flying

I flew Delta from LAX to Minneapolis to Hartford . Red eye special . Good arrival time for my friend to pick me up , except that I got confused on the day . The day I flew in he had a gig and had to pick me up a little later . I waited in an airport bar and had a couple of expensive airport beers ,  local Connecticut stuff .

Now I’m home again . Same flight in reverse , except that this time it wasn’t a red eye .

Three hours in Minneapolis . Coming in from L.A. , I saw snow covering the parking structures outside . On the return trip , two weeks later ,  no snow . The airport is stretched out along endless concourses . Concourses . When do you walk concourses  outside of airports ? Am I missing something ? There are moving sidewalks and a tram .  Endless concourses . Food courts . Shops .  WiFi access .

I had a few mini-bottles of Scotch in my carry-on bag . They’re allowed . My friend Willie told me that last year . He gave me a couple of them to test his statement . No problem .  I showed them to the snoops , thinking that they might confiscate them . No . Willie was right .scotch

To order the same shot of Scotch during the flight would have cost me seven dollars , I think . Drinking one of the bottles during the flight I felt as if I were now out of the red , outsmarting Delta , pushing the envelope . The little bottles cost only 99 cents in Connecticut .  If I had had a few more mini-bottles I’d be sitting pretty , ahead of the game , actually beginning to show a profit . Well , almost   .

I once went from Berlin to London on Ryan Airlines . Ryan , if I remember correctly ,was the airline that seriously considered charging a fee to use the restroom . Nice .I would have gone broke .  I got to the Berlin Airport , Freuninggulingen ……., no Shaeuftshaffen ……. no Sheinifeld ? , Shoenefeld ? , at six in the morning . I had come from Poland by taxi that morning . Got there overly early , as is my way .WWI air ambulance

I was second in line . We were the only two customers to have arrived so early for the flight .  I had one bag to check . There were two conveyor belts moving luggage along : to London  and to  Ankara . I didn’t see the clerk put my lonely bag on the Ankara belt . I should have been watching , I guess . When I got to London I had no clothes . 10 days in England and no  clothes other than what I was wearing . I won’t tell you the whole sad story . My bag met me in London on the 10th day , having , I assume , enjoyed its own vacation in Turkey . We flew back to Berlin together , but we didn’t talk to each other the entire flight .

Another Berlin to London flight on British Airways was exciting after the pilot announced  over the scratchy PA system that he thought the landing gear was stuck . We were going to have to go in on our shiney sleek aluminum belly . The pilot’s voice was almost inaudible and he had a heavy English accent . One of the many . Dorset , maybe . Rs everywhere . Like old movie pirates :  Aarrh , matey ! Wharr yer headin’ ? Shiver me timbers !  Emarrgency vehicles aarrh be preparrhin’ fer arrh landin’  . Aarh.sign el monte airport

The plane was full of Germans . I , a native English speaker , was barely getting what the pilot was saying . I didn’t think that many of the Germans got much of it . But , on the other hand , maybe they had learned English from the English . Good possibility that they understood a lot more than I did , now that I think of it .

When we approached Gatwick , or was it Heathrow ? , the emergency vehicles were lined up along the runway . There were plenty of them : fire trucks , ambulances , police , hearses . Well , maybe not hearses .   I had confidence in the pilot and the plane . I don’t think anyone else in the plane could say the same , judging by their panicked expressions . Those pilots , highly trained ,  could slide it in on its fusilage belly .

Buckle your seat belt ; it’s gonna be a bumpy ride . airplane seat belt

But the landing gear came down and we all rolled to a stop .  Anticlimatic . I’m not complaining .  Billy Bob Thornton said ,” I’m not afraid of flying . I’m afraid of crashing . ”   That about sums it up .

About these English accents :

Ada and I flew from LAX to London once and I had arranged , in advance ,a rental car from the airport . I never sleep on flights and by the time we reached the car rental desk in London I was exhausted . I couldn’t , for the life of me , understand what the English girl at the counter was telling me . It was a Friday . I thought that she was telling me that my car wouldn’t be available until Monday . She wasn’t , of course . She was trying to tell me that my car would be a Mondeo .  I was losing my temper .

