Thursday, March 16, 2023
Breaking Bad (wind)
Friday, March 10, 2023
When you're strange
When you're strange
Faces come out of the rain
When you're strange
No one remembers your name
When you're strange
When you're strange
When you're strange
-- The Doors
Once again I started to write a blog post with a title I thought was clever and then searched my own archives and found I had written a post with the same name back in March 2009. The post was titled Kindness of strangers. Basically (since you likely won't click on the link to read the post), it was about the anomaly of writing blog posts and baring your soul to what amounts to total strangers. This was back when I still clung to mistaken assumption that there was a regular group of strangers who hung on every word I wrote.
By strangers I was referring to people I didn't know, not odd people (though I have had my share of odd people read my blog). And when you come down to it, I am a bit strange myself. I used to embrace that strangeness, but more and more I have grown quite self conscious about being strange. It's a catch-22.
I think this is one of those circle of life things. When I was a teen ager, I definitely wanted to stand out as unique but at the same time I didn't want to be (as my teen aged son says) the "strange kid." Too often being strange puts you in a fringe category that the management speak people call "success inhibitors". Unless you have lots of money like Elon Musk, being strange doesn't work in your favor in the business world. It sort of works in the creative/art world, but then again you are spending most of your time making espresso drinks or waiting tables so being strange doesn't really matter.
But back to that circle of life thing. I am now a hop and a skip away from turning 65 and have returned to that place where I want to be unique but at the same time, I don't want to be that "strange old man." This is difficult when your wardrobe consists of t-shirts that say, "What day is it?" and you wear the same pair of baggy jeans for months at a time.
I have always taken pride in the fact that my blog is strange. It is so strange that I prefer that only strangers see it. I'm well past the point thinking people who know me would understand it. But I also still struggle (as demonstrated by the number of self pity posts I write) that my blog doesn't resonate with many people (or web bots for that matter). I can't remember the last time I had a comment about a post that wasn't spam about hair extensions or male enhancement drugs.
Where are my faces coming out of the rain? I mean, I barely wrote anything during much of the pandemic and no one noticed. Now that I am back posting no one seems to notice either. Did I mention I'm just about a week away from turning 65? There's not that much more time left for me to start trending.
With my luck, a day after I finally come to the end of that circle of life, some famous person with a billion followers will discover my blog and post, "Hey you have to read this guys stuff, it's profound and hilarious!"
Wouldn't that be ironic Alanis?
Friday, March 03, 2023
Bright. Light. City.
I also got my photo taken with an Elvis impersonator at a conference reception. I think this is my third photo with Elvis in Las Vegas in almost three decades (second at a conference...that one was with Marilyn too).
The King stays young and I keep getting older. And I think I'm finally too old for Vegas.
Wednesday, February 15, 2023
Getting to know me
In the almost two decades I've been writing this blog, I've offered up quite a few biographical tidbits about my life. I have written about trying to interview my elderly parents about their lives before they died. Neither was very forthcoming. I think they had just settled into their old age and didn't really want to think about the past. Most of what I gleaned about their lives came from stories they would tell us as kids on long car rides to go camping or musings around campfires.
Unlike most children, I was actually curious about who my parents were before they became my parents. But since they are dead and most of the people who knew them when they were young are dead, I will never have more than a sketch of who they were and who they wanted to be.
My own children don't seem to really care about who I was or who I am. I accept this because they are immersed in their now and the complications of being teen agers. I generally try to avoid telling stories of when I was their age. I like to think I can tune into the clues given by eye rolls and distant stares and have stopped volunteering stories of my youth. I come from a distant time that they can't relate to. And the things I used to be proud of (like being a drum major at a school with a "Braves" mascot and wearing full buckskins and a headdress) are now considered incredibly not politically correct. My daughter is particularly embarrassed that I participated unknowingly in cultural appropriation by dressing as a Native American Chief.
My high school has since abandoned their inappropriate mascot image of an Indian brave if not the name. In 2019 they changed the name of the mascot from "Braves" to "Brave" (which they somehow thought was more acceptable). But when I visit their web page there is no mention of a mascot Brave or not. Their logo, however, is now a capital "B" for Boise.
Wednesday, February 08, 2023
Non Angli sed Angeli
Upon seeing English slave children in Rome, Pope Gregory I the Great, supposedly said 'These are Angels, not Angles'. He apparently said this because the English kids had blonde hair and looked more like how he imagined angels looked than your average dark haired Roman. He then sent St Augustine and 40 monks to England in 596 to convert Anglo-Saxons to Christianity. I think everything went downhill from there.
According to my 23 and Me DNA results, I'm about 99 percent European and my ancestors primarily came from England. This came much to my chagrin because I grew up thinking I was Irish. Instead I am predominantly English and potentially an angel.
I did have blonde hair until I was about six or seven years old. And since I was very well behaved, most of my grade school teachers thought I was an angel. Mostly I was afraid of authority and kept my mouth shut. So maybe I am (or was) an angel.
My son was born with red hair that eventually turned blonde. He has a head of curly blonde hair now, as a teenager, and can look angelic. He also looks like a young Peter Frampton and could be a rock star (if he had any interest in singing or the guitar). If he is an angel, he is a sullen one.
I am pleased to say that St. Augustine and his 40 monks must have not gotten through to my ancestors. As far as I know, I don't come from a long line of Christians. From what I have researched on Ancestry.com, I come from a long line of poor farmers and farm hands who likely didn't realize they were angels and may have been Christians, but in name only. They were mainly focused on making ends meet.
I have to admit that I have a bias against being a Christian. I have found that when someone professes to be a good Christian it is intended as a way of implying they are one of the chosen and everyone else is going to hell. To which I am always tempted to tell them to go to hell and keep their beliefs to themselves.
The irony of Pope Gregory I's proclamation was that he thought the young English kids looked like angels but were more than likely pagans who worshipped trees and earth spirits. Plus they were slaves. They probably wouldn't mind having angel wings so they could fly away and smite their enslavers with bolts of lightning.
Those are my kind of angels.
Monday, January 30, 2023
Old new me
This is a modified version of a pre-selfie selfie I posted about in August 2019 (Time after time). I have to say, I am kind of fascinated by this version versus the actual version of me posing in my 60s as my 20-something self. I was going to call this post "Reflections" but I used that some time ago when I posted about preferring to take photos of myself in the mirror because it looked more like me to me because that was the image I was used to seeing.
I like this stylized version of my study of my young and old self better because it also seems kinder to my old face (which I have become painfully subconscious about). The funny thing is that I relate more to the old young self than the current self. It is the old young self I see in my mind, not the new old self I see in the mirror.
I am not alone in this phenomenon. When my mother was in her 80s she told me she felt the same way. So it is this nasty trick time plays on you.
But my age did get me a discount at the movie theater on Saturday night when my wife and I went to see Tom Hanks latest movie A man named Otto. It was a good movie but a bit on the depressing side because Tom Hanks plays an aging engineer who was forced into retirement with the goal of committing suicide rather than endure a life alone after his wife died of cancer. And Otto is also a kind of anal retentive dick who doesn't seem to have a lot of redeeming qualities. He is kind of like a cross between Rain Man and Oscar the Grouch.
The movie had lots of flashbacks to a young Tom Hanks (played by one of his sons who has an incredibly large head). We see his young, beautiful girlfriend who becomes his wife. Unlike Otto, she is likeable. We see lots of the young Otto and the old Otto. And we see Otto's young wife, but we never really see the wife when she ages.
In between lots of flashbacks and Otto trying unsuccessfully to kill himself, the story revolves around the main character treating just about everyone like crap be still somehow is found endearing to them. He redeems himself by helping everyone (even though he can't stand them), being treated as part of the neighbor's family then then dying of having too big of a heart (please) and leaving them everything. The movie ends with the neighbors driving off in his new truck after grieving his passing for maybe ten minutes.
Tom Hanks has come a long way from his Bosom Buddies days and lighthearted movies like Splash.
Anyway, what struck me about the film (other than how depressing it was) was that the main character was only three years older than me and that I got a senior discount to watch the film. There has got to be something ironic (or poetic) about that somewhere. I just can't quite put my finger on it.
Maybe it is that who we are in our 20s and who we are in our 60s are nothing like each other.
Friday, January 27, 2023
If you mess with the monkey...
|...expect some feces to be flung.|
My Monkey Playing Cymbals has popped up in umpteen of my posts since I first introduced him in August 2004. He is my self-professed muse. He reminds me in his own monkey way to grin and bear it. Though his visage seems more frozen in a grimace than a grin.
The monkey is a symbol with cymbals that he no longer plays.
I don't know what that means, but I like how it sounds.
The monkey sat out the pandemic alone in my abandoned office in downtown Seattle on the fringe of the International District (which has kind of become a no person's land that even Starbucks won't serve anymore). I found him sitting patiently when I returned to the office last August with the primary goal of packing up my old, spacious corner office with lots of windows and stuffing 25 years of memorabilia into 19 moving boxes that were transported to an office that is half as big and is sequestered on the interior of an 11th floor far from any direct light.
When I finally unpacked all 19 boxes into my tiny office I began to understand the people featured on Hoarders. I like to think my hoard has a bit more order than your typical hoarder. I'm an ordered hoarder. All of my stuff has meaning to me. There are several props that have been used in the various television commercials I've created over the years. This includes rubber hands, a gas mask, a fake man in the iron mask mask and signs from a transporter portal from a shoot in L.A. just before the pandemic.
And of course I unpacked the monkey. He was a bit pissy about being left alone for two years and then being stuck in a box. But I could tell he was relieved to be back on a shelf above my desk and computers where he could once again lord his muse musings over me.
I have to admit that my pandemic posts without the monkey's help were pretty pitiful. I wouldn't tell the monkey that. He has too big of an ego as it is. But I have missed his moronic grin/grimace and his beady little sunken eyes.
Tuesday, January 24, 2023
So far, 2023 seems remarkably like 2022. Still, other than mind numbing inflation, COVID teaming up with the flu and other respiratory ailments, and (depending upon which expert you hear from) a looming recession, it is still better than 2021 and that dung heap of 2020 when everything spiraled out of control.
The significance for me this year is that I turn 65 in a few months. I finally gave in to the masses of junk mail urging me to sign up for Medicare and enrolled in the first level via the social security website. Like Dante's Inferno, there are several levels of Medicare, each more confusing than the last. Social Security does its best to add to the confusion with lots of legal mumbo jumbo and many links leading to attempts to simplify the language of bureaucracies (which even the Rosetta Stone has a hard time cracking).
It is not that I need Medicare at this point in my life. I am still working and have fairly decent health coverage. But in that not so distant future when I actually do retire I understand I'll need every cent of healthcare support I can get. Still the Social Security urges you to delay taking social security benefits until you are in your 70s so you can maximize the amount of your month allocation. I'm convinced they are actually hoping you delay taking it so the likely hood of you developing dementia and forgetting about it or dying and not collecting at all occur.
And it is not that I think Social Security will ensure my survival after retirement. Even if I wait until I'm in my 70s to take it, the monthly payment is still about what I now bring home in a week. So I can only hope my 401K survives the bleak markets we are riding. I am sometimes afraid the only cruise I go on after retirement will be on an ice flow.
Tuesday, January 03, 2023
Ever since my aunt gave me a few family portraits that had survived the onslaught of years of neglect, I have been kind of obsessed with my great-great- grandfather on my mother's side. I've written about him before.
Not that I know that much about him other than he was born around 1830 in Ohio, spent some time in a lunatic asylum, made chairs for a living and then became a farmer. He married my great great grandmother (20 years younger than him) five years after he fought in the civil war on the side of the Union. I say fought, but I don't know whether he ever saw any action. He enlisted ten months before the war ended. He applied for a pension in the late 1880s and lists he suffered from chronic diarrhea as a result of his service.
So I don't think he led many charges while he served in the war.
He did manage to father six children including my great grandmother. He and his wife also ended up raising my grandmother after her mother died giving birth to her second child who died at birth.
There is very little other information about my great-great grandfather other than the sterile census documents that tell me what he was like. I am more than curious as to why he spent time in a lunatic asylum when he was 20. And I wonder why he enlisted in the Union Army when he was 35. What brought he and my much younger great great grandmother together? Why did they end up moving to Boise? How did he and my great great grandmother lose all of their ranch land and leave his many children and grand children with squat?
I mean, there is nothing. My great great grandmother got written up in an early history of Idaho as this great pioneer. He is barely mentioned. All I have are a couple of portraits and photographs where he stares stoically at the camera with this distant look.
Yet still I am fascinated. His blood is in me. He was a civil war veteran even if he spent most of his time squatting in a latrine. He is the reason I grew up in Idaho. He is basically the only patriarch I have. My father was adopted and that part of the family tree is pretty much empty. My great great grandfather is the only one who stands out who wasn't crazy (other than that stint in the asylum) and a wife beater. My mother grew up hating her father for beating his wife and kids on a whim. To his credit, his father was a few checkers shy of a board, too. My mother told me stories of him hiding in the root cellar of my great grandmother's house, tying his underwear in knots so they would be difficult to wash, all because he was jealous of her answering the door to traveling salesmen.
I don't have any portraits of him. I do have a couple of photos of my mother's abusive father, including some of him in his army uniform at the end of World War I. The war ended before he even made it out of basic training.
Sunday, January 01, 2023
Another happy new year
That is a cheery thought.
My family stayed up last night to watch a life broadcast of the fireworks they set off every year at the Space Needle. It is Seattle's version of the ball dropping in Times Square. I say they set off the fireworks every year, but at the beginning of 2021 and 2022, they were virtual fireworks and light shows. This was the first year they actually had real fireworks since the pandemic. And they allowed people into Seattle Center to watch the fireworks.
I only saw two masks in a sea of hundreds of spectators. The television hosts didn't even have masks on. And they ended the broadcast cracking open a bottle of Champagne and guzzling it on camera. I thought that was against FCC rules. But hey, it was New Year's Eve.
They were kind of crappy television hosts anyway. One was host of Evening 5, a local human interest show that is broadcast weekly. He interviewed me years ago about an advertising campaign we were shooting at a local photo studio. It was themed "is you commute turning you into a monster" and featured classic movie monsters stuck behind the wheel of cars stuck in traffic. We hired a Hollywood make up artist to create the monsters.
Anyway we got the guy from Evening 5 to do a story about it. He didn't seem thrilled to be there and was a jerk during my on camera interview. When the story aired they had a few sound bites from me but never identified who I was.
Even then, on camera, I was invisible.
I feel vindicated that the guy has to spend every New Year's Eve interviewing drunks at Seattle Center and I am watching in the comfort of my warm home.
The real fireworks were kind of a dud. They created so much smoke, you couldn't see the fireworks very well or the Space Needle. Oh, and this year they also had lighted drones that were programmed to write things in the sky next to the Space Needle. They would have been more interesting if they turned on the crowds like the drones in one of the last Spider Man movie I saw with my son.
The television commentators talked a lot about us being through the pandemic and back to normal. This was in between segments on the color of 2023 being magenta which coincidentally is the brand color of T Mobile, the sponsor of the fireworks.
I hate magenta. It is just pink with an attitude.
I do hope that 2023 is a bit more normal than 2020, 2021 or 2022. I have grown extremely weary of COVID variants that are given clinic names that are impossible to remember. At the very least they could use the same naming convention they use for hurricanes and give them names like Frida or Bob. The CDC could even sell the naming rights to people wanting to find just the right gift for their in laws.
I predict that in 2023 I will continue to be a marketing marvel.
Happy New Year to all of my loyal readers!
Hello, hello? Is this thing on?
Friday, December 30, 2022
Dis chord, dat chord
Country music singers
Have always been a real close family
But lately some of my kinfolks
Have disowned a few others and me
I guess it's because
I kinda changed my direction
Lord, I guess I went and broke their family tradition--Hank Williams Jr
I grew up without a lot of family traditions. Oh, we did the usual things white lower middle class families do like decorate Christmas trees, carve jack o lanterns, eat turkey and dye Easter eggs. We had barbecues with the neighbors and occasionally celebrated birthdays together, but in retrospect, it was all generic.
My family didn't come from recent immigrant stock so we had no old country traditions. My grandmother's (my father's mother) furnishings didn't come over on a boat. It mainly came from Sears and Roebucks. Some of it is considered antique now, but none of it was handmade or anything but functional.
My mother came from a family with 12 children. There was basically nothing passed down. At least there was nothing material passed on. They were poor and barely had food to eat. At times they lived in a tent. So the only tradition they passed down was survival and very little talk about what had been a hard life.
A couple of my mom's sisters would bring their families over for select holidays. They had followed in their family traditions of having lots of kids. So I had (and have) more cousins than I can count. My own mother had stopped at three (and one half sister I didn't know about until years after my mother died). My father was an only child who discovered he was adopted after my grandmother died.
So I guess family secrets are part of my family tradition. But I think it falls more into the category of things that no one talked about. Like my mother's nephew (son of her oldest sister) whose wife killed their five year old son (who had been born just a day before me in the same hospital) with a shotgun. The mother then turned the shotgun on herself. She left behind twin babies who later had mental struggles of their own.
Wednesday, December 28, 2022
I have been coming into the office this week instead of working from my home as I have for more than two and a half years. And although I like returning to the structure of the office it is anything but normal. For one, hardly anyone else is in the office. So it is kind of like those post-apocalypse movies where everything has just been abandoned.
I walk by what seems like endless rows of empty cubicles and offices. Supplies are piled empty reception desks. Kitchens are full of abandoned cups and plastic containers. Lets not even talk about what is inside of the refrigerators in the break rooms.
I work out in a gym in one of our office buildings. It used to be packed at lunchtime pre-pandemic. Now I often have it to myself. It is kind of nice, but also kind of unsettling.
There used to be coffee and sandwich places nearby. Now most of them are closed. So my coffee comes from a K-cup and it is consumed at my desk.
It struck me the other day that it is very likely that things will never return to the way it used to be. Most people have the option of working remotely and most people have exercised that option.
We have already consolidated much of the office space we used to have into a couple of buildings. I packed up my spacious office back in August and moved to the 11th floor of my current building where I managed to squeeze 19 boxes of memorabilia accumulated in 25 years of working here into an office the size of small bathroom.
Even my commute has changed. I went from crowded trains that sometimes had people sitting on the stairs to the upper level to cars with a handful of people spread comfortably out with four seats to themselves. I am one of the few people who still wears a mask on the train. COVID shattered our world but now most just ignore that it still exists.
It helps a bit to be an introvert in this new world. There is less forced interactions and most of them are via video. It is much easier to be detached in a video meeting.
Still part of me misses normal (whatever that was).