Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Well...after eight years of impeccable service, our '97 4Runner had a spell today. As I write this, I wait to hear the news from the shop. My intuition tells me that the timing belt broke. Of course, this is what I call useless intuition. If I had heeded a piece of useful intuition, a tidbit that has been interjecting itself into my thought process for two weeks now, I wouldn't be having this problem. That piece of useful intuition that bombarded my brain for days was: it's time to replace the timing belt on the 4Runner.
Intuition is a wonderful thing. Unfortunately, it's also a close companion with Monday morning quarterbacking. In other words, I seldom think about intuition until I fail to follow it. Then I realize all those thoughts I've been having about something...thoughts that tend to the nagging side...were meant to be helpful. I do remember a time about 42 years ago when my young family at the time was traveling between Fayetteville and Chattanooga. The only way to get there was to go up what is known as Monteagle Mountain: two lanes and curvy. Anyway, something told me to pull over on the side of the road prior to the ascent. So, I pulled my little robin egg blue Maverick to the side and sat there for several minutes. Finally, a tractor trailer came down the mountain and passed us. Something told me it was okay to continue, so I pulled back onto the highway and started up the mountain. As I drove along, I noticed serious damage on both sides of the road...trees down, rocks scraped, and lots of black rubber marks on the asphalt.
It was obvious that the tractor trailer I had watched exit the mountain had been a runaway and had careened back and forth along that road for about three miles. Long enough, heavy enough, and fast enough to gobble up and spit out a little robin egg blue Maverick with a young couple and a two year old inside.
Yeah, intuition is interesting. Take Aeschylus, for example. A Greek tragedian of the likes of Sophocles and Euripides, living somewhere around 500 B.C and a veteran of the Persian Wars. You can still read his stuff if you're interested. "Prometheus Bound" is my favorite.
Anyway, Aeschylus spent the last years of his life outdoors because of his intuition telling him that he was going to be killed by a falling object. In fact, it had been prophesied, so his intuition had pretty decent backing. So old Aeschylus is sitting outside one day, as far from the trees and boulders as he could get, leaning back and thinking about his next tragedy and getting some sun on his face, when an eagle flew overhead. Seems like mister eagle had just managed to snag a nice, fat tortoise for his lunch and was looking for a big round rock to drop it on to crack the shell. When he spotted what he thought was the perfect turtle shell cracking rock, he let go with the skill of an ace bomber in a B57.
Yes, the eagle had spotted Aeschylus' shiny bald head and the intuitive tragedian suffered death by turtle.
Really great intuition. Really bad timing.
Like me...really great intuition...really bad timing belt.
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
When I was small (a nice old fashioned way of saying "when I was very young"), my grandmother would hand me a needle and a spool of thread and ask me to thread the needle for her. She claimed that she just couldn't see that well anymore and that her hands and fingers refused to mind her. As a matter of fact, she was several years younger at that time than I am now. When she would ask me to do that, something told me that she could thread a needle as well as she ever could and that she was just being kind and giving a bored little kid something to do. Something to make him feel good. Something to make him feel helpful and important. She was good about things like that. So I dutifully took the needle and thread, bit off the length she needed, wet the threading end between my lips, twisted it with my thumb and forefinger down to the smallest finite size possible, and expertly pierced the eye of the needle with the end of the thread. I let the needle slide to the halfway point of the thread's length and tied the end. On first try. "There," I would say, "all done."
My grandmother would smile and tell me thank you. And that she was proud of me.
As I sat on the screened-in back porch of the farm this morning, attempting to rig my new rod and reel, I saw things a little differently. I saw things through her failing eyes. Getting the line through the eye of the swivel, twisting it a few times before looping it back through the eye again, attempting to tie the monofilament into a tight knot, and attaching the weight and the hook, I realized that, even with glasses, my eyesight was passable at best and that my hands and fingers refused to mind the commands of my brain. Clumsy sausages on chunks of ham. Finally, I had it rigged to my satisfaction and I said to no one in particular, "There. All done."
But you know what? There was a bobwhite calling every few seconds, an unseasonably cool July breeze was ruffling the leaves and carressing my face, and Jelly Belly had found her favorite position in my lap and was snuggly settled into it. From a limb of the stubborn old hackberry that survived the April tornado, a bright red hummingbird feeder swayed back and forth, alerting me to the fact that it needed a fresh helping of sugar water. Its immediate neighbor, the wind chimes, chinged, changed, and chunged a variant melody. Forty acres of teenage corn danced the shimmy while the glassy blue sky dared even a wisp of cloud to intrude upon its vast perfection.
