Saturday, December 31, 2005

Sieze the Day

... as the final hours of 2005 fade away, I envision myself slipping into my apartment just before midnight, taking off my work clothes, putting on a comfy pair of Joe Boxer fleece sweatpants and a Joe Boxer fleece sweatshirt, cracking a cold beer, and watching the movie Madagascar in the solitary comfort of my small apartment. There won't be any "Happy New Year" kisses at midnight, no drunken revelry, and no off key singing of "Auld Lang Syne". In fact, the only noise in this whole building will most likely be coming from "the bad neighbors"downstairs. Hell, I'm not even interested in watching the big ball drop in Times Square.
... I spent a lot of time reflecting on the first half of this decade during the past week. I stared out the foggy windows of local coffeehouses and let my mind meander from the past to the present, while stirring a mocha latte. Cruising down local highways, I let "road hypnosis" take me to the Millenium Celebration and back. I even donned layers of winter clothing and tramped down mucky trails that lay beneath bare trees and wound around semi-frozen lakes, hoping that the cold, fresh winter air would inspire crisp, clear thoughts about the New Year and the rest of this decade. The only things that came to me are that I will undoubtedly get fatter, my hair will become increasingly grey, and that gas prices will continue to rise. And all too soon, we will be saying "Happy New Year" again.
... I decided against taking a nostalgic look back at 2005, and the first five years of this decade, because I am more interested in the hope and promise of tomorrow than I am in the past. I can do something about tomorrow. Yesterday is gone forever. If I lived yesterday well, today is a good day. Living well today, makes tomorrow even better. This simple truth is the result of all my introspection and reflection and will, hopefully, guide me through the remaining years of this decade.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Looking backward, looking forward..

... it only takes a few short hours to shift our holiday focus from Christmas to the impending New Year. Traditionally, we spend the last week of the current year looking both backward and forward, simultaneously examining where we've been and what we accomplished while making plans for where we want to go and what we want to do, once we sleep off the champagne induced hangover on New Year's Day. The cycle of one year, while a significant marker, is a small amount of time. Sometimes, it's better to widen our perspective and look at the bigger picture. With the end of the first half of a decade in sight, the second half is about to begin, and it is this perspective which will frame my thinking this week.

Friday, December 23, 2005

A Special Gift

... I went to visit my dad in the assisted living facility, a regular visit, intended soley to put a smile on his face and spread some holiday cheer. He was missing my mom as was to be expected, being the first Christmas in over a half century spent without her, but I saw a twinkle in his eye, and a smile, when I flicked the switch on the wall, lighting up the little Christmas tree. It was a nice visit and I left him reading a handful of cards that arrived from family and friends, and, anticipating a visit from Pastor Dave the next afternoon. I got a little surprise as I shut the door and headed down the hallway toward the elevator. Coming straight toward me, fully cushioned and fat, dressed in bright red with a long, snow white beard, a loaded bag slung over his shoulder, was - Santa Claus!!
... I stopped walking and stared, speechless for a minute, as he and his "helper" got closer before my "inner child" took over. "Well, Merry Christmas!" I announced. I was greeted by a throaty "Ho!Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas to you!" as the pair passed and rushed down the stairwell at the end of the hall.
... as the elevator door opened on the main floor, I was greeted by the song "Santa Claus Is Coming ToTown", being beat out on an old piano in the style of an elementary school musical. There, in the facility's cafeteria, was my Santa, surrounded mostly by elderly women in wheelchairs or walkers, all chiming in with the music and receiving tiny packages with a candy cane attached to a red bow. Every one of them was smiling and happy for the moment, all their aches and pains forgotten in this magic second. I felt invisible, like the Ghost of Christmas Present, as I stood watching the event at the window, lost in the moment as well.
... Driving home, I realized that I had just received a very special gift from Santa.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Dear Slumlord;

