Saturday, September 30, 2006

Kids These Days

“It seems like kids know nothing these days.” I have heard this phrase all my life. And the phrase gets repeated generation after generation, so much so that it seems to be conventional wisdom.

Many that use this phrase leave no room for discussion. I’m left wondering if this is the way they wish it to be or if they have convinced themselves, or maybe they have heard it enough that it is now their truth.

Every time I hear this phrase and its equivalent “Kids these days!” I cringe a little.

I do so because I recognize that they begin life with zero knowledge of our world, its laws, teachings or values. They assimilate the values from the people that are slightly older, the very ones that decry the lost intelligence of generations that follow. From parents and grandparents come the lessons of life, the teachings and values they come to hold as their own. As information technology grows this process of passing knowledge becomes more difficult for individuals. We see influences of television, movies, music and video games stamped across the brains of our children. We see positive things as well. We see a vast network of information spread before their eyes and fingers in a way we never dreamed of or imagined we would ever experience.

The information is often technical however. I’ve not yet seen a video game dealing with ethics or moral choice. Information marketed to teens is rarely of the ethics and honor variety, rather themes like ‘jackass’ bring the dollars to the tv executives and shareholders.

It then becomes easy for us to turn our back and declare it is the fault of the world outside of us that kids have no manners, values, honor or knowledge. This is too easy I think.

If we are so convinced that kids have lost their way, defined as OUR way, then why are we so reticent to teach the values? Why do we blame an outside world?

I am drifting off into moralizing and hoped not to do so, still I see a world of kids with incredible potential. Theirs is a potential far greater than yours or mine for no other reason than that they are living through a continually advancing world of knowledge at a time later than you or I.

We inherit what we sow, do we not? This is wisdom handed down through the Books of Wisdom and layers of time. The next time we want to lament the ignorance of our children perhaps we should remind ourselves who has been teaching them, and then ask if we might have been teaching them at all?

I am reminded of the NFL head coach that declared at his weekly press conference that he was coaching the stupidest football team of all time. He said it was a team that appeared to know nothing about football. He said it with a straight face. He appeared to believe the responsibility for teaching them football belonged with someone else.

I laughed. He kept frowning.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Man in the Glass

The image in the glass is not me. I don’t know this man.

The glass that contains the reflection belongs to the Metrorail in St. Louis. The glass reflects the image of a man in his mid fifties. That is the face I see. I see the face that used to be me.

This illusion of time is shattered as I sit and stare at me. The illusion becomes solid the longer I sit and this man holds my stare. The image doesn’t change. The sun behind my head that makes the image possible warms my recently shaved head, bounces off the glass and onto my retina, burning in the image of the older man, the one that used to be me. I am on my way to the St Louis Airport.

I’m thinking as I stare. The thoughts are not the type you can capture, but more like the dreams of night, fleeting and then gone. They are not the sort of thoughts that one can write about. At least I can’t organize them, and I have no paper and no laptop. I have my transitory thoughts only, plus a suitcase, and the older man image staring back at me. I sit motionless as if in a trance, staring at the image of the man that used to be me.

The train rocks and weaves, even seeming to bounce. It crawls to a stop at Busch Stadium where the Cardinals play and fans are exiting the stadium and crowding onto the train. Young boys with their fathers are wearing persistent smiles formed in place by baseball and train rides and sunny days of youth spent in St. Louis on a bright Sunday afternoon. I remember baseball and its impact on my life and I think about its impact on my son’s life. I think about my grandson and his good fortune to live so near a historic professional baseball team. The fathers and smiling sons leave the train in a slow migration to their homes, a few at this stop, a few more at the next. I’m alone again in the train car. The man in the glass stares back. The reflection of the man that is different than the man I remember. He is older, more wrinkled after just a few more stops down the tracks and in the oddest of fashions this man now seems to look quite wise. He is bald like an eastern sage, wearing glasses as if to declare that even if he is an eastern sage he still comes down from the mountain top to visit the optometrist. He looks far wiser than the man I used to be.

I didn't like this man at first, when I first saw him on the train, this man staring resolutely back at me, his gaze following my own without embarrassment. I have been staring at him for an hour now. Bumping and weaving along, people coming and going and yet this man never moved. He only stared back at me and somewhere along the way I began to warm up to him.

