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This is the work ofstephen mcmennamy
⚡️I like to combine stuff⚡️

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Elegy Found in a Seattle Churchyard

A friend told me about this, but I thought I’d go see for myself. It’s a bench above a grave in Seattle’s Lakeview Cemetary. It’s just about 20 yards above the graves of Bruce Lee and Brandon Lee. In this age of vapid celebrity, those graves still receive a constant flow of visitors immersed in vanity. The remains of these celluloid heroes, these men whose life’s work was mere pretending, still have tokens, incense, flowers and other offerings heaped upon them. It’s as if the people who come, not knowing these men in life, seek a deeper unknowing of them in death. It’s not about who they were but who their long trail of mourners were not.

It seems to me that the hundreds of millions now addicted to “celebrity” are addicted to a heroin of the soul. Like heroin, “celebrity” must be taken in ever increasing doses to fill a hole in the user’s soul. And just like heroin, “celebrity” doesn’t fill anything but only increases the emptiness. Which, of course, only increases the need and requires ever larger doses of the illusion; of the shrieking unquiet voices.

Standing above the Lee graves you can watch their worshipers come and go. They leave their tokens and then pose in groups beside the stones for one last photograph of their brush with dead celebrity.

This grave, on a rise above, is quieter but bears a simple poem on the sides of the bench as you walk around it. There’s no name on the bench itself. That marker is small and off to the side a yard or two. The bench itself is not a monument to vanity, but a simple gift left behind for any who may chance upon it.

If you like you can sit down and rest for a while on the poem cut into the stone. It’s in sun and shade; a pleasant spot to watch the clouds scud across the sound and shred themselves into rain and vapor on the tops of the mountains to the west and to the east.

You might even bring a book and, opening it to a remembered passage, read,

…. For within the hollow crown
That rounds the mortal temples of a king
Keeps Death his court and there the antic sits,
Scoffing his state and grinning at his pomp,
Allowing him a breath, a little scene,
To monarchize, be fear’d and kill with looks,
Infusing him with self and vain conceit,
As if this flesh which walls about our life,
Were brass impregnable, and humour’d thus
Comes at the last and with a little pin
Bores through his castle wall, and farewell king!

An elaborate thought and true enough. But somehow, in this place, the simpler poem on which you rest seems better and more apt even as, below you, the still living fans of Bruce and Brandon Lee pull up in their cars, leave their offerings, and drive away.


“West lies the Sound. South a great tree.
North is the university.
East the mighty Cascades run free.
All these places were loved by me.”

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The Post-Totalitarian Greengrocer’s Window

from Vaclav Havel’s
“The Power of the Powerless”
(1978)

The manager of a fruit-and-vegetable shop places in his window, among the onions and carrots, the slogan: “Workers of the world, unite!” Why does he do it? What is he trying to communicate to the world? Is he genuinely enthusiastic about the idea of unity among the workers of the world? Is his enthusiasm so great that he feels an irrepressible impulse to acquaint the public with his ideals? Has he really given more than a moment’s thought to how such a unification might occur and what it would mean?

I think it can safely be assumed that the overwhelming majority of shopkeepers never think about the slogans they put in their windows, nor do they use them to express their real opinions. That poster was delivered to our greengrocer from the enterprise headquarters along with the onions and carrots. He put them all into the window simply because it has been done that way for years, because everyone does it, and because that is the way it has to be. If he were to refuse, there could be trouble. He could be reproached for not having the proper decoration in his window; someone might even accuse him of disloyalty. He does it because these things must be done if one is to get along in life. It is one of the thousands of details that guarantee him a relatively tranquil life “in harmony with society,” as they say.

Obviously the greengrocer . . . does not put the slogan in his window from any personal desire to acquaint the public with the ideal it expresses. This, of course, does not mean that his action has no motive or significance at all, or that the slogan communicates nothing to anyone. The slogan is really a sign, and as such it contains a subliminal but very definite message.

Verbally, it might be expressed this way: “I, the greengrocer XY, live here and I know what I must do. I behave in the manner expected of me. I can be depended upon and am beyond reproach. I am obedient and therefore I have the right to be left in peace.” This message, of course, has an addressee: it is directed above, to the greengrocer’s superior, and at the same time it is a shield that protects the greengrocer from potential informers. The slogan’s real meaning, therefore, is rooted firmly in the greengrocer’s existence. It reflects his vital interests. But what are those vital interests?