” Not Monday !” I said . ” Now “england

Ada had to translate . Mediate . Ada grew up in Poland .

” Tell him…” the English girl would say .

” Tell her ….” I would say .

Oh.  The car is called Mondeo. Nothing about Monday . It’s waiting for us . Oh . O.K. Why didn’t she say so ?mondeo

I don’t mind flying much . Once in awhile . It’s quick once you leave the ground .  Gets you places you might not otherwise go . Somewhat uncomfortable . Never enough leg room . And they always remind you how a seat belt works ; they show you ; give a demonstration . That comes in handy because sometimes , if you haven’t used one in a few hours , you might have forgotten .

Sometimes you should bring along an English-American dictionary , or , at least a phrase book . Several English speakers from various corners of the earth learned English English from the English . Beware .  And consider bringing  some little bottles of booze . If nothing else , it gives you a sense that you’re getting away with something .  Even if you’re not a drinker bring some  —– trade one  for a few more tiny bags of peanuts or pretzels . If you ride Ryan Air , bribe the stewardess to use the head without paying the fee . Endless possibilities . Endless.illustration 3

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geezerhood

Once I had a friend who was forty or fifty years older than I was . I used to joke with Fred that he had already passed his second childhood and that he was now in the throes of his second adolescence on his way to his second adulthood and maybe a second old age . I’m still not sure how old he was at the time . I added up a few clues from time to time in some lackadaisical attempt when the notion came over me to determine his age . He left his home in Austria in 1921 and he and a cousin went to Kenya and then to Canada . After running a painting business in Canada he later drifted down to the States . Go figure from there . It didn’t matter .

We worked together cleaning student apartments .

As I remember him , Fred was almost always in a good mood , no bad words for anybody ,except maybe occasionally for our boss . Or maybe those complaints came me . Once I backed his newly-bought used car out of his narrow garage . It had one of those chrome decorative horizontal strips across the length of either side . Before I knew it the end of one of those chrome strips caught on the side of the garage and as I backed out oh so slowly and carefully it rolled up like on those old food cans where you had a kind of a key and you twisted the thin piece of metal around in a sharp tight curl until the lid of the can came off . Fred was standing there watching. He grimaced but managed to keep quiet . No curses . I think he calmly reminded me that he had just bought the car a few days before that .

I thought of Fred because I’m now about the age he was when we knew one another . I find myself cursing at the mini people who populate the screen of my laptop . There’s a guy who starts a sales spiel to unload some solar power deal onto the population . He acts so incredibly sincere , like he really really cares , sounds like somehow I got to be one of his close friends . He wants to be my confidant and let me in on this incredible deal . Just me and him . Don’t let the secret out or everyone will want to cash in on the deal . He keeps coming back —– same canned expression, same sincere-sounding ( almost ) soft soap . Doesn’t he ever get tired of it ?

When I’m on the road driving I tend nowadays to speak ill of several of the other drivers . Learn to drive and THEN get a license , I tell them . I hate the guys who have to turn a quick left in front of you . Or a right , for that matter . If they had waited about five seconds they would have had an open road ! No one coming along for another few minutes . Oh , no , though , it’s so necessary to make a turn right in front of me as I approach . Playing chicken . Maybe it’s more exciting that way . Maybe they’re in such a hurry that those few seconds are critical . Maybe they just want to show who’s boss .

And I especially dislike those people who park in front of my house and set their precious cars right in the middle of the curbed space , thereby taking up two spaces so that no one else can park there. Like me . It irritates me even though I don’t always want to park my car out there ; but often I do . I want the option . I think some of those taking-two-space people are just inconsiderate . Doesn’t occur to them that someone might want to have the other space so that he can park in front of his own house . Some of them I’m absolutely convinced simply want to protect their special vehicles . If no one can park in front or behind them then they can be sure no one will bump their special buggies . Makes sense, I admit ; but it’s just not right !

These are the kinds of things that never bothered me before . I think . I seem to have slipped into geezerhood before I was prepared . I missed the training session , I guess ; at least the lesson about taking it all in stride . There must have been a day like that to spur us geezers on to developing a calm , mellow , courteous life ; but I never got the memo .