He looked kind in a way. He looked expressionless as if he were deep in thought about something but he wasn’t about to let me know what it might be. He seemed more agreeable to me now, this man that stared back, this man that used to be me.

The man in the glass smiled. Finally he even laughed. As I rose to exit at the airport I looked at him a last time. I saw a tear on the cheek of the man in the glass, this man that used to be me and never cried. Then the man laughed at himself again at the same moment that I laughed at him.

I liked him now, this wise and kind looking older man; this man that smiled and laughed at himself. I said goodbye to this reflection in the glass; goodbye to the man that used to be me.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Freight Trains and Bridges

Bridges fascinate me. They always have. Many years ago when I was 10 years old I almost lost my life on a bridge. It was a bridge specifically erected to allow freight trains to pass over a road. This particular bridge was wide enough for the train and little else, just room enough to stand sideways against the steel side barrier and not be run over. You literally could not stick out an arm without losing it because the standing room was so tight. As you might guess, a train came along while I was meandering across it one day and I had no other option than to stand sideways and hold my breath for what seemed like forever. The next available option was to be totally smushed at ten years old. I had more imaginary home runs to hit, so I stood with my butt tight to the railing. I never used that bridge to cross the road again.

There are bridges that impress me for their remarkable engineering, others that make their mark on my imagination because of their beauty, or conversely, their simplicity.

I also love hiking through wilderness. Often I have seen the obvious signs of human wanderings because of a tree trunk laid carefully across a ravine, or a primitive style bridge engineered ‘on the fly’ by some one needing access to the other side.

In military schools thick textbooks are used on the subject of taking out enemy bridges. It disrupts supply lines and transport of troops to key areas. If they were not vital, why bother? One hundred more military textbooks are devoted to temporarily re-building the bridges that were destroyed so we can use them ourselves after the enemy territory is secured.

So we build them in peace and we destroy them in war. Does this sound familiar? It sounds like a lot of our personal relationships to me.

I find myself analyzing some relationships of the past, wondering about bridges burned and sacked.

Some bridges I wish were still in place. Others, well lets just say I’m thinking I never needed to be on the other side.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Chavez Will Have Glover's Baby

Seven's Satire Report News
Seattle, Washington

Barbabra Nantz of Seattle is fed up with the current Administration and its lies. Ms. Nantz is the founder of American Women against Forced Childbirth. Ms. Nantz contacted Seven’s Satire Report News requesting an interview for her cause yesterday.

Ms. Nantz told SSRN reporters that her organization supports the idea of men giving birth to children. In her carefully worded statement she said, “Women have been giving birth to children for so many years without a male taking on his responsibilities in childbirth that the world has come to believe that only women are capable of birthing children. This is yet another demonstration that the Administration in power is the enemy of all mankind.” In a later part of her statement she read “The fact that Arnold Schwarzenegger gave birth in a movie several years ago lifted the lid on this well kept Administration secret that men can in fact give birth. What has happened is that this administration has once again, like I mean, evil Bush, has decided to terrorize women by forcing them to have all the children for the world, while they callously abuse their own time and power by doing things like rigging the World Trade Centers with explosives and intentionally knocking them down and then afterward like they actually blame it on terrorists and everything stupid like that,” said Nantz.

After finishing her formal statement to my reporters, Nantz said the moment of truth is upon the current Administration. “This next spring we will witness natural childbirth by a man, thus revealing the wanton corruption of power by the current President and everything”, she said before lowering her voice and adding, “The child will be the love child of Hugo Chavez and Danny Glover.” When pressed about her sources Nantz confirmed that Molly Ivins was her source for this bombshell news, and that Harry Belafonte had confirmed the story.

Stay tuned for continuing developments.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Council Issues Statement in Golden, Colorado

Seven's Satire Report News
Golden, Colorado
September 20, 2006

The Council of Christian Dyed-in-the-Wool Leadership issued an official statement yesterday afternoon in an attempt to clarify its position on the recent comments by the Pope and the resultant outcry among Muslim faithful. The Council's president, Reverend James Micheals, read the following statement to Seven's gathered reporters.
"The Council is unified in its feeling that both parties to this dispute, both Catholic and Muslim demonstrators, should be blessed from this point forward with a powerful golden shower of love from the Lord."

