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Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Scars (The Physical Kind)

I was speaking with a dear friend this morning about some events in my childhood which had left physical scars and how those fade with time.  They do have that over emotional scars which can hide deep within and spring out at the most inopportune times.

The physical scar I will write about today is one which is on the outside of the "pointer" finger of my right hand.  It is now about one half inch long, just at the knuckle where the finger joins the hand.  I call it my "elephant eye".  If I tuck my thumb in my palm and make a fist, the pointer finger is the elephant's trunk and the scar is just where the eye would be.

The tale of how I got it is one of youthful stupidity.  I don't recall how I came to be playing with a long, narrow pole that day.  It probably was a bean pole from the garden.  It was long and slender and I was using it to poke things in the tiny creek which ran beside the road in front of  the house we rented then.

I had wandered down the road to the little, concrete bridge which spanned the creek between the road and Nola Huff's house.  Now, let me tell you this little creek was dirty.  More than one sewer line dumped into it with zero treatment.  It had to be germ heaven.  It was definitely not like the creeks around my grandparent's house.

That day I was standing on the bridge and spotted a broken pop bottle (Hey, it was pop when I was growing up.  Soda mostly now.)  I don't recall for sure what brand but an RC I would imagine as we had an RC plant in the county seat so we did not see many Pepsi products and the only place to get a Coke was at a restaurant.

The neck of the bottle was pointed up the creek away from me.  I poked my pole through the broken back and up through the neck and raised it up out of the water.  Then I raised the pole to a vertical position and, naturally enough, gravity took control and that broken end slid down that pole at high speed and gashed a long wound in my hand.

The gash was bleeding profusely and I was quite embarrassed to have done something so stupid and feared the reaction of my parents more than germs.  So, I packed the wound with dirt to stop the bleeding.  I kept repacking it with new dirt until it bled no more.

I suppose that is why it left such a prominent scar.  Had I been able to see a doctor I'm sure it would have needed several stitches to close but a doctor was rarely an option in our family at the time.

That would have been sometime around 1965 so about fifty one years ago now.  The old elephant is going  blind as that scar fades but I'm sure there will still be a visible remnant of my, shall we say, inattention to detail (like the effect of gravity on broken bottles) until they shovel dirt into my face.


Friday, March 11, 2016

Some Words on Words

I consider myself fortunate because of something most would find unfortunate.  Due to my parent's joint believe anyone I happened to come into contact with would be a "bad influence" on their little angel, I spent a lot of time alone. That lead me to discover books  and those were my best, and almost only, friends for many years.

By the fourth grade I was reading at an adult level.  I read encyclopedias and dictionaries for pleasure when I was bored at school.   I spent a LOT of time  being bored at school.  Not only did I find a love of reading I found a love of words by themselves.

There are a lot of words with similar meanings.  Some think they mean the same thing.  They don't.  Each word has its own context, its own nuances, its own "flavor".  I know (almost) everyone has heard the saying about the Eskimos having  many words for kinds of snow but no word for snow itself.

Some may think that odd but I understand it completely.  There is a vast difference in snow in big flakes floating softly in the night and tiny droplets, half snow and half ice blowing in a strong wind and swirling down and doing little.  They are both snow but just calling them snow does not really give any indication of context, of feeling, of "being there".

I believe that is what distinguishes the best of poetry and prose from the from the mediocre.  Those may have meaning, a message but they don't contain the elegance, the emotion, the feeling of "being there".  Not just reading words but being there. Seeing what the author sees, feeling what the author feels, smelling the odors, tasting the wind, living in some other place in some  other time.

I found out early on words were my ticket to everywhere and every when.  Louis L'Amour and Zane Grey took me to the old west that never was.  Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein and a host took me to the starts, other planets, other galaxies.

Edgar Rice Burroughs and Jules Vern took me to the center of the  earth,  Lynda Suzanne Robinson took me to ancient Egypt,  Taylor Caldwell took me for many journeys through the biblical world.  Mike Hammer, Travis McGee, Spenser and many others led me through the dark alleys and elite mansions in search of truth and justice.

Many, many authors let me see the lives of people who lived decades, centuries and millennia ago.  Women, men, all over the world lived out their lives via written words through my eyes into my mind.

I feel I am also blessed in another way.  When reading for pleasure I don't see the words.  Each character, every scene are visualized in my mind.  The words come unconsciously and I am just watching a movie.  Full color, Lots of special effects.  Living inside the body and mind of the people involved.

