Hiatus

Source: Nyafuu.org

Our brains are full!

Inspiration is so rampant that ideas are literally colliding with each other!

Okay, okay, not really. The truth is the Royal We have decided that it’s time to take a hiatus from blogging pursuits. Or as we used to say as kids this time of year, Summer Vacation.

We’ll return in late summer or early fall with possibly a new look, perhaps something enlightening, but most likely more of the same drivel you’ve come to expect here. Imbecility and banality takes work, you know.

Have a great summer!

Powdering My Nose

Source: all-free-download.com

Source: all-free-download.com

A former co-worker and I were regular afternoon coffee companions back during my working years (Hi, H). At roughly the same time each day, one of us would launch an informal summons via the office chat application to query if it was convenient to make our daily trek to Starbucks. Invariably, though, my friend would always need just a little extra time. She would faithfully add a small coda to our electronic tete-a-tete of, “Just give me five minutes to powder my nose.” It became our little joke.

I thought about this recently when I had a follow-up appointment with a medical specialist that I am obligated to see annually. It is a requirement of this practice immediately after checking in that patients are asked to go into the bathroom and provide a urine sample. They have a small unisex bathroom located within the waiting room proper. Not down a small hallway, not behind the reception area, nor near the examining rooms. Nope, this baby is in direct proximity to a hushed seating area. I worked in libraries my entire career, and I don’t think there was one that rivals the pin-drop acoustics of this place. Patients waiting to be seen each sat studying two-year old Newsweek and Gourmet magazines as if they might hold the secrets of the Skull and Bones ceremonies. Shhhh…

Naturally, when the receptionist explained the process of how I needed to place an adhesive sticker with my name on it to one of the plastic cups offered in the bathroom, it seemed as if her voice echoed all over that room. Thankfully no one looked up. People continued to look down at their reading material, trying in vain to act as if they were in their own worlds. And for all I know perhaps they were. Soon, of course, I would be joining them and mimicking the same behavior. But first I had to fulfill the mandatory bodily function.

I thought about all of this as I headed to the bathroom. I also thought about the fact that I had only just been to the bathroom not 15 minutes earlier at my own home, and now I was required to give them more. Surely this was Oliver Twist in reverse with “Ms. Bumble” at the reception desk making me feel just as vulnerable as poor old Oliver.

The thing about writing a blog which focuses primarily on life’s absurdities is that I am tempted at times to stretch an anecdote or three. In the noble quest of offering something entertaining to read, I do admit to the occasional slight exaggeration. In fact, contrary to previous self-deprecating descriptions, I don’t at all resemble Lyle Lovett but rather am a stark composite of George Clooney and John Kennedy, Jr.  With that admission finally disclosed (imagine my relief), what follows is an exact portrayal of what happened in the doctor’s office, and my unmitigated delight as it all transpired.

On reaching the door to the bathroom, I discovered that someone was already in there. At home when this happens we all mumble “sorry” or “oops” in response to the more aggressive, “hey!” or “do you mind?!” as we intrude on a loved one’s private business. In a public setting no words are spoken. I instead turned around and selected a seat in the seating area, the adhesive sticker containing a printed version of my name, rank, and serial number still stuck to the end of my finger. Not wanting to imperil the sticker in any way, I simply sat there waiting for the bathroom to become available. Insecurities also mounted about my ability to fill that cup.

Then a noise disrupted the sanctity of the waiting room’s tomb-like atmosphere. A song began playing and everyone looked up from their own private worlds and established actual eye-contact with one another. The sound came from inside the bathroom. It was apparently the person’s cell phone with an unmistakable and familiar ringtone. For two beats we all continued to stare at one another as neural pathways began to formulate exactly what song was being played behind that closed door. Yep, there was no mistaking that very recognizable John Williams-scored theme to Star Wars.

Source: idigitaltimes

Source: idigitaltimes

Star Wars?! How perfect! Everyone in the room began to smirk and nod knowingly. Don Rickles’ famous line about dropping your pants and firing a rocket was never more apt. One by one people in the room began to laugh. Even the receptionist sitting behind her open window (next to a sign asking patients to turn off their phones) was smiling. My phone’s volume had already been turned off, but I was already crestfallen that my own ringtone of “Carpet Crawlers” could never compete with such exact precision. I felt sorry for the man when he finally emerged from the bathroom, but fortunately all of us dutifully looked away or down at reading material.

My turn in the bathroom continued the absurdity, however. With the adhesive still on the end of my finger, I tried in vain to open the wrapper around the plastic cup. But it wouldn’t budge. Carefully removing the adhesive to hang on the edge of a shelf, and now with two full hands, I yanked and pulled that wrapper all to no avail. It simply would not tear open. So I tried another and then another. There were a mountain of cups at the offing and each one apparently hermetically sealed. After trying probably up to seven, I stood there questioning my sanity and ultimately my manhood, which if you think about it had at least some tangential relationship to the task at hand.

