Saturday, December 09, 2017

Fairdale

It’s human nature, when hearing someone considerably older than one’s self tell tales of how different distant yesterdays were from today, to roll our eyes and sigh heavily. It never occurs to us that the older have the advantage of having experienced both “then” and “now” whereas the young have only the “now” and the relatively recent past. It’s difficult to comprehend just what a different world it was when the teller of stories—a parent or grandparent, usually—was younger than the listener.
The problem with “now” is that we are too close to it to see it clearly. But the fact is that each of us grows up in a world different from that of our parents and grandparents—just as our world today will be equally different from the world of our children.
And thus the subject of this blog.
I was thinking yesterday—as always, with me, for absolutely no reason—of my own distant yesterdays and a town called Fairdale.
In the mid-to-late 1930s my grandfather and his wife owned and lived in a combination bar and gas station in Fairdale, Illinois, one of those tiny unincorporated hamlets quaintly but often accurately referred to as a “wide spot in the road.” It was located on far-from-busy Hwy 72, which connected with the far busier Hwy 51. It was probably less than 25 miles from my hometown of Rockford, but seemed like hundreds of miles from anywhere.
I first checked Google to see if Fairdale still exists (surprisingly, it does), and then sought a map for its exact location. I see it has a total of three very short, one-or-two-block-long streets, though the only one I can remember is the one that had once served as the town’s “main street.” It ran north and south between Hwy 72 and the railroad tracks—perhaps two blocks. Clustered along the end nearest the railroad tracks were perhaps three or four even-then-long-abandoned 2-story once-commercial buildings, but as I recall, Grandpa’s bar/gas station was the only business in the town.
The bar, too, was old even then, a typical small farm-town bar which smelled of cigarette and cigar smoke and spilled beer and whiskey. Once, when I was “helping” Grandpa sweep up in the morning before the bar opened, I found a $5 bill someone had dropped. A $5 bill in the mid-to-late 1930s was a very great amount of money, indeed, and when no one returned to claim it, Grandpa let me keep it.
Neither the bar nor the gas station made much money. This was a very rural area, and the effects of the Great Depression still bore heavily on all aspects of the lives of average people.
Just west of Grandpa’s place, on the highway, was a one-room school, which I remember primarily because its playground had one of those metal self-propelled “merry-go-rounds” you can still occasionally find today, which kids would start by pushing it in one direction, running faster and faster until they could jump on and go round and round until the centrifugal force died and it slowed to a halt. Then you jumped off and started the process over again.
Across the street was a large farm with what appeared to me, as a 5 year old kid, to be a huge barn. I can still close my eyes and smell the hay. The family that owned it had a couple of kids around my age, and we would sneak into the barn, climb up into the hayloft, and then ascend a ladder to a small platform almost to the barn’s rafters. It seemed like a very great height, but was probably eight feet at most. We would then jump down into the hay, shrieking with laughter and the sense of excitement such courage warranted.
It was, indeed, a different time and a different world, with different values and attitudes, and the more harsh realities of life at the time gradually grow less distinct as the fog of time closes in. Sharper edges dim and soften, and nostalgia paints memories in softer colors, making the past often more appealing than the “now.”
But man is a creature which craves comfort, and if memories of a tiny town long ago can provide me with some comfort, I’ll savor it like a fine, vintage wine.
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This blog is from Dorien's ebook of blogs, Short Circuits, available from UntreedReads.com and Amazon.com; it's also available as an audio book from Amazon/Audible.com. You can find information about Dorien's books at his web site:  www.doriengrey.com

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Sing Out, Fagin!