Yeah, the eyes...the hands...those doggone out-of-warranty body parts...grumbled quietly of age and passing time. Joints creak and crackle. Pain visits like a irritating uncle. The body aging ain't no tea party.
But, my God! What a wonderful morning it was! What a pleasure to be alive! Did my free and timeless soul not sing out with unadulterated joy? Did not my spirit celebrate like a weaned puppy on its first jaunt in the vast and uncharted outdoors? Did my winged psyche not soar into that glorious and perfect sky and pierce an invisible and diaphanous membrane giving me a brief but glorious glint of heaven.
Yes, yes, and yes.
I threaded that needle this morning. On first try. My grandmother would have smiled. She would have been proud.
Wednesday, July 9, 2014
I don't know. I really don't.
I certainly don't think I'm a communist or a socialist. I do believe in free enterprise and letting the market determine the economy. Supply and demand and all that rot. I don't think I'm either liberal or conservative...it probably depends on the issue, and, even at that, it finally is laid upon the beholder's perception of me and the cause celebre. But I had two items juxtaposed upon my psyche recently, and, for the life of me, I can't shake what has settled itself upon my mind and heart as, at best, disparity, and, at worst, insanity.
North West, the infant brought into this world by the coupling of Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, celebrated her first birthday recently. I'm sure she's a nice enough little girl and my angst has nothing to do with her personally. The birthday celebration was held on the grounds of Aunt Kourtney's multi-million dollar digs in Calabasas, CA and included 150 guests. There were teepees for hair-braiding, karaoke, and a Ferris wheel. Not a little party rental Ferris wheel but one that would do a county fair proud. There was the traditional bouncy house and a customized basketball court. Costumed adult guests sipped adult beverages and the kids had every sugar frenzy goody within arm's reach at all times.
I wouldn't even venture a guess at what this whole shebang cost Double K (maybe low six figures?) but I feel pretty confident that little Miss North West will not remember a micro-second of the day. And all of her nicely wrapped presents will be as forgotten as the weather that day in a very short while.
The same day I read that article, I watched a special on HBO about illegal kidney trafficking. One of the people featured was a middle-aged man in Manila who had approached a broker about selling one of his kidneys for $2500. Why? Because he and his family live in the crawl space below a friend's hovel and his teenage boys were reaching an age in which he would like for them to be able to stand up while at home. Do you understand that? He was going to use the money to build a simple place for his family to live. So he could have electricity. And maybe running water. So his kids could stand straight up. So his children did not have to crawl and squat and duck while maneuvering around what was being called "home" at the time.
He and his family live in the donated confines a freaking crawl space! Of a shack that's falling apart!
Unfortunately, he was competing against a younger Filipino who had several kids who didn't have enough food to eat or sufficient clothing, and the younger kidney won out, condemning the other man's kids to continue to stoop their way through life. Why the broker couldn't take both kidneys is a mystery to me but that's probably another story.
I won't venture a guess at how uncomfortable it is to live in the crawl space of a tottering shack, but I'm certain that those young men will remember for the rest of their lives having to spend their teenage years trying to keep from hitting their heads on the floor joists of a dank, smelly enclosure.
Which leaves me to wonder if, as I read from time to time, the gap between the haves and the have-nots is getting wider. And, if it is, what, if anything, is the consequence? Should the gap be embraced as a shining monument to the existence of capitalism? Should the separation of net worth be saluted as proof that free enterprise exists? Is this a textbook example of survival of the economic fittest?
And is it unfair of me to feel disdain toward over-the-top, theatrical birthday celebrations for one-year-olds? Perhaps. I'll work on it.
Then again, would it be so awful to wish that Kanye and Kim, instead of renting the Ferris Wheel, had given little North a card that said that they, on her behalf, had donated $2500 to a family in Manila and that because of that small, but heart-felt gesture of generosity, there's now a family able to live in a house with electricity and running water and room to stand up straight? Would it be so bad to imagine that when little North reached the appropriate age, she would have something really good to reflect upon and feel good about?
And should I stop fixating on the irony that North and the young Filipinos are both in a crawling phase of life with the innate desire to walk upright? With the future extremely bright for one and extremely limited for the other?
Too many questions. With too few answers.
I don't know. I really don't.