I think I’ve surrepticiously slipped into my own joke and that I am indeed in my second adolescence after an uneventful second childhood that must have been , I guess , a happy one . Second adolescence is a whole new phenomenon , however . I’ve got to work this all out .

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something glum

I wrote a scathing story about a former principal at a middle school where I worked several years ago . He was not a favorite for almost anyone there at the school at the time and certainly not for me ; but I scrapped the post because it was mean . And it didn’t begin to tell the whole story of this guy . Somebody should write a book , but in the meantime I’ll just let it drop . I was able to let off a little steam , nevertheless , still seething around in there after several years , churning around .

I guess it’s true that if I get Alzeimer’s it’ll be the Irish variety , where you forget everything except the grudges . I tend to hold a grudge a lot longer than I should . Sometimes I envy those of other personalities who burn a lot hotter , maybe , but who are able to blow the steam off at the moment and , so , probably get rid of it right then and there .

” I would have called bullshit and stormed out of there ,” a New York friend of mine told me recently . ” You’re too nice ! ” he said . He meant it as criticism . We were discussing an awkward dinner party situation in which I found myself recently . ” But I like that about you ,” he said , too . He’s of the other personality type . There’s some truth to the notion that the grass is greener on the other side.

Come to think of it , though , he has his grudges , but his are open hostilities . Mine are hidden deep in mental mine shafts and tunnels , collecting toxic dust and slurry over the years , and they show up on the surface only now and again a little worse for the underground and unseen wear and tear of time .

At least that’s what I think I know . I’ve never been to a therapist so that I might have somewhere along the line achieved a better and more profound and nuanced self-awareness . Ah , such are the boundless missed opportunities of life ! If I were to do it all over again I would consider going to a therapist to help me try to untangle the unfathomable complexities of my life .

Or maybe not . Maybe I don’t really want to know . Ignorance is bliss , after all .

I knew a guy years ago who used to stop by my house every Thursday after his psycho-therapy session . He was an avid reader and we used to discuss books and occasionally we’d trade a book or two . He’d been going to this particular therapist for over ten years . Every Thursday . I remember trying to reason with the guy . If the therapist hadn’t cured him in over ten years of weekly therapy then how good could that therapist be ? Maybe I missed the point .

Maybe not . My therapy-dependent friend eventually barricaded himself inside his small apartment with his books against the door and killed himself . I thought it was a poetic way to go . A tragic end , of course , but artistic and meaningful for him ; and allegorical , I suppose .

He lived in an old hotel in the MacArthur Park area of Los Angeles , just west of downtown , which was once an elegant L.A. neighborhood but which has been for decades in the middle of it’s own tragic form of citycide . Several of my students way back when lived in MacArthur Park. There’s a nice lake there which might be a good place these days to wander around to buy drugs or to score a fake passport or other I.D. or to be mugged if not murdered by the gangs who claim with a great deal of validity to run the place . The hotel where he lived is itself a refugee from those old elegant days . It’s in the form of a European castle , with turrets and all and has an old distinguished name . Movie stars of the Silent Era have lived there . They rent rooms there now to low income rejects of what seems to used to always be called the rat race . They mix with the furry variety of rats and they all do their best to survive day to day .

His books were a barrier but they didn’t save him .

So I end up writing today about a tragic random guy who visited me on Thursdays to talk books as we both let the world stream by carrying it’s myriad types of detritus and impedimenta . It keeps my mind off of that former Principal who I would have tried desperately to effectively and to thoroughly verbally trash . I would have failed , though , because I just don’t have to skill to adequately describe the terrible depth of his …………………………..

Well , let’s leave it here for now .

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Alvin York

itkindofgotawayfromyou

Alvin York (2)

Alvin York was born in 1887 in Pall Mall , in the Tennessee mountains .

You might have seen the movie . Gary Cooper played Alvin , a hillbilly sharpshooter with a crush on a girl and determined to get some “bottom land” so he and she can get married and build a house . He had reformed his life from his fighting and drinking days and had become a devout Christian and a pacifist .

The USA gets into the world war and begins Selective Service .alvin york (3)

York reluctantly joined the Army during The Great War and was sent to France. He had tried to get out of the draft as a conscientious objector . Alvin York was by then a determined pacifist . ”He were agin’ it ,” someone in the 1941 movie might have said.

