloved father or older brother, or my former lover/friend Pam who died a year ago this very month, have returned to me (other than dreams, which I don't consider evidence of survival).
With all due respect to Bishop Pike and many, many others who see signs of hauntings so readily and in so many things, I myself need a better example. Don't call Ghost Hunters yet!

Monday, July 29, 2013


In the category of interesting people I've known I must place Maggie, who was my neighbor when I lived in a set of apartments in around my thirtieth year. She was an interesting character for a number of reasons. She still worked full time as a nurse in a nursing home - on third shift, no less - even though she was in her late seventies. She was a Seventh-Day Adventist Christian, which I found interesting, especially their doctrine of conditional immortality (as opposed to the traditional orthodox position of endless punishment for sinners), and she gave me some literature which detailed their thinking on this and a number of other subjects. She was very active despite her age and drove herself everywhere she went, even some twenty or so miles away to a local SDA community where she shopped for healthy foods for her vegetarian diet. That interested me, too. And partially with her help I managed to make the switch to vegetarianism (something I had been interested in for quite a while for philosophical reasons). She gave me a recipe for something called Special K Loaf - a vegetarian meatloaf substitute using that cereal as the main ingredient. That recipe (which is quite delicious and the recipe is now widely available on the internet) did the most to help me over the transition to a meatless diet, which I rigidly adhered to for over a year. (It was a fun experiment, but I slowly went back to including a little meat in my diet, which is the way I still eat - a part-time vegetarian at best.)
Maggie was good company - slightly cranky, but still lots of fun. She was intelligent, informed, and motivated. She did all of her own cooking, in fact, all of her own everything, living alone as she did. Her son lived in Ohio, but she had a niece locally she was close too and who kept an eye on her. Even though she was quite the Christian, she still made a big-to-do over Halloween, and decked out her apartment entry with ghosts and monsters and made certain she had some sweet treats for the children.
So for nearly a year this fascinating lady was part of my life and the life of my then live-in girlfriend, who was also very fond of her. We spoke to her one morning as she arrived home after her shift of work at the nursing home. As always, she was full of plans and went over with us her agenda for the days ahead. She complained of some discomfort in her shoulders, which she was attributing to overuse of those muscles while moving a patient around in his bed. We thought no more about it as we said goodbye and gave her our wishes that she would have a restful sleep.
Later that night, well actually around midnight as I recall, I was lying on my couch watching TV in front of my open front door. It was early spring and I was enjoying the pleasant night air. There suddenly was a prolonged period of knocking outside my door which I went out to investigate. Stepping outside on the porch I encountered Maggie's niece, who told me the nursing home had called her because Maggie failed to show up for her shift. There she was knocking away to no answer. She told me she didn't know if Maggie was dead-to-the-world asleep or - long pause - simply dead. There was a mail slot in the front door which I then pushed open enough to see Maggie lying peacefully there on the couch, illuminated only by the flickering glow of her television. Immediately I drew the conclusion that those shoulder pains might have been something other than sore muscles, even though she was in good health and had no history of heart problems. I told her niece to wait and that I would go get the complex's maintenance man, who lived on-site and who I knew quite well.
With the maintenance man we were able to gain entry to the apartment through the back door. Maggie's niece ran immediately into the living room and grabbed her aunt's arm. "She's already cold," she exclaimed. One look at Maggie's sweet face was enough to assure me that it was her corpse we were now viewing. I still remember all this very well because it was quite traumatic for me. Maggie was my friend and I had grown fond of her over the months. Her niece's shock and grief were heart-rending, and I stayed with her until the ambulance came to remove the body to the funeral home and the police made their routine investigation to assure it was a natural death. I was also there for her when she placed the call to Maggie's son in Ohio to break the news to him. Sad. Very sad.
At this particular point in my life I had left my childhood religion and embraced agnosticism, if not outright atheism. Still, Maggie's death impacted me emotionally and I found myself rethinking anew this whole business of life, death and the human hopes of immortality. According to her theory she had merely went to sleep awaiting the great resurrection day when God would restore her to life. According to mine, she had passed into peaceful nonexistence. Is this life all there is? Could there possibly be more? Is hope in life beyond this one vain and pointless? I'm agnostic (but can't deny harboring some wishful thinking).

