Monday, September 26, 2016

Photographic memory


"Long ago it must be, I have a photograph 
Preserve your memories, they’re all that’s left you"
--Bookends, "Simon and Garfunkel"
I have always been fascinating by photographs. I would flip through the photo albums my mom kept in her cedar hope chest. Or I'd sort through boxes of photos my grandmother had. At the time all of the photographs were black and white.

My mother had an old Kodak camera that she'd bring out for holidays, birthdays and vacations. It was the type where you'd flip up the top and hold the camera chest level and look down into a viewfinder that displayed a murky mirror image of what the lens was seeing. It was strictly black and white. And the photos always seemed blurry and off center.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Where are you when we need you Harold Camping?


When Harold Camping, serial predictor of the end of the world, died in 1993, I lost a great deal of blog material. The pompous, bible-thumping windbag was the poster child for self-righteousness. And even after wrongly predicting the rapture three times, he still managed to reel in followers to his religious right. He was a champion huckster.

Now who does that remind me of? Why Trump and his basket of deplorables, that's who!  I imagine Harold and his cronies would have been right there in the basket suggesting that Trump was finally going to fulfill the prophecy and bring about the end of the world.

This time he may have been right.

I have never seen the country so polarized before. It's like something out of Stephan King's end of the world novel, The Stand.  Trump is the Dark Man rallying the haters around his dark tower in Las Vegas. And they are all crawling out from under the rocks they've been hiding under, gibbering like idiots at his jibba jabba.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

The parting


Parting: the action of leaving or being separated from someone. "they exchanged a few words on parting" synonyms: farewell, leave-taking, goodbye, adieu, departure; valediction "an emotional parting" separation, breakup, split, divorce, rift, estrangement "they kept their parting quiet"
This is the year of my 40th high school reunion.  It took place in Boise in kind of two-parts. One gathering happened in the summer and the other last weekend. I didn't attend either.

One of the reasons was simply logistics. Neither time was really practical for me to take a trip to Boise. The other was a hybrid of philosophical and vindictive protest. Basically I was never invited.

By way of background, I did attend my ten and twenty-year high school reunions. Neither experience was overly pleasant. The ten-year reunion was very organized scheduled over a series of days. The initial gathering was at the Idaho State Prison (a historic building no longer used as a prison, but an ironic choice for a high school reunion). The event was so traumatic, I wrote a short story about it.

Basically, ten-years was not enough time to overcome all of the residual insecurities from the actual high school years. By the end of the reunion everyone had pretty much been relegated to the groups they'd been pigeonholed into back then. I left feeling every bit the ignored band geek that gone unnoticed by all but a few of my friends in the three years I'd gone to high school.

The 20-year reunion was less organized. And 20 years had begun to take its toll on how people looked. In retrospect everyone was about 38 years old. But I recall many had lost hair and ballooned to the extent that you couldn't recognize them unless you saw a photo of their 18-year old selves (including me).

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Happy camper?


I think I've mentioned that vacation growing up meant camping. I was 16 before I stayed in a motel. Up until then it was two weeks sleeping in a tent in either McCall, Idaho at campgrounds near Payette Lake, in the Stanley Basin of Idaho near Redfish Lake, or at campgrounds near the Middle Fork of the Boise River. 

That is a photograph of me camping. I am wearing the hat. Based on the date the photo was processed, I was about 2 1/2 years old.  That is my brother Dan standing next to the tent without a shirt. Neither of us look like that these days (and trust me you wouldn't want to see Dan without a shirt now). I believe that photo was taken in McCall, Idaho. I remember the rock.

Camping is a lot less work when you are a kid. The cabin tent you see in the photograph was pitched using a complicated system of poles, stakes, ropes and swearing that my father was responsible. It was a behemoth of a tent constructed of heavy canvas that absorbed the heat. We slept in the tent on air mattresses and old army cots. It was quite roomy.

