“He imagined he saw the form of a young man standing under a dripping tree. Other forms were near. His soul had approached that region where dwell the vast hosts of the dead. He was conscious of, but could not apprehend, their wayward and flickering existence. His own identity was fading out into a grey impalpable world: the solid world itself, which these dead had one time reared and lived in, was dissolving and dwindling.”  – The Dead, Jame Joyce. 

Greetings from Nova Scotia! It’s been a whirlwind of travel and sight-seeing.  While we wait for breakfast at Wednesdays’ B&B I thought to get in this entry. 

In Halifax there is a citadel that has been used throughout the wars. There was a WWI exhibit. I was keen to see it as I am currently reading “All quiet on the western front”.  Outside the main walls of the fort they erected a WWI exhibit. I walked around its narrow claustrophobic maze  – void of puddles, stink, and vermin – and wondered.  The exhibitors wrote on the boards of the trench the names of the men who had died in the war. I have not been to the Vietnam memorial in DC but I imagine it it similar.  As wars go WWI has dropped in ratings. It was once somewhat glamorous but now it is seen as mostly horrible. 

I randomly picked out a name of one of the dead, a private named William Elderkin. What was he like before he enlisted? What were his dreams of after the war? Does he has descendants? Does he have any memory other than a name on a list of the those who died in the war?  

I don’t think most of us want to live forever as we would like to be remembered. History is mostly composed of people who lived, died, and passed into obscurity. We last a little while in the memory of those who knew us until they pass away.  We hope someone –  anyone – will remember us as a means of some sort of immortality.

When I get home I plan to research Pvt. William Elderkin. I hope to find something to give his simple epitaph some human story.  Perhaps so long as I live I will remember him and give him something more than a mention written in magic marker on a temporary exhibit. 

Due to the limitations of our luggage I have not bought many souvenirs on my trip. William Elderkin was something I wasn’t looking for but glad to have.  

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Across the street from our airbnb is a candy shoppe. The sign says it specializes in ‘Retro-candy”. Nothing takes one back to childhood as candy – or sweeties as I like to call them.  Alas, the store was a bit of a page 71. The young saleslady didn’t inspire confidence; we ended up playing a sugar-coated version of Monty Python’s “Cheese shop sketch”.  I rattled off the names of many of my childhood favorites only to have her look at me as if she had never heard of them – which is likely true.  Happily it wasn’t a total bust. I managed to come out of the shop with a handful of “Assorted Charms”. I have not had any in over thirty years. When I spotted them in the store my eyes lit of with the radiance of a brilliant sunrise. They were exactly as I remembered them. 

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The list of now-defunct unobtainable Spo-sweets is as long as a licorice whip.* Does anyone remember bottle caps or candy cigarettes? Last year Chuckles was a big hit at the Spo House as the ‘A” candy. I love them so – I hadn’t had them in decades. 

Speaking of All Hallows Eve I am damned determined this year to give out Kerr’s Halloween Kisses. I’ve never had this retro-candy so it will be both nostalgic and new/adventuresome.  It also provides something special – my reputation as the ‘best candy on the block’ is on line.  This candy is mostly reviled online as vile. In contrast there is a sizable shout it is the best. I suppose this makes it the Donald Trump of sweets. I just hope no one soaps my windows. 

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*My bag of NECCO wafers is gone. I have saved one roll for Christmas.

There will be four of us next week in Canada. Someone and I will meet up with Laurent and Will in Halifax. [1]  As I write the are driving down from PEI so we don’t have to rent a car. L has emailed me a few times to be mindful of ‘packing light’ considering the capacity of the car trunk.

I do not like to consider ‘packing light” but I have braced the challenge to do so. [2]

Thanks to my Boy Scout training and Midwest upbringing I tend to pack far more than is needed for emergencies. There is also an element of being cheap to my packing half the medicine cabinet:  I would rather schlepp along my own things than  run out to purchase things as needed.  As a consequence my typical suitcase resembles an old-fashioned  passenger trunk  even for weekends jaunts. There is usually a Spo-shirt for each day of travel and enough socks, camesitas, and underwear to cover the worst of situations.

Not so this time.