Please do not leave threatening, misspelled messages in public places. Keep the homeless dude out of the dumpster as he throws garbage out while collecting returnable cans and bottles. My rent pays your salary and there are apartments across the street that I can rent from. Get back to work and plow the damn parking lot!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

heaven

..I watched the Barbara Walter's special, "Heaven: Where is it? How do we get there?" on Thursday night. It was entertaining and cute, in a "bubblegum for the mind" sort of way, with its exploitation of celebrities like Richard Gere, Elizabeth Taylor, and the Dali Lama. It was also
disturbing in depictions of extremism on the sides of Christian and Islamic viewpoints. The "science", took the fun out of it all with an explanation of the "heaven gene" and "dying brain syndrome". Throughout the program, I found myself listening to John Lennon's "Imagine", on the MP3 player in my mind.
... the show didn't teach me anything new and I doubt it intended to do so. The pervasive message seemed to be "lead a good life here to experience heaven on earth," or beyond. And it did so in almost a "gonna find out who's naughty or nice" kind of way, perfectly appropriate for a show airing only five days before Christmas. The show did, however, reinforce some beliefs I have held for a very long time.
...the first of these beliefs is that religion and politics are inseparabley linked and always a source of trouble. A brief clip showed some Evangelical teens praying in what appeared to be something more like a "voodoo trance" than any Christian service I have ever attended. These youth were taught to express religious fervor in such a manner, no less indoctrinated than a failed Palestinian suicide bomber held in an Israeli prison. Sadly, both are victims of errant religious instruction. With several references to Armageddon and Revelations, I was left believing that if such a final confrontation does occur, it will be a self-fulfilling prophecy more than a fulfillment of a promise from God.
... next, cultural bias plays a tremendous role in one's religious belief. Is it any wonder that desert dwelling people perceive heaven as having an abundant water supply and lush gardens? Native Americans described the "happy hunting grounds" as a place where the spirits of warriors hunted the spirits of animals. A universal belief is that heaven is full of peace and tranquility, food and feasts, and our family and friends. What we lack or long for, in order to thrive on earth, is abundant in heaven. Conversely, what we fear and loath is always present in hell - fire, famine, disease, and pestilence.
... third, I am convinced that there will always be someone eager to stand up and say that they know what God wants, that they have a clearer idea of "The Creator's" master plan and the road to heaven than others do. Most of the time, such people will go the way of Aimee Semple McPherson, Jim Baker, or Jimmy Swaggart.
... finally, the last bastion for all religious discussion, or dispute, will invariably be faith. At its best, faith is both hope and trust. At its worst, faith is a circumvention of logic and intelligence, too often used in a manner akin to "Because I said so!"
... I much prefer a simpler view of creationism such as depicted in a recently discovered ancient Mayan mural buried for thousands of years in Guatemala. The mural simply shows a fish to represent the water world, a turkey representing the air world, and the Corn God, offering an ear of corn to umans so they may eat and flourish here on earth.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

God's Tool (In The Shed)

Pope Benedict XVI complained this week that Christmas festivities have been "subjected to a sort of commercial pollution."



...uh, ya think? Right on top of things ...

Monday, December 12, 2005

A2 Hipsters

Bouncing from here to here to here, it landed here, where it was pimped, polished, and shined like the fine ride it is. In the end, I ended up subtracting multiple 5 point blocks for being too old to be considered "hip". That's one fact that will never change, regardless of how many "vegetarian supreme's" I eat at Big 10 Burrito, how many band flyers I tape to the street light posts on Liberty between Division and State Streets, or how many Red Wings I pound at Leopold Brothers. It's alright though, I'm just as comfortable popping in for a "Homewrecker" at Moe's Southwest Grill in the Colonade or an Old Detroit at Old(e) Town(e).
... the modified quiz actually reminded me of a painting that once graced the walls of "the now extinct" tavern, The One Eyed Moose, on Main Street. The painting originally hung in The Pretzel Bell, according to the owner, and was painted in the early '20's by a U of M art student. The center of this work of art was a globe, positioned to highlight an exaggerated Michigan, a maize and blue flag marking a very exaggerated Ann Arbor. Could it possibly be the origin of this locally popular world view, or, does it only reflect how firmly entrenched this concept is? The artist manipulated the viewers eye, moving it in a clockwise circle to a variety of timeless scenarios in which life in Ann Arbor and life at U of M collided and merged. One sees football players, in barely recognizable (and barely padded) uniforms receiving long passes and hockey players executing shots on goal. There is a young, almost Rockwell-esque, couple, kissing on a park bench in autumn as a squirrel scampers away with an acorn. A favorite scene depicts a bleary eyed young man, dressed in a suit considered "hip" for the era, raising an icey mug of draft beer with his right hand and waving a smoldering cigar with the left. Any one of the carefully painted scenes is still recognizable in town today, as long as you take changes in fashion and technology into account. I truly believe that this quality of timelessness was part of the artist's original idea as he stood in front of a blank canvas, paintbrush in hand.
...with that in mind, I remind everyone that "hip" is all too often passing and fickle. True style, classic and timeless, is much more difficult to identify and far more fulfilling. In support of my theory, I leave you with THIS
and the song "Come On A My House" by
Rosemary Clooney (1951).