Let us take note: if the greengrocer had been instructed to display the slogan “I am afraid and therefore unquestioningly obedient;’ he would not be nearly as indifferent to its semantics, even though the statement would reflect the truth. The greengrocer would be embarrassed and ashamed to put such an unequivocal statement of his own degradation in the shop window, and quite naturally so, for he is a human being and thus has a sense of his own dignity. To overcome this complication, his expression of loyalty must take the form of a sign which, at least on its textual surface, indicates a level of disinterested conviction. It must allow the greengrocer to say, “What’s wrong with the workers of the world uniting?” Thus the sign helps the greengrocer to conceal from himself the low foundations of his obedience, at the same time concealing the low foundations of power. It hides them behind the facade of something high. And that something is ideology. [click to continue…]

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It’s appropriate that Oumuamua, the first “starship” sent to our system by some alien race, arrives in the form of a turd. It’s an important “holy relic” for the large cult of humans that seem to believe that intelligent life abounds in the universe and regularly sends various pie plates and cigars and turds to the Earth or through the Solar System; flying objects that never seem to identify themselves via satellite radio and HD television.

Avi Loeb, the chair of Harvard’s astronomy department, co-wrote a paper (with a Harvard postdoctoral fellow, Shmuel Bialy) that examined ‘Oumuamua’s “peculiar acceleration” and suggested that the object “may be a fully operational probe sent intentionally to Earth’s vicinity by an alien civilization.” Loeb has long been interested in the search for extraterrestrial life, and he recently made further headlines by suggesting that we might communicate with the civilization that sent the probe. “If these beings are peaceful, we could learn a lot from them,” he told Der Spiegel. About the Mysterious Interstellar Object ‘Oumuamua 

Oh blah, blah, blah…

Photographs of Oumuamua and thousands of other objects either do not exist, witness the “artist’s concept above,” or somehow dodge the automatic focal point in photo after photo. Take them all and all and add in this  latest masturbatory fantasy and I’d have to say, “Close but no cigar.” You can go right on believing that there have to be (Dammint, there just have to be..) billions and billions of planets with intelligent life in the universe, but until you find proof of planet number two there is still only one that we know — or at least suspect — has intelligent life. That would be this one.

Anthony Brode’s still got the best UFO explanation to mollify both sides in this silly story:

I accept the existence of saucers,
I concede there’s a case
To be made for believing that something’s achieving
the conquest of space;

I find it completely convincing
Whenever I hear
That creatures from Venus were recently seen
As a spaceship drew near:

And yet there’s a problem remaining
That baffles me still.
I’m not disagreeing that some super being
Can wander at will

From one universe to another-
But if it be thus why on earth (so to speak)
Should he bother to seek
Any contact with us?”

— Anthony Brode

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I Likes Me Some Trains by ghostsniper


I likes me some trains. Always have. Rode em to death when I lived in Europe. They sway, back n forth, back n forth. Soothing. Specially at night time. You almost can’t NOT sleep at night on a train. Trains lull you to slumberland. That’s their job. That’s why no train has ever been robbed at night. The intentional robbers fall asleep against their will. Happens every time. Fact. Look it up.

And the clicking. The wheels going over the cracks between the rails. It disappears after a while, as you back burner it, but it’s always there. Just waiting for you to drop your guard, then the clicking starts all over again, then disappears again as your mind wanders. Trains make you think. Can’t help it. And remember. Can’t help that neither. One more thing on the trains resume.

The European trains were divided into little compartments with an aisle down 1 side. You could go into a compartment and slide the pocket door shut. Peace. As long as you had it to yourself which I frequently did. The big window occupied almost the whole wall, down to about 2 feet above the floor. It was like flying, about 8 feet above the ground. And backward if you preferred as there was a bench seat on either side.

I sat on the back porch of a caboose one time on a little stool the conductor placed there. Watching the track disappear in the distance. I broke out the sketchpad and drew what I saw. The track started as a dot at the top center of the page and spread out into a triangle as it got to the bottom. I filled the page with the landscape I saw and flipped that page over and continued on the next page. This time the triangle was truncated, the top was cut off, and it still kept spreading and I kept drawing. The top of the railing was at the top of the page and the thin steel pickets below it and down at the bottom of that page was the stretched steel fencing floor and my feets so I turned the page again and kept sketching. Page 3 showed the back of me with the railing in front of me and the landscaping from page 1 smaller and getting distant. the view was through the window in the rear door looking out onto the porch. The up-close woodgrain of the door and, using artistic leeway, I drew the much lower latch mechanism higher so that it would be in the scene, but most of the action was out through the small round cornered window. Flip to sheet 4 and the rearmost seats were visible and also the topmost part of my skull through the now smaller door window. There was a young fraulein in one of the seats and she held a cat and wore typical traditional Deutch attire. Lederhosen, etc. I did about a dozen pages altogether, changing seats frequently and drinking dark brews slowly.

