3617– Thursday, June 6, 2019 – Living in Paradise?

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Imagine living in a town with no stop light.  A town where we leave our back and front doors open most of the time.  A town that saw its last murder case over twenty years ago.  A town where people wave to you and stop on the street to talk to you.  A town where you still see kids on bicycles and people carrying their groceries home.  A town where a meat market, library, grocery store, bank, insurance company, hair salon, church, gas station, hardware store and bakery are all within five minutes walking distance of your home.  The local business windows are festooned each week with notices for things to do and events to participate in.  Never a boring moment up here.  This is my town.  I live in Frederic, USA, Wisconsin.

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I spent the first ten years of my life in an apartment on Autumn Avenue in Brooklyn, NY.  Somewhere between Fulton and Atlantic Avenues.  I grew up reading the Hardy Boys stories, watching Spin and Marty and hating them for having a much better chance of landing Annette Funicello than I had.  I dreamed of living in a small town near a river and participating in some of the same adventures that Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Flynn had.

My parents eventually moved to a medium size town in Rhode Island of about 30,000 people at the time.  While no Bayport, (the town where the Hardy Boys lived), it was a considerable step up from Brooklyn.  For some still unknown reason, we moved from Woonsocket in only four years and my brief idyll with a “near” paradise ended.  It was back to a larger urban area.  I gave up pining for a small town and four years later left all thoughts of paradise behind when in 1964, I joined the United States Air Force.

20190604_090406Now fifty years later, I am living in the town that I dreamed of growing up in when I was young.  However, now I am a snowbird, since (Did I forget to tell you?) Frederic is no damn paradise in the winter.  This past winter, Frederic had more than 90 inches of snow, making it the snowiest winter in Frederic history.  Locals that often laugh at snowbirds for leaving the great North-Woods were complaining so loud that I could hear them in Arizona.  My spouse would be more than happy to leave Frederic for a full-time gig in Arizona.

 

You may ask how we ended up in Frederic?  It just so happens that Karen’s great grandparents were some of the founders of this town.  Her grandfather and father both grew up here and Karen was baptized at a local Lutheran church.  When we decided to sell our house in White Bear Lake, MN, upon Karen’s retirement, we also made the decision to find a small town to live in.  Karen having spent many summers and weekend in her youth visiting her grandparents suggested Frederic.  I had been up here several times with and without her and was always impressed by the atmosphere and small-town civility.  I was content to live here full-time, but we agreed to split our time between Arizona and Frederic.  Karen was not nearly so keen to enjoy the snow and cold as I was.

20190604_090423Since coming to this town, I have met some of the most wonderful people you could imagine.  Karen and I took a drama class given by Dr. Carolyn Wedin.  Carolyn and the other people in the class were all fun and inspiring to be around.  We remain good friends with several of them.

Sadly, Carolyn’s health has dictated that she gives up some of her teaching and spend a little more down time.  I looked forward each year for the past nine years coming back to Carolyn’s writing and drama classes.  Alas, this year Carolyn’s health took a turn for the worse and she is taking a hiatus from teaching for the summer.  If my writing is not quite up to the usual summer standards, you can blame Carolyn.  By the way, Carolyn, is definitely one of the people I know who deserves her own blog.  I will reserve my comments about Carolyn for this later blog.  Suffice it to say for now, she is one of the best teachers and nicest persons you will ever meet.