Tonight and tomorrow morning (probably right up to the time of departure to the airport) I will be trying to pack as much as possible into on carry-on case. I hope no one objects to seeing me in the same shirt day in and day out [3]. I tend to spill a lot so I hope some of the hotels we will visit  have Laundromats or large utilitarian sinks. I will pack dark-patterned clothing so stains won’t show so readily. I will limit myself to one pair of oh-so-practical shoes. I see it all as a challenge like a writer after The Duke of Edinburgh award.

Normally on holiday trips I ‘leave room’ in my bags for souvenir purchases alas but not this time. I will either forgo or send things via Post Canada.  Happily one can get most anything at Amazon these days, including local cheese and liquor, although that seems to take away the joy of local shopping.

I am not worried about the ghost bag, as that can sit in my lap for the duration of the road trip.

Where is a Mary Poppins carpet bag when you need one?

[1] Fine fellows both and each well over four feet.

[2] I’ve received threats if I fail to pack proper I am likely to ride on top of the car like whats-his-name in “Priscilla Queen of the Desert” which sounds rather jolly good fun.

[3] “I just love that shirt; I never tire of seeing it”.

Pensive

I wish I had something to write upon but I don’t. Between work overload and a heaping dose of ‘The Fall Melancholia’ I’ve had little motivation and less time to blog or do anything. What energy I’ve got this week is channeled into mere day to day surviving. 

This hopefully changes on Saturday when I fly to Nova Scotia (Land of Tides) and Prince Edward Island (Land of Anne of Green Gables) for a weeklong holiday. I am looking forward to this getaway for many reasons but mostly as it will be peaceful. Usually my vacations are well researched and planned but not this one. I am not in charge of getting there. I didn’t make the reservations nor did I establish the itinerary. I have the non-anxious luxury to just ‘show up’ and not fret the plan. What a treat! What a delight!  look forward to seeing my chums and getting on the road.  It will be a proper vacation in the original sense of the word viz. ‘vacate’. The phone will be turned off; on-line social media sites will be shunned. I am not certain if I will even blog. If this happens Spo-reflections may have a week’s hiatus – it’s first break in years. I’ve been tired and The Board of Directors Here at Spo-Reflections could use a break too. 

I hope to return feeling replenished.  I could use such.  I will probably post tomorrow and Saturday and then what?  

Please stand by; I hope you will be patient and wait for me.  

Walking the dog

Again it’s that time of year when morning dog walks are done in the dark. Outside there is a slight cool to the morning temperature. In the pre-dawn sky the winter constellations are ascending just ahead of the sun.

Mrs. Oliver, the great horned owl, has a boyfriend or so it seems. Often we hear not one by two owl hooting. They take turns as if in conversation. Perhaps they are getting ready for All Hallow’s eve. I should look up as see if owls migrate; I don’t remember ever hearing her hoots in the winter months.

It’s a bit dangerous now to be walking in the dark for we could run into a javelina or a coyote. For the next six months we will stick to better-lit paths and streets to avoid an awful confrontation. Harper doesn’t seem to mind. Whither we walk and for how long are of no consequence. She loves dog-walks regardless. In the cover of darkness it is tempting to not pick up after her (and it is harder to find) but I am a good citizen and I have integrity so I do.

When we return home I give Someone ‘the report’. In the style of presenting a scientific paper I report on canine effluvia viz. how many urinations and defecations took place and their composition. I report any signs of canine upset digestion and erratic behaviors. I also relate if there were any Mrs. Oliver sightings and what was the temperature. If it was a clear morning sky, I add any astronomical phenomena and the status of the moon. I don’t think he actually cares to hear about any of this, but it is part of the morning dog-walk routine.

Poor pooch. Next week we are away for a week and she will be at the Petsmart hotel. I don’t know how much exercise/walking she gets there. She is always glad go home from the place and back to familiar comfortable haunts. I like to think this includes our dog walks.

“It was called ‘Happy Valley’, and it was ruled over by a wise old king called Otto. And all his subjects flourished and were happy, and there were no discontents or grumblers, because wise King Otto had had them all put to death along with the trade union leaders many years before.”  – except from a fairy tale.

Every once in a while I declare the week as “Happy Valley Week”. In one of these I try my best to avoid negative people and ‘noise’ in all forms ranging from background music to on-line apps. I think I can go without a week of news sites listing Hair Furor’s lamentation du jour without feeling like I missed something important.*  Living under a rock sounds scrumptious thank you; I will give it a try as best I can. I may have to avoid going to the gym as they have CNN and Fox on every screen, arranged so no matter where you look there they are – almost always with Hair Furor’s shenanigans.