Many years later I scanned those sketches into the computer and after making copies I reduced them in size to 240×240 and printed them out. I cut them out with scissors, stacked them on top of each other in reverse order and stapled them together. Now, the pages could be fanned from the bottom (like the bottom right corners of the pages in “The Whole Earth Catalog”) and a “movie” could be seen of what I seen that day 30 years prior. It’s best to view it while sitting down for when viewing it it appears you are moving backwards and more than 1 person I have showed it to has lost their balance.

Yes, I likes me some trains. In 2000 I went into a train store and purchased an MTH O gauge Christmas train and a bunch of accessories, spending far more than I imagined trains cost. I had never owned a train before cept maybe a cheap battery powered one when I was little. This MTH train was BIG. The locomotive is a 4-8-8-4 and is about 14 inches long. The tender is another foot long. And they talk to each other and there’s an internal computer chip involved and a remote control. It plugs into the wall, makes smoke, rings the bell, does the whistle, and plays train station sounds. And from a wireless source, it will play Christmas or any other type of music or sounds that I want. I’ve added to this set over the years and though I only set it up at Christmas time it takes all day to get it right. 27 cars as of this writing, some buildings, a bridge, a snow-covered lake with skaters I made from a scrap piece of mirror. And on and on. It circles the tree several times, up, up, and finally over the fireplace hearth then down, down, down, the other side. Smokin and chuggin the whole way. The cats are mesmerized when seeing it. The first time they were terrified and flew but then they slowly got used to it and started coming around. Caramel is the most drawn to it. I have to keep her back. Know how I do that? When she gets too close I hold the bell button down on the remote then hit the bellowing whistle button and she lays skid marks out of here. Careful though. Caramel is a big gurl, about 22 lbs, so when she ignites Christmas trees can teeter. Careful.

Then about a week after Christmas the whole thing reverses. Takes all day, cause I do it right. All the cars are put back in their boxes, wires are wound up and zip tied, trees are pulled backwards down their plastic tubes, batteries removed from the remote, etc. It’s a teary day when the train goes away….until next year.

I likes me some trains and we live about a mile from one and I hear it 2 times a day. On winter days, and nights, when the leaves are gone, I can stand on the back porch on the 2nd floor and peer through the skeletonized trees into the valley below and see the train and hear it’s mournful moan as it crosses the highway, goes around the curve, and disappears into the distance, like that track in my sketches so long ago. I likes me some trains.

— ghostsniper January 22, 2019, 9:11 AM

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Icarus

Five musicians you can see and at least ten more that are forever invisible.

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True But Forbidden #1


Today’s Cultural Engineers: The arbiters of taste loathe their audiences. |  Journalism ranks among the most politically correct American institutions. As reporting grows more professionalized and credentialed, the industry has become overwhelmingly progressive; barely 7 percent of U.S. reporters are Republicans. The digital revolution has accelerated the trend. Against expectations, the electronic age has seen media consolidate in fewer centers. A once-vibrant regional press is emasculated as official opinion aggregates in London, New York, or San Francisco. It’s no longer important whether an important viewpoint or creative work “plays well in Peoria,” but rather, what the buzz is in a handful of “woke” cities.

. . . Our great national achievement – fashioning a common citizenship and identity for a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-racial people – is now threatened by a process of relentless, deliberate Balkanization. The great engines of social life – the law, the schools, the arts, – are systematically encouraging the division of America into racial, ethnic and gender separateness. – Charles Krauthammer in 1990

Nil Desperandum – The human race always seems to survive, and although it’s going to be hard, it might outlast such things as Meek Mill, Flipp Dinero, Fat Joe, Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Durk, G-Eazy, Dua Lipa, Pusha T, Offset, and others of their ilk. What are these strange names? I took them all off the gossip columns of the New York Post. Apparently, they are famous and are written about and make millions saying the f-word into a mike. Once upon a time, you read about Winston Guest, and Howard Cushing, and Jock Whitney, and Babe Paley. Now you read about media-empowered charlatans such as the above and also Marshmello and Busta Rhymes. Which means the world is improving. Especially when one hears the theme song of rapper Zi Savage, “F–k N—a Bitches.”

Shithole Countries? What Shithole Countries?

The de-cluttering chronicles : The first step in Warren’s new de-cluttering programme, is to get Marie Kondo out of your life. This is the underfed-looking, perpetually smiling, ridiculously cute young Japanese fashion gurvi who, after taking a course on how to write a self-help bestseller, wrote, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Now, we are alerted, she has written an illustrated coffee-table version, under the title, Spark Joy. According to my informant, this latest installment includes instructions on how to fold underwear and shirts. [click to continue…]

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The Frame Up: Go With the Throw

“When I was a boy I had a fleeting glimpse
Out of the corner of my eye”

— Pink Floyd, Comfortably Numb

The inscape of our world is always with us, omnipresent; a third that walks beside us. We are the ones who shut it out, who lose the thread when tangled in the web of daily events, who forever forget that we can always remember.