One of my favorite songs from one of my favorite musicals, Oliver, is “Reviewing the Situation” (“I am re-view-ing the sit-u-a-tion….”). I’m pretty sure we all like songs we can identify with, and I am almost constantly taking the pulse of just where my life is at the moment, comparing it to where it has been, and projecting what I might expect in the future…by far the least reliable of the three.
I’m going through a bit of a busy period, though comparing it to other busy periods of my life is a bit difficult, since time usually softens the sharp edges and blurs the focus, and we…or I…tend to easily forget how things really were. My mind has a tendency when dealing with the past, to run around smoothing out the wrinkles in the bedcovers and dusting under the couch, with the result that things tend to look a lot more rosy in retrospect then when actually being experienced.
At the moment of writing, I am not-at-all-patiently awaiting the arrival of a new internet modem (the subject of another blog). It was supposed to be here today. The day is nearly over. It is not here.
I learned earlier today that I will definitely, without question, damn-the-torpedoes-full-speed-ahead moving this coming Monday…providing they are able to find the key to the apartment, which apparently has gone missing and might necessitate the replacing the lock entirely. If I move on Monday, it will be the end of a six month game of “Oh, you can move for sure next week. Or maybe next month. Or if not then, the third Tuesday following the Solstice. Or if not then, definitely by St. Michaelmas Eve. Or maybe….” It’s really been fun. But not much. I have come to see myself as Charlie Brown, with the building’s bureaucracy as Lucy, and my new apartment as the football.
I am—and I would not be surprised if I also am at the time you read this, however far down the calendar it may be from now—also awaiting the court’s approval of my appointment as executor of my recently and sadly dead friend Norm’s will. Though I legally can do nothing until it comes through, I’ve made arrangements for an appraiser to come over to go through Norm’s condo and give me an idea of the value of his lifetime collection of belongings, and I’ve been in touch with a representative of a company that purchases estates.
Once the condo is empty, I’ll next have to consult with a real estate broker about putting the condo up for sale, and whether it would be better to sell it as is or go to the time and expense of painting and replacing the dog-ravaged carpeting and wallpaper.
And while all this is going on, I become increasingly aware of the fact that while there is sufficient money in his bank account to cover monthly—and sizable—condo fees and other continuing monthly expenses for a time, it won’t last forever and, given the status of the housing market, there is no guarantee of how long it will take to sell.
You’ll notice no mention of my own life, which normally centers around writing. I have a book halfway written which is far behind schedule and must be finished soon if there is any hope of having it get out this year. And after I’ve typed “the end” on that one, I must get busy on the next.
So there you have the general gist of my most recent reviewing of my situation. It’ll all look a lot better from some point in the future when my mind has once again tidied up my memory.
And you know what I’m going to do when all this current turmoil is over with? When I can get back online and am all moved into my new apartment and Norm’s affairs have all been settled, I’m going to take a boat to Tahiti. Yep! That’s what I’m gonna do. Ask Gary to come up and feed my cat, and just take off. And while I’m sitting on a deck chair looking out over the vast, untroubled ocean, I look forward to a most pleasant reviewing of my situation.
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This blog is from Dorien's ebook of blogs, Short Circuits, available from UntreedReads.com and Amazon.com; it's also available as an audio book from Amazon/Audible.com. You can find information about Dorien's books at his web site:  www.doriengrey.com: 

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Questions

I always ask questions for which there are either no answers, or which there are answers which can never be known. I was wondering this morning just how many words I’d written over my lifetime. There is an answer to this one, obviously, but who would/could take the time to track them down and count them all? How many times have I said “I love you”? And to how many people?

I really want to know how many grains of sand are in all the deserts of the earth…how many pebbles line the shores of all the lakes and oceans? The mind’s capacity for fascination is endless.

Some of the classic questions which have been posed throughout history and are seemingly unanswerable are, in fact, quite simple. “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?”, for example. The answer is “As many as want to.” As to “How high is up?”, the answer is “any distance above the top of one’s head.” “How far can a dog run into the woods?” Halfway…then he’s running out. “How long is a piece of string?” Exactly twice the distance from either end to the center. Fun to ponder, though not exactly deeply significant to the human condition.

So many questions are nothing more than word games. We’ve all seen those lists of trick questions about the location of a house whose windows on all sides face south, or where they would bury the survivors of a plane crash in which all were killed? Most take advantage of our mind’s habit of automatically being drawn to what we assume to be the obvious, and it is, in fact, the wording of the question itself or how it is asked which creates the problem.

And there are those questions to which there can be no acceptable answer, such as the classic: “Have you stopped beating your wife?” No matter which way you answer, you’re in trouble.

It’s human nature to expect answers (the more simple the better) to questions which are either unanswerable or too detailed for anyone to be able to answer. “What’s the meaning of life?” is a perennial crowd-pleaser, when the fact is that life doesn’t have one meaning, it has many. “Is there life after death?” The only way to know is to die, and the fact that there is so little hard evidence in support of a “yes,” the question is more one of wishful thinking than anything else.