Jennifer Squalls, Executive Director of the National Society of Watersports Enthusiasts said members of her organization are deeply offended by the Council's statement, believing that the group is attempting to belittle her organizations mission statement. She said her group plans a protest in downtown San Francisco on the next rainy Saturday.

Reverend Micheals says he doesn't understand what Ms. Squalls means.

End of Report.

Sad Irony

Let me see if I understand correctly......the Pope reads from a medieval text about someone else saying that Islam teachings can be evil and inhuman....and the Muslim reaction is to gun down innocent nuns and burn Catholic churches?
Oh, I see. That should cetainly prove their point and lovingly illustrate their outrage.
Does anyone else see the sad irony here?

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Adjusting Sails

This is the third and likely the last post on the fragments of maps concept. I am particularly struck by the articulation about our mutual world that you each express. When I write and then come back to read the very thoughtful comments it makes we aware that you are out there thinking of so many important things and that you are willing to share your thoughts. That is meaningful to me.

I have asked myself the question, “Would these ideas be better discussed around a table?” or is the discussion via web and print just as effective? The question ended in a laugh at me just because the first option is probably not plausible. So I will move on in print with my fragments of maps and hope to pick up a new one or two from you. I want to expand the comment box into a post and particularly talk about the comments from lynilu, ilias and enemy of the republic.

Lynilu said “You Can't Direct the Wind but You Can Adjust the Sails.” Well, maybe it was her fortune cookie that said this but she has captured it into her daily thinking. I am going to disagree momentarily. But I want to come back to it later. She also said that personal responsibility is vital to our peace with others. To this I agree wholeheartedly. This is a natural fit to my theory of a natural law that guides us along a path that is open to scrutiny as to the actions correctness or incorrectness. It is sometimes surprisingly easy to determine if our equations are correct, but often much harder to admit to them being incorrect. The idea of personal responsibility is in good company with me because we must always be willing to assess our behaviors and decisions to form a correct equation with the Creator’s guiding laws.

ilias said “I like to think that it is our thoughts (followed by actions) that create things that happen in the world or to us or near us, etc. If enough of us here on earth think about tragedy all the time, it will inevitably manifest. It must as the law of manifestation.” Yes ilias, this is indeed the largest and clearest map I hold after 55 years of searching. It is a truth to me, no longer a wondering. I like to say it this way, “The fate we believe in, we bring to pass.” This is a vital concept to me. It doesn’t mean that I will control the good v. evil choices of others. It doesn’t mean I will save myself from a crazed and angry gunman in Montreal, but it does mean I will face the world with personal responsibility for my direction and my choices; and if each of us did the same our world would improve dramatically. This idea is wedded to lynilu’s idea of personal responsibility as easily as rain and sky. We can bring sadness to our lives or we can bring good things, but it takes courage to declare it as personal truth. It’s so much easier to abdicate truth for the ‘victims’ cry of “Why oh why do bad things always happen to me?” In the simplicity of down home Texas talk, “Well maybe because you had been expecting trouble all along?”

Enemy of the Republic said, “Instead of asking: Why is this happening or How can a loving God allow this--the question may be "what is my own relationship to evil and suffering"? This falls gently into place with my thoughts about natural law and a perfect coordination with the equations of the perfect life. The presence of evil illustrated by my maps is the practice of an imperfect equation, the art of applying the natural law in a manner that results in the wrong answer. If we can look at evil this way, in the way EOTR advises us, we find the ability to discover the erroneous equation. In simpler wording, we discover the incorrect answers and they can be discarded in our search for the correct answers. This is a gem of simple truth wrapped in a complex thought. Evil exists because we are misapplying the natural law of the Creator and of our universe. How better to eliminate it than to embrace its erroneous reality, again as EOTR advises, and by doing so coming to understand why it not a successful equation?

If I return to the saying “You Can't Direct the Wind but You Can Adjust the Sails” I would take these ideas of (1) personal responsibility, (2) knowing that we can shape our world through our thoughts and actions and (3) that we can confirm that evil is present via its negative relationship to natural order and thereby clearly identify it for what it is, then I would gently suggest the phrase could be written this way instead.

“You Can Direct the Wind and You Can Adjust the Sails.”

I value your comments. Much Love as always.