Maggie was my friend and I remember her fondly all these years later. She never tried to convert me and, of course, I never tried to deconvert her. She was content to let her life speak for itself. And I was impressed by her simple, purposeful life. She was a good and decent woman. Maybe that's the most important thing - not the ideas we cherish or strongly believe, but rather our commitment to decency and kindness toward our fellow creatures. That is what Maggie was about.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Strange Coincidences: The Amazing Jim Twins

I've only known one set of identical twins in my lifetime. They were two gorgeous ladies who were my classmates in college. A little shy, they still had fabulous personalities. It is with regret that I now look back and realize I didn't take advantage of the opportunity to study the various ways they were similar and how they differed. So much for lost opportunities.
Because coincidences and synchronicities are a favorite study of mine in recent years, I stand almost slack-jawed when looking at the eerie similarities between identical twins Jim Springer and Jim Lewis, who were raised apart from each other by adoptive parents. 
They were studied by psychologist Thomas J. Bouchard Jr. who, according to this story in People magazine, thought he would find many differences that would "surprise even the twins." Instead, as People reports, "what was immediately apparent were eerie similarities that left even Bouchard 'flabbergasted.'"
The scientific response to this, I suppose, is that genes may play a larger part in our lives than what at first might seem reasonable to think. The Jims, among many similarities, both married women named Linda. Then later, after divorces, they both married women named Betty. Then if that isn't weird enough, they both had sons which they named James Alan (although the middle name was spelled slightly differently). They both had dogs that they had named Toy.
But surely their genes don't explain the fact that the adoptive parents chose to name their children Jim. And I'm not sure if it can explain why they both smoked Salem cigarettes, drove blue Chevrolets. and vacationed at the same beach in Florida.
Twins provide a fascinating opportunity to study coincidence. Even my twin friends told me about their "psychic" connection. I just didn't take the opportunity to probe the matter. But, fortunately, others have collected stories of twins and their connections. Guy Lyon Playfair wrote a book about twin connections, Twin Telepathy: The Psychic Connection, that has long been on my list of books to read. I just haven't gotten around to finding a used copy at a good price. Now that I'm thinking about, I believe I will start looking.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Bud Abbott's Strange Coincidence

Nearly a century ago psychologist Carl Jung coined the word Synchronicity to describe what he considered meaningful coincidences. Life is full of coincidences and most of us, I suppose, have had these things happen to us at one time or another under circumstances that caused us to ponder if there is not something more than mere chance at work. Maybe not. But I've been captivated by Jung's concept for a long time.
It was while reading about the old comedy team of Abbott & Costello that I stumbled upon one of these meaningful circumstances - at least meaningful for Bud Abbott.
I've included a link to a March 4, 1959 newspaper account of the death of Lou Costello, from which I quote the following:
Death called the final cue for chubby comedian Lou Costello while, by coincidence, Bud Abbott watched a TV movie of the team's famed "Who's on First?" routine.
"Tell me, why was I watching that picture at that particular time? I never watch it. After all, I've seen it a thousand times." 
Now I'm not saying this is anything more than one of those weird coincidences which fill life, but it must have been extremely striking to Abbott.
"It's just one of those things," the nonbeliever in Synchronicity would say. And that may be right. All of us tend to center the cosmos around ourselves, or at least often fall into the rut of thinking that way. Still, when one of these meaningful coincidences occur in our own lives, it is certainly an attention getter.  

Certainly Jung and his Synchronicity seem out there to many in today's modern, materialistic world. Not necessarily to me, however.