But I’ve always been absorbed by simpler questions to which there quite probably are scientific answers which I simply do not know: do ladybugs dream? What is the mental capacity of a cockroach? Exactly what do cats think? Why can’t we communicate with animals better than we do? What is the meaning of the slit at the base of a cat’s ears?

Oh, so very many questions! Silly questions, profound questions, questions the answers to which affect our humanity. Why so few people seem to question anything at all? (I guess the answer to that one is that it is far easier to simply accept what one is told without question. Thus we have politicians and organized religion.)

I really would love to live long enough to find answers for 1/1000th of the questions to which I’d really like answers. That I won’t frustrates me no end. Why can’t I?

Well, we’ve reached the last stop on this particular train of thought…though they’re laying new tracks even as we speak. Thanks for coming along for the ride.
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This blog is from Dorien's ebook of blogs, Short Circuits, available from UntreedReads.com and Amazon.com; it's also available as an audio book from Amazon/Audible.com. You can find information about Dorien's books at his web site:  www.doriengrey.com: 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

On Dreams

I’ve devoted several blogs to dreams, and how much I enjoy them. I particularly like story dreams, or musical dreams, or flying dreams, or those which seem terribly profound at the moment. Well, last night I dreamed of toasters. All night. Nothing else. Just toasters. Waking up for a bathroom break, or from a loud noise outside didn’t interfere. The minute I went back to sleep, it was back to the toasters.

I can’t even say I spent most of the time contemplating the history and cultural impact of toasters. I didn’t. Just the two basic types of household toaster with which I am familiar: the old-fashioned kind where the side flipped down to allow you to put the bread in (and which only toasted one side at a time), and today’s slot-type. I’ve not seen a fold-down toaster in many, many years, so perhaps, in reflection, it might all have represented some deeply subliminal longing for the past, in which my mind spends so much of its time. Possible, but I think it was just about toasters.

There was a building in there at one point…a huge, solid, windowless circular building like one of those gigantic gas storage tanks, with a wide and ornate band of decoration 
(Corinthian column caps and elaborate bas-relief scroll-work of some sort) at the top, painted bright purple and green and silver. (I am nothing if not stylish, even in sleep.) What it had to do with toasters or anything I of course haven’t a clue, but it was there, so assume it had its own reasons for being there. That I have/had no idea of what that reason may be is irrelevant.

Other than that, there was no story, no plot, no people, no music, no sound at all. No particular emotions…frustration, boredom…associated with them. Just toasters.

I have friends who claim they never dream, which of course is impossible, and friends who claim they never remember their dreams. I feel rather sorry for them. Dreams are among the greatest of mankind’s gifts, and reflecting on them and their meaning is a form of active relaxation I truly enjoy. And given my already tenuous relationship with reality in any form, reflection on dreams is perhaps more important to and common with me than with others.
Dreams are a form of game the mind plays with itself, made the more interesting by the fact that the game has no rules.

Of all the things I do not understand—and the list is endless—how and why the mind works the way it does is pretty high up on the ladder. And to consider that there are six billion or so people on earth (Go, Breeders!!), each one assumedly with his or her own dreams, remembered or not, gives depth to the phrase “mind boggling.” But again, it’s fun to speculate on.

And now it’s time for breakfast. Not sure what I’ll have. Toast sounds good.
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This blog is from Dorien's ebook of blogs, Short Circuits, available from UntreedReads.com and Amazon.com; it's also available as an audio book from Amazon/Audible.com. You can find information about Dorien's books at his web site:  www.doriengrey.com: 

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Phobias Redux

Probably everyone has phobias: things they fear or which repulse them to one degree or another. There are almost as many phobias as there are things to be phobic about, some of them very exotic and exotic-sounding. (I love “triskaidekaphobia”—fear of the number 13—for example.)

Some are very common, though we may not immediately know their names: Arachnophobia (Fear of spiders), Pteromerhanophobia (Fear of flying), Atychiphobia (Fear of failure), Catagelophobia (Fear of being ridiculed), Cynophobia (Fear of dogs), and Dystychiphobia (Fear of accidents) among them.

Other phobias range from the truly strange to the downright bizarre: Ephebiphobia (Fear of teenagers), Bibliophobia (Fear of books), Anthrophobia (Fear of flowers), Chromophobia (Fear of colors), Genuphobia (Fear of knees) and the “duh” of phobias: Phobophobia (Fear of phobias).