Thursday, September 14, 2006

Working The Equation

It is the nature of men and women to search for answers. The question that surfaces quickly here is ‘why would we wonder about things’ if it is not the natural order of our minds? If it were not natural to seek all the answers, it would be required that we learn this attribute. But we don’t teach our children to wonder, and we were not taught to wonder at an instinctual level. We do so because wonder occurs naturally.

Watch a child stare at a rainbow, and if you can’t explain it, you might want to run hide, because they will ask you all about the rainbow. In the question of that child we find naturally occurring wonder, a wonder that remains all of our lives.
But we change the aim of our wonder as adults. We wonder about the things I wrote about in my last post. My central point in the post was that we should never stop wondering and searching. If we stop searching and wondering and we say “it doesn’t matter’ we close the door to investigation and thought itself. In many cases perhaps we simply consider the work too rigorous.
So we stare solemnly at the reality of children dying before their time or madmen with guns angrily shooting down the innocent. We label the gunman insane, wonder no more, and move along like cattle to a barn, back into our warm stable of contentment, though still quite frightened by insane men in black trench coats. Maybe it will always be someone else gunned down; not me or mine.
I believe our world is composed of the Creator’s natural order. It is an order that responds to only good and knows no evil. Yes, I do believe this. And when I talk with others about this they always fire back, “But Seven, evil is all around you.”
I know this fact about evil too well. Should we blame evil and injustice on the Creator and his plan? If we accept this notion we are acknowledging a less than perfect God and a life filled with landmines for all generations that might come after us.
If we look at the science of math we see easily enough that a math problem can be worked incorrectly. If we work it incorrectly, is the ‘law of math’ at fault? No, because the law of math is perfect so far as mathematicians can observe. Solving it correctly is the art of correct application of the science. The science of math has no power over how we use it. We can use it correctly or incorrectly; however incorrect answers cannot be blamed on the order or rules of math.
This is much the way I think about the natural law of the Creator. Can we blame God for the children that die early in automobile collisions. We may try to blame God, but the fact is clear that man invented a machine of a few thousand pounds, composed of steel, rubber and glass and sent it propelling down a strip of concrete at high speed, with the child placed inside the machine. Is this the correct working of the problem? The automobile is convenient to our lives and so we convince ourselves that it must be God that has taken our child for reasons unknown to us. It might be too difficult to admit that our invented solution for moving people is not a correct solution in the eyes of natural law. But I think it is always much like this. It is simpler to blame God than to believe our answers are incorrect.
Many die in hurricanes each year, and we wring our hands and wonder why God is so angry with us. Then we vow to reconstruct our homes in the path of hurricanes to come, never questioning if we have worked the equation of natural law correctly. Nature is surely sending us a message that our choice of home location, or perhaps construction quality, is not in accordance with the Creator’s plan?
Inside both of these examples lie fragments of the maps I discussed. These thoughts represent a small part of my tattered and glued together fragments of map; the pieces I keep folded in my pocket. They are maps that point to a natural order that waits to be found, a fleeting yet powerful point of clarity. Creator has given us a natural order, constructed of complex outline, and he/she instructs us to seek IT. We are not only allowed, we are expected to find it, but we must strive and observe. It is an order that has rules and beauty of precision, much like math, filled with good and enormous possibility for personal expansion.
It is our opportunity to look at the equations before us and come to a point where we know the hidden and correct value on the other side of the equation. These will be breakthroughs on a spiritual plane that will be equal to our resolve and intent. We must continue to seek and not blame the Universe, but rather look for the answers in the laws laid before us for inspection.

Then one day we will not say to our children…”it doesn’t matter”…because we will know it always did matter, and only good will walk inside.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Fragments of Maps

More than one child died in an automobile accident today. Somewhere a man in despair took his own life. In Montreal a gunman opened fire on innocent bystanders. Glass lies broken on the street. Blood and brain tissue stain the wall adjacent to the hole made by the bullet and its fallen victim lies below. Montreal citizens run from a source of evil unseen.

How do we explain such things to young minds and hearts when it makes no sense to our seasoned minds and hearts?

Some blame God. Some blame mankind. Hate mounts, even among citizens of the same national and familial origin.