Monday, July 22, 2013

I Dream Of Magic Produce

I was thinking over the weekend about witchcraft and herbalism. I do suspect a lot of shamanism and witchcraft (as in cunning folk) has nature cures and herbalism at its roots. Plants that have hallucinogenic properties no doubt played a large role in what is thought of as magic. 
Beyond that, it was Hippocrates, generally credited as the father of medicine, who advised: "Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food." Who can say how much bad health could be avoided, and how much health could be restored, by simply eating well?
Hippocrates is generally acknowledged as the first physician to earnestly seek to separate superstition from the art of healing - not an easy task considering how superstitious humans tend to be. But he didn't seem to think the gods had anything to do with human illnesses.
Of course there is a healthy dose of superstition involved in being a medicine men, witch, and various healers. I tend to think of such things in a metaphorical or symbolic way. 
But we do know plants can do a lot more than provide nutritious food and treat various health problems. The humble bay leaf is one of many plants that can repel certain insects, for example. Other fruits and plants are good beauty treatments and make helpful toiletries. If this be magic, it is natural magic. 
Now I've thought about all this over time. And it was on my mind Saturday night when I fell asleep, producing a wonderful dream. In this particular episode of my Theater of the Mind I was a farmer. I had cultivated a garden with loving care, enriching the soil and providing plenty of water in order to produce fruits and vegetables that had magical properties, that literally did not have to be picked because they emerged from the ground fully formed and ready to be eaten and used in the restoration and maintenance of health.
Once I did grow my own delicious tomatoes. And I later added okra. Of course, I used to grow my own mint and other food herbs. Somewhere along the way I got too busy to do this. Deep down, obviously, I miss it. As anyone who has done it can testify, there is nothing like the pleasure of eating your own produce. There is something hard to describe about working with Mother Earth to produce something wonderful. It has to be experienced.
In case you're wondering, I did always talk to my plants and produce. Is that being superstitious? Maybe. I have recently started praying again. I'm verbalizing my thoughts, my feelings, my deepest desires, my fondest wishes. And I've quit wondering or worrying about how logical all that is. It makes me feel connected to the cosmos.

Maybe one day, when I am retired, I will have the time to return to the soil the way I used to; no, the way I always wanted to but never had the time.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Aunt Dottie

Not my aunt, actually, but rather an aunt of my younger brother's first wife. She must have been a really interesting character, though I knew her only through my brother's recounting of his and his then-wife's brief stay with Dottie in Ackworth, Georgia many years ago. 
Like a lot of rural southerners she was quite superstitious. My brother told me she was deeply into spiritualism and routinely consulted spirits. Any matter of concern or importance called for a session with her well used Ouija Board.
Consulting the spirits would have been easy for her because - according to her - the homestead was built on a haunted portion of an old Civil War battlefield. Lots of those around here, at least according to legend.
Most enjoyable is hearing my brother tell of the night he was shaken awake by a ghost dressed in a Confederate Uniform. Now my brother is a bit more religious in the traditional sense than I am, having retained a good portion of our Christian upbringing. I've never found him to be particularly superstitious, but hang around the creepy atmosphere Aunt Dottie's place provided and lots of strange things might seem to occur.  
When my brother told her about his experience of being shaken awake by a Confederate Ghost and provided the young man's description, Dottie told him the soldier's name and little about conversations she had had with him over the years.
And Aunt Dottie did correctly predict the sex of my brother and his wife's baby early in the pregnancy, even providing what later proved to be a reasonably accurate description of what the baby would look like.

I believe Aunt Dottie is long gone now and a regret of mine is that I never got a chance to meet her and visit her. I love these types of characters and have known many of them. Doesn't every family have at least one of these old crone types?