The Other Doctor is now off on Mondays; the RN retired last week. As a consequence, there is only little old me at the office.  Compared to previous Mondays today feels almost like a ghost town. Patients come in one at a time; the lobby has only one or two patients waiting. There is no line at the receptionist window.  The halls are quite quiet nay silent. It is both peaceful and unsettling.  It’s amazing how this still calms the soul –at least mine anyway.  I read today’s youngsters can not abide quiet down-times but must be continually stimulated via their techie-toys. I find this unpleasant viz. silence – something  for centuries was coveted as a calmer is now looked upon as inimical.

Happy Valley conditions are difficult to create at home for Someone likes his TV especially Law & Order and other shoot’em-ups. I will retreat to the east side of the house with doors shut and no podcasts etc. The only sounds I want to hear are the continuous whirring of the overhead fan and Harper’s breathing.  Trade union leaders and their crabby cousins are not welcome.

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*There may be one exception: Hurricane Florence. I do love hurricanes.

A little while ago certain Spo-fans showed interest in my artwork. When I was in junior high school/high school I fancied becoming an artist or a graphic illustrator for Walt Disney.  I took some art courses; I think I became decent. Back in the early 70s when I was learning how to paint, Mother got my first attempts framed. They have been hanging in their house ever since. 

Oh the pain.

Every time I visit home I am perturbed by all the mistakes in them. Over the decades it seems I see more and more of them.  Mind! Most artists are embarrassed by their early works.  I have to remind myself I was maybe 15 years old at the time and it was my first time at painting .

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This is my first attempt at a still life. I gathered up a pastiche of nautical knick-knacks and gave it a try. Some of the items I still have.
What bugs me:  the strong shadows and the lack of true perspective.

 

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This is a freighter I painted for my father who is a ‘boat nerd’. The boat is real – I forget what boat I used as a model.  I put his name on it; he is pleased as punch.  I was very pleased with how the freight turned out. I had a photo to go from to this made things easy. 

What bugs me:  the waves are far tempestuous. The boat looks like it is plodding through a hurricane; this makes the clouds wrong for that sort of wind. 

 

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I wanted to capture a foggy day at seaside. I remember enjoying painting the sea gulls. 

What bugs me: The still gray of the mist looks not so calm as depressing. I think it would have been better if the gray was more homogenous. 

 

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This one was a study at trying to paint a sunset. The lighthouse was an exercise in shadow and lighting.  

What bugs me: The lighthouse shadow is wrong! This is so obvious to me now it pains me to look at it.  Given its angle, the sun must sinking less than a mile away.  Oh the embarrassment! This is another one I painted for Father. As far as I can tell he has never noticed this glaring error of angle. Either that or he is too discreet to tell me.  Regardless he loves it so. 

Oh well.  The important points to remember are these four paintings were early attempts and I learned as I went along. If they make my parents happy then that’s the point.  It supports the age-old axiom there is no accounting for taste. 

I am happy I kept my day job.  🙂

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“Ephemeral” 

I remember in writing class we were shown a picture and asked to compose a story.  I recently saw this photo over at Erik’s place.  I asked him if I may use it for a similar exercise. Erik – the dear! –  said yes.   

For some days I have been staring at the photo waiting for a story to rise from my yearnings to write such. So far -nothing. The inspirational goddesses have been mum as oysters. Perhaps it is purposeful there isn’t a story per se. There is a grace and mystery in Erik’s picture as if it is a symbol of something. I have to ask myself what are a set of footprints on sand a symbol of. If I were a painter I would want to paint just this. 

Erik says it best I believe; he titled it “Ephemeral”. As I sit and type I see across the room Harper sleeping on the bed. At nine years old she is beginning to show some gray around her snout. It makes me wonder how many years left we have to walk together before the footprints on a desert or the beach will be only my own. Mine will disappear in turn as if they were never there. They will join the countless others who walked this way and have left no lasting mark.

It’s been said certain monks sleep in their coffins to remind them of their deaths. I think this photo is similar. Its beautiful solemnity of Love and Journey serve to keep me on my toes and cut out the crap and make meaning as much as I can until my footprints are blown away or melt into the foam.