As a youth I asked many questions of religious leaders, particularly the ones I grew up around. I asked about pain and suffering. I asked about the early unreasoned death of a child with cancer. I asked and then I asked some more.

I was pointed toward the writings of C.S. Lewis. I was pointed to the words of Jesus. I was told it didn’t matter; all that matters is recognizing that God knows. I was looked at with blank looks that hoped the ceiling might catch on fire to divert attention from my question.

I dismissed the ‘it doesn’t matter' answer as searchers sloth and spiritual surrender.

I’m still asking and searching.

Fragments of maps litter my path. Pieces of map that point toward another part of the map I can’t find. Nightmares wake me in the darkness. Light illuminates a thought until I think I might hold the thought in my pen, only to find it is quicker than ephemeral, evaporating like vapor escapes into the sky. I squeeze my eyes to focus my brain, but it is gone again, this vapor of understanding that teases me and then turns resolutely to punishment.

We pick up the glass from the pavement and we scrub the walls. We search for the gunman. Day after day. Week after week. Then we leave earth and the others follow behind to do our work, leaving us resembling a retired employee never missed.

I know God will not give me the answer unless I search. Maps litter the path I have walked; more wait to be unfolded. I look to the earth and shed tears for those whom we would answer, 'it doesn't matter.'

Monday, September 11, 2006

Hysterical Society To The Rescue

Seven Satire Report News
Shedville, Kentucky
July 2005

Retired Greyhound bus driver Jimmy Dunkin is a bit upset with Marjorie Jenkins. According to my sources in Kentucky, the trouble began when Jimmy let it slip out that he intended to tear down his outside storage shed that had begun to lean seriously to one side.

It seems he told Betty Adams at church one day. Betty, as it turned out was best friends with Marjorie Jenkins, the wealthy wife of Louisville retailing millionaire Sam Jenkins.
As fate would have things, Marjorie is president of the Blue Grass Architectural Hysterical Historical Society. The mission of the society according to Mrs. Jenkins is to save old buildings from destruction.

In an interview with Seven Satire reporters Mrs. Jenkins says she intervened in the destruction of the leaning shed, some 175 miles from her home in Louisville, “Because it is built with lumber that is old and came from very old trees.” She added, “Also the nails used to hammer it together were sold from a very old hardware store that is no longer in existence.”

Mr. Dunkin has now been stopped from tearing down the shed by an emergency injunction issued by the Kentucky state court system. The court order states that the shed is illustrative of ‘old shed’ buildings in the State of Kentucky and because it is now leaning over it can serve as an example of shed failure not normally preserved for study.

July 2006

One year later Mr. Dunkin shed has been awarded a Blue Grass Architectural Hysterical Historical Society plaque that the State of Kentucky ordered applied to the wall despite Mr. Dunkins' protests. According to Dunkin, “that danged plaque causes morons of all kinds to stop and stand around looking at the silly thing and wondering why it’s important. I tell ‘em its cuz the state sez it’s got old nails, and they seem genuinely impressed, and then I tell ‘em about the old boards and the old trees and they start phoning their friends on their cell phones to tell them all about it.”

For her part, Marjorie is quite pleased. “When I married Sam he told me I could do wonderful things with my time working in community service and all, especially using his money to accomplish all the good things,” she beamed. “And the best part of all is that the Hysterical Historical Society I founded has saved several other sheds in the state too, but this ‘lil shed in Shedville will always be special to me.”

Sunday, September 10, 2006

A Ludacris Celebration of Ignorance

I stumbled across an email this weekend where I was apologizing for failing to answer a question in a way that totally suited the person asking the question. I explained to this person that my response was unacceptable in their eyes simply because I lacked the necessary knowledge in the subject area to know my answer was inadequate. I really tried to answer the question; I just didn’t have enough knowledge to ‘get there.’

I actually did want to know much more about the particular subject, so I phrased my explanation this way, “It may seem odd to you, but I am glad the answer is inadequate because it makes me aware that I have a great deal to learn. In a sense, I suppose I am celebrating my own ignorance.”

As we go along through life we so often think we need to know all things, or at least pretend that we do, and then hope like hell no one figures out that we do not. In the age of rapid information transfer we live in, it gets more difficult all the time to absorb the constant onslaught of information and deal with the default idea that we should know all things. I find myself frustrated occasionally that people around me know all about a particular subject, while I remain silent in embarrassment that I have never even heard of the subject. For the longest time, I wondered what the heck a blackberry was; the non-fruit type I mean.