1941 was another hot year for world wars . The draft…

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manners

So I go over to dinner at a friend’s a week or so ago . ( I hate it when someone starts with “so” , but so be it .) She grilled some delicious burgers and heated up some excellent beans . Her sister made potato salad . All were wonderful . I had a good meal .

No one told me that the sister and brother-in-law would be there . No reason I should be fore-warned , of course .

Brother-in-law filled his plate and immediately began to eat . Not everyone was even seated . He had the potato salad on his end of the table. No one suggested that maybe he should pass it along . That might interrupt his chowing down and we can’t have that . I waited a minute or two for the sister to eventually ask her hubby to pass the potato salad along , while I sat there for those few minutes in the interim astonished that the idea hadn’t first occurred to him .

Oh, he was nice enough about it when he passed the food . It’s not that he’s a mean person . It’s just that what to me seems to be common courtesy and good table manners didn’t seem to be part of his behavior . Has to be his upbringing , I guess .

And soon my friend finished her plate of food , left the table, and went out to another room to check her phone apps or whatever it was that she had decided to do instead of sitting with her guests . I made conversation with sister and brother-in-law. They have a grown son , and luckily they liked talking about how wonderful and amazing he is . Maybe he is and maybe he isn’t , but he sure came in handy for a topic of conversation .

I couldn’t help but wonder if his son’s table manners match his daddy’s .

So I have a mixed reaction to the dinner invitation . Good news and bad news.

Another friend of mine invites us over to dinner once in awhile . The last two times he mixed himself a drink and left the rest of us to open the bottle we’ve brought and begin drinking that or come up with an alternate plan on our own . I’ve known him a long time so I raided his refrigerator for cold beers while feeling just a little awkward having not been offered something .

A bring your own booze party is fine with me , by the way , but tell me in advance what to expect . And if you invite people for a dinner , I say go all out and be a bit sociable like you care at least a little that you have guests . That’s not asking too much .

My fault for accepting the invitations , perhaps . After all , I’m pretty easy going and I don’t think that I’m too demanding . Maybe I’m getting crotchety in my old age , or maybe people are slipping into a world of I don’t really care , do u . Or perhaps the lock-down year of pandemic resulted in people forgetting how to act in social situations . I don’t know .

But , when we invite people over for dinner at my house , you can be sure that if we have two dead rats , we’d give you one . If I had a cold , though , I’d try to keep it to myself . ( I know ; this last part doesn’t make much sense . I find myself in a post pandemic excogitated sense of retrograde rumination lately , and that can go sideways in a hurry ).

So , thank you for listening . I feel better now . As my Londoner friend Willie might say : Carry on !

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poem in passing

I wish you could holler

one more time :

” Hey , come on in for a cold one “

for a can of cold beer

and conversation with a stiff shot of civilization

and easy tales of life now and then .

Sometimes I live in the then . It’s a warm nest .

Where did you pass to , anyway ? —-

but I’ll leave answers to the theologians and the philosophers and the

know-it-alls .

” I don’t like the know-it-alls ,” I heard a guest at the party tonight say .

and I nearly said ” I’m a know-it-all but I keep it all to myself” but I thought

the joke would void and vanish as soon as said.

No one much listens anyway as you did and

I might could use a few more shots .

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of worms , rain , and billionaires

I called a friend of mine who lives in Connecticut yesterday . No , his name’s not Yesterday . I mean I called him yesterday , not that he lived there yesterday , although he did indeed live there yesterday . He’d been mentioning the hot and humid weather back there lately , but he couldn’t talk right now because he was driving back from Massachusetts at night in a fierce rainstorm .

I live in the Los Angeles area , but I remember rain. It’s wet , as I recall , and falls from the sky ; unless you’re in Ireland , I think , where it comes at you sideways with a barbarous diligence and determination .

Ada is in Poland now and it has been raining where she is for days . Before that the unusual heat there was bothering her . Heat and then rain ? Does that make sense ? What would I know !

I have friends and relatives in Portland , Oregon. It was 113 degrees F there last week . I expect it to be raining there this week . That seems to be the pattern , but what would I know ; I live in southern California . Hey , I should ask some of those people to send me photos of the rain in their inimitable necks of the woods . I’ll stick the pictures up on the wall so that I don’t totally forget what rain looks like .