I’ve had a rather busy difficult week although I take solace it hasn’t been as vexing as Hair Furor’s. If you haven’t heard there’s a book out this week along with an op-ed entry at the New York Times that are upsetting his usual implacable composure. If their contents are true it seems to confirm the concern the current president is more than a little nuts.  As one of my favorite memes says:  “Not sure if funny or sad”. I will be curious to see if his henchmen A.K.A. The GOP says something or just keeps mum as usual.

Today at work there is a luncheon baby shower for one of the secretaries. I have never been to a baby shower so I haven’t a clue what happens. When I was a boy the men-folk were never invited to such soirees. Indeed,  it was considered bad luck for thems with Y chromosomes to be even nearby. I recall both sexes were OK with this discrimination. For propriety sake I may have to make an obligatory appearance. I just hope my presence doesn’t turn the food bad or (worse) induce her labor. The poor thing is due anytime and she looks like she’s swallowed a hoppity-hop.  Perhaps she would be grateful if I pushed her over the edge and be done with it. Now there’s a nice shower gift.

Is there a Halloween- equivalent to “We need a little Christmas?”. My fall melancholia is kicking in and  I could use some cheering up that only comes from orange and black trimmings.  A little voice inside me says “but Auntie Mame, it’s only one week past Labor Day now!” to which I retort but we need a little Halloween right this very minute, pumpkins in the window etc.  This year I surmise there will be more than usual Halloween outrage from the fundies so I want to respond with more and earlier bats and spiders.

In less than two weeks we go to Nova Scotia to see our pals and see the sights. Relations between Canada and The States are rather strained at the moment and I wonder if we will be ‘welcome”. I could assuage fears and stave off attacks by wearing some sort of left-wing political button on my overcoat that broadcasts my bleeding-liberal tendencies or perhaps I can pretend I am German. I just hope there is no shooting.

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This Friday Urs Truly goes to his first baseball game in decades. The last game I attended was in the 80s. [1]  Ever since I moved to Phoenix in 2005 I’ve been meaning to go to a local game – and now I will. [2]  This event doesn’t elicit joy so much as anxiety. I have only a few days left to remember how to keep score.

In the 70s and 80s, back when Grandmother was alive, we would often go as a family to Tiger baseball and we would always keep score. After each player’s move Grandmother and I would mark down in pencil what just happened. There were “Ks” and numbers 1 through 9 and other symbols.  Grandmother took this seriously while I found it quite fun.  It also gave me something to do than just sit there and fidget. My brothers found our accounting bizarre that while they were shouting and jumping about in pain or ecstasy Grandmother and I were quiet in our seats comparing notes and tallying scores like a bridge game. The fans nearby us were in general agreement with the brothers. Several would voice bewilderment or even mild condemnation for our pastime. We were either missing the fun or taking the fun away. [3]

I am looking forward to this memorial to Grandmother. I am more looking forward to keeping score than the game itself. Youtube has several lovely online lectures on how to do it. I hope keeping score hasn’t gotten too complicated since I last tried.  No doubt ‘there’s an app for this’, but I want a proper pencil and paper program. I am also curious to see if the game-score nay-sayers are still there. [4]

The clever Google informed me The Diamondbacks play The Braves this Friday. The Braves are from Atlanta apparently. [5]  I don’t give a darn who wins only that I can follow what happens.

If all else fails I can gaze at the ballplayers via binoculars.

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 [1] I was/am a Tigers fan. The Google tells me the last Tigers game in the old stadium took place occurred in 1999. My last game may have been long before this. I can not remember if I ever went to Chicago games when I lived there 1988-2000. You think I would. 

[2] Even after a decade of living in Arizona I can’t seem to remember the local team’s name.  I just looked it up: The Diamondbacks. Try to tell as many people as you can in town. 

[3] Invariably one of these critics would lean over to ask us what the current batter had done in the previous innings.  We did not charge them. 

[4]  Of course the last time I was at the ball park cellphones haven’t been invented. I am curious to see if people ‘turn off their phones’ like at the symphony or (more likely) they spend the whole game staring down into their laps at their phones and not the players. 

[5] For diehard Tigers fans like myself, there are the Tigers and there is everyone else.

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