I think this was from a camping trip when I was four and a half or five 
(that's me in the foreground looking overly happy.  My father on the other hand 
looks as happy as I do when I camp these days. Now I know why.

My mother didn't like to camp. It just made the thing she hated the most -- cooking -- even more of a chore. While my father took my older brothers fishing in whatever body of water was closest, I remained in camp with my mother as she combated dirt, dirty camp dishes, and mosquitoes. Then she would settle back on a camp stool and read Christian Science periodicals while threw pine needles into the perpetual camp fire to entertain myself until my father and brothers returned and we could go swimming in ice cold waters fed by mountain streams.

The campfire was the most consistent and comforting thing about camping. It was the primary source of heat for cooking, light for reading and warmth when the sun went down. We'd sit around it in a circle after dinner roasting marshmallows and listening to my parents tell stories about their youth. Occasionally we'd spot an owl in the trees looking for field mice or chipmunks. Then there was the nightly march to the outhouse before retiring to the tent for the night.

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

The unfriendly skies


Cliche as it may be, I have to rant about a recent experience trying to fly home from a business trip to Washington D.C. (and boy are my arms tired).

I could reasonably expect delays if I were flying during the winter. But this was the last week in July. I was a direct flight leaving at 3:17 p.m. EDT from Dulles Airport. It was hot in D.C. Temperature was hovering around 95 degrees. I arrived at the airport about an hour and a half early. I was giddy because I got a random TSA PreChk boarding pass and didn't have to strip down before going through security.

At the gate I was waiting patiently in my boarding group 3 line when the gate agent called my name. She asked me if I was ok with changing seats to an exit row. It offered more legroom so I felt like I was on a roll. We boarded.

That's when my apparent good luck started fading. I had the window seat, but a customer of size wedged himself into the center seat next to me. There went the armrest. Still, I had legroom.

The airplane pushed away from the gate and we began taxing toward the runway. We proceeded for awhile and then the airplane pulled over and ominously stopped (never a good sign).  A few minutes later, someone from the flight crew in the cockpit came onto the PA systems and announced that they had received notice from ATC (which I assumed was air traffic control) that they needed to program an alternate flight path to avoid a storm pattern.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The sky is falling

What do you write when the world seems to be tearing itself apart? But I suppose the world always seems to be tearing itself apart. For some reason, it is human nature to hate. And none of the platitudes from politicians, activists, religious leaders or the Twitter rabble really changes anything.

Social media just seems to fan the flames. We all become eyewitnesses to violence and bigotry. And everyone chooses sides and starts throwing stones.

I am amazed at how quickly the outrage at police killing two black men was eclipsed by a black man killing five police officers. And his justification was that he was upset by the killing of the two black men.

It is the same irony I find in spanking a child for hitting a sibling. Violence does not stop violence any more than throwing gas on a fire will put it out.


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

To the moon, Alice!


"To the moon Alice!"--Ralph Kramden (Jackie Gleason), "The Honeymooners"
"That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."
--Neil Armstrong 
Forty-seven years ago today, Neil Armstrong became the first man to set foot on the moon (unless you believe the conspiracy theorists who think it was all a hoax). I was 11-years old. And I was about as thrilled as you could get.

I was a fan of all the NASA programs. I followed Mercury, Gemini and the Apollo flights that led up to Apollo 11 and the first moon landing. I wanted to be an astronaut. But that would have entailed becoming a pilot and I was told by a recruiter from the Airforce  Academy when I was a senior in high school that I could never become an Airforce pilot because I wore glasses.

So instead of an astronaut I became a marketing professional. It doesn't matter how bad your eyesight is in marketing. In fact it is better to be blind as a bat when you do marketing.

But I digress.


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Me, myself and George



My great-great grandfather was George D. Knox. He was born around 1832, spent some time in a mental institution, fought in the civil war for the Union, married my great-great grandmother Amanda (20 years younger than him) and had six kids before moving to Idaho. He died there in 1911 when he was 79.