I only have three that I can think of, two of which fall into the second category, though I don’t know their Latin names, if they have one: I will not use anyone else’s toothbrush, and assume I’m in the vast majority on this one. But I also won’t use bar soap anyone else has used. (I know…it’s soap, for Pete’s sake: there aren’t any germs on it. No, but when wet it is slimy and I do not like slimy.)

But my primary phobia, and one in which I take some sort of perverse pride in its uniqueness, is against rings. I shudder even to think of them. I’m fully aware that hundreds of millions of people wear them, and I don’t mean to offend anyone who does. It’s just the way it is for me. I am, to the best of my knowledge, the only person in the world to have such a phobia.

Exactly how and why people develop phobias is pretty much a mystery. A lot of them, of course, are based on some traumatic personal experience with the object feared, but how and why dislike turns into a phobia isn’t clear (at least not to me).

I figured out long ago that my fear/abject loathing of rings is deeply rooted in and related to my rather odd views on human sexuality. I don’t think I have to explain that to my mind the finger is the…uh…and the ring is…well, you know…and I am so totally homosexual that the very thought of heterosexual sex makes me mildly nauseous. Again, apologies to anyone that statement might offend, and I realize that it makes me just as bigoted as those heterosexuals who express revulsion over the idea of two men having sex. I will definitely resist that inane cliché: “Some of my best friends are straight.” As are all my relatives, most people I see on the el, and nine out of every ten people on the planet. So considering those odds, sometimes I think I put a little more of me out there than you might be comfortable in seeing.

My phobia against rings was with me long before I figured out the symbolism. On my 17th birthday, my dad bought me a very nice ring. He knew how I felt about rings before he bought it, and he was deeply hurt when I refused to wear it and he had to take it back. I remember that when I first saw it, my initial reaction was embarrassment and shame. To my subconscious, I’m sure it implied he thought I was straight. I really felt bad for hurting him, but…well…he knew.


So phobias are just another of the myriads of little bits and pieces that make us all human, and which differentiate us, one from the other. Back to you, Dr. Freud…
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This blog is from Dorien's ebook of blogs, Short Circuits, available from UntreedReads.com and Amazon.com; it's also available as an audio book from Amazon/Audible.com. You can find information about Dorien's books at his web site:  www.doriengrey.com: 

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

My Garden of Phobias

We all have phobias…things which inexplicably and irrationally frighten or repulse us. I admit that I’m somewhat protective of mine. I’m not overly fond of snakes, for example, though I’ve gotten far better about being able to look at them from a safe distance. But that’s pretty much a garden-variety phobia, shared by probably the majority of people on the planet, so I can’t take any special pride in that.

I don’t like tattoos or body piercing. The former I’ve come to grudgingly accept since so many people nowadays have them. But it had been my personal experience with people sporting tattoos that there seems to be a definite correlation between the number of one’s tattoos and the number and severity of one’s emotional problems. One tattoo is fine; a couple are okay, but beyond that…uh…, no thanks. Body piercings give me a severe case of the crawlies and are a slamming-door turnoff.

I have a phobia against using a bar of soap other people have used. (I know—it’s soap: soap kills germs. Yeah, but wet soap can be kind of slimy, and I don’t like slimy.) I don’t like tasting food from other people’s forks or spoons or plates, or drinking from the same glass, can, or bottle—though I will do it if necessary in order to avoid appearing rude.

Okay, so a lot of my phobias are, indeed, fairly tame and shared by a lot of other people. But I claim to one phobia which sets me far apart from anyone else. I really hope my explanation of it will not convince you that I am totally ‘round the bend, though I am aware it might well offend some, and if so I am truly sorry. But the purpose of this blog is something akin to a pre-mortem autopsy, exposing parts of myself which may well better have been left unexposed.

I hate rings. My totally irrational antipathy towards them ranges from distaste to downright revulsion. This, if you will, is my prize hot-house orchid of phobias. To this date, I have never encountered another human being who shares it with me…though I’m sure there have to be some, somewhere. My reasoning may be seen as teetering dangerously on the brink of psychosis, but, hey, it’s mine and I’m stuck with it. Let it suffice to say that to me, the combination of ring and finger represents heterosexuality, and as a homosexual, I rebel against that concept.