Thursday, July 18, 2013

And Then I Saw The Man Who Has No Feet

I've been down lately. Way down. And for a while now.
My job has vexed me almost to nervous exhaustion. A position has been forced upon me which I did not want. No one wanted it. It sucks. The previous person who held it begged for weeks to be allowed to "step down." But I have the reputation of being a fixer, of being a person who can take a tough situation and work to improve it. Now it seems that against my wishes I am having that opportunity again.
On my way home today I had to stop off at the local dollar store to get some office supplies that I will need. After shopping for a bit, attending to my list, I approached the checkout. Ahead of me was a gentlemen who looked my age or perhaps a bit older. He didn't have a purchase but instead leaned in towards the checkout girl and quietly asked for an application for a job. He was old that they only accept applications online. I think that seems to be the general rule now. (Never mind that many poor, hopeless people don't have easy internet access.) That fellow probably last applied for a job (like me) back when it was customary to appear at a personnel office and fill out a paper application and then hope for an interview.
He asked for a name so he could put it on his internet application in order to show that he did indeed talk to someone about a job. He was directed to the store manager, who informed him that wouldn't be necessary, and, no, neither would it be necessary to give that store number. Just go to so-and-so dot com and fill in the blank for this city on the application.
By now I had checked out and exited the store right behind the man. His disappointment was almost palpable. He walked, slump shouldered, to his beat up old truck. And rarely in my life did I feel more like uttering a prayer: "Dear God, please give this man some hope; please help him find a job that he seems so obviously to want and need."
My second thought was that I need to be more thankful for the situation - rough as it often is - that I have, the fact that I have a decent paying job to go to that allows me to keep buying food (and even some extras to improve the quality of my life), and to stay clothed and sheltered, and not the least of my concerns, to be able to give my mom some assistance when needed.
Right now I have several temporary workers who are wanting desperately to find permanent employment. And I don't know how many I will be able to keep once the dust has settled a bit. Yet I look into their anxious faces every day knowing I won't be able to keep everyone, that one day, more than likely, I'm going to have to make some tough choices.
But I will still have a job. I have worked for the same place for twenty years now. Even when it has been really rough, really patience trying, really outright sucky, I still have been able to bring home a paycheck every week. I've lived better these past twenty years than I have at any time in my life.
Today I saw the proverbial man who has no feet, and was reminded just how fortunate I am. Time to quit grumbling, methinks. 


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

More On The Pam Ragland Case

A reader posted a comment on my post yesterday about Pam Ragland having allegedly found the body of a missing child using visions she received. I greatly appreciate that because I had missed it while doing a search, and I agree with my reader that it is "a better skeptic look" at the matter than the one I had read and linked to yesterday. Much better.
As I pointed out yesterday, I have some reservations about this matter. I enjoyed reading and urge my readers to check out The New 'Best Case' For Psychics: Did 'Intuitive Vision' Locate Missing Boy? by Ben Radford at the Center For Inquiry website. 
Mr. Radford, astutely, I believe, points out that Ragland should have been at least somewhat familiar with the Smith family's property where the child's body was discovered after watching news coverage.
Next Radford informs his readers that
There are exceptions, of course, but the odds are that a missing or murdered child will be found in or near the family home.
I'm not sure how to evaluate that claim because no statistics or studies are provided. Also, that word near is vague and subject to interpretation.
I would also point out that the search was for a missing child. The young boy had not been long missing - and while one would always fear the worst, surely after only a short time most folks would be hoping for the best outcome. (In fact, this was suspicious enough that the police investigated the possibility that Ragland was involved in the murder.)
So Mr. Radford sums up his case thus:
It is far more probable that Ragland is neither psychic nor involved in any crime, but simply someone who unknowingly mistook a television news scene for an intuitive vision and whose instincts correctly told her where the missing boy was statistically most likely to be found-and eventually was.
I'm suggesting that Mr. Radford's "far more probable" is an overstatement - unless one starts with the conclusion one is trying to reach, namely that psychic episodes like this one are impossible.
I'm skeptical enough to seriously entertain that Radford is correct about the news coverage providing the "vision" Ragland had. I can entertain she followed up on this as a lucky guess and literally stumbled upon a corpse. But I'm also open-minded enough to entertain that she actually received an impression to go investigate the Smith property.
I also think that Radford is again being presumptuous by suggesting the skeptical explanation is the simpler explanation or else "Pam Ragland is the first person in history to find a missing person through psychic visions." Some would contest that Ragland is the first.


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Problem I Have With Skeptics

Let me hasten to add that I think of myself as a skeptic, but I'm of the "okay, now prove it" variety. I think professional psychics tend to be con artists, and these folks can do a lot of psychological damage to people who take them to seriously.
On the other hand, I've experienced many examples of uncanny intuition in my own life and have witnessed some in others. But I don't think of myself as psychic. I tend to think there may be something to the "morphic resonance" thinking of Rupert Sheldrake.
I think animals tend to be highly attuned to their environment and are forced to rely on their senses more than we human animals. In a sense I believe we have drowned out the resonance with too many distractions (loud music, cell phones, television, etc.).  If you disagree with my proposition here I will not be offended. Nor would I be willing to press hard for its acceptance. It's just my way of trying to make sense of things which have happened in my life.
Last week a story broke about Pam Ragland, who experienced visions and by them helped investigators locate the body of a missing and now murdered 11 year old. Interesting. Maybe a bit suspicious. I would like more information about this. I'm not ready to point to this story as "proof" of anything. I just say if it is legitimate it would fit into my above suggestion.
While poking around the internet looking for stories on this thing I came across a true skeptic's blog No, Psychics Can't Help Solve Murders by Justin Peters.
Therein Mr. Peters flat out says this was not a case of psychic powers. How does he know this? Because, he says:
Because psychics don’t exist. Psychic powers are not a real thing. A psychic cannot help a detective solve a crime, because there is no such thing as a legitimate psychic.
Now I'm not going to argue that he is wrong about that. The problem I have, however, is that - like Bible Creationists, who take a preconceived idea and then try to bend all evidence to fit that idea - Peters isn't open to the possibility that there are things yet to be discovered about the Cosmos. He starts with a preconceived idea and is unwilling to looking beyond it.
One needn't lapse into supernaturalism or supernormalism (or as skeptics like to suggest: magical thinking) in order to accept "psychic" episodes. Sheldrake's morphic resonance provides, I think, a reasonable natural explanation.
Because Peters rules out psychic intuition out of hand, he is left to explain this as
Maybe she wasn't as involved as she says. Maybe it was coincidence, or luck, or a really good guess. Maybe she is actually skilled at reading landscapes and guessing where bodies might be buried.
But for my part, I must remain an open-minded skeptic. And I will withhold judgment on this particular instance and just say that I find it interesting and not outside the realm of what I think might be possible.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Our God Is Melvin

I am and always have been an avid dreamer and analyzer of my dreams. (I believe I have gleaned telling insights by listening to the dreams of others, but that's another matter.) Last night the theater of my mind was busy with several stories. One made a grand impression on me and it was the one I was having when I began to wake up. I will describe it now.
It seems that I had become the owner of a cute chimpanzee, not unsimilar to J. Fred Muggs, whom I remember from my youth. However, mine was smaller and much cuter. And my unnamed pet could talk. Or at least he was able to communicate with me using simple words. My lady friend was astounded at this and we were both taken by this cute little guy.
For some reason it occurred to me to ask the little fellow if he believed in God, specifically if they (as in chimps, I suppose) worship a specific God. My pet vigorously shook his in the affirmative, just as we've seen trained chimps do in the movies. Then I inquired further as to what their God's name might be. And my chimp friend told me their God was named - get this! - Melvin.
My lady friend and I just stared at each with openmouthed astonishment. And I stood there stroking his belly. Wow! Where did this come from?
Well, last night, as I sitting here at my desk waiting for my mom's phone call letting me know she had made it safely home from church, I was reading a couple of websites that promote Intelligent Design and examine the alleged difficulties with what they call Darwinism. 
Of course no matter how much IDers insist they are doing science (I can't help but think it is philosophy), it is hard to deny that there are definite religious implications. I grew up in a family whose mantra was "maybe your ancestors hung by their tails from limbs, but mine didn't." Although my public schooling didn't delve deeply into the subject of evolution, it was there in the textbooks, and implied in my science classes.
Now I'm neither a scientist nor a science geek. The sticks and stones of evolutionary theory are mostly above my pay grade. However, I came to accept over time that the Genesis account of creation is religious myth, not history. Thus it occurred to me that the acceptance of evolution need not deal a fatal blow to one's religious faith (although it might cause one to rethink certain aspects of it).
Oh, I neglected to say that as I was interrogating my chimp friend he pointed up to indicate his belief of where Melvin lives and pointed down to indicate he believed in Hell, too, I suppose.
In my dream I suppose I was bonding with one of my ancestors. The subjects of gods and religions are never far from my mind, and I further suppose that learning of a simian god named (of all things!) Melvin gave a certain frivolity to this whole affair.

All in all this was a funny experience for me. And for my readers a hopefully entertaining slice of the weird workings of the mind of Doug B.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

A Forced Hiatus!

Okay, just about the time I was getting my act back together with my blogging, my friends at AT&T pulled the rug out from under me. Yeah, I have still have AOL old-fashioned dial-up internet. I lost phone service briefly last month, but was back up and running in about day. This time, however, after arguing with their computer system for a spell, I was left hanging. Allegedly the problem was not with their system but with mine.
This latest outage occurred last Tuesday. I reported the problem and was told someone would have to come to my home to check out my wiring. In the meantime I switched jacks, replaced phone wires, tried different phones - everything I could think to do. Still there was nothing. No dial tone at all. I suspected my friendly AT&T computer system was mistaken and that the problem was theirs.
Having heard nothing by the next day, I re-reported the problem. This time (I suppose because of the re-reporting) I was eventually allowed to speak to a human being. I was told that a repairman would come see me on Saturday. "What - I gotta wait the rest of the week without my service?"
Yes, I was told, that would be the next time a serviceman would be in my area. This irked me more than just a bit because I'm not living out in the sticks. (I suppose this is yet another example of how corporate cost-cutting really means more inefficient service for customers.)  I thought about how bad it would be if I were an elderly man living alone and, say, suffering from heart disease or something serious like that and needed emergency personnel.
As the week dragged by and I missed my friends here at my new blog (as well as other things, like reading online newspapers), I was beginning to think about telling AT&T to kiss my AS&S. But the repairman I deal with was so friendly and helpful (even counseling me, just like a good representative should, about how much better my life would be with their DSL service, and it would be cheaper to boot), and he found that indeed the problem was theirs and not mine, plus he placed me on a new line entirely to assure I wouldn't have another problem, I guess I will wait until I investigate other options before parting company with them. Anyway, I need a land line for my mother to make her regular pace maker checks.  

It was yesterday afternoon before my service was repaired and the rest of my day was fairly busy, so I didn't have a chance to get back to my blog before now. With this explanation I apologize for having neglected the comments left on my last post and will try again to get back to normal with this thing. 

Monday, July 8, 2013

Radio Is Like A Time Machine For Me

The other day my alarm clock/radio - which is over thirty years old and dates back to the early days of my marriage to my high school sweetheart - went on the fritz in an annoying way. I've kept it and used it all these years because she gave it to me and it has great sentimental value for me.
But now the radio will not turn off. The alarm still works perfectly when set to buzz (as opposed to having the radio come on, since it is on constantly anyway). But the radio constantly playing low in the quiet of the night is a distraction to me as I try to sleep.
On the way home one day last week I stopped at my local dollar mart thinking I could find a good old-fashioned wind-up alarm clock. (They do still make these, don't they?) All I could find were battery operated alarm clocks. I'm swearing off all these battery operated clocks I have. They annoy the hell out of me, especially as the batteries grow weak and the clocks slowly start going awry.
I guess I will have to give in and go to Wally World in search of my wind-up clock (and yes, I know these can be notoriously inaccurate, too, but I always run my alarm clocks ahead a bit). I just came off a four day break from work and had the time, but it's been so rainy and miserable here, and besides that, my lady friend has been busy with baby sitting chores and work. I really don't like to go shopping alone. 
So in the meantime I have been dealing with the radio, which I have set on a station that plays classic rock from the 60s, 70s and 80s. The radio - which I have set the volume of as low as possible while still being able to hear the alarm go off - fades in and out: another annoyance with all this!
True story: the other day I had an earworm of that old song Spirit In The Sky. No kidding, it played in my head all day long. The radio had been fading out more than in on this particular day, when suddenly it came back on playing - you guessed it! - Spirit In The Sky.
That song was a favorite of mine and my late brother's when we were teenagers. He had the single and we played it often and sang along to it. Weird that the radio would fade in as my earworm song of the day came on, but my life has always been a bit weird anyway.
For some reason I can date certain events in my life with the songs that I hear, songs which were popular at certain points in my life. Kung Fu Fighting is one of many that always takes me back to my junior high school years. Chicago's If You Leave Me Now, Andy Gibb's I Just Want To Be Your Everything, and Barry Manilow's Weekend In New England were all songs my high school sweetheart (later wife) and I considered our songs. They were big when we were first going together.
On one summer evening, right around dusk, on one of our dates, my sweetheart and I sat parking, holding hands and listening to the radio. The song It's The Right Time Of The Night by Jennifer Warnes came on. I never hear that song now but that I'm not taken back to that summer night and thoughts of when my first love was within arm's reach.
And so it goes that as oldie after oldie plays, I'm taken back in time. Sometimes this painful or bittersweet. I miss many of the times of my life and would love to revisit them briefly. I quit listening to the radio years ago and now I remember why. I have to be in the appropriate mood to want to be transported back in time that way. Most of the time I'm not in that mood. When I am happy, I find those time visits quaint. When I'm depressed the way I have been lately, these sounds rend my heart.

I've held on to this now malfunctioning clock/radio for so long now, through three live-in relationships and long years by myself, it's almost a part of me. But I have to get another alarm clock and soon! This thing is driving me nuts. 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

My Dad's Dream Of The Impossible

I had a few days off from work because of the holiday and decided to just rest and catch up on a few things. One of those things was spending some time with my mom. I don't get to do that as much as I would like.
We had a nice time together, but she was troubled and wanted to talk to me about some things. One of those was her divorce from my father. And in talking about this she told me a story I had never heard or known about. I'm not sure if I'm better or worse for knowing this tidbit, but I do know that this was a very unpleasant conversation for me. I guess it was cathartic for her. And she apologized again (she has before in recent years) for the pain the divorce caused me and my brothers. I confessed that it was one of the two most traumatizing events of my life (my own divorce from my high school sweetheart being the other).
I remember having a man-to-man talk with my dad, before his mind got too bad, in which I was trying to find out why he didn't do more to prevent Mom from leaving. I guess I had always had some hard feelings towards him about that and thought he didn't do enough.
I remember him telling me: "Son, when a woman makes up her mind to do something - like leave you - there is nothing you can do." (I must say that over the years I have found that insight to be generally accurate.) 
But my mom told me of a dream my father had and a conversation it led to between him and her. She told me this with tears in her eyes.
It seems my father had dreamed he was out in a field watching some people playing with remote control helicopters. As he stood there in the field watching a voice called for him to climb inside one of the copters and go for a ride.
Of course Dad objected. "But there is no way I can fit inside;" he said back to the voice.  And the disembodied voiced admonished him that "with God, all things are possible." A quote from Jesus, and one well known to my Pentecostal, miracle-believing parents. 
Mom tells me that Dad felt the dream was God's urging that the two of them should work out their differences and work to heal their marriage, "before things go too far," my dad said.
Through tears my mom told me that she told him she felt things had already gone too far. Now - with the benefit of over forty years of hindsight - she tells me she regrets having brushed him and his dream off so lightly. His dream did trouble her, she confessed to me, but not so much that it halted the momentum in their situation.
I guess my Dad did try in his way to stop the divorce. I remember - and told my mom that I did - making a similar approach to my soon-to-be-exwife that we try to set things straight between us before we got too far from the shore. I had no dream, but I know I must have felt the same thing Dad had felt: that my wife and I were going outside the will of God.
My pleas were met mostly with silence. Dad's were met with outright dismissal. We both suffered the agonizing emotional train wreck of having a wife walk away. For my dad that meant a years-long fall into the bottle. I did much the same thing. And both of us tried to screw our way out of our pain. Maybe that is a guy thing. I don't know. But it didn't work, and only complicated matters for both of us.
After a period of apostasy (my parents were dismissed from the denomination upon their divorce), my folks eventually found their way back into their religion. Dad died in the faith and I have every expectation Mom will as well.
I tried to find my way back. There were times I would visit churches with friends and think about returning to my faith, but I never did. I never could. It started out as anger towards God. Along the way I came to believe that I had held wrong ideas about God. But, whatever.
So now I know a little more about my dad than I did. His stunning fall into sin, that I could not understand as an eleven year old makes much more sense to me now. I realize that for a time Dad gave up on God and thought His promises were void. Somehow he made his way back to God. I don't think I'm smarter than my dad was about this. My dad had a skeptical streak. But I'm certain that for him it was an emotional thing. And I believe my dad could feel more comfortable with women he met in church than he did those he met in my uncle's bar and grill.