That's about all I know about him. I have three photos of him. Including this one with Amanda and my grandmother (who was born in 1901 and was raised by her grandparents):


For whatever reason, I find myself thinking about my great, great grandfather when I look in the mirror these days. Maybe it is my beard (though George's is much fuller than mine ever will be). Or maybe it is the eyes. I'm guessing he had blue eyes. 

Friday, July 01, 2016

Gone tomorrow



As if you hadn't heard enough about my hair, I would be remiss if I didn't report that I found another hair salon nearby that I could also make an online appointment. I booked a haircut yesterday evening at 6 p.m. arrived five minutes early and they actually gave me a haircut.

It was a nice salon opened up in an old house in downtown Edmonds. And it was actually one of the owners who cut my hair. She was quite personable, but also quite the sales person. I had forgotten one of the things I hate about hair salons versus cheap barber shops is that the salons always try to sell you "product."


Monday, June 27, 2016

Hair today


This isn't the first time I've written about hair...well actually my hair. I am in my late 50s and I still have a full head of hair. Albeit, it is silver. I used to pay large sums of money to have my hair cut and styled. But I used the Great Recession as an excuse to stop paying $50 to have it cut and styled and start paying $14 just to have it cut.

For the several years now I have forgone the luxury of high priced salons that offer you coffee while you wait, have separate shampoo stations where they wash your hair (with warm water) and give you a head massage. I traded the modern clean salon for a small barber shop in a strip mall staffed entirely by Vietnamese stylists that seemed to change every time I went in for a haircut. No reservation was ever required. And a shampoo cost extra. Though occasionally, depending upon the stylist, they would give me a head massage.

When I went to higher priced salons, there was a certain predictability in how my hair would look. I'd always have the same stylist and she would always know how I wanted my hair cut. At the barber shop, I rarely have the same stylist and my hair was seldom cut the same each time. Plus it was a haircut. There wasn't much in the way of style. But it was only $14.

Not too long ago, my wife pointed out that I have always had nice hair and it was a shame that I was getting consistently bad haircuts since I lowered my standards. So I decided to give a higher priced salon a go of it again. I searched online for local salons and found one in downtown Edmonds that seemed reasonably nice and was close enough to walk to. It had an online scheduling system that I thought was pretty cool, because, being an introvert, the less contact I have to have with people the better. So I scheduled a haircut for last Saturday afternoon.


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Thrower in the wry


I watched a documentary about J.D. Salinger the other night on Netflix. And I have to say, I came away from watching it knowing more about J.D. Salinger than I had ever really wanted to know, but with less of an understanding of why people are obsessed with Catcher in the Rye.

Now granted, it has been more than 40 years since I read Catcher in the Rye. It was required reading when I was in Junior High. Holden Caulfield, the book's main character,  is recognized in the literary world as a symbol of teen angst and rebellion. But I just didn't find him relevant.  I grew up in Boise and Holden Caulfield, the main character was growing up in New York. I can state with great conviction, these are two very different cities.  Coalfield's attended prep school and his family had money. I attended public school, my father was a janitor and my mother worked part time in a grade school lunch room. So you get a sense of where my family was on the money spectrum.


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Condo of Blues


"House of Blues" has been franchised, so I thought I'd think smaller and go for "Condo of Blues." It seems more suburban and middle class anyway.

"Condo of Blues" was inspired when I put on my House of Blues cap this morning and thought of the irony that I'd purchased it at the House of Blues in Downtown Disney in Anaheim. Because nothing says the blues like Orange County (though apparently the one in Downtown Disney has closed and is moving to the Garden Walk a few blocks away). Oh, I've been to House of Blues in New Orleans, too. But still, it is a franchise bent on serving up the blues in a nicely packaged way for mainly white tourists.

But being being white, aren't we all tourists when it comes to the blues?