Friday, December 09, 2005

Thermal Underwear, Doc Marten boots, Sweatshirts, and Carhartt



... as I watched the news last night, I knew that I had to visit my "super secret
hiding place" in the morning. I gathered together a pile of "winter" clothing and
set it out on the dresser in preparation. Listening to the snowplows clearing the road, and salt trucks spreading their precious cargo, I grabbed thermal
underwear, thermal undershirts, hunting socks, sweatpants, a sweatshirt, and a pair of oversized Carhartt work jeans from a drawer and the closet. From the back corner of that closet, I pulled out a pair of waterproof Doc Marten" boots. When I finally went to sleep, the snow was beginning to pile up.
...early in the morning, I drank a cup of coffee as I layered on the clothing I set
out a few short hours prior. It looked like something from a Christmas card outside,
everything buried beneath six inches of pure white powdery snow. I was already
sweating when I exited the front door and made my way to the truck, also buried
under a cold white layer. I opened the door, started the engine, grabbed a pair of
gloves, and began to brush away the powder. While the roads were passable, the
parking lot had not been plowed and I wondered if I would have trouble getting out
of my parking space. Finally clear and warm, I put the truck in gear and inched
slowly out to the street.
... it took only a few minutes to get to my destination, a parking lot beside one of
those $1.00 car washes. The lot is owned by the Post Office and used by one or two employees when the main lot is full. I pulled in, heading to the far end. I felt like a little kid searching for "pirate's treasure" as I looked for the marker I put
in place last spring, the "X marks the spot" on a treasure map. I found it easily,
pulled up close, and found what I was looking for. Underneath the fresh snow were 6 bags of "tube sand" that I quickly threw into the bed of my truck. Having no place to store these winter essentials, I counted on nobody finding the bags during the summer, or, if they were discovered, nobody having the energy to move the 360 pounds of sand that keeps my truck from sliding off the road in January. And I was right!!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Goldfish?



... when all of the breeder tanks in my fishroom began leaking, I narrowly avoided a costly water disaster and was grateful for my good fortune (and for the good fortune of the people who live below me!). I disposed of the defective tanks, packed the equipment away for storage, and abandoned my plans for breeding Discus. The fish all went into the 90 gallon show tank in my livingroom.
...although it didn't house any fish, I didn't empty the second 90 gallon tank that sits in my office. Instead, I kept the filters running so the water wouldn't stagnate and I disconnected the heater. The only maintenence chores performed was to replace water lost to evaporation. I considered selling the tank but decided against it.
... the other day, I had a craving for Chinese food and I headed over to Weng's
Kitchen
for some of the best pork fried rice and egg drop/wonton soup there is. I placed my order and was waiting patiently at the counter when I noticed a little 10 gallon aquarium sitting on the counter. Inside, two little goldfish hovered by a plastic plant that was half buried in blue gravel. Mrs. Weng handed me the bag of food and saw that I was looking at the fish. She dropped a pinch of flake food into the tank and smiled. "Goldfish bring good luck!" she said.
... the next day I stopped in to see the little fat girl who works in my favorite fish store. "Goldfish?", she asked, scrunching up her face in both curiousity and disdain. We walked to a bank of tanks and she began pointing out the strains and color variations. These fish weren't the old fashioned fish I carried home in a plastic bag after knocking down three milkcans with a softball at the school fair. These were fat, round colorful fish with flowing fins, bulging eyes, and warty growths called "hoods" on their heads. "These are the adults," she told me. "They're about $75 each." My jaw dropped and we moved down a couple of tanks to the smaller fish. "The young ones are a lot cheaper!"
... I spent less than $30 and walked out with a variety of fish,including "telescope eyed black moors", red cap orandas, calico orandas, and "pearlscale orandas". After a week in my tank, they're gobbling down food, "waddling" through the water, and I swear that I see some growth already. I catch myself watching them cavort as I write and, best of all, I can continue to enjoy the 50% reduction in my electricity bill as they don't require anything more than
room temperature water. I keep thinking about Mrs. Weng's comment about goldfish bringing good luck. I sure hope it is true!