My mom got back right with God, too. But it has always been an uneasy truce because she definitely feels she was wrong back then. Mom and Dad made their peace with each other in the waning months of his life. She told me all about that, too, Sad and bittersweet it was.  But as I told her, what can I say, I've made the same mistakes myself. I understand my parents better, being full of their genes and having traveled along some of the same roads they traveled. The fruit doesn't fall far from the tree.    

Monday, July 1, 2013

Lessons I Have Learned From My Cats

Those of you who have been my readers for a while know that I have always had my little cat friends that live in the neighborhood and hang around with me, eating the majority (it would seem) of their meals here, and being quite chummy with me. They have been good company (if a little bit of an expense sometimes).
Now I'm down to just the one cat, Blackie. Blackie is a tomcat so he will probably be the last of my long line of cats. Fluffy, the little female who kept me stocked with kitties for so long died last year - much to my sadness. I had her the longest of all my little friends.   
Blackie is outside on my deck every morning when I get up, waiting patiently for his breakfast. Until it got so hot recently, he would be on my deck in the afternoons when I got home from work. He would walk out to the truck to greet me and walk to the door with me. I would then pet and feed him. Now he waits until the worst of the day's heat is over before he comes for supper. Most nights he sleeps on the deck, waiting for me to wake up and feed him again. 
As I'm typing this I'm looking right outside the window where he is sleeping. Supper is over and good, healthy digestion evidently puts him the mood for a snooze. (I would take a picture, but the batteries in my camera are dead.) 
I love watching Blackie sleep on the flat railing of my deck. Such a sweet little face! And when he is dreaming his little paws quiver and quake. Sometimes he stretches in his sleep and almost loses his balance. But he is quick to regain it.
Watching him is relaxing to me. Watching my cats "chilling out" on my deck always gave me a little perspective. I might have been watching the weather and seen that storms are forecast, or maybe a winter cold front is threatening to bring really cold temperatures and perhaps some snow. But they take it in stride, even if I worry about how I may fare through these things. Cats appear to live moment to moment, and if they worry, I've never detected it.
About the only moods I've detected in my cats are fear when a stranger comes (or a strange and threatening dog), which causes them to bow up and their fur to stand on end, and annoyance when it is rainy. You really can see the displeasure on a cat's face when they get wet. Cats don't seem so fond of water.
Life is just a hoot, I suppose, if you always know where your next meal is coming from, when you have a place to live, and if you are able to go with the flow no matter what the weather is.
I think Blackie may have a bit of a rough time when it comes to the opposite sex. I hear him fighting sometimes. And sometimes he gets a little banged up from it. He fights with the other tomcats because the guys in the neighborhood seem to outnumber the gals. And even at that - and I don't know how many of you know this, but - cats are into rough sex.
My lady friend, when she lived across the street from me, would say this one particular male cat (which wasn't mine but "loved" my female cats) was a rapist. Well, that was because the male will grab the female by the nape of the neck to hold her while they copulate. And if my cats - Fluffly, in particular - wasn't in the mood for it, she was quite good at boxing. I've seen her turn on a male right after the act. Yet she would always tease the males until they fell for her.
But Blackie seems to be more of a sleeper than a lover, just as his master is getting to be. More and more I look for a good meal and then a comfortable place to take a nap. I told my lady friend that that nape of the neck thing looked promising, but she wasn't very impressed. 

Now if I could just learn to kick back like ol' Blackie and quit worrying so much about tomorrow!