In my frustration I at least knew I had a blog post in the making

In spite of my frustration, a little voice inside told me I had a blog post in the making. We are now a nation of camera-ready chroniclers.

Finally I chose a cup in which I could “pop” the outside wrapper like a balloon for it to be removed. I then was able to safely apply the adhesive to the cup and move on to my required procedure. Of course, I’ll spare you any further details of the escapade. Suffice to say the operation, as it were, was ultimately successful. But just like “Luke Skywalker” who proceeded me, I did feel every eye on my person as I made my way back to my seat, feeling as if I had somehow put on a similar show for the peanut gallery.

Next year when I have to return to this doctor, I’m bringing a pocket knife just in case. And do be careful when you need to powder your nose in public bathrooms. Things can happen.

Until next time…

 

GratiTuesday: Public Libraries

Janis writes a wonderful ode to the public library on her equally wonderful “Retirementally Challenged” blog. I couldn’t say it any better, though since I have made myself the Milton Berle of blog post intellectual property theft, I probably will hijack this at some future point too. Well done, Janis!

Retirementally Challenged

I spent a lot of time in my neighborhood library as I was growing up. I remember going with my mother at least once a week to check out books; usually borrowing two or three at a time. When I got older, I’d meet my friends there and we’d often do our homework sitting at the wooden desks they had scattered around. It was always kind of a magical place: not only did they have what seemed to be a never-ending supply of FREE books, but the building felt safe and familiar and the librarians were always a helpful source of information.

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For some reason, I stopped going to public libraries in my young adulthood. I never stopped reading, but my books mostly came from bookstores, yard sales, or were passed on to me by friends. Later, of course, I also started purchasing books from online sources.

After my husband…

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“All our SPCS family r safe”

A very timely, informative, and heartfelt posting about one school in Nepal. The blogger includes helpful links at the very end to contribute to relief efforts.

The Human Rights Warrior

SPCS students enjoying recess.  March 2015. (Credit:  Jennifer Prestholdt) Students at the Sankhu-Palubari Community School enjoying recess in March, 2015. (Credit: Jennifer Prestholdt)

Originally published on The Advocates’ Post.

“All our SPCS family r safe …”

This was the message I received from Anoop Poudel, headmaster at the Sankhu-Palubari Community School (SPCS), on Monday night. We had been desperately trying to reach Anoop and others connected with SPCS since the 7.8 earthquake devastated Nepal on Saturday, April 25.  Our concern grew as the death toll mounted and the strong aftershocks continued in the Kathmandu Valley. What a relief to learn that the teachers and 340 students at the school, as well as their families, are safe!

The Sankhu-Palubari Community School in the rural Kathmandu Valley, March 2015. (Credit: David Kistle) The Sankhu-Palubari Community School in the rural Kathmandu Valley, March 2015. (Credit: David Kistle)

In my role as The Advocates for Human Rights’ deputy director, I coordinate The Advocates’ Nepal School Project. I was in Nepal just a few weeks ago with…

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Arc of a Diver

Source: greglouganis.com

Source: greglouganis.com

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about perfection lately.  After unconditonal love, security, and happiness, I believe it is one of the most illusive of desires.

Perfection can only really be a singular attribute.  It is usually noticeable by one characteristic: how something is done by someone else.  We will occasionally use the word in a sweeping way to describe an individual in a complimentary or derisive manner (“she’s just so perfect at everything“).

We tend to consider perfection — or what closely resembles it– as we look at others.  This is when we mistakenly try to measure up by comparing ourselves to those who are handsome, prettier, stronger, smarter, or more talented.  Pick a quality and someone probably has it over you in that department.  We do this mostly when we’re younger, of course.  It is the time when uncertainty and a lack of confidence are most overwhelming. Hopefully as we all get older, we eventually learn to accept the qualities and abilities that we do have.

Acceptance doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re happy with the status quo, of course.  It just means that we acknowledge our limitations.  I sensed this myself about ten years ago when I saw an absolutely horrendous-looking picture of Brad Pitt in a supermarket tabloid. They chose the worst picture to probably raise his hackles.  But what I saw was that even at his worst, there is no way I was ever going to measure up to ‘ol Brad.  He’s just that handsome.

Source: hollywoodreporter.com

Source: hollywoodreporter.com

Although I still think that Mr. Pitt, that bastard, has been blessed more than is possibly fair, he still doesn’t represent “perfection” to me.  My two examples are Greg Louganis (pictured at the top) and Chuck Berry (below).  Both excelled in skills for which I have neither an interest nor a facility.  It was simply a joy to watch their genius and grace at diving and creating beautiful music respectively.  Even if they are no longer perfect, we have film, video, and recordings to remember when they were.

Louganis is to me the absolute standard of perfection for his amazing performances in the Los Angeles and Seoul Olympic games of 1984 and 1988.  With an agility that equaled beauty, he made absolutely no mistakes in his dives, particularly in the Los Angeles games.  In 1988 he repeated his incredible feats even after striking his head on a springboard in a preliminary round. That he went on to win gold medals after that near-tragic incident was nothing short of incredible.

Chuck Berry in my opinion is the unheralded king of rock and roll.  That moniker officially belongs to Elvis, of course.  But for me it’ll always be Berry because of his perfection at crafting songs that are timeless.  Such was his creativity that NASA eventually included one of his recordings on their Voyager mission, and it’s currently out there floating in space!  Chuck alone established a guitar-based cadence for rock and roll that hadn’t yet been invented. He transformed rhythm and blues into danceable numbers aimed straight at a white, teenaged audience starving for something beyond the crooner idols of the time.  His electric guitar solos were unique, daring, and in later years the most imitated by those who followed.  Songs such as Maybellene, Roll Over Beethoven, and my personal favorite, Johnny B. Goode are the soundtrack of early rock and roll.  Especially for the time period, what made him unique was that he was that he wrote and performed his own tunes.  The Beatles, Rolling Stones, and Beach Boys all later singled him as a major influence, and they all covered his songs in tribute.  John Lennon famously remarked that “rock and roll” should instead simply be called “Chuck Berry.”

Source: Wikipedia

Source: Wikipedia

My lovely wife shows perfection nearly every time she enters the kitchen.  As posted earlier, Gorgeous has a confidence and zen in creating meals that go beyond mere cooking.  They are edible works of art.  There is nothing that she won’t attempt in any cuisine be it eastern, western, southern, or northern.  She can cook or bake, and prefers all ingredients to be fresh, and, if possible, always made from scratch.  Store-bought pasta or noodles?  Sacrilegious!  Last weekend in between clients, she whipped up a dough in the early afternoon.  She then ran back into her office to prepare for a phone reading, and all day long I stared at this dough sitting covered in a bowl on the counter wondering what would be made.  Later that evening, she was tossing a pizza before my very eyes, and then later apologized because it was a “sloppy” effort.  A pizza made from scratch and she considered it sloppy.  She has no idea that burning a can of Chef Boyardee, for dinner, because you’re too busy reading your e-mail is sloppy.  Believe me, I know about sloppy meals first hand.

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Gorgeous’ wonderful “sloppy” pizza

I long ago realized that there is no area in which I am perfect.  Briefly in junior high, I won a couple of hurdles races on my track team, and my coach incorrectly used that word to describe my success.  He did me no favors.  By the time I got to high school, I was surrounded by taller, bigger, and faster runners.  I was lucky enough to still win a handful of races, but “perfect” was not an accurate way to describe my feats.  The real lesson I learned is that there is an advantage to being around others who are better than me– they force me to work harder.  That in turn eventually gave me a confidence and inner-strength to later find my own definition of success.  One doesn’t need to be perfect at anything to find satisfaction.

Nonetheless, we all collectively and obsessively demand perfection from others in our daily lives. Whether they’re politicians, airline counter clerks, or grocery cashiers we are intolerant of their mistakes.  Hindsight being 20/20, we often compare a setback or unhappiness to a place or time when we choose to believe things might have been perfect.  In my own eyes, Barack Obama is no Hubert Humphrey, George W. Bush is no Barry Goldwater, Krispy Kreme is no substitute for my hometown bakery, and Matthew Perry is no Jack Klugman or Walter Matthau.  I am the master of what I deem perfect.

Greg Louganis, Chuck Berry, and Gorgeous.  They’re on my short list.  Who’s on yours?

Taking a Taxing Break

1040_tax_form_2014

Silly me.  It would appear that one cannot have a blog draft up and open on the laptop, the dining room table full of tax forms and receipts, and think that I can multi-task with both.  I fear if I try, my accountant is going to get one hell of a personal story, and all of you will get way too of my financial life!

Back in a couple of days… wish me luck!

Green Peeves

photo

I worked at an apartment and golf course complex in the summers of my college years. I cleaned the clubhouse floors, bathrooms, and took care of light maintenance for the pool. Most of that work took place in the morning.  In the afternoons I mowed grass around apartment buildings. The rest of my co-workers all had very specific duties: They either worked solely on the golf course or cut grass in the apartment areas.  Somehow I was seen as being lucky because I had variety and could go in/out of the clubhouse at my discretion all day long.  The female life guards sometimes needed assistance during the day, or so I hoped.

I think of these memories while I my take solo walks in our development. The long-forgotten thoughts of a 21-year-old come raging back as I watch outdoor maintenance workers cut, trim, and mow.  My light iPod plays the music of Crosby, Stills, & Nash, Neil Young, Paul McCartney & Wings, Yes, etc., just as the heavy Sony Walkman did in earlier days.  As personal nostalgia goes, it’s nice.  But if I’m truly honest with myself, I should admit that the 21-year-old in question probably hated every single day of that work.  I recall thinking at the time how grateful I was to be getting an education that would someday free me from the desultory numbing of manual labor routine.  I had no idea, of course, that some 35 years later I would often experience a similar sensation while wearing a custom-made suit and sitting at a desk in a climate-controlled office.  Routine is as routine does.

The outdoor maintenance staff were basically offered only one perk back then: Greatly reduced green fees to play on the golf course.  Most of my co-workers eagerly took advantage of this benefit after work or on weekends.  I didn’t play golf, and had absolutely no desire to return to the workplace in my off-hours even if it was for leisure.  The golf course was something I saw only from the clubhouse or when I was pushing a mower.

I never took up golf as an adult either.  It seems like a perfectly fine pursuit, albeit an expensive one.  For a brief time, before he suffered from injuries and personal demons, I followed Tiger Woods as he won all those open championships.  I watched him with great interest as he symbolically broke down barriers in a sport that sometimes still clings to antiquated social mores of the past.  He was inspiring and exciting.

It is thus slightly amusing to me that I’m now living in a community similar to the one where I worked during my college summers.  I wake up each morning, and the first thing I see from the window is a golf course.  I also see it as I walk the grounds on foot, or when we drive in and out of the complex with our car.  A golf course is a place where people find their own version of happiness and comfort.  Or, as Gorgeous sometimes says in a rare off-color moment, “old men looking for their balls.”  

The rules of our development, as it is in other similar communities, strictly forbid pedestrians on the golf course. There are a few places where the walking paths briefly intersect the course, and in those areas only can one traverse what is technically the golf course.  But the rule is absolutely clear.  Except by permission, non-golfers are not allowed on the course. This is fine; I am by nature not someone who questions absolute authority or convention.

This is why it may come as a shock and disappointment to report that your humble blogger found himself in violation of said rule. I am still reddened by the shame.

This past Saturday morning I saw the most beautiful pink flamingo standing on an empty green searching for food.  For those interested, it was the seventh hole — I believe a par four.  With no one in sight, I decided to snap a picture of this creature. Inching ever so slowly up to the forbidden green, I began fumbling with my cell phone camera.  I was irked with myself for not bringing my trusty Kodak for exactly this kind of opportunity.  As I continued to fumble, Ms. Flamingo got wary of my presence and flew to more private surroundings.  Dejected, I walked back to the walking path.

Suddenly, I saw from the fairway two elderly women energetically coming my way on a golf cart.  They drove around the green and headed towards the path where I was now walking.  The larger one of the two — and also a dead ringer for Mrs. Peeves, my 7th grade math teacher, whose memory still conjures emotional trauma — called out for me to stop.  I will spare you the full details of our conversation, but suffice to say I was caught red-handed.  In direct language, the woman explained that under no circumstances are non-golfers allowed on the course.  As she spoke, I did look closely for any clue that she might be someone of great authority for either the course or condo board.  But as best I could tell, she was simply a patriotic and proud member of our community.  Violators such as myself need to be reigned in early, lest I become a recidivist course walker.

In my best Eddie Haskell, I quickly put the woman’s worries to rest.  After first complimenting her on the fine golf cart she owned, I assured her that the last thing I wanted to do was to break any of the community rules.  Our talk was cordial and thankfully short.

Just as Winston Smith felt in Orwell’s story, I now love our local Big Brother.  Care to join me for a walk?

Polar Vortex Retirement Observations

Watching the news coverage of the so-called Polar Vortex weather pattern hitting a good chunk of the country gives me a little perspective.  The stopping point of this huge storm hits at the most northern part of Florida panhandle.  We saw scenes from the midwest of snow, ice, and cars  bumping into one another, and it literally gave us shivers.  But the moment of reality made an impact when they showed a map of the upper northwest and identified both Seattle and Portland with having single digits temperatures yesterday.   Gorgeous looked at me and simply said, “wow.”

This morning we went out for a walk under our sunny skies wearing t-shirts and shorts.  We both worked up a sweat, and while unspoken, I think we’re both realizing how fortunate we are right now.