Monday, December 05, 2005

Fire Millen


OUTRAGEOUS! It's the only way to describe the shenanigans taking place at Ford Field on Sunday when a fan got tackled for displaying a "Fire Millen" sign while the Detroit Lions continued to SUCK at Ford Field on Sunday afternoon.
... for Detroit fans, watching the Lions lose is as much a part of the Thanksgiving
tradition as turkey, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie. While Channel 7 Action News continues to tout the "Countdown To The Superbowl", my uncle, from Oregon, teases me with, "Well, it doesn't appear as if the hometeam is going to make it!" With other top notch, championship teams like the Pistons and Red Wings calling Detroit home and drawing crowds, I'm fed up with the Lions. And as Detroiter's, our best recourse is to stop attending the games, stop watching the games on television, and definitely, stop buying Lion's merchandise. Let's face facts, if the staff in any other business performed as poorly as the Lion's have, upper management would be quick to hold their subordinate managers accountable and demand results. Why is this not the case in this instance. And why does it take a couple of disgruntled fans waving banners to bring this into the public eye? Pretty soon, the security guards at Ford Field, who overreacted and are guilty of assault and
battery, won't have any fans to worry about at all. The stands will be empty.

Friday, December 02, 2005

The Holiday Season is upon us

...tonight at 8 p.m., Channel 7 will be broadcasting an animated Christmas Classic, "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town". That's the one with the misfit elf who wants to be a dentist, an Abominable Snowman with a toothache, and Burl Ives' voice belting out, "Have a Holly Jolly Christmas!", as a singing Snowman. The special is as much a part of America's national "television identity" as "I Love Lucy".
...I was a little kid when this program first aired, 4 or 5 years old at best, and viewing it always heightened the excitement of the holiday season and the anticipation of a visit by Santa Claus. By the time it aired, Dad was finished stringing lights on the gutters and downspouts, and enjoying a cold beer in his easy chair, just like all the other dads on the block. The Christmas tree was in the livingroom, filling the house with a fresh pine aroma.
...while we kids were at school, Mom was busy putting the lights on the tree, a task
accomplished quicker and easier without young ones around. She would turn on the lights just long enough to test for burnt out bulbs and to make certain that all the "bubble lights" really bubbled. When Mom was satisfied, she'd set up a nativity scene on a sheet of cottony material that looked like snow, at least to a 5 year old boy. Next there was a snow covered church with a tiny light bulb inside that made the windows glow red. In front of this church, tiny novelty candles shaped like pine trees, carolers, musicians, gas powered street lamps, and even a snowman made a cheery holiday scene.
...we hung ornaments on the tree after dinner. At that time, my favorites always went on the lower branches because I couldn't reach the higher ones. My sister and brother carefully filled those spaces. Finally, when we were content, Mom would appear with two special boxes that looked like they held treasure inside. Dad would always chuckle when we reached this part of the tree trimming. The first box, tall and white, held "The Angel". Originally a wedding present, this angel is forever etched in my memory. It looked something like Glinda, the "Good Witch Of The North" from the movie, The Wizard of Oz but with a "holier" or more "saintly" appearance. It was sheer joy when The Angel got plugged in and lit up! The second special box was much smaller, it opened like a ring box, but was three times as big. Inside was a delicate, hand blown, glass teapot. Also a wedding gift, the teapot was painted with delicate white snowflakes and I can not remember a Christmas at home when it was not displayed in a prominent position on our tree. Once The Angel and The Teapot were in place, the lights were flicked on amidst excited gleeful screams and we threw the silver tinsel onto each branch. What excitement it was!
... in anticipation of "bedtime", we would all snuggle up on the couch and tune the black and white television on to Santa Claus Is Coming To Town. I'd get scared by the mean, old Abominable Snowman and cuddle closer to whomever was nearest. By the time that the misfit elf removed his bad tooth, I'd already be half asleep. Maybe tonight I'll tune in to the colorized and digitally remastered version - just for old times sake.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Truckbed Treasures


... I've never owned a car, only pickup trucks. In fact, this is the third pickup that I've owned. Over the years I've come to accept the fact that people will always throw things in the bed of a truck, using it as a trash can, especially if a real trash receptacle is not nearby. I've discovered that some
will even pick up litter off the street and deposit it in the truckbed, thinking that
I will not toss it back where it came from. They're usually correct, I will most likely dispose of it properly. From empty bottles and cans to paper coffee cups,
plastic bags, and empty boxes, I've found a lot of things rolling and rattling
around back there as I drive around. I've decided, in the spirit of Found Photos, to begin
documenting my "truckbed treasures" here on Ten Megabytes. Here
is a little trinket I found while cleaning snow off the windshield yesterday morning.