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I could say more about small town life, but I think that is enough for now.  Many people growing up in such a town may have a more pessimistic attitude towards the life.  However, as age has taught me, there are positives and negatives to everything we do in life and everyone we meet.  This blog I want to share the positives about living in a small town like Frederic, Wisconsin.  The whole truth and nothing but the truth.  The pictures are some I have taken from a walk around the town.  A complete walk around will take less than thirty minutes. 😊

“All of us grow up in particular realities – a home, family, a clan, a small town, a neighborhood. Depending upon how we’re brought up, we are either deeply aware of the particular reading of reality into which we are born, or we are peripherally aware of it.”Chaim Potok

 

 

3619– Tuesday, June 4, 2019 – Eddy, The Gonzo Journalist

Eddy is the bad boy of the Library Guys.  Adored by his conservative readers and vilified by liberals far and wide in both Polk and Burnett County.  Eddy (Rumors have it that he is related to the late Ralph Waldo Emerson) moved to Trade Lake amidst a hail of stories concerning some nefarious goings on in St. Croix Falls where Eddy was town administrator.  Some say he was ridden out of town on a rail while others say he tired of the big city (St. Croix Falls?) and decided to live the life of a hermit in Trade Lake.  Eddy bought and moved into a small cabin sans hot water or indoor plumbing.  Perhaps worse than the lack of these amenities is the fact that he has no internet or TV.  Nevertheless, you will never find a subject that Eddy is uninformed on.  He might be misinformed but never uninformed.

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Eddy was living a fairly quiet life in his cabin until he decided to take a position on our local paper as a roving reporter.  Eddy covers many different topics and events happening in and around both Polk and Burnett Counties.  This is when he started to get into trouble with the liberals.  Eddy has a propensity to mix literature, personal opinion and journalism.  I would guess that not coming from a bona fide school of journalism, Eddy treats many of his subjects with what some call a Gonzo Journalism approach.  When the reader agrees with Eddy’s point of view, Eddy is beloved.  However, all hell breaks lose when the reader disagrees with Eddy’s perspective.  Eddy has probably broken the record here in Frederic for the greatest number of readers writing in to cancel their subscription or to demand Eddy be removed from the paper or often both.  One reader demanding that Eddie be removed coined the term “Eddyfied” to refer to what she called Ed’s bias in reporting topics.

From a personality or psychological framework, Eddy is hard to pin down.  He can be funny, serious, solemn, moody, cantankerous, obnoxious and irritating but he is never boring.  He is actually quite interesting and charming unless you get into a deep discussion with him.  Going deeper you may run into some of what I call his “bizarre” ideas.  I suppose what Eddy and I usually differ on is, well most things!  Eddy (perhaps just to be a contrarian) generally has a perspective quite different from mine.  In 2016, I lost a one hundred dollar bet with him on who would be the next president.  He picked Thump and I picked Hillary.  I am still trying to win my money back, perhaps by betting that Trump will be impeached.  I suspect Eddy would say I have a left-wing liberal bias, which I am almost 100 percent certain is false. 😊

A blog about Eddy would be incomplete without at least one example of his writing.  A number of years ago when the meth problem up here was growing, Eddy did a first-person series of interviews with some meth addicts.  In my opinion, had it not been written in a small-town newspaper, it would have been noticed for a Pulitzer Prize nomination.  It was informative, inspired, heart rending and touching.  It was something that could only have been written by blending the subjective with the objective.  Eddy was at his best with this piece.

I think there is a role for the subjective perspective in news reporting.  We are all inundated with stories of fake news as well as the admonition to find the truth.  The problem is that we all grow up with this idea that an objective truth exists out there and that all we have to do is find it.  Give us a light like Diogenes had and we are positive that we can find the truth.  I now realize that the truth is a myth.  No objective truth exists.  This is my truth.  My “truth” will not make too many people happy.  A reporter (if they want to keep their job) has to be careful to balance the “truth” and somehow keep his/her theories from dominating the framework.  There are too many people on either side of the “objective” truth who will draw and quarter you for not telling the truth as they want to see it.

Eddy will keep on truckin and where he ends up, I am sure only Eddie knows.

Eddy, please don’t Eddyfy me!  I really didn’t mean everything I said here. 

