Friday, July 21, 2017

The Pleasures of Drear

Don’t let the fact that there doesn’t seem to be any such word as “drear” bother you…it’s a nice word which should exist even if it doesn’t.

Today was what undoubtedly most people in Chicago consider to be dreary (get the connection?): heavy, heavy overcast, drizzle and light rain mixed with torrential rain mixed with wisps of fog, chilly winds…sort of a picnic-on-the-moors, Hound of the Baskervilles day. And I love it.

I’ve always liked it when Mother Nature shows emotion. Anybody can enjoy sunny skies and puffy clouds and warm, gentle breezes, and I like them, too. But it takes a special outlook to be able to appreciate days that drip with lugubriosity (I just made that one up, too). One of the reasons I left Los Angeles was because that was about all there was: sunny skies, puffy clouds, etc. Every single day was June 25. You could plan a picnic six months in advance and be almost guaranteed that it would be a sunny day with puffy clouds and warm breezes. Los Angeles days tend to be like one of those perky little blonde cheerleaders who is just always so…well, perky…that you want to throttle her.

Ah, but “drear” has its own quiet pleasures. Living in a high rise isn’t quite the same as being at ground level, where one can watch the trees outside the window swaying wetly, or the water running off the eaves. But standing at my 9th floor window looking down at the umbrella’d people scurrying along the glistening streets, cars’ tires like the bow of a ship sending up little sprays of water to each side, neon lights reflected off the sidewalks, the passing elevated trains shooting off sparks from their wet wheels on the electrified track…it’s all very comforting, somehow. It’s rather like my other favorite calmative pastime, walking through a cemetery, reading tombstones.

Drear provides the backdrop and sets the mood for quiet contemplation and reflection, and if there is the sound of rain to create background music, all the better. Granted, some fine-tuning is required to keep out the static of regrets and missed opportunities, or errors made, but once you’ve got everything right on pitch, it’s wonderful.

I also enjoy, still using music as an analogy, when Nature segues from quieter contemplative pieces featuring fog and overcast and rain to the full orchestrals of storms: booming tympani of thunder, cymbal crashes of lightning, full-brass of wind and fierce rain…watching the trees, as if caught up in some frenzy of emotion, whipping back and forth. I love it!

I remember once, as a teenager, during a terrific thunderstorm in the middle of a summer night. I got out of bed to stand in front of the open window and watch it. I was between the drapes and the window for a better view. My mom came in to close the window, thinking I was asleep. When she moved the drapes aside to get to the window, I scared the wits out of her, poor thing. (And you see? Even thinking of that on a day like today gives me pleasure and comfort rather than the sorrow of knowing it could never happen again.)

Life is full of drear. It’s how we see it and react to it that makes the difference.
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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, July 15, 2017

You Is or You Ain't

I decided it was about time I wrote a funny blog, filled with my own special brand of wit and clever wisdom. So I sat down and wrote about 36 first sentences. They were about as amusing as the lead sentence in an obituary. I have come to the conclusion that there are certain things in life that one simply cannot do by just deciding to do them: keep your eyes open while you sneeze; go to sleep when you tell yourself to; not looking at the clock every two minutes while laying in bed wondering what time it is and why you aren’t asleep yet; and deciding to write a funny blog. Can’t be done. When it comes to being funny, you either is or you ain’t. And today, apparently, I ain’t.

Laughing has always been one of my favorite things to do, though my personal humor runs more along the lines of quirky tongue in cheek than out-loud guffaws. I love guffaws. I love laughing so hard I have to grasp for air and my stomach hurts. On reflection, I haven’t done that for quite a while. No idea why. Maybe all this Iraq/Iran/economy/Who-the-hell-gives-a-damn-about-Britney-Spears/mean-spirited Christian Fundamentalist nonsense has just overwhelmed me. Guffaw-funny seems to be in tragically short supply of late.

Oh, there’s plenty of it left. There are tons and tons of rolling-on-the-floor-laughing things around…except when you need to reach out and grab a few to stick into a blog.

The world seems to have gotten much too serious for its own good. I always enjoyed the definition I once read of Puritanism: “Puritanism is the deep, abiding fear that someone, somewhere, is having fun.” I’d say we were becoming a nation of Puritans, but the fact is that we are a nation founded by Puritans and we largely remain Puritans.

Political Correctness has become an 800-pound gorilla in every room, grabbing anyone who dares to make a dumb blond joke by the neck and throttling the life out of him. The fact of the matter is that there is not one single thing that can be said to which someone, somewhere, cannot and will not find offense. Alexander King’s classic comment on obscenity applies to those who take offense at everything: “There are those who see obscenity in the crotch of every tree.”

I can’t think, as a matter of fact, when I had my last really good laugh, let alone a guffaw. I would certainly hope much more recently than I am able to recall at the moment. Again, I’m sure it’s just because I’m trying to think of an example that I cannot. My mind has a sense of humor of its own and apparently takes considerable delight in not cooperating when I ask something of it. I want something funny and instead I get mental images of babies starving in Darfur.

Fortunately, it hasn’t always been like this and I know it won’t be like this forever. But at the moment, I do have to stretch back quite a while to even remember a specific good laugh.

I do distinctly recall the time when I was in about the sixth grade, sitting in a very hot classroom on a late fall afternoon. A large housefly wandered casually across my desk, too sapped by the heat and humidity to be very enthused about anything. I remember “walking” my fingers across the desk until they were right behind the fly, who didn’t seem to notice or, if he noticed, to care. Very carefully I reared back my index finger and booted him in the rear end. He fell off the edge of the desk and managed to fly off just before he hit the floor. I spent the next three minutes laughing. Neither the fly nor my teacher appreciated the humor of the situation, but I didn’t care.

Maybe I should look for a fly to boot in the rear.
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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, July 12, 2017

Gratitude

Gratitude is something far more commonly felt than expressed. Part of the reason, I suspect, is that the words “Thank you”—the two words most used to express gratitude—are an automatic social and cultural response to even the smallest favor, from a “gesundheit” to being handed a receipt at a check-out stand, and often seem inadequate.

“Thank you” is just the thinnest surface layer of gratitude. Under “Thank you” lie an infinite number of layers, depending on the degree of gratitude felt, and the deepest layers of gratitude can never be adequately expressed.

Gratitude is a tree which grows from the seeds of kindness, and kindness is freely given without thought of repayment. But I consider gratitude to be a form of acquired debt which must be repaid. Far too many people, if the concept of gratitude being a debt even occurs to them, repay it with I.O.U.s or promissory notes.

I realize that I do far more bitching and moaning and complaining than is warranted by circumstance. I talk endlessly about what is wrong with the world (and there is much to talk about), yet very seldom express my equally boundless gratitude for the positive things in my life and in the world.

First and foremost, my gratitude for having been given, and still having, the gift of life cannot possibly be put into words. That gratitude is followed closely by my gratitude for my relative good mental and physical health. Despite my share of physical problems, I realize that compared to what others go through, mine, as Humphrey Bogart says in Casablanca, don’t amount to a hill of beans. Which doesn’t stop me from complaining anyway. I am what I am.

I am also infinitely grateful to having been born into the family I was. There are no words or combination of words capable of conveying my gratitude to my parents. How could there possibly be, when I owe them so much? Every member of my family, from my grandparents through my aunts, uncles, and cousins, have never been anything but completely loving and supportive, and I realize that there are, tragically, many people who cannot say the same. And though my parents and most of my immediate family are now gone, my gratitude to them for having them to enrich my life remains undiminished.

Beyond the circle of immediate family is another circle, of friends. I am grateful to have been blessed with an extended family of wonderful friends who shore up my fragile ego and are unfailingly there when I need them. That they also put up with my…shall we say, “minor eccentricities”…and constant complaining is proof positive of the incalculable value of friendship.

One problem with expressing gratitude is, in fact, in finding how to do it properly and proportionately. Too-frequent and too-effusive expressions of gratitude soon lose their effectiveness and become the equivalent of a “thank you” given someone who holds a door open.

I’ve come to the conclusion that perhaps the best way to express gratitude is not through words but actions. Small gestures: a phone call, a sincere compliment, an invitation to coffee or a movie or dinner can speak more clearly than words. Something so small as being willing and making yourself available to listen to problems which may not directly concern you.

Gratitude is too often overlooked as a real and valid emotion, yet it, our individual awareness of it, and how we each respond to it, help to shape and define us as human beings.

And in case you were wondering, I’m grateful to you for reading my blogs.
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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, July 07, 2017

Alice Ghostley

Everyone who remembers Alice Ghostley, please raise your hand. If you’re old enough to remember the old “Bewitched” show, she played Esmeralda…and also appeared on “Designing Women.” Once you saw her, you never forgot her face or her voice.

I first saw her on Broadway in the revue New Faces of 1952 (which also launched the careers of Eartha Kitt, Robert Clary of “Hogan’s Heroes” and a number of other rather well known performers). Alice was wonderful, and I can still sing…albeit badly…every word of her solo number, “The Boston Beguine” (“I met him in Bos-ton, in the native quar-ter; he was from Har-vard, just across the boar-der....”).

She died last week of colon cancer at the age of 81, and I am truly saddened by her death.
So very, very many celebrities…once household names…whom we watched in our favorite movies or listened to on radio: so much truly incredible talent…are now all but forgotten. Danny Kaye, Kay Keiser, Lionel Barrymore, Tyrone Power, Ava Gardner, Rita Hayworth, Betty Grable, Sidney Greenstreet, Phil Harris, Fred Allen, Fibber McGee and Mollie, Hattie McDonald…there’s not enough room to list them all.

Each one of them brought pleasure to tens of millions of people, and it is awesome (to me) to realize that not only are the stars now gone, but most of the entire population of the world who were alive during their heyday!

I do not grow old alone: I’m part of an entire generation…a huge block of, again, tens of millions of people who are now the same age as I, if they are alive at all. All the beautiful young men of my own generation, for whom my chest ached, are now no longer young nor beautiful. My friends, my family, everyone who in my heart and mind are exactly as they were so many years ago have also been subject to time’s rational but unkind forward march.

Is it any wonder why I so resent reality?

When I sit behind the information desk at my part-time weekend job at the Century Shopping Center, I watch the beautiful young men coming and going from Bally’s gym (oh, and there are of course beautiful young women as well, though they are largely invisible to me, just as I am invisible to younger gay men), I find no comfort in their total, blithe ignorance of the fact that as I was once them, they will be me. Life comes equipped with blinders, and the young have absolutely no doubt that they will be young forever. Or, if they are aware of it, they consider it so far down the road it isn’t worth giving a thought. The grasshopper and the ant.

And if you never had the pleasure of seeing and/or hearing Bea Lilly, or Fanny Brice or Rosalind Russell, or Richard Egan or Robert Stack or…you have been robbed. There are few things more irritating than hearing some “old fart” saying “Now, in my day…”, but don’t sell them short. Fifty years from today, who will remembering the likes of Britney or Kevin or P-Diddy-Whatever or The Smashing Pumpkins? It ain’t the same, kid. It ain’t the same.

Alice, I miss you.
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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: 

Monday, July 03, 2017

Logic

There are many definitions of the word “logic,” but I prefer this one: “the quality of being justifiable by reason.” The problem with that one, though, is that the word “reason” has a number of definitions of its own.

Like all things not scientifically provable—truth, for example—logic tends to be relative. What is logical and reasonable to me may not be logical and reasonable to you.

I’ve always thought of myself as a logical person. While the world is made up of far more shades of gray than solid whites or blacks, I use a simple rule when it comes to my own logic; if anything raises a question in my mind, I go with the answer that makes the most sense to me.

It’s been a great and constant source of frustration for me that while I know that mathematics is based entirely on logic, I have never been able to get beyond the “if Johnny has three apples and gives Billy two” stage. Try as I might, I just don’t get it. The only class I ever failed in my four years of college was geometry (or was it algebra? One of those signs-and-symbols things).

Instruction manuals are another form of logic which totally, completely escape me. I try. Really, I do. I’ll buy something requiring “some assembly,” carefully take out the manual, set it and the 4,792 various pieces out in front me. I get perhaps as far as the period in the second sentence in the manual, and I’m totally lost. Where’s my logic when I need it?

I really don’t have trouble with those things ruled by the laws of science. I may not understand them, but I accept them, if only because I don’t feel competent to question them in depth. But it is those things dealing with the human mind and human reactions and responses where the problem comes in. I am constantly dumbfounded by the ease with which most people simply ignore or walk around bottomless chasms of illogic as though they weren’t there.

Religion is only one example of how willing people seem to be to accept the most ridiculous premises without the slightest question. Perhaps it is because logic requires a certain amount of question-asking, which in turn requires thought. Much easier to simply accept whatever you’re told. Even the most cursory glance at a newspaper, magazine, or television program demonstrates that when it comes logic, the most basic rules of common sense simply do not apply.

Just as The Golden Rule is given universal lip service and is generally universally ignored, so is the totally logical caveat, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” Whether it is naivety or greed or a combination of the two, in almost any conflict involving them on the one side and logic on the other, don’t put your money on logic.

While I’d love to take the high ground and claim that my life operates entirely on logic, I’m afraid I can’t do it. A certain amount of illogic seems to just be a part of the human character. It’s the overwhelming disproportion of illogic to logic that worries me.

Did that make any sense?
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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: