In the shadow of sunset
Dusk embraces the night
Life moves from sight to senses
Trusting in what is known

Daylight is forgiving
Allowing night to flourish
While in sanguine silence
Embracing thoughts of dawn

Time moves haltingly
While darkness remains still
Forcing the surrender
Of our yesterdays

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Lost In The Fifties Tonight

To those of you that were intrigued enough to open this post, I thank you. I am sure some (most) of you have no conception of what the fifties were, beyond what your grandmother often sat there and smiled about. She didn’t have any tattoos, and she didn’t dye her hair. She didn’t have to. That’s how your grandfather became your grandfather. And he didn’t admit that she was reeling him in, but instead, he was letting her think she was.

It really was a gentler, kinder, and I think simpler time back then. No one in any of my classes ever got shot. And there was no confusion about who we were. Boys were really boys, and girls were, you know, our obsession. Everyone knew which one you were and which bathroom to go into. We went by our names or nicknames. It wasn’t necessary to profess our gender. We already knew what it was.

I am sure that there were probably gay’s in our classes. The fact that we didn’t know it says two things. One is, if they were a friend, they would still be a friend. Second, no one would have cared. In high school, I didn’t know what a gay was because, unfortunately, the 50’s were also an imperfect time, and it was something to be hidden. I regret that.

Back then, you were not judged by skin color, ethnicity, or religious beliefs. Instead, your status was judged purely by what grade you were in. A senior would never think of befriending a sophomore (unless he/she was really cute) and your circle of friends were usually of the same grade as you. That was important. I don’t know why, but it was.

Mine was a small town and the gathering point was a bridge over the Aberjona River which ran through the heart of town. To the naked eye, and to the eyes of our parents it appeared to be a melding of the kids from the east side with the kids from the west side. However, in reality, it was simply two factions sharing a common space. The west side boys, with very few exceptions, were the ones with the cars which they would park on the bridge and their collieges would gather around, frequently taking off to cruise all of main street. The rest of the crowd kind of hung together, sitting on the bridge, envying the cars, but talking how we were going to build our own.

Some did, but many never got the chance. Options were reduced for those from the east side. College was often mostly not an option. It wasn’t for me or many of my friends. So alternatives were to get a job or join the military which, many of us did.

I chose the military, serving almost seven years, And although I was proud to have served, I have to admit that my assignments never put me in danger. I was assigned to a defense force that remained at home in the event of an attack on us. But, honestly, I joined the air force more to gain a skill that I could bring back home, and I did that, although my life ultimately moved in a different direction.

In my hometown, there is an Honor Roll in front of the Town Hall. It contains the names of many of the kids I grew up with, Those that with or without a car, shared space on the bridge with me. Today, I am proud to share space with them, in commemoration of the lives we have lived and the experiences we shared. In reality, we probably have much more in common now then we did back then.

At my senior prom, we danced to the song by Ronnie Milsap called “Lost In The Fifties Tonight”. It lingers with me still. I guess maybe I am still lost there.

Look not mournfully into the past, it comes not back again.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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Dancing With Myself

As a boy, I spent a lot of time by myself. Not by choice, but because most of the kids in the neighborhood were older than I. I was willing to play with them, but the feeling was not mutual. My brother was five years older then I, and most of the kids were his age. So I would try to interject myself into that group, often to my own folly, like when we played football. I vividly remember the times I fell on the ball and had the breath knocked out of me.

It wasn’t until my brother left home for college, and I became “the resident son” that I started to form my own personality. I was in what we called then “junior high”. It was the first time that I was in classes of students from all of the other elementary schools in my town. My first introduction, if you would, to kids from other social and economic environments. Suddenly, my educational world became much larger, and, quite frankly, a lot more intimidating. I was now no longer part of a neighborhood, but instead, part of a town. I was introduced to ‘blue collar vs white collar’.

Until that time, having grown up in an income challenged household, I never really knew that there were other kids in town that had a lot more then I had. Their environment was a lot more plentiful then mine as were their physical experiences. Suddenly, we were not just a group of kids anymore, but instead kids, separated by an economic divide. Welcome to the world.

Back then, it was called living on the wrong side of the tracks. I knew I was never going to date a cheerleader, and I also knew all the football players were going to come from my side of the tracks. But, I learned to live with that. I was never an athlete and, there were a lot of pretty girls that were not cheerleaders. The problem was, I was afraid to talk to them. Oh , not really afraid, but realistic. I had no money or transportation to ask them out on a date. That in itself left an awfully large lack of opportunity to influence one of the fairer sex to give me a second glance. So, consequently, I didn’t date in high school.

As such I had a problem which culminated when it came time for the senior prom. But I won’t go there. I wrote about that five years ago. If interested, go into my archives and find “If One Was Good”. You will more fully understand. However, even given my hesitance to break out of the gate, I found myself still in the chase. Not too long after graduation and purely by accident, I was fixed up on a blind date where I met the girl who would become my wife for 57 years.

I guess, in my formative years, dancing with myself was not so bad after all, and apparently, left no scars. It turns out that it was OK to be me, regardless of what I had or didn’t have. Life makes no promises or apologies. As with poker, life deals you a hand and you figure out how to play it.

Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.

Helen Keller

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Strut Your Stuff

I went to the pub the other night. Friday actually. I was there to celebrate St Pat’s day. Yes, I am of Irish descent. My great grandfather migrated to Boston from Londonderry in 1870 and became a naturalized citizen in 1889. But none of that had anything to do with me showing up at the pub. Well, I guess if he hadn’t come over I would have missed the party, but that’s another story.

I had been in for a beer on Wednesday when I asked Stacey, one of the owners, if they were going to have green beer. She said “no, if you want green beer you will have to dye it yourself. I feigned being offended (not too hard in today’s environment) and reminded her that I am a customer and should not be required to dye my own beer green, and that is where we left it, or so I thought. It appears that Stacey is not a lady to be trifled with. I belong to the mug club. When a mug clubber comes in they ask for their numbered mug, which I did. However, when it was removed from the overhead rack something fell out. It appeared to be a small tube, about the size of a lipstick. The lady tending bar picked it up, obviously puzzled. I asked what it was. She said “it says green food coloring”, and I knew I had been ‘had’. So, in the spirit of good fun, I told her to add some to my mug. While doing so, she spilled some on her fingers and it stained. So, for the first time in my life, and probably the last, I drank my beer through a straw. I love ‘gotcha’s’ even when I’m the guy that was ‘got’.

It was a large crowd, most attired in something green, almost evenly split between people I knew and those I didn’t. There was live music provided by a husband and wife duo who were playing and singing classics to the appreciation of a very enthusiastic crowd. During a break, a couple that I know walked with me to the parking lot. They are moving to North Carolina and, knowing I volunteer at the local Humane Society, had brought a bunch of blankets to donate, so we piled them in my car. Upon re-entering the pub through double doors, they both opened opposite doors. so, never one to miss an opportunity for some fun, I walked through with my hands in the air, waving my cap triumphantly . Many of my friends began to laugh and clap. The lady singer of the group that had just begun to play again, stopped and said “I don’t know who the hell he is, but he must be someone. Let’s give him a round of applause” and everyone did. I guess sometimes, the door you walk through is called opportunity and you have a chance to provide the unexpected.

My wife used to say “there is no fool like an old fool” and perhaps she was right. But, you also only go around once. This is not a dress rehearsal. When your time is winding down, you may regret some of the things you did, but more often you will regret the things you didn’t do.

“You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching, Love like you’ll never be hurt, Sing like there’s nobody listening, And live like it’s heaven on earth.”

– William W. Purkey.

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We Had Music

When times were tough
And jobs were scarce
When life itself was in despair
We had music

Nights at home, before TV,
When there was not a thing to see
Sounds and song would fill the air
We had music

After dinner, radio
Listen to a favorite show
Or turn on the phonograph
We had music

At the piano
Mom would play
Songs now of yesterday
We had music

Gather round
Join in the song
Everyone would sing along
We had music

Simple times
A different place
Technology erase
We had music

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Laughing At Life

I was going through some old file folders the other day. Some of them trophies of my old life. You know, when I was gainfully employed. Yes, that long ago which was exactly why I was going through the folders. There were letters of thanks, accreditation’s, cards saying “I enjoyed working with you, or sorry we are losing you etc. Most, but not all, feel good epistles that gave me the warm and fuzzies enough to put them in a folder.

I spent 37 years with the same company, in multiple locations, being assigned multiple responsibilities. I met hundreds of people, be they peers, or managers, or customers. Some of the transfers were because it was decided I was worthy of a promotion. However many were also due to consolidations and closings, and that brought a lot of anticipation as to whether you were going to make the cut, seeing that for every two jobs, there was now going to be one.