“What sells, today, is whatever Fucks You Up – whatever short-circuits your brain and grounds it out for the longest possible time.”  — Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

3623– Friday, May 31, 2019 – The Old Library Guys

Did I tell you the story about?  What do old guys talk about when they get together?  I am part of a group of guys who meet each day at the library in Frederic from 10 AM to 12 PM.  There are some guys like Jerry and Dick who come in every day.  Then there are some guys who come in frequently but not every day.  Guys like Lowell, Reggie and Bill show up about half of the week.  More infrequently are Tony, Reid and Andrea, Reid’s wife.  Reid never ever goes anywhere without Andrea or perhaps it is the other way around.  We also have the very infrequent participants like Eddie (A writer for the local newspaper) whom I will talk about another time.  Eddie deserves a blog all by himself.  In fact, each of the people I noted are probably deserving of their own blog.

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Every day we gather for an informal talk about whatever is on anyone’s mind.  No schedule.  No agenda.  No leader.  Almost any subject is up for grabs.  Jerry is the intellect of the group and seems to be the best read with the exception of Tony.  Tony owned a bookstore and taught college for many years.  Dick is a retired mechanic and the most sensible and objective member.  Reggie is a nuclear physicist and that is the truth.  Lowell is a drug rehabilitation counselor now raising some type of legal hemp.  Reid is a former minister and Andrea is a retired lawyer.  Bill was a teacher and now does great wood working art.

We sit around a table, drink coffee, chat and on Fridays we buy cookies from a girl who brings them in each week for sale.  They are homemade and very tasty.  Sitting around talking for two hours can sometimes have its boring moments.  Not all of the conversations are equally interesting to participants.  Some of us ease these boring moments by playing on our smart phones or reading the local newspaper.  Others peruse the library stacks or stacks of movies for something to take home.  Eventually, the conversation changes and those who may not have been interested in a previous subject then find that the new topic is of interest to them.

I have attempted to diagnose the content of our conversations.  If you made a pie chart of the subjects of our conversations, I think it would look like this.

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Old stories clearly dominate the discussions.  The bad part of this is hearing so many old stories over and over again can be beyond boring.  The good part is that since the majority of us are over 70 years of age, we usually do not remember much of each other’s old stories.  The exception to this is Jerry.  Jerry always seems to have a keen sense of when and how many times a tale has been told before.  Some of us are worse offenders than others in terms of repeating old stories.  It clearly does not matter to the person telling the tale.  I for one feel that my stories get better each time they are repeated. 😊

Cars are our next most popular topic.  I guess a bunch of old guys anywhere in the USA would find some common ground when it comes to cars.  I don’t think there is anyone in the group who cannot remember their first car.  Dick, the former mechanic, has the best knowledge when it comes to the inner workings of a car and anytime one of us is having car problems, Dick will have some good advice. Jerry who was never much of a motor head frequently zones out when the subject turns to cars.  However, bring up Jeopardy or any old Turner Classic movies and Jerry will provide a better summary of plots and cast than you can find on Wikipedia.

Now you may have noticed that certain topics seem to correlate with the skill sets of group participants.  However, when it comes to politics, we are all experts.  Nevertheless, since Trump was elected, the group has more or less toned down its politics.  I suspect that is because some of the group voted for Trump and some did not.  There is a great divide in our land between Trump supporters and Trump haters.  In the interest of harmony and civility our group has been shying away from discussions dealing with national politics.

More recently, our political discussions tend to focus on “local” political issues.  A current hot topic is the citing of a new CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feed Operation) in Trade Lake.  Trade Lake is a town just north of Frederic by about six miles.  The operation would involve the establishment of a large hog farm on some local farmland.  Many townsfolk are against it and a number of groups have organized to stop it from being built.  Reid and Andrea live on Trade Lake and have taken a keen interest in stopping the citing of the CAFO.  Numerous stories abound about horrible smells and water pollution from pig farms.  Eddie (our journalist) has attended many of the Trade Lake Council meetings where the discussions have often become quite heated.  Once known for his lack of objectivity, he has been working harder these days to “give us the facts and nothing but the facts.”

Once the CAFO becomes old news, there is sure to be something that springs up worthy of discussion.  When all else fails, we will fall back on discussing old movies.  The majority of the group seems to favor older movies as opposed to the newer genre of comedy, superhero or zombie movie themes.  Ask any of us how many times we have seen one of the Dirty Harry or John Wayne movies and it would probably shock you.  Jerry usually leads our movie discussions due to his prodigious ability to remember details from every movie he has ever seen.  As noted above, he is a walking encyclopedia of the old classics.

Well, as Porky Pig would say “Th-th-th-that’s all folks.”

“It was among farmers and potato diggers and old men in workhouses and beggars at my own door that I found what was beyond these and yet farther beyond that drawing room poet of my childhood in the expression of love, and grief, and the pain of parting, that are the disclosure of the individual soul.” — Lady Gregory

 

The Bar Room Bum

I did this story two years ago. I think I will repost it. A story of what we want in life versus what we need.

Aging Capriciously

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I’m sitting in a bar feeling shitty about my life.  I have an average job.  I have an average looking wife and average kids.  I’m feeling shitty about myself as well.  I have accomplished nothing beyond average in my entire life.  I had once thought I was destined for greatness.  I dreamed that one day I would have the best-looking wife on the block and make more money than I could count.  None of my dreams have come to pass and I am now sitting here in this average bar nursing a cheap drink and wondering where I took the wrong turn.

Suddenly, the bar room door opens and in walks this seedy looking bum.  You know the type.  Long stringy hair, dirty clothes, smelly and unkempt.  He has probably not bathed in a month.  I hope he will not come and sit down next to me.  I know he…

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3625– Wednesday, May 29, 2019 – Make Believe or Reality!

I have always loved music.  I am tone deaf.  I cannot sing a lick or carry a tune.  I don’t know a clef from a chord, and I cannot even play a harmonica.  However, I have never heard a genre of music that I did not like.  From Bollywood to Reggae to Funk to Hip Hop to K-Pop to Opera to Classical to Enka to Tex-Mex to Flamenco to African American Gospel, I love them all.  I do not love all songs equally of course.  In every genre, I have some favorites but just like I love trying a new food, I delight in finding a new genre of music.  Each genre has its gems and stars.  Each has something to offer us.

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Music plays a special roll in my life.  Not only do I love to listen to music, but many songs have inspired me to write.  I often find a refrain or lines from a song that seem to cry out for a blog or for someone to say something about them.  If music is the sound of color, then writing about music is the voice of music floating on pages of white papyrus.  Each letter in the alphabet is a tone and when you string them together in words, and sentences and paragraphs, they want to be heard and they ask the reader to listen and to tap to their beat.  Words are melodies that can resonate just like the notes from a piano or a guitar.

One of my old standards is of course American Rock and Roll.  Growing up in the sixties, you would be hard pressed not to have listened to hundreds of the first rock and roll songs.  A singer that I loved back in those days was Conway Twitty.  Some lyrics from a song of his that are rolling around in my brain today goes like this:

But myself I can’t deceive
I know it’s only make believe

I am wondering how much of my life is make believe.  I doubt that 100 percent is, but I think some portion is.  Let’s say that 40 percent of my life is make believe, then I question what are those aspects that are make believe?  First of course, we must agree on what “make believe” is.  Without going to a dictionary, I propose that for something to be make believe it has to be a total fiction that is self-consciously induced.  Meaning, that I fabricate the make believe in my own mind.  Make believe includes fictions, lies, fables, delusions and fantasies that have no basis in reality but are things that I hold dear.  That can’t be me can it?  Can I the most rational logical unemotional person in the universe have any make believes?  Did you say bullshit when I said I was the most rational etc.?  Is that one of my “make believes?”  Well Sir, I am sure that is the only one I have.

“What” my wife Karen says, “about your ideas that men are inherently better drivers than women.”  “Hmm, okay, maybe I have one or two others.”  Still a long way to go until I reach 40 percent.

But myself, I can’t deceive,
I know my faults, my fantasies and my dreams are only make believe

Well, damn it.  Isn’t there a problem here then?  How much do I really know about myself versus how much do I not know?  Do you remember the model in psychology called the JOHARI Window?  There are four quadrants in this model:  As follows with some examples:

Known to others Unknown to others
Known to me I am an old looking guy Secrets about my family
Unknown to me I was sarcastic yesterday When will I die?

 

My “make believes” probably lie in the known to others and unknown to me quadrant.  A goal that psychologists say we should pursue is to increase our knowledge of the unknowns to us.  Some of these unknowns we can find by being more transparent and open to input and feedback from “others.”

Often though our make believes are an armor which protects us from the things we fear.  As life goes on, day by day, aging can seem to bring more and more things for us to fear.  Things we now fear that we never gave a second thought to when we were younger.  “I can’t do that because I might.”  “What if?”  Perhaps one of the worst things about growing old is to live a life that is the very opposite of the poem by Dylan Thomas.

“Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Ragerage against the dying of the light.” – Dylan Thomas

Instead, we tread more carefully, we flicker and whimper and at the dying of the light we cower under the covers.  Easy to do.  I cast no aspersions against the hardships of aging.  For many, I am sure, much more difficult than it has been for me.  So, I go back to my make believes.  I am sure that today I am:

Twenty-two years old.  I am dashing and handsome and athletic.  All the men want my autographs and all the women want my hand in marriage.  I am a Nobel Prize winner and a Rhodes Scholar.  I have six Olympic gold medals and five bestselling books on the Times list.  Faust often confers with me and Socrates borrows ideas from me to use with his pupils.  Pavarotti takes voice lessons from me.  Kings, movie stars and rich people line up at my door each day and clamor for a visit with me.  I am gracious and kind and compassionate and spend time and money to help the poor and needy.

But its only, only Make Believe.

“The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it.”
― J. M. Barrie, Peter Pan

 

3627– Monday, May 27, 2019 – Jesus Christ versus Donald Trump

Why do I get these crazy writing ideas when I am running?  I get some of what I consider my best ideas while I am out jogging.  Sometimes, my brain solves problems when I am running, sometimes it comes up with thoughts on things to do and other times I get ideas to write about. I was out running yesterday when the following thought flashed into my mind:  What if Jesus entered the presidential race on the Democratic side?  What would people say about this?  I assume that it would get attention from a wide range of commentators.  Just for fun, I decided to “put words into their mouths.”  The result is the following “Fake News.”  If you want to add your comments on what or how you would think about such an event, please do.  I always welcome comments.  So here we go!

News Flash!  Breaking news on CNN and Fox News.  Jesus of Nazareth, AKA, Son of God, Man from Galilee, Jesus Christ and King of the Jews has recently thrown his hat or crown into the ring to run for president against Donald Trump in 2020.  A quick Pew Poll shows him trailing Joe Biden and Sanders in popularity but leading the other 22 Democratic candidates.

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“We are bringing you some recent comments concerning this new event.  First, from the Republican side:”

Donald Trump: “Fake, Fake, Fake. I don’t believe it is the real Jesus.  But even if it was, I will kick his butt back to Crown Heights or wherever else he is from.”

Mitch McConnell: “This is another desperate gamble on the part of the Democratic Party.  I don’t care if he is the real Jesus or not.  There is no way that we are giving any of our hard-earned tax money to the poor people in this country.”

Lindsey Graham: “Well, you all know that I am a man of honor and integrity.  However, I do not think it is right that Jesus should try to stick his nose into something that should not matter to him.  We in the Republican Party have been doing a good job of running this country and I think Jesus would be better off working with the Pope to improve things in the Vatican.  Let us politicians run this country.”

Sarah Huckabee Sanders: “I know Jesus has quite a reputation, but I think he is a sell-out for joining the Democrats.  I am a Christian, but I will still vote for Donald.  He is the man.”

Devin Nunes: “I think there is some kind of a conspiracy afoot here.  I don’t know this Jesus guy very well, but I suspect that if he is a Democrat, he is also a closet commie and closet homosexual.  You can’t trust any Democrat.  I plan to head a committee to see if this Jesus has a bonafide birth certificate and is really an American.”

Bill Hannity: “Fox News says he is a fake and a charlatan.  Who ever heard of anyone in their right mind wanting to take money from the rich to help the poor, the lame and the sick?  Maybe he is Jesus, but this is the 21st Century and he is long past his prime.  He might have been able to sell that message in 20 BC, but this is 2020 and that dog doesn’t point any more.  If I were Jesus, I would go back to selling alms or something to help the poor and stay out of politics.”

“Now for some comments from the Democratic side.” 

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: “I have great respect for Jesus, but I don’t think he has a chance. First of all, he is a White guy.  Second, he is old.  I mean he is really old.  You put it all together and he is an “Old White Guy.”  Not enough Democrats will identify with him.  He is a nice guy, but you know what they say about nice guys.”

Nancy Pelosi: “I am not going to play any favorites here.  As long as he doesn’t push for impeachment and as long as he remembers that I run the Democratic party, I won’t have a problem with him.”

Ilhan Omar: “I want to know where he stands on Israel.  Is he for a two state or a one state solution?  These Jewish politicians are all the same.  Everything for Israel and nothing for Palestine.  If he wants my support, he is going to have to show his support for the Palestinians.”

Chuck Schumer: “I agree with Nancy.” 

Joe Biden: “I think Jesus could have a lot going for him, but he lacks my experience.  He might make a good Vice President, but he will need to pay his dues. I have been in the Democratic party for over thirty years and I have the track record that this country needs.  I will get behind Jesus if he is the party’s choice as I have got behind every other Democrat that my party chose.

Bernie Sanders: “I have said it once and I will say it again.  Election days come and go.  But the struggle of the people to create a government which represents all of us and not just the one percent – a government based on the principles of economic, social, racial and environmental justice – that struggle continues.  I have been on the forefront of this struggle for many years.  I have nothing against Jesus, but you did not see him on the Civil Rights marches when I marched along with Dr. Martin Luther King and you did not see him on the Vietnam War protest marches when I marched facing police batons and tear gas.  We need someone who will stand up to this corrupt government and I have demonstrated that I am willing to do that.”

“That’s all for now.  We will bring you updates on the Democratic nomination process as events happen.  Rumors are that Buddha and Moses are considering entering the race.”

“You’ll have a good, secure life when being alive means more to you than security, love more than money, your freedom more than public or partisan opinion, when the mood of Beethoven’s or Bach’s music becomes the mood of your whole life … when your thinking is in harmony, and no longer in conflict, with your feelings … when you let yourself be guided by the thoughts of great sages and no longer by the crimes of great warriors … when you pay the men and women who teach your children better than the politicians; when truths inspire you and empty formulas repel you; when you communicate with your fellow workers in foreign countries directly, and no longer through diplomats…”  ― Wilhelm Reich, Listen, Little Man!

 

 

 

 

Once Upon a Time Humans Created God in Their Image

Probably one of my least Christian blogs but one of my best in my opinion at dissecting this idea of a Christian god.

Aging Capriciously

god imageOnce upon a time, there was a group of creatures called humans.  They evolve and live out their lives on a place they call Earth.   Earth is basically a spheroidal rock that revolves around a Class 3 star (called a sun) in a galaxy named the Milky Way.  No humans know where they came from, how they developed or why.  This is a subject of endless debate and speculation that has led to a plethora of social organizations which humans call religions.

Humans have a limited capacity to think and a very short life span, given the eons that the universe has existed.  Most humans live less than 100 earth years.  A year is the length of time it takes the Earth to revolve around the sun.  Humans seem to have two major characteristics that are shared throughout all members, clans and tribes of the species.  The first is called

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