For those who doubt my admittedly strange reasoning, I refer you to the wedding ring. Nothing more clearly albeit silently screams: “Heterosexual” to the world. Madison Avenue is painfully aware of the message of this symbol and uses it at every opportunity to subliminally say: “Hey, you can trust me! I’m just like you!” The number of men displaying wedding rings in commercials is far out of proportion to the number of men who actually wear them. And you will never see a TV commercial in which a man is shown to be alone with a small child unless he is wearing a wedding ring. Doubt me? Watch.

Which brings us to a little epiphany which came when I wrote the sentence about teetering dangerously on the brink of psychosis. I realized for the first time that my biggest, totally irrational and inexplicable phobia—the one which has fundamentally affected my life—is: heterosexuality. I mean no offense to the 9 out of every 10 people who happen to be heterosexual. I in some odd way fear it and look upon it as some sort of threat (which, given the historic treatment of homosexuals by heterosexuals, is not unjustified). I react to it, I realize, somewhat less strongly than I react to rings, but I have never understood it and am as generally uncomfortable around it (with the exception of my heterosexual friends and family) as many heterosexuals are around homosexuals. It’s not something I’m proud of, but the fact is that it exists, it’s an integral part of who I am. And now, thanks to this blog entry, I know it.

And now you know, too.
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This blog is from Dorien's ebook of blogs, Short Circuits, available from UntreedReads.com and Amazon.com; it's also available as an audio book from Amazon/Audible.com. You can find information about Dorien's books at his web site:  www.doriengrey.com: 

Friday, November 03, 2017

Role Models

My parents belonged to the Moose Club, and when, on a Saturday night, they were unable to find a baby sitter for me, they would take me along. I wasn’t overly enthusiastic about these forays, since there was very little for kids to do. I’d spend most of my time in the large reception room, doing what I cannot remember. There were never very many other kids there, if any at all.

The large main room, where the adults gathered, had a bar and a dance floor with a constantly-playing juke box, and it always seemed to be crowded. I’d wander in only occasionally to ask my folks to get me a Coke or just out of sheer boredom.

Now, I was probably nine or ten at the time and already was well aware that I was fascinated by young men and desperately wanted to be like them. And one night there were two young men at the club. They may have been college boys or, since WWII was raging at the time, perhaps in the military: I can’t recall. 

What I can recall is that suddenly the dance floor had cleared and there, in the middle, were the two young men…dancing together! Not slow dancing, of course…jitterbugging. Everyone stood around clapping and laughing. I’m sure it was, to them, the equivalent of a truck driver dressing up as a woman at Halloween: really, really funny, you know? If anyone had thought for a nanosecond that the young men were dancing together because they really wanted to dance together, they would without question been ejected from the club and risked being seriously beaten.

But to me…!…I had never seen anything more wonderful in my entire life. Two men! Dancing together!

Children have and need role models. Most little boys want, at one time or another, to grow up to be a fireman, or a policeman, or a soldier or sailor…uniforms somehow seem to fascinate boys, probably because they represent authority, something every child subconsciously wants to have.

But when it comes to specific individuals children can look up to and aspire to be—a sports star or actor or singer or someone in public life, until recently gay children have been completely denied role models—someone they knew was like them. To be identified as openly gay was the kiss of death for any public figure.

When I was a child, the only time homosexuals were even mentioned was derogatorily, in a context of utter scorn or contempt. The only time they were portrayed on screen—and even then never specifically identified as being homosexual, but, then, they didn’t have to be—were as effeminate, prissy queens whose only purpose was for comic effect. (Sort of the equivalent of the few black actors allowed on screen…Stepp’n Fetchit-type visual jokes.)

As late as the 1950s, homosexuality was classified as a mental illness. Yet it seems to have occurred to no one that telling a gay child that to be gay was to be beneath contempt may very well have created exactly the mental problems they were accused of having.

The slow but steady emergence of actors, singers, politicians, and even a very few sports stars (interestingly almost all lesbian) from the closet speaks well for the progress we have made. And yet that the same people who now accept us once scorned us leaves a bitter aftertaste.

But we’ll get over it.
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This blog is from Dorien's ebook of blogs, Short Circuits, available from UntreedReads.com and Amazon.com; it's also available as an audio book from Amazon/Audible.com. You can find information about Dorien's books at his web site:  www.doriengrey.com: