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.