I love words.  I love the journeys those words allow me to take.  Future, past, reality, fantasy, people who actually lived on earth, people who only lived in someone's mind have all shared their words and their worlds.  Twain on the Mississippi and across the world, I've lived the history of the world and the various histories of the world, the galaxy and the universe.

I feel sorry for those who don't love words who don't love to read, who don't fly through all worlds  real and unreal.  I do many things well but I regret I cannot do that for others.

Music and words, I love them both but I am without talent in either.  And, I tell you, the greatest gift you can give your children is the world, the universe, the past and the future and let them explore the glories of everywhere and every when.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Some Observations About Time On Earth

I was born to 'older' parents.  My father was born in 1902 and my mother in 1912.  As far as I can determine my maternal grandfather was born sometime around 1882.  My ancestry is one generation before that of my age group peers.

I suppose that may have had a great deal to do with the way my childhood unfolded.  But, I've written about those things in earlier postings.  This is not about my own trials and travails but about the course of progress of humanity in my time on this earth.

My father was born in 1902 and my mother in 1912.  Think about that.  My father came into this world in the year before the Wright brothers famous first heavier than air flight.  He passed away in 1992 at age 90.  Imagine all the changes he saw in his lifetime.

In his 90 years he lived from the time man had never flown except in lighter than air craft.  He died after he saw World War I, served in World war II and served in the time of the Korean War though he was never sent to Korea.

He lived through the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963, Neil Armstrong's first step of mankind on our moon in 1969.  He watched the TV coverage of the first Gulf War.  He saw so many things his and my children only know as far off events in a boring, history class.

It has made me often wonder about myself.  Would I ever witness such leaps forward for mankind.
From pre heavier than air flight to the explorations of our solar system.  Those changes were so dramatic it seemed nothing would be so weighty in my life time.

I was born at the tail end of 1953.  I was born to "older" parents.  The kids of my age were a whole generation younger than me.  That might seem a small thing because they were still my same age but it was.  I was never completely comfortable with kids of my own age and much more comfortable with their parents.  This lack of "fitting in" had quite a few, long lasting effect on my emotional development but that is a completely different story.

Reviewing, in my mind, all the things my father witnessed, and, with a view my life did not see the same kind of historic events and changes, I have now revised my perspective.  Though the events my father lived through were more popularly dramatic than the events of my life, so far,

At the time I never thought of things as "historic" the same as today's youth will not think of the events of today as "historic".  Historic events are decided by historians living in the future and looking back on our time.

Some of my memories include the assassination of President Kennedy, Neil Armstrong's first human steps on our moon.  The first and second war in Iraq, the attack with destroyed the "twin towers" in NY, the second (and unnecessary) Iraq war,   I saw the war in Afghanistan, which was maybe justified but horribly mismanaged.    I saw the great housing bubble which resulted in the worst depression since the great depression which started in 1929.

Right now things are going on which will be history to my grandchildren and their descendants  Some of those include such things as a more detailed exploration of our own solar system.  Advances in detecting and understanding exra-solar planets.  When I grew up that seemed something our of science fiction.

We are sending robotic explorers to Mars, the moons of Jupiter and Saturn and finding conditions which might allow for life beyond earth.    I have lived from paper and pencil to I-Pads and school kids not even learning to write in cursive.

I lived in a time when advanced science classes did not even allow a square rule to a time when use of a computer is universally accepted.  Even  when I attended school to become a computer programmer no one could even come close to imagining computers as they are today.  What do we fail to envision which will be computers of tomorrow?

Along about the time I was in the fourth grade I discovered Science Fiction in the works of Asaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlien, Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Silverberg,  Clifford D. Simak, Andre Norton and a multitude of others.  It changed my personal world.

Because I grew up as a social outcast I relied on my books for my friends.  I think they were much better friends than the people I grew up with and around.  Those people seemed anchored in the present time and location.  My books let me live from pre-history to an a time so far in the future it was not really imaginable.  I lived in the ancient world of the Greeks, Romans, Etruscans and many others.  I experienced history from the perspective of the Bible as well as that of archaeology and a purely scientific look at the past.

To me, books are the most magical of all things.  They are time machines, star ships, transportation to everywhere, every when and all things withing the scope of human imagination.  I developed, not just an appreciation, but a love of the written word.  Not just the English language but all writings from the earliest examples of written information historians have yet discovered.

I've lived through the Trojan War, the settlement of far off planet in unseen stars, times before history was even written down.  I've lived in worlds where magic was a fact of live,  not just humans bur Dwarves, Elves and other mythological creatures were real.

But in the physical, "real" world, I have seen things proceed from a time when cancer was a 100% death sentence to a time where a lot of cancers are, if not curable, at least having treatments slow it way down.

So many things I've lived through I don't even think about which my children, grand children and beyond will go to sleep in class while their teacher drones on in  a monotone about things they feel have no bearing  on their own lives.

I think I am fortunate I have always had a love for the written word, but also, a love for history.  I am just as happy living in Troy, ancient Egypt, the Roman Empire and other time far in our past as I am in today's world.  Maybe more happy.

My first great love was Nefertiti when I saw a photo of her bust in the Encyclopedia Britannica back in the fourth grade.  I've stood with the Greeks at Thermopylae, explored the wilderness which was early America, explored the moon and distant solar systems.

I've seen things which were only fiction in my youth become today's reality. I deeply desire to see what happens tomorrow and the day after.

I think that is my only real regret with mortality.  My own death means little to me.  Everyone dies.  What means the most is all the wonders of the future I will not see.

A lot of people do not see the wonderful time in which we are living.  The advances in medical technology (though opposed by the big pharmaceutical companies which make money only for treating symptoms rather than developing cures); the developments in methods to locate extraterrestrial worlds which might even evolve into finding other worlds where live exists.

Advances in quantum theory which may develop computers of unimaginable power; breakthroughs in physics which may someday lead to an ability to cheat the light speed limit and allow us to eplore and settle far off worlds.

The lifetimes of my parents saw many amazing and historic events.  My own lifetime has seen more.  The lifetime of my children and grandchildren will see wonders which were only things of fiction in my lifetime.

I envy that.

That is my one big regret in a limited lifetime.  I will miss all those things.  I hate it.
  

Monday, December 28, 2015

VanHoose's Devil Worshiping music

A good many years ago, back in the late 1980's I worked as a "night writer" at the Separation/Transition Point at Ft. Jackson, SC.   We worked nights writing the separation papers for soldiers getting discharged the next day.

I had a "boom box" with earphones and duo cassette players I listened to all night.  I can recall one night one of the NCOs said everyone else has let us listen to their music, what do you listen to?  So, I just pulled the earphones out and let it go.  From then on it was just VanHoose's Devil Worship music.

It is not Devil Worship music at all but it is about 100 times better than some of the explicitly non-devil worshiping music.

"Paranoid" by Black Sabbath.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TWiKdFqnIzw

"Iron Man" by Black Sabbath
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5s7_WbiR79E

"Black Dog" by Led Zeppelin
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F0YoKzsjE-0

"Another Brick in the Wall" by Pink Floyd
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YR5ApYxkU-U&index=3&list=RD_FrOQC-zEog


While it is definitely not "Devil  Worshiping" music it does tend to reflect some of my attitude toward our world and all the people who have wrenched control away from the citizens in  favor of the wealthy elite.

But that was a long time ago.  Now, I'm still an uncooperative prick in the eyes of some because I don't buy of on the BS presented to us by  our politicians.  And, that is fine.  When I die I'd rather it be as a rebel for a good cause as opposed to a good, little sheep, just waiting on the axe.  It is ok if they harvest my wool but when they come for my chops it has gone too far.  Seems our politicians want our chops for their elite slave masters  these days.

Well eff them.  I'll just rely on my history of Devil Music and rebellion.  When I start kowtowing to the Political establishment it is time to start shoveling dirt in my face because all that is really  me has died no matter what the body is still doing.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Black Walnuts

Back almost a half century ago I can recall us going out to feed sacks full of black walnuts  from the many walnut trees in the area.  It was a job to hull them as the thick, soft, outer hull contained the black walnut stain.

No matter how much care one took by the time all the walnuts were hulled we were all stained walnuts up to our wrists.   Those stains were pretty much permanent and would only disappear once the skin had been replaced.

I can recall one or two years when after we had gathered all the sacks full of walnuts, my brother would park the car near our grandparent's old coal house.  Then he'd jack up the rear, right side (drive wheel) , start the care an put it in gear to leave the wheel which was off the ground spinning.  Then the adults (I was much too young then, surprising as it may seem now) would toss walnuts in front of the spinning tire and it would strip off the outer shell.

Then we'd carry all the hulled walnuts to put in my grandparent's old, steamer trunk.  Memory fails me now, but I think they must have had two of those old trunks.  One was left on the front porch to be filled with coal from the coal house on a regular basis.  If I remember correctly my grandfather paid me $2.00 a week to keep it filled.

But there was another trunk upstairs in the attic where the walnuts were stored.  My grandfather had an oblong piece of metal which we used to crack the  nuts on.  It seemed so large to me at the time but looking back it could not have been all that large.  At a guess with failing memory it might have been 3/4 inch thick, 2 inches wide and 4-6 inches in length.

I can readily recall sitting in front of the pot bellied stove in the living room/bedroom with that piece of steel on my lap and with a hammer cracking those walnuts and gobbling up the nut meats.

It is one of the great mysteries of aging, but I can clearly recall things which happened over a half century ago far better than I can recall things which happened last year, last month, last week or yesterday.  It always puzzled me when my parents and grandparents talked about this phenomena as well as the experience of time passing at an ever increasing speed.
\
Now, I'm quite old enough to understand what they were talking about.  And it is very true.  My days, weeks, months, years slip by so quickly I just can't keep up.  Still, I have so many memories from the time I was around two years old up until just a few years ago.

I don't know why I'm so nostalgic about black walnuts since they always gave me "fever blisters".


Sunday, July 19, 2015

Brown Eggs

This morning I was making an omelette for breakfast when I got the eggs out of the refrigerator.  Organic, brown eggs.  Organic is mostly because of my wife though I do agree with only buying "free range", "cage free" eggs.  But the brown eggs are my choice.  Why?  Just my childhood.  See, I do understand the color of the eggshells have more to do with the color of the hen's ears than anything else and all color chicken eggs are equal nutritionally.  But, my parents preferred brown eggs so I do also.  Nothing to do with any real positive for brown eggs.  Just something unconsciously learned from my childhood.

Made me wonder just how many things I do which really does not make any sense but are just things I learned in childhood and I choose because it is "comfortable"?  I got to thinking about it and find maybe I don't really have that many things I do just because "that is how I grew up".  But "how I grew up" makes some things "normal" and "best".  No matter what nutritionists say.

Like, no breakfast is complete without bacon.  But the best breakfasts have bacon, sausage and ham.  That is what my grandparents had every morning.  Eggs are best "over medium" so I can melt butter in the yolk before eating.  That was leaned from my now deceased brother-in-law, Homer.  Still the only way I want to eat eggs.

Redeye gravy.... different things different people consider redeye gravy.  Most think it needs coffee.  My grandmother must made it by putting water in the pan where the ham was fried and "degassed" it so the water turned red with ham fat.  Put regular gravy over my eggs and crumbled bacon then a couple of spoons of "redeye" gravy on that...  Yum!

I thing there are things we learn as children we don't even think about later in life.  What we had as children is just the "way it should be".  Even today at age sixty-one breakfast is just not breakfast without "over-medium" eggs, bacon and either biscuits (my preference) or toast (a surrender to my waistline).  Some Fridays I still have to have gravy and biscuits with my breakfast.  Generally makes me sick but it is still worth it going down no matter how much it hurts coming back up.  :-)

Just kind of amazing how many things in our lives are determined by how we lived out lives while our ages were still in single digits.  Looking back now I can see so much of my thoughts, views, beliefs were "set in stone" while I was still quite young.  Thing is, I'm also sure those things were NOT what either of my parents were trying to beat into my head from the other end.



Friday, June 19, 2015

At the Bottom Looking Down

Looking Down From the Bottom

Today is a day I don’t want to last
Nothing I can do about present or past
Always these memories keep coming ‘round
Feels like I’m at the bottom looking down.

Tomorrow may be different; I really don’t care
For better or worse I know how I’ll fare
How much longer can I stay above ground
Feels like I’m at the bottom looking down

At night I don’t sleep; Just lie in the night
Wondering if it’s worth it to keep up the fight
I’m a stray dog on my last day in the pound
Feels like I’m at the bottom looking down

I used to love reading; Now they’re just words
I used to love Robins: Now they’re just birds
I used to love music:  Now they’re just sounds
Feels like I’m at the bottom looking down