To live always in the light, in the presence of the now is something that is perhaps only possible for saints, as it is, for brief moments, available to poets. The power and luminosity rising out of the base ground of being can easily overwhelm our reduced senses; can strike us dumb, leave us numb. But at the same time this state of being is the state that we seek in our blind tapping towards God, thirsting for the merest sip of it, listening for the smallest hint of it, when we are in prayer or meditation, or satisfied at last to sit silently with ourselves.

At times we despair and turn our back on it, the pearl of great price we shall never possess, never grasp in this life. But the hints persist and proliferate always in the natural world about us, haunt us in the shadows of our soul. To have tasted the smallest crumb initiates a hunger never slaked by the senses alone. Once seen, even in the briefest glimpse, the sight is never forgotten. But if we drop our shields just a bit, we can see the glimmer of that greater light almost at will.

Here’s one technique for reaffirming the basic evidence of wonder in our world; that the world is made of a perceptible mystery beyond our means of measuring, but not beyond all sight unless we will ourselves blind. [click to continue…]

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What is a man? A response to Gillette

Exclusive: Meet the CEO Who Put His Company on the Line To Stand Up to Gillette’s ‘Toxic Masculinity’ Ad

The following was written by Ilan Srulovicz, the CEO and founder of Egard Watch Company, explaining why his company produced an ad to counter Gillette’s recent commercial on masculinity.

The story behind making the video is interesting. I made the ad completely alone. The voice in the video is mine and the editing is my own.

I was told by most people around me and in my company that making this video was a terrible idea and could not only hurt my brand but me personally as the CEO.

I used my personal funds on the video because I was worried about the backlash.

The main feedback was, “This will draw attention away from women’s issues,” “The political climate right now won’t support a film like this,” “Ask yourself why no other company is doing it,” etc.

I considered releasing it anonymously but after some thought, I realized an individual releasing the message wasn’t going to have the same impact as a company doing it. I decided to risk it and post the video

I think what put me over the top is a quote I heard that says all actions come out of either love or fear. Releasing it anonymously felt like fear. Putting my company on the line for a message I believe in felt like love.

I went with love.

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Just Another Normal Day Watching CNN

Today Catholic  Schoolboys, tomorrow Jews, the day after that… you.

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Curiously Soothing

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The Wedding Vows

            ….Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.

Shakespeare — Sonnet 116.

THE FIRST TIME I WAS MARRIED I was married to over 200 naked people. We weren’t quite buck naked. The men had crudely made laurel wreaths on their heads, sometimes just a wad of weeds, while the women had wreaths of flowers around their brows and, for those old enough to have any, small bouquets of blossoms lodged in their pubic hair. All the men had large clubs and all the women large breasts. It was the butt end of the 60s and people in my set tended to have that kind of equipment. What children there were tended to be either infants or toddlers, all still nursing at will.

The men and the women had separated an hour or so before the wedding and, at dusk, the two groups came together from opposite directions.

First the men came, chanting and grunting and pounding and waving their clubs. At our center was the groom, long black hair streaming down over his back, nude and tanned, under a kind of pagan huppah of a custom tie-dye made for the occasion and four sticks sporting Gods Eyes, also hand crafted for the ritual.

Chanting and grunting, (Yes, the LSD had kicked in an hour or so before and was still not peaking.) we made our way to a bluff of hard black stone overlooking the Great Central Valley in California from the first rise of foothills that step up into the High Sierra. All about our feet were deep, smooth indentations in the black rock where the Indians had, for centuries, ground acorns into mash with stones.

Looking down from the stone bluff we could see all across the Great Imperial Valley to where the sun was descending behind the Coast Range. It was a green day shading into orange dusk. There were guitars strumming somewhere. In those days somebody was always noodling a long nothing on a guitar. We turned and, as men in groups at the wedding have always done, we waited for the bride and her estrogen entourage. The waiting for the women was perhaps the only traditional moment of matrimony to be had on that day.

The women emerged from the shadows of the pine forest that rolled up behind them to the starker slopes of the Sierras where the timberline looked cold and gray under the lingering slabs of snow that still, even in high summer, caught the light and shined from inside the shadows. They numbered around a hundred. Never before or since have I seen such a large grouping of naked women. All shapes and sizes, all ages. I’d like to say all races but this was early in our forced march into the rust-drenched halls of mandatory diversity and they were mostly white.

And all, at least in my memory, lovely — each in their way.

They’d spent their two hours (as the mystery molecule that was our sacrament in those years kicked in), gathering vast quantities of wildflowers from the valley and the forest. They carried large bouquets and had used the surplus for adornment. This adornment consisted of wildflower tiaras ringing the long hair or all colors that fell from their heads, and as smaller bouquets formed by placing individual stems in large quantities into their pubic hair — and in those days of dedication to the natural body, pubic hair was much more formidable than the current rage for plucking, shaping, and waxing could possibly indicate.