I think more often lately I have fallen back onto this idea that it is not really so bad to not know all things that others might know. For example, take the rap artist Ludacris. Ludacris appeared in concert at my alma mater last week. There was a great deal of controversy and hand wringing about his appearance as a result of his controversial lyrics. And yet, when I discussed this with friends, many looked at me in puzzlement and said “Who is Ludicrus?”

And if you have read here very long and know my ‘personality’ you will know that was a very wide opening through which to drive my sarcastic wit.

I am rather glad actually that Ludicrus is invisible to so many.

I think when we truly want to know something, and we begin to zero in on learning or understanding it, we can truly come to value our ignorance in a way. Without the early ignorance, we would have no goals or inspiration to know more. And so in the oddest of twists a paradox emerges here. The paradox peaking over my shoulder today is that our ignorance can be celebrated, if only because it offers us the opportunity for it be overcome. And certainly, at the least, our ignorance does not have to be shaming, but merely a transitory phase, or in the case of Ludicrus, merely a blessing.

When we understand this, then perhaps we can all quit pretending that we know all the things we do not?
Postscript: And oh yeah, I am not particularly picking on Ludacris here. His art belongs to him and we all get to decide about consuming his art. What I mean by 'the blessing' thing is that his power to influence has limits and that I believe is true (and good) for us all.
I am a fan of the movie 'Crash'. For many years I have had a love/hate relationship with the film industry, but I felt life was accurately portrayed in that movie and I applauded it's success.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

United Nations Welcomes Karr and Jeffs as Peacekeepers

Sevens' Satire Report News
United Nations, New York City

In a stunning announcement today the US federal government said that John Mark Karr and William Jeffs will not face trial. Instead both will be reassigned to the United Nations at the request of Koffi Annan the United Nations Secretary General.

The US government says its motivation for avoiding trial of the two men is to avoid the expense of long public trials. Jeffs is accused of arranging marriages for and having sex with minor children as part of his religious practices. John Mark Karr, previously held for confessing to the murder of Jon Benet Ramsey continues to be held on child pornography charges.

According to government prosecutors, the United Nations will be a very good fit for both men. The world body recently admitted its UN peacekeepers in the Congo have routinely raped and sexually abused female war refugees including young female children. The UN admits such crimes extend into the past more than a decade in locations around the world. Various U.N. reports and interviews with humanitarian groups suggest that international peacekeeping missions are creating a predatory sexual culture among vulnerable refugees from relief workers who demand sexual favors in exchange for food to U.N. troops who rape women at gunpoint.

An anonymous federal prosecutor said, “Jeffs and Karr fit quite well into this culture and it allows us to avoid the great expense of trials for both.”

Discussions with Jeffs and Karr have led to plea bargains. According to my sources, both men are excited about the possibility of serving the United Nations.

Koffi Annan commented that both will make valuable additions to the United Nations culture of rape and pedophilia. However, he also lamented that he did not know how sharp either’s graft skills might be. Said Annan, “Graft and corruption may be something we need to teach them to create a fully functioning United Nations representative, one capable of rape and pedophilia and simultaneously accepting under the table money for selling their victims as sex slaves on the open market.”

“All these training goals will take time of course,” Annan added.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Reporting from St. Louis

Have you ever wondered how in the world there is enough food for all the people in the world to eat? Over the weekend I rode the Metrolink train from the Illinois outskirts into St. Louis. The Metrolink is disarmingly simple for a major city mass transit system. Instead of the typical spaghetti map composed of the primary colors assembled into an incomprehensible barrier to understanding, the metrolink map is one line with stations arranged along its path. Yes, that’s right. One graphic line. Perhaps it is a concession to the quality of the education in the St. Louis schools, but I think instead it is a good and simple way to layout a mass transit system.

Now back to the food question. Riding from my daughter’s house to the city, a distance of maybe twenty miles, we passed acres and acres of rolling corn and bean fields. Many more acres I’m confident than the acreage occupied by the city of St Louis. My daughter tells me this is the tip of the iceberg of farming in the region. I will wonder where all the food comes from never again; at least the corn and beans. I couldn’t help wondering about the lives lived on these farms. They are the quintessential photograph of American rural life; the white farm house with red barn and tall silo stationed in the geographic center of rolling green farmland. How would it be to call a farm like this your home?

I took the Metrolink to the airport yesterday. All the way from the farmlands, thru the length of the city, and arrived so late (because of a Cardinals game) I had to sprint through the airport like O.J. Simpson of long ago. Making matters worse, the TSA official wanted to hand check my carry-on bag. I guess because of my shaved head I looked the type to carry out a ruthless terrorist attack over the St. Louis arch. He was a young, muscular athletic appearing man. He found inside my carry on a couple of texts for training young sprinters in track and field. His face lit up like a kid at Christmas. Unfortunately this discovery turned into a track sprinter question and answer session, while I danced around and glanced at my watch nervously. Finally he bid me a good day; at least he did so to my rapidly disappearing butt that took off like the starters pistol had fired. I arrived at the gate in full sprint just as the boarding agent was giving me the ‘not on your life’ look. I sweet talked her. And as fate would have things, after I am the last person seated, (yes I know we all hate that guy) we then sat on the runway for 30 minutes waiting our turn to take-off.

I am a lifelong baseball fan. I am stuck with the Texas Rangers unfortunately. I lovingly refer to them as the Texas 500’s since they are paralyzed in a successive streak of .500 seasons. Give them credit for consistency anyway. If we lose today we are guaranteed a win tomorrow and a loss the next day, and so it goes.

They are more fortunate in St. Louis. It is a city with a treasure of baseball history and a love affair with the beloved Cardinals. Too much love in my opinion. We toured their new stadium on Saturday. People were lined up for entrance several hours before the game. Kids in Cardinal jerseys played baseball on the adjacent streets waiting for the gates to open. And then the pinnacle of Cardinal mania; the father, mother and three kid family all dressed in Cardinal jerseys and caps. Yes, these are grown men and women wearing “Pujols” and “Rolen” jerseys, the little tribe of red bejeweled baby cardinals following close behind, three small red caps following the two big red caps, like ducks along the banks of a lake, except in this case along the banks of Busch Stadium. I am a big baseball fan, but I mean COME ON! GET A LIFE, please.

I would like to nominate St. Louis for the easiest and best mass transit system I have seen. All of you in Philadelphia, New York and Chicago know what I am talking about! I don’t think anyone can really read the subway and bus maps in those cities. I doubt they are even correct. They don’t have to be; no one understands them anyway. I doubt also if they are ever updated. There is no point. Regulars know what to do by experience. Visitors ask questions of rude citizens and drivers. And guys like me end up at the Mets stadium by mistake instead of Yankee Stadium. At least there aren’t tribes of families dressed in Mets uniforms!

Friday, September 01, 2006

Ripples On The Water

My dad said we should be careful down at the river but I don’t think my brother Pete ever really pays attention to that. He has his .22 rifle in his left hand and tells me to be quiet so mom doesn’t see us leaving with the gun.
I’m 11 and my gun totin big brother Pete is 14 on this hot summer day in Texas in 1962. We are headed to the banks of the Trinity River about a mile from our house.
It’s the river that just last winter killed 5 teenage girls. It was all the newspaper could talk about for days and days afterward. On the first day it showed big black and white high school annual pictures of all the girls on the very front page. They were all smiling big as could be with wavy long hair and dresses with little bows at the collar. It talked about how they had nice personalities and stuff like that and what a big tragedy it was and all. Their car went off the road after they drank too much beer and went right down the bank and into the river. Most everybody said they were good girls and probably some store owner made a big mistake by giving them the beer. The second day the newspaper reported on all the things their parents said and also what their preachers and teachers said about it and all. On the third day they reported about the funerals of four of the girls. The other girl got mysteriously sent off to New Mexico for her funeral. Somebody said her daddy was too embarrassed about the beer and the talk to stay in town. There was a photograph of one of the mommas crying with her handkerchief held up to her nose while the preacher talked to her. She was wearing a necklace that looks like the one Beaver’s mom wears on ‘Leave it to Beaver’. I was a little afraid of the river after that, I wondered if the girls had ghosts that cried at night time and might even float the one mile right up to my bedroom window.