But, somehow I survived. I have a high school education, so it surely was not due to my scholastic acuity. And it certainly was not because of my good looks. In reality, I do not know what it was that allowed me to succeed. What other people saw in me will remain a mystery. I hope some of it was a result of performance. I also hope a lot of it had to do with something a lot more personal. That was an ability to be liked.

I have always been a big fan of humor. Not sarcasm, or deprecating jokes. But instead, lightening a situation by injecting some humor. Allowing myself to be the butt of some jokes never hurt me. More often then not, it provided me with some respect from that person when I was able to laugh at myself. And that is why I think I succeeded.

I have always enjoyed humor, both give and take. I feel it has the power to dismantle tensions, remove barriers, and generally lighten verbal interfaces. I think, in retrospect, it was my secret weapon. It was my cape, emblazoned with the letter H that allowed me to go forth, establishing myself as someone that you were willing to call friend, or at least, feel comfortable with.

One of my responsibilities while working required me to speak in front of groups. Many times, I didn’t know a soul in the room. But, experience taught me, to the degree possible, to chat with people that would be part of my audience. Then, while speaking, I felt there were people there that I knew. I would make a point of looking at them and smiling during my presentation, because I found that before people want to listen to you, they want to like you.

Well, that was then and this is now. Today, I am relegated to the bleachers of life while I watch today’s game. But, I still cheer for the team that I can relate to. And that still makes me smile.

If you wish to glimpse inside a human soul and get to know the man, don’t bother analyzing his ways of being silent, of talking, of weeping, or seeing how much he is moved by noble ideas; you’ll get better results if you just watch him laugh. If he laughs well, he’s a good man…All I claim to know is that laughter is the most reliable gauge of human nature.”

Feodor Dostoyevsky

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We Are All A Little Irish

I have oft heard the phrase “Erin go Bragh” without having a clue what it meant beyond something a lot of people shouted on St Pat’s day. So I looked it up. It roots are in the Gaelic language meaning “Ireland until the end of time”. I applaud that. Every country should have a similar motto. Pride of country should not be an individual thing. It is something that should be shared by the masses.

Oh, of course, there are still conflicts in the Emerald Isle. All is not well, regardless of what their flag would indicate. Since 1848, the recognized flag of their country has been the tri-color. The green field symbolizing the Catholic Irish, the Orange symbolizing the Protestant Irish, and the white in the middle, symbolizing a lasting truce between the Green and the Orange.The operational word here is ‘symbolic’, but that is a story for another day.

Every year, for one day, the entire population of a great many locations, especially here in the U.S. becomes Irish. Everyone wears green (regardless of secular persuasions and the fact that St Patrick favored the color blue) because, well, everyone else does. In fact, in many of the larger cities, where Irish or Irish descendants are in large numbers, it is not prudent to wear orange. It kind of repudiates the significance of the flag symbology thing, but then again, most Irishmen for the day couldn’t tell you what the flag even looks like, has any idea where Ireland is on a map, and is only there to take advantage of the comradery provided by a green beer.

I don’t happen to be a big fan of green. However, although being of protestant heritage, I am not a big fan of orange either, other then in hunting season. But, I do want to acknowledge the day in some way that says, if nothing else, ‘yes, I know what today is’. So I went out on the web and started looking at tee shirts in hopes of finding something appropriate without waving my ancestry in everyone’s face. There are a ton of them out there, although, many of them are really not me. Today’s culture (or mine) I guess.

There were some that I would call middle of the road, like “Kiss me, I’m Irish” or “Today I’m Irish” Others just depicted the Irish flag. Then there were those that were a little more, how should I say it ‘suggestive’, like ‘Pat McCrotch” or ‘Fit Shased’, all of course elevating the sanctity of the day, to the point that I almost decided to stay home. It seemed that the celebration had spiraled into a day when it was OK to get blitzed for no other reason then it was an accepted thing to do. We don’t need Ireland to help us do that.

Well, after all that, I finally found a shirt I thought I could wear to acknowledge, if not celebrate St Patrick’s day. It incorporated where my family started and where I entered the game. It acknowledged the different religious factions and more importantly, my country.

So here it is. My final choice. My ability to exhibit my heritage without stepping on toes. My way of saying I am with you in my heart and in my spirit. Erin go Bragh.

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Looking vs Seeing

The first thing I do in the morning when I open my eyes is look at the clock. And I see it, because I am looking for a specific thing, and my clock provides it. However, after that, I am on my own. What I see is what I look at, but what I look at is not always what I see. It is a fact, I think, that if ten people look at the same thing, they will see ten different things. Each somewhat similar, but also, each independent of each other.