Standing with 100 naked men on a stone bluff as 100 naked women walked towards you singing some ancient melody is something that a man does not easily forget. I have, in my memory, a large set of mental Polaroids from those minutes and they have not faded. Primal, true, baked at high temperatures and very elemental moments have a habit of lodging themselves deep in your  cerebral cortex never to be evicted.

In time the groups merged and stood close together in the warm dusk as the bride joined the groom under the tie-dyed huppa through which the sun’s light glowed. [click to continue…]

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Translucent Hands: Christ in the Carpenters Shop

[click to continue…]

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Nota Bene

Which mainstream ideas pose the greatest threat to traditionalism?

Global capitalism, of course. Individual materialism, obviously. But more and more a sort of Laissez-Faire Nihilism, the one exemplified by clever young people “Who wants to have children in a world going to hell?”, and interestingly, even though they call themselves Progressives and outwardly profess undying faith in humanity (despite all the problems they cause and the distresses they must be able to see in their own communities), the main culprit of this are the Globalists themselves. There are no more rabid doom-mongers than the “save the rain forest” crowd. I forgot who said it, but “forget the war on terrorism, the most important war of our time is the war between the sexes, a war that we are all losing.” In a way I agree, in the way that the hidden enemy is always the one able to inflict the most damage: Feminism is the greatest danger to our civilization. By twisting facts, by a concentrated propaganda effort, the image has been planted into the minds of women that history was sexist, that the church was anti-women and that women can be…better than men. In reality it is the couple, the man and the woman together, who make up the basic bond of humanity. The day we finally give up on this idea of love, is the day our civilization is doomed forever. “Love is reactionary”, and “Progressivism is centrifugal” (as I often say).

What would your advice be for those who want to live in more traditionalist ways, but find themselves caught in our hectic, post-modern culture?

This ties in with the previous question, but the two most important things you can do is to settle down, and to have children. Turn off the media, reduce the noise, turn of the lights. Sleep early, get up early, eat what is in season, work with your hands, your mind, your body.

One of my favorite stories of this kind is the local apiarist (beekeeper) in my neighborhood. He told me that the first seven years of him keeping bees he never had more than a couple of jars for himself. Even though he had gotten into it with the idea of selling honey, he found that he neighbors were so hostile to the idea of having bees around that he had to walk around the neighborhood after every harvest and hand out jars of honey. Hundreds of kilos every year was given away. Over time the neighbors figured out that the bees were not dangerous and that this man was not abusing their neighborhood but actually making it a better place. More people started keeping flowers in their gardens and eventually the man could start selling his produce rather than giving it away.

This story illustrates a point that everyone from your grandmother to Tahitian islanders, to the hardcore Neo-reactionary thinkers can agree on: be worthy. To be part of something you must first be of use to it. A community is only as strong as the effort put into it by its members. You must have something to offer. This is as true in urban beekeeping as in modern courtship.

Learn a skill, master a craft, teach something: learn, create, pass on. Why Traditionalism Matters: An Interview with Wrath of Gnon | The Bridgehead

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Intelligent Design

True colors of solar corona Taken by Miloslav Druckmüller

And God said unto Moses, I Am That I Am: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I Am hath sent me unto you. Exodus 3:14

Whose Will decreed This slash of sea
Would frame This sun in gleams of green?
What Plan determines stone’s decline,
Or shapes in stars, or shadow’s sheen,

Or that we track, as clever beasts,
The passing haze of comet’s fall,
And are the glaze of Thought on flesh
That sees the need of Plan at all?

I know, I know… no Plan at all
Is thought by some to be the plan,
And yet what is this sheen of thought
That seeks to measure more than man?

Look out beyond the far Deep Field,
Beyond the limits of our sight.
It cannot be that All that is,
Is only night on deeper night.

But if that should be All that is,
And All as purposeless as stone,
The Heart still sings the body’s chants,
And moves the Light within the bone. [click to continue…]

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No longer a problem in the way-new America.

We are a “Can-Do! Yes, we can.” society. One of the really amazing upticks in American society, as I noticed in a brief walk around various neighborhoods in sodden Seattle, is that we have almost completely cleaned up the streets of our cities.

How well I remember those tours through the other skid roads** of the cities I have lived in — Los Angeles, New York, Boston, and San Francisco –in days of yore. Gone now. All gone. And their wretched refuse along with them.

Take a walk in any sizable American city and you will see that it is true.