On the way out the door my next door buddy Glenn Ford joins up with us. Glenn’s 10. He didn’t ask if he could come. He never does. He’d probably follow me right into the path of a train come to think about it. His mom and dad named him after the movie star, but Glenn is kinda stupid. My mom says they musta dropped him on his head or something at the hospital and they didn’t bother to x-ray for damage or nothing, just sent him on home with his momma trying to act like nothing happened at all. Glenn’s dad works at the General Motors Factory up the street. Mr. Ford says Ford cars are for shittin' in. He only drives ‘built in Texas’ GM cars. That’s kinda funny to my mom too. She says maybe Glenn just takes after his dad in the brains area. His mom is something though with really big pretty knockers which she showed me once when she bent over to pick up the baby that was wailing like a little brat in the middle of the floor, I just happened by dumb luck to be staring at the dopey kid at the time and got a big eyeful. Hers are prettier than the first ones I ever saw in my dad’s magazine last year, the one he thought was hidden under the big rock under the house, but I like going under the house sometimes just goofing around and he didn’t know that, so I figure she could show her knockers off in a magazine too and be famous like Marilyn Monroe, only she has to take care of Mr. Ford and all the brats at her house and there’s six of them already.

When we get to the river Pete hands me the gun and dares me to shoot at the turtles that are floating along the surface. I don’t like killing things and he knows that which is why he is daring me. Me and Pete are a lot alike. He’s just daring me because he won’t kill them either but if he dares me first he can call me ‘chicken’, which of course means I will dare him back and then he will miss the turtle on purpose just to prove he’s brave enough to shoot at them.
My Uncle Jay says we are almost the same, meaning Pete and myself. That’s why he always calls me Repeat. That‘s what he says every time he sees us. “Well look at this willya, here comes ol Pete and his sidekick Repeat.” He says it every time. My dad thinks it’s funny so he calls me Repeat too, almost like he thought of it himself. If Uncle Jay isn’t around to take credit I guess it is like he thought of it himself to anyone that doesn’t know what I know.
Pete gets to keep his name in this ignorant game which is why I don’t like it too much.
I toss a rock into the river just to watch the ripples. I like throwing things, especially rocks into the water, because I can try to hit the turtles on their backs. They always dive down when I actually hit them like they think the Japs are bombing them at Pearl Harbor or something. Then I watch the ripples grow bigger and bigger above their sinking and dying turtle shells.

“You know what that means when the ripples go out like that?” asked Pete. Glenn asked what a ripple is, but we just ignored him like we always do.
Knowing Pete watches a lot of TV I decide he probably knows what it means and anything I answer is gonna get laughed at so I bite on the question. “No ignoramus, what the hell do the ripples mean?” Pete ignores my insult figuring he had something important to teach his little brother like the day he taught me to throw a curveball, “Dad says it’s the same as telling a lie or telling something nice about someone.” “That’s right” said Glenn. We knew Glenn was probably thinking about something altogether different than we were so we just talked around him. “What do you mean? I don’t get how a rock in the water and ripples is like a lie.” Pete sat back on the bank and tried to act wise, “Well the ripples are like someone you tell a lie to and then that person goes and tells the lie to someone else and pretty soon the lie you told is going on all around you just like the ripples in the water and you can’t do anything to stop it. But if you say something nice to someone or say something nice about them then the same thing happens, but it’s all nice and good things that are going on instead.”
I didn’t say anything back to Pete on account of I was figuring him to be pretty smart at that point, but Glenn asked him what happens to the rock.
“Glenn, you’re a dumbass, it doesn’t matter about the rock!” Pete was easily irritated when he was trying to pass on some of dad’s wise thinking.
“It just matters that if you tell a bad thing about someone or say a bad thing it just goes on and on, it doesn’t end there unless you live on the damn North Pole or something. Same thing happens with good things.”
“But you called me a dumbass,” said Glenn.
Pete’s eyes were narrow slits now. “Glenn those dead girls from this river are gonna haunt you for the rest of your life you little ignorant son-of-a-bitch!”
It looked like Pete had already forgot about the ripples and nice words and all that, but I was figuring dad would be sorta proud of him anyhow. Glenn shut up then cause Pete had a gun and he didn’t feel the same about Glenn as he did the turtles.