Throughout every day, we see things. Actually, we see everything that comes into our purview, and, of course, believe that what we are seeing is the real thing. It is our reality. And of course, to each of us, it is. And it is no different for each of you. But, I think, that is as it should be. What concerns me and is all the things you and I look at but never see.

Vision is fleeting. What is there right now is gone in a heartbeat, perhaps not to a camera, but to the eye. Not surprising. The camera is focusing on a specific thing. We however, are simply scanning the scope of our vision. We are not concentrating on the unexpected, the spontaneous moment, only the pedestrian, everyday things that anchor our life. Our whole focus is accepting what is in front of us, that being the normal. That which we expect to see.

So it is that we miss a lot of what life has to offer. I have a neighbor that loves to engage me in conversation whenever he see’s me. However, he is prone to be so engrossed in his personal thoughts, he doesn’t see me walking by. This is a person that spends hours painting what he see’s, when he misses so much of what surrounds him.

I am reminded of the old phrase “what you see is what you get”. I prefer to think of life as “what you don’t see is what you lose”. If you move outside of yourself and really look at what you see, you may find a new perspective of where you are and what you have been given. Look, see, love.

What we see depends mainly on what we look for.”

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The In And Out Of It

So here I am. More accurately, here we are. Standing in a relatively new year. Thoughts of where we have been and where we are, co-mingled with our imagination for the future. I suspect, not unlike this time last year, we are again trying to justify what has happened and, more importantly, putting a positive face on the year we are in.

So far I can’t say this year has impressed me. The economy is still stealing our dollars, and the border to the south is still a sieve. The aftermath of the COVID endemic is upon us and our population is afraid of, or more comfortable with staying at home then they are with going to work doing what they had previously done. Our federal government is still in gridlock, both parties, as they jockey for power. The only thing they do not seem to support is you and me.

In today’s world, it is hard to be an optimist. It is difficult to find the positives, the good news. It is much easier to listen to the news (more accurately called opinion) which can vary by channel. Maybe I am just a skeptic, but I do not hear anything, regardless of channel that I would accept as the truth. It does not exist in today’s media or in our government.

So, what’s the answer. Well, I don’t pretend to have it. If I did, no one would listen anyway. A large part of our young population cannot construct a sentence, much less tell you who the vice president of the United States is. These are the next generation of voters. Education is no longer about history, but what the school board wants to make it. It seems that what children are being taught has less to do with reality then with ideology.

I remember when I was being introduced to this world, well, cognitively anyway, I could believe what someone told me. My early lessons were through example, expression, or experience. Today, I am closer to being on my way out. The years have had their impact on me. I know I can’t hold onto the past, but I can’t forget it either. What I had is mine, just as what you have is yours. I hold onto it just as you will yours. I must live in a time, so foreign to my values, but I do not have to embrace it.

And, that is the in and out of it.

Our ability to adapt is amazing. Our ability to change isn’t quite as spectacular.”

Lisa Lutz

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Last year, I went to a balloon launch, where probably 25 or more hot air balloons, shortly after dawn, inflated and rose into the air. Some rose immediately while others needed a little more time to gain any height. And then, there were a couple, long after the masses had risen, that struggled to lift off.

I enjoyed watching them all. All colors, shapes, and sizes, not unlike us. And each, in it’s own way I thought, portrayed aspects of life, both mine and yours. There were those in our youth that far surpassed many of us. Those that were gifted with physical or athletic abilities, extroverted and or academically introverted, The ones that rose to the top of the class for one reason or another.

The majority of the balloons, however, rose en-mass, as did most of us. The acquired knowledge of several previous lift offs preparing for accent with skill and agility. Together they/we rose, preparing ourselves for the activities associated with being an entity in a crowded sky, reaching the desired heights of flight without provocation or inhibiting issues. Wanting only to soar. Wanting nothing more then to succeed at achieving a desired goal, rising with our peers.

And of course, we all know those that have struggled. Some of us are among them. Those that tried without gaining the success as quickly, or at all, that was enjoyed by those around them. “Lifting off ” was more difficult for them, whatever the reason. But, through additional effort, many of us/them too have risen. Maybe not as fast, or as high, but also gaining a degree of success, or altitude, having gained a place in society to the best of our ability. Perhaps not as high or as fast as those around us, but ascending none the less.

It seems, in our own way, we all gain our place in the world based on our ability to fly. Time and height are by products. What is important is that we tried to fly at all.

“When everything seems to be against you, remember that an airplane takes-off against the wind, not with it.”

– Henry Ford.

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