Life is a tragedy when characters are brought to ruin or suffer extreme sorrow as a consequence of a tragic flaw, moral weakness or inability to cope with unfavorable circumstances.
Life in these United States feels like a tragedy these days, doesn't it?
Conversing with a political ideologue is like attempting to teach a parrot to speak, one that has already learned another vocabulary from an old sailor. You say "Pretty bird" and it replies with something you wouldn't allow in polite company. In my case it's even worse. I couldn't even train a bird that had no vocabulary. What chance to you suppose I have with an ideologue full of pre-recorded sound bites?
Right now I'm suffering from bronchitis and sinusitis and I just finished one of those conversations with a family member that has left me numb. I can't remember the pain in my chest and face. Why do I do this to myself? However, the experience inspired me to write a short story.
A really short story.
I may have mentioned, I'm not feeling well.
Click on the photo of the bird to read it.
I don't suppose that I looked all that good even when I was young, but the ravages of seventy-two years hasn't helped.
Even so, I can still make the subject of a fine photograph provided it is produced by a true photographic artist, and I found one, Mark Jordan.
My first job upon moving to Southern California was as a writer for the Vivitar Corporation which manufactured and distributed photographic products. Inasmuch as photos were our business, image was everything. Thus, as I worked on product packaging, point of sales promotional materials, and instructional guides, I had an unlimited budget that attracted the very best artists and photographers. I wish I had Mark on my team in those days.
Every great photograph begins with a snap of the shutter. However, the real magic takes place in the moments afterwards. Once upon a time, the magic occurred in the darkroom. Now it happens in a computer. Raw files of bits and bytes produced by digital cameras are manipulated into works of art. Images are overlaid. Colors are balanced or unbalanced. Blemishes hidden. Features emphasized.
I may not have Brad Pitt's boyish good looks, but I have a better photographer.
You can too.
Apparently, my memory is very selective.
I dressed in jeans and a turtleneck sweater this morning. (I'm retired and every day is casual dress day.) As I met my wife in the dining room where she was already having breakfast I announced, “I can remember the first time I ever saw a turtleneck sweater.”
“That's nice, dear.”
Well, it may be nice to her, but it certainly is curious to me why I would remember such a thing.
My reaction to this question on my favorite discussion website, RallyPoint, took me by surprise. “Have you ever made a snap decision? How did it turn out?” I reacted much like the cynical food critic in the Disney animated film Ratatouille when he ate the dish prepared by a rat and flashed back to his childhood.
This question elicited a similar response from me...
I flashed back to the moment when I came to a fork in the road just outside Denver. I was driving across the country without a plan looking for a new beginning. I had been dismissed unexpectedly from the Army and needed to find my place in the civilian world.
A few decades ago while serving in the US Army, I lived in a duplex at Fort Shafter in Hawaii. Another captain and his wife lived next door. On a Halloween evening a young goblin knocked on my neighbor's door and announced, “Trick or treat!”
Inspired by a random impulse, my neighbor responded, “I don't have any treats.”
The perplexed urchin hesitated a moment and asked my neighbor, “Do you have any 'tricks'?”
The child obviously didn't comprehend the Halloween contract.
As I said, this was many years ago. Most likely, the situation hasn't improved. Thus, as a service to posterity, I propose to record my favorite tricks for those who failed to provide treats on Halloween. Some were even committed on selected citizens for no other reason than the fact that they weren't very well liked in the neighborhood.
I suppose that I should begin with the least disruptive or least costly pranks, the ones that were committed by the youngest.
Here's a hint: Don't do as I do. You would never want a marriage like my first one. You would never want to use the same numbers I use when purchasing lottery tickets. You would never want to reinstall a computer and go through the trials and tribulations that I've experienced this week. Trust me, you really wouldn't...
So many injustices, so little justice. It's impossible to get through life, especially a long-lived one, without encountering stories of injustice such as this one.
This is simply one of those stories I had to share beyond the social media. Thus, I have shared it here in hopes that it will receive even wider distribution. If nothing else, please pass it on to your social audience and reblog.
There is growing concern that elderly drivers are unfit to operate motor vehicles safely and many states are now summoning them to the DMV to demonstrate their ability. Once upon a time you were considered qualified to drive if you could hear thunder and see lightning. Now they want to poke, prod, and examine you. No, I'm not talking about old people or even the retired. Hell, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) is handing out memberships like candy to anyone, even those just turned fifty. If they think that's old, wait until they catch up to me.
What brought this on? I just received my summons to hobble on down and be examined. I have to pass a vision exam and a written test on the motor vehicle code. Some fun, huh? It could be worse. They could force me to pass a driving test as well. When was the last time you did that?
My last driving test was in Colorado. I was tardy in applying for my license after moving there from Hawaii and they made me take the full battery of tests. Of course, I passed all until we came to the final one. The clerk at the desk instructed me to drive my car to the curb outside the door and wait there for my examiner. The man who emerged from the DMV, clipboard in hand, was larger than my Datsun stations wagon.
Wait! I hear you cry. Didn't you say in your last posting that you traded your Datsun for a Javelin? Yes, and I destroyed it before I left Hawaii. I had a salt water fish tank there and decided that it was easier to refresh the water once each week rather than slave over an alchemy set attempting to maintain the proper pH balance for the benefit of my fish. I would drive to the shore and fill a forty gallon trash can with clean seawater. Once, on the way home, an idiot cut me off and the trash can spilled when I slammed on my brakes. The trunk began rusting away by the time I reached home. Besides, I traded a Datsun 510 sedan for the Javelin. I arrived in Colorado with a Datsun 510 station wagon and a wife and child.
As I said, the DMV driving examiner appeared to exceed the cargo capacity of my Datsun and I worried over this as he walked around the car pretending to check it out as I flashed the lights and honked the horn. In truth, I suspect he was likewise considering whether or not the car would accommodate him. In the end, he decided to give it a go and entered the passenger seat. The car sagged.
Surprisingly, the cabin provided him with enough room that he was able to close the door. Unfortunately, the seat belt didn't. Actually, he ignored it and instructed me to proceed to the end of the driveway and turn right. For some reason I have yet to figure out, I refused to move until he secured the seat belt. After several game attempts including adjusting the seat to its extremity to maximize the seat belt's reach, he announced that he would just hold it and again instructed me to begin driving.
In for a penny, in for a pound. I refused. How did I know that this wasn't part of the test? I feared that he would fail me if I so much as started the engine before he was secure.
After a few more futile attempts to snap the belt into its receptacle, he left the car and disappeared into the DMV office.
I waited some more.
Finally, I followed him into the DMV and asked the clerk where my examiner had disappeared to. She informed me that he had gone to lunch.
The clerk looked confused when I asked if I should go to lunch too and come back later to take my test. “But, you already passed,” she said after checking.
I hope I will again.
Whenever I feel down, when the checkbook is as bare as Mother Hubbard's Cubbard, I have one memory that helps carry me through. It's the day I bought my 1969 AMC Javelin.
I stopped off in Hawaii following my tour of duty in Vietnam before taking a week of leave to prove to my mother that I was still alive. I rented a Datsun 510 sedan at the Hertz desk at Honolulu International Airport and drove it to Tripler Army Medical Center where I was assigned to be the Officer in Charge of Special Services (Post theater, craft shops, sports facilities, etc). The car impressed me and I purchased one to be delivered on my return from leave on the mainland.
That car didn't disappoint me. It was fast and handled like a sports car. It was everything I could want except a “babe wagon”. Here I was, a young bachelor officer, living in paradise. Truthfully, I didn't think about it until a senior officer at the hospital began kidding me about it. I suppose that is why this story took an unexpected turn.
I was shuffling papers at my desk one day when one of the enlisted men in my command rushed into my office and announced, “You've had an accident, sir.”
Reflexively, I looked down at myself to see what had spilled.
“No, no, sir,” the young man explained. “Your car. You've had an accident.”
Now I was truly bewildered. I hadn't had an accident. My Datsun was parked in front of the post gymnasium/bowling alley/pool complex where my office was located.
“Sir,” he insisted, “you've had an accident.”
I followed him outside to discover that I really had an accident. Another officer, a captain, had parked his Volkswagon Beetle on the hill above me and it slipped its parking brake. It had rolled backwards almost hitting the captain as he walked towards my facility, jumped a curb, avoided a huge Monkey Pod tree, then slammed into the side of my car.
In those days, you had to obtain three estimates and submit them to the insurance company before having the car repaired. The next day, I spent the morning on this errand. I had two in hand when lunch hour rolled around. I stopped at the dealer where I had purchased the Datsun for the third estimate and was informed that the service manager was the only person authorized to write estimates and he wouldn't return until after lunch. Given that everyone worked on Hawaiian time, I might be waiting several hours.
I'm one of those people who paces as he thinks. Thus, I found myself in the dealer's showroom as I considered my options. A young salesperson interrupted my thoughts asking if he could be of help.
To this day, I have no idea how it happened. I pointed and asked, “Do you see that car?”
The young man followed my direction and responded, “Yes, sir.”
“Can you have it ready for me by next Wednesday?”
“That car,” I said still pointing.
I took him by the wrist and walked him to the car. “Can you feel this car?” I asked.
I think he was worried at this point. I'm not sure. I wasn't paying attention.
“This is now my car.”
I handed him my card and said, “You sold me that Datsun,” I said pointing towards the service area door where my car could be seen parked. “That's my trade in. Don't worry about the damage. The insurance company will pay to have it repaired. It will be my down payment.”
“Yes, sir,” he replied, hesitantly.
The following Wednesday, a friend asked if I was going to pick up my car. Actually, I wasn't sure if I was. The whole incident seemed like a dream. I shrugged in response and decided to drive to the dealer and see if I had actually purchased it.
When I arrived, the salesperson was waiting. I believe his manager had rehearsed him in case I actually showed up. He sat me down in an office where all the paperwork was laid out. I signed. Transfered my personal effects from the Datsun, and drove away in my brand new 1969 Javelin.
It was a beautiful car. Even by today's standards. It was too much car to drive around the island, but I wasn't alone in that. Hawaii 50 had appeared on television and everyone else was buying Dodge Challengers with big block V8 engines. We all chugged around the island with our engines collecting soot. There wasn't a stretch of road where you could really run them at high speed and clean them out.
To this day, I don't know how much I paid for that car. What they allowed on my Datsun as trade in. I had a payment book and paid something each month. It seems that there were 36 payments of approximately $100.
Have you ever been that impulsive in your life?