Nowhere in today’s brighter and more-caring American cities will you see those terrible social wrecks of yesteryear on the streets. Yes, no longer will you find “Bums,” “Junkies,” “Drunks,” “Bull-Goose Raving Lunatics,” or “The Hard Core Unemployed” on our sidewalks. Gone. They are all gone; all a fading memory.

Indeed all that are left, strangely rising up from the background noise of the streets, are the blameless and harmless; the “Homeless.”

The “Homeless” are the last social class left to be saved by our loving and caring society. Billions have been poured into the hands of the Homeless and yet they persist. Indeed their continuing expansion in our cities after we do and we do and we do for them is a mystery which yearns for a caring social solution.

My own cure is simple and solves two lingering social problems at once: “Feed the homeless to the hungry.”

Problem solved and it is a twofer. Paging Dr. Swift!


**The first skid row was Skid Road (Yesler Way) in Seattle, where logs were skidded into the water on a corduroy road for delivery to Henry Yesler’s lumber mills.

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Songs from the Choir Invisible: Unstoppable

You find your faith has been lost and shaken
You take back what’s been taken
Get on your knees and dig down deep
You can do what you think is impossible
Keep on believing, don’t give in
It’ll come and make you whole again
It always will, it always does
Love is unstoppable

Sent out to G. & J.& The Captain of Geraldine

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IL CAPO: “Watch the hands. They tell a story.”

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The Centenarian: Arthur Warner McNair

Old men ought to be explorers
Here or there does not matter
We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
For a further union, a deeper communion
Through the dark cold and the empty desolation,
The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters
Of the petrel and the porpoise. In my end is my beginning.

— Eliot

He’s one hundred years old and his long hands, once strong, are growing translucent. He does not so much sit in his wheelchair as he is held upright and at a slight slant by straps. Even awake his eyes are shut against the glare and the blur of the florescent lights in the roof of the home.

His meals of pureed food are spoon fed to him by attendants who speak to him in the tones he once used, long ago, on his infant children. When the drapes in his room are partially opened they reveal a view of a gravel roof, exhaust fans, and the brick facade of the opposite wing of the home. It’s not a view but he doesn’t mind. His eyes are shut against the glare and the blur of the present, and he’s gone off on a fishing trip in the summer of 1949 where he will say to no one in particular, “Jesus, the fish are thick on the ground.”

Don’t make the mistake of thinking he’s not in the here and now, because he’ll surprise you now and then. He’ll come out for a bit if it is worth it, but it seldom is. And then only for a moment.

He’s my mother’s brother, my uncle, and his life has now spanned a full century.

In the year of his birth, 1909, the NAACP was founded as was Tel Aviv while the keel of what was to become the Titanic was laid in Belfast. Taft took over the Presidency from Roosevelt (Theodore) and “Alice Huyler Ramsey, a 22-year-old housewife and mother from Hackensack, New Jersey, became the first woman to drive across the United States.” Airplanes were only six years old but the Germans were already working on the anti-aircraft gun. Wisely so since the United States Army Signal Corp Division purchased the world’s first military airplane from the Wright brothers in that same year. Not to be outdone, the US Navy decided it needed a central base in the Pacific and thought Pearl Harbor made strategic sense.

In the year of his birth Geronimo died, Barry Goldwater was born, and Guglielmo Marconi received the Nobel Prize in Physics for the invention of radio. There’s a radio in his room next to his bed but it’s never turned on. Neither is the television that hangs from the ceiling and if his phone rings, it’s a mistake. But in his mind, there are signals still coming in from elsewhere, from elsewhen, from out there, and if you sit with him quietly, without trying to engage him and without expectation; if you sit with him “where here and now cease to matter” you can sometimes sense where he really lives in this his hundredth year.

C. S. Lewis observed “You don’t have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body.” Live long enough and your body slowly betrays you and sometimes takes your mind and soul with it.

Many of my uncle’s relatives seem to think that’s what has happened to him. And perhaps they are correct. Alzheimer’s, senile dementia, and other associated afflictions are the terror of the elderly and their families. Indeed, they are the things we fear most about growing old next to unremitting pain from a degenerating disease. As one of my cousins said, “It’s about ‘quality of life.’

Dementia might well be the overriding problem that afflicts my uncle as he waits in his room with his name on a card in a slotted holder next to the door. “Dementia” is what we all assume when the elderly become less and less present to us as we perform our dutiful visits. We reintroduce ourselves and then carefully monitor how long they can hold who we are (son, daughter, sister, brother, friend) in their minds, and measure that against how long they held that knowledge the year before. It is almost always for a shorter time and that calculation distresses us.

So we call for more care, for more or different drugs. After all, their care is expensive and we need to get the value for money spent on our aged relatives knowing. We want them to know at least, who we are for more than five minutes. Their forgetfulness distresses us because it cuts us off from them just when our need to remind them of our love is greatest. It also upsets us because it is a portent of what waits for us when it is our name on the card in the slotted holder next to the door. Dementia.