I have fading memories of playing in the rain when I was a young kid . Strong streams of rainwater would rush along the gutters carrying tons of earthworms along and we kids would get mud and dam the gutters to form little muddy pools . We must have collected some of those worms , too .

Worms ? There must have been plenty of worms in the soil in those days . Worms need a little wetness . Ah ! That’s why the worms have gone away . Soil has dried out . Don’t mind me , I’m just thinking aloud .

I do have a collection of worms even now , however . I mean nevertheless. Nonetheless ? I noticed one or two worms some years ago wiggling around somewhere in my garden and I quickly scooped them up and dropped them into my compost pile. I was pretty excited . I mean , I definitely don’t have a fetish for worms , but hey , it was a little like finding a couple of twenty dollar bills all of a sudden laying out under the rose bushes . The twenties were laying out under the roses , not me. You would be excited too , if even just a little. By the way , would some of those random billionaires out there in the world in their luscious lairs be excited about finding twenty bucks unexpectedly under a bush out of the blue ? I’m betting yes . Well , I guess , on the other hand , that I shouldn’t generalize . All billionaires are not the same , I suppose . I wouldn’t really know , though . I only hang out with minor millionaires and on down .

I make sure the compost stays wet . The worms have multiplied . They like it in there , apparently , eating mountains of moist garbage in the damp and the dark and are probably dreaming of rain and the good old days when the so. Cal soil was damp and livable and they didn’t have to be confined to living in a hard plastic box . Times change !

Worms of the World Unite !

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enough decisions already

I think that a menu at a restaurant should be simple . Choose this or choose that . There it is , written out in simple language . Maybe a mere number will do , eg . I want the number eight . The server gets to ask , perhaps , What kind of meat with your number eight . Okay , fair enough . Chicken .

Lately Ada and I have wound up in a couple of places where you almost have to pass a literacy test to finish an order of food . The last place was a Mexican joint near the beach . I still don’t understand their menu .

Hello , I’m LeAnn . I’ll be your server today . Can I start you out with drinks ?  Okay ; sure . A Pacifico draft . And we’re ready to order . I’ll have the chicken burrito .

Which two sides do you want with your burrito ?  What are the choices ?

You can choose the cabbage salad , guacamole , rice or beans , sour cream , or papaya slice .  Papaya slice ?

So , the papaya slice with what other side ?  No , I don’t want the papaya slice . Maybe the beans and the guacamole .

Baked beans or refried ?  Refried .

So , do you want red sauce or green sauce on the burrito ?  Red sauce .

So , onions and chili sauce is okay on the burrito ?  Sure .

And Mexican cheese will be okay ?  Sure .

Sliced or shredded chicken in the burrito ? Doesn’t matter . You have to choose one .

So , did you want me to come by every five minutes or so and ask how is everything ?  Yes , please do .

And did you want me to take the order from the other party in your group now ?  Sure . The combination taco and enchilada .

So , did you want the combination with a pickle on the plate or bell pepper ? Bell pepper .

So , did you want red , yellow , or green bell pepper ? And would you like that sliced or whole ?  Would you happen to have zucchini slices instead ? Of course we do . Do you want red pepper or black pepper on the zucchini slices ? Or no pepper ? Could I get black and red pepper ?  Of course ! So , did you want salt also ? We have sea salt or locally produced salt mine salt ? Okay . Iodized salt or non-iodized salt ? Could you explain the difference ? And did you want that salt rubbed into the zucchini or sprinkled on ? So , did you want that beer in a glass or in a stein ? Stein.  So , did you want an imported stein or domestically made ? Domestic . And what material did you want in that stein ………….?weird man

I usually just order a # 8 over at our local place , Rigo’s .  I’ll look the entire menu over for a couple of minutes  first , though , just in case I want something else that didn’t jump right out at me or occur to me yet  . Some of the items are pictured . The descriptions are short and simple . It’s not an endurance  test . I never really liked tests . Ah , thank you Rigo !

So , would you like that burrito served on an oval plate or a round plate ?  On second thought , Leann , I think we’re leaving .  What do we owe you for the test prep ?

 

 

 

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