Maybe. Maybe not.

I’d escorted my then 94-year-old mother from her home in California to her childhood home in Fargo for my uncle’s 100th birthday. My mother is still active and present and, all those who know her agree, inspiring. But her knees have betrayed her recently and long flights that change planes in Denver are something that can no longer be done without a dutiful son whose firm motto is: “There will be no falls on my watch.”

In the same home, just down the hall from my 100-year-old uncle, is my mother’s other brother who is 96. He sleeps a lot but still reads, or seems to read, the daily paper. She’d spend time with him too. During those moments I’d sit with my uncle aslant in his wheelchair with his eyes shut against the glare of the lights and the blur of the common room. It was mostly a quiet time but, now and then, he’d speak to the air. He’d say things like, “Well, Barbara, what are we going to do about the tree this year?” and, after a minute or so, “Biggest damn Walleye I ever saw.” Fragments and scraps of thoughts. As the poet says, “These fragments I have shored against my ruins.”

It came to me that perhaps we sometimes mistake senile dementia for sanity in the elderly; that we are so impressed with our slivers and crumbs of knowledge about the workings of the human mind we mistake them for insights into the terra incognita of the human soul. It seemed to me, as I sat with my uncle, that maybe what I was hearing from him was a sane man’s sane reaction to his circumstances.

If you knew to a certainty that every single day for the rest of your life, you’d be dressed in diapers and confined to a wheelchair with blurred eyesight in a small brick-walled room what would you do?

If you knew to a certainty that at every meal for the rest of your life a woman who talked to you as if you were a baby would spoon three flavors of baby food into your mouth, what would you do?

If, opening your eyes, you knew that all you would see would be a bright fluorescent glare and the blurred shapes of dozens of others, mostly women, lolling about in wheelchairs, what would you do?

If you knew to a dead, solid certainty that you were never going to be released from your room until you were released, at long last, from your body, what would you do?

If you were a sane man, just what would you, at long last, do?

I don’t know about you, but I would figure a way out of that prison. And if that way out was only deeper in, that’s where I’d go. I’d go deep into my Palace of Memory and I’d use all my energy to construct a world inside that was made of the most vivid moments of all the years I’d lived.

In my Palace of Memory I’d be building the world’s worst sandcastle on the beach in Balboa as my father and uncle tossed a football back and forth on the hot sand. I’d be waking up in the back seat of our 1951 Chevy and seeing my grandparents’ faces pressed against the glass as the first snowflakes I’d ever seen fell softly behind them in the twilight. I’d be with my first wife on my wedding night at the Pierre Hotel in New York City. I’d be at my book-editing job on the better days. I’d be in a taxi in New York going downtown to Studio 54 at three in the morning making all the lights. I’d go back to a warm field in a California twilight and listen to the breath and laughter of a young girl heard once and never again. I’d sit in the sun in front of a rose-covered cottage in Big Sur. I’d be laughing on the Spanish Stairs in Rome or weaving drunk along a cliff road on the Greek island of Hydra under a bronze moon and above a wine-dark sea. I’d be high up in a hotel in Paris looking down at the Seine in the rain. I’d hold my one-year-old daughter over my head while lying on the grass in the Boston Public gardens in the spring and see her face framed with cherry blossoms.

All those and a thousand other rooms in my Palace of Memory I’d visit over and over again until they all ran together in a blur as the train of my life, accelerating, finally left the station and leapt towards the stars and beyond and, finally forgetting all of that, I saw for a fleeting moment the mystery complete.

More than anything else, I would not be in that brick-walled room in the old folks’ home any more than I absolutely had to.

I like to think that is what is going on in the soul of my uncle. It’s not only “pretty to think so,” but it has the added advantage of possibly being true. Because he is not always “away.” He will come out into the present if the moment is right.

When my mother came in to see him the first time and said, “Mac, it’s your sister, Lois,” he said, without a pause, “Oh, my irritating little sister. How are you doing?” What followed was a pretty lively back and forth until he tired and left again before being wheeled downstairs for his lunch purees.

Then, a few days later, at the hundredth birthday party his family had arranged, the special presentation involved about thirty Barbershop Quartet singers. Both he and my uncle had been half of a barbershop quartet for decades and every Barbershopper for miles around showed up to honor both of them who sat in the front and listened to a cascade of songs.

At the end, of course, the singers launched into “Happy Birthday” which was taken up by the 150 other friends and family at the party. The last extended “Youuuuu…” faded and in the moment of silence that came after, my uncle opened his eyes and in a clear strong voice sang, on key, “Thank you all from the bottom of my heart.”

Then he closed his eyes and left again taking with him, I hope, one last room to add to his Palace of Memory.

[First published June 24, 2009. Arthur Warner McNair, passed away peacefully in his sleep in his 100th year on October 8, 2009]

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Further


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January’s Child: For My Daughter

Justine and my Mother
in another place, in another time.

1.
I saw you first as some small prized gem
Passed between white-masked men
In rooms ablaze with light, and laid
Wrapped and so precious in my hands,
That I felt then I had somehow stolen
Some full measure of fire from heaven
And held it now on earth forever,
As firm as stone, as light as breath.

In all my days, of all my days,
No gift was given me but you,
And this I knew as we first met
In that bronze-bright room
Where, draped in white, I heard
The music of your newborn’s heart,
And knew you’d stand the first in mine
For all the moments mine would mark,
And those moments all of yours beyond.

2.
Since then the separate rooms enclose us now.
Still in the meadows of my heart,
In that first moment, all my circles close,
Like runners rounding third at dusk,
And safe, at last, come loping home.

That moment was the best of life,
Held in my heart where distance dies,
Yet I am trapped in these thin lines
That cannot paint a love so wide,
And all my mind and meager art
Lies stunned and speechless struck. [click to continue…]

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No, Not One

Via my good buddies at | Western Rifle Shooters Association

[“Shouldn’t you give a language warning?”
“Nope, don’t have one to give.”]

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Shorter Stories

Luckily for me, everything on this taco is on my New Year’s Resolution Diet!

I was accused of pride by my peripheral friend; my new unfriend – people who with a click of a mouse are excluded from your life forever, with no impact except perhaps a sigh of relief and a nagging, irritating question “why didn’t I do that sooner?” Pride because I dare to write thoughtfully. I am not a mocker by nature, an idiot jester or buffoon. And while I do rage, I try not to write those thoughts down; they do me no good at all, much less anybody who stumbles onto one of my reflections. Plus when I am angry, without the tranquility I so crave, my words become poison. Best not to let out that dross. Yes, I suppose I do suffer from pride – is that not the case for all of us who love the things we do? Does not a baker believe they should be baking for the table of the king? Does not the inventor believe his gadget would change the world? Is not a coder certain they have found a better algorithm? And if so why not a writer; one who has paid so dearly for the lessons learned after twenty years in the camps, to be easily dismissed? No, nobody does what they do without pride – unless they are a cynic or perhaps a nihilist. A Reason, A Season, or a Lifetime

What do you do if your life’s ambition – to become a pilot with the US Air Force – gets shot down by poor eyesight? If you’re Larry Walters, you take matters into your own hands. In 1982 the California truck-driver, unperturbed by the stringent recruitment standards of the USAF, decided to take to the air in his own unique way: by attaching a large cluster of weather balloons to a lawn chair.

First, Larry and his girlfriend forged a requisition slip from his employer, Filmfair Studios, enabling them to purchase the 45 8-foot (2.4 m) weather balloons by saying they were to be used in a commercial. They then set about inflating the balloons and attaching them to Larry’s patio chair. He put on a parachute, strapped himself in and took off, carrying with him only the absolute essentials – a pellet gun (to shoot balloons if he went too high), a CB radio, a camera, sandwiches and, most essential of all, a four-pack of beer.

The plan was to float 30 feet (9 m) above the Mojave Desert for a few hours, then effect a pleasant and gradual descent. To Larry’s horror, however, the chair rose from his yard in San Pedro much faster than expected – he was eventually to reach a maximum altitude of 15,000 feet (4,600 m) – and was soon drifting over Los Angeles and into the primary approach corridor for Long Beach Airport, where he was spotted by several commercial airliners.

By this point, Larry had achieved his primary aim – to fly – but now faced the problem of how not to fly. Floating in LA airspace was not, he knew, going to make him very popular. Initially, though, he was too scared to shoot any of the balloons in case he unbalanced and fell from his madcap contraption. He tried getting in touch with REACT – a citizen’s band radio monitoring organization. As he put it to them:

‘… the difficulty is, ah, this was an unauthorized balloon launch and, uh, I’m sure my ground crew has alerted the proper authority. But, uh, just call them and tell them I’m okay.’  The Odysseum: Larry ‘Lawnchair’ Walters (1949-1993) [click to continue…]

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Apple without Steve Jobs at the core is not Apple.

The consumer electronics business seems to have run out of road, as far as cool new ideas. This is apparent in the troubles Apple is suddenly facing. It makes a cool looking toy, but there’s nothing unique about an iPhone. It does what all the phones do now. The gap between it and the low-end brands is not enough to warrant a premium. This is an issue turning up all across the consumer electronics space. There’s just no new technology to make any of it “must have” or any brand unique. — The End Of The Line 

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