Monthly Archives: October 2015

the big story

Everybody’s got plans , until they get hit ——-Mike Tyson

    I was a cub reporter once . Not many people know that .  Not quite a Walter Cronkite , I will freely admit , but maybe more of a Jimmy Olsen . You remember Jimmy Olsen . ” Gee thanks , Mr. Kent . ” —–It  was Superman , aka. Clark Kent , who repeatedly told him sincerely  ” Thank you , Jimmy ” , as if Jimmy Olsen weren’t the bumbling half-wit character he was meant to be . Well , Jimmy Olsen had me beat , too , as a reporter , I have to say .

I don’t know what got into me one day back during my UCLA days . I had a brilliant notion that swirled up out of nowhere , out of thin air , that I should  work for The Daily Bruin , which was the campus student newspaper . So I walked in and offered my services . Just like that . Fools rush in , and all that . I talked to the first person I saw in the  Bruin  office . They all seemed busy . He told me to speak with the editor . He pointed across the room .  He’s right over there . And so I did .

I suppose that I didn’t have any idea what work they might put me to doing . I’d get to know  newspaper operation . On a small scale , at least .

It’s not like I had any journalism training . None . And , as far as writing skill came into it —- Well , I took several English classes at UCLA . I liked them . I had first  to  take , I  think , what was commonly called ” Dumbhead English ” when I was  a Freshman . My writing ability was not , perhaps , as ship-shape as UCLA would have liked upon my entering their university . So  I was thrown into the basic writing courses . What’s a sentence ? What is the subject of this sentence ?  They wouldn’t throw gerunds and participles and the like at us until several months later , not to mention  dangling modifiers . Perhaps a bit of mixed metaphor might have been mentioned , and introduction to first person narrative . Second and third person would follow . It was such a long time ago !

I was taking a literature class , too , at the time . It was a Foundations of American Literature type course , or The Beginnings of World Lit , or something profound and required like that . Real basic . The professor made us write  five-page papers . Topic # 1 : The good and bad in Beowulf . We were sternly admonished  to cite Beowulf references as evidence ; none of this figurative stuff would be allowed . Five -page papers were the standard at the university , I discovered . Someone must have told the chancellor that five pages was just enough . Not too much , but enough . Educationally precise . The professors or their readers , I suspect , would have staged a campus revolt if more pages were imposed upon them . That would definitely be too much reading of student assignments , especially in those 500-student freshmen survey classes.

Each of us in the Eng. Lit. class had to arrange a conference with the professor after each five-page -paper assignment . This teacher did her own correcting , I guess . She’d read the entire mass of papers on the good and bad in Beowulf. She has a place reserved in heaven

I read Beowulf twice , and then again , trying to find the direct references to either good or evil . The saga consists of 3182 alliteratve lines . I found a total of two lines directly related to good or evil . Two and only two . How does one write a five-page paper about the good and bad in Beowulf from two measly lines ? I wondered . Maybe PhDs have the answer . judge 2

She had her blond hair in a tight bun , I remember clearly . I found it difficult not to stare at the tight strands of hair that seemed to pull her forehead upward toward that bun . Her face was taut , partially due to the hair being fastened too tightly , I thought . I sat down across from her professor desk in a small professor office-hour office . She had my five page paper there in front of her , and a decidedly sour expression on her face .

” It’s probably too late to drop the class , ” she said . That was her opening line . She handed me my paper . Big red D+ scrawled toward the top .

” I don’t want to drop the class , ” I responded . ” Why would I drop the class ? ”

” I just assumed that after reading your assignment , ” she said .

I had written what I think may have been  an allegory about Grendel and Grendel’s mother . Somehow , Richard M. Nixon was involved . Maybe he was Grendel’s mother , but I don’t remember any more . Whatever it was , this blonde bun-headed professor did not appreciate my creative effort . In her mind , probably , I was making fun of her life’s work , of her dedication to serious study of the English language , of all of the extensive English Literature tradition, perhaps ,  starting my supposed ridicule right out at the beginning .

I was a wee bit taken aback . Now that I think of it , though , the episode reflects the power of the written word . Doesn’t it ? Had she had Beowulf’s sword ( assuming he used a sword ) , I think she would have taken a few deadly Beowulfian swings at me , the ambiguously-educated beast sitting across the desk from her . I felt sorry for her , a bit , not only for the apparently painful hairdo , but because she , for the coming ten weeks ,  was stuck with me in her class .

I suppose a lesson here might be : never start out showing them your best work . I could only move up from that less than illustrious beginning . I thought , at least , that my paper was mildly amusing . Evidently the professor didn’t share my view . But , that’s neither here nor there .

The editor at The Daily Bruin  began outlining a story the paper had run ten years before , all about a UCLA professor who had gone to Brazil to begin implementing his project that would change the course of things from then on . I’m sorry , I have no idea now what his project involved . We’ll just have to move ahead without that knowledge .

He told me to go interview the professor for the ten-year anniversary article that I would write for the Bruin .  Find out how it’s all developed over these last ten years . Get the story back to him as soon as I could . ” Good luck , kid ” , he said , just like Mr. White in the Superman series .

” Okay , Chief ! ” LAWYER

I went to see the said professor up in his Haines Hall office . I introduced myself and told him what I was up to . He laughed .

” We went there and we came right back ,” he said . He told me it had been “like the wild west” over there , and it was immediately clear to him back then , ten years ago , that the plan wouldn’t work . He had folded up the tents right away and come home .

I could have written some goofy story about the best laid plans of mice and men , and tried to explain the failure of the ten-year old , all -but forgotten project . I began a couple of rough drafts . Why was I writing a newspaper story , anyhow , I wondered ! I’m no journalist .

I walked in to the editor’s office the next day . How about a story about Nixon and Grendel and Grendel’s mother , Chief ? I could throw in J. Edgar Hoover .

I’d get  a   ” No ,  Olsen , you’re fired ! Get out ! Don’t let the door hit you on your way  !” And then Mr. Kent would see me in the hall  and  say : ” Don’t worry , Jimmy . Just between you and me , I’m not really cut out to be a reporter either . “webster's dictionary

By the way , Professor Tight-bun liked my next five-page paper a little better than the first . She told me that she was surprised by it , that I wasn’t as much of a worthless loser as she’d at first thought . She gave me a big red C+ .

” I’m writing for  The Daily Bruin ” I told her .

” Oh ,” she said . The sour look returned ,  and  I think we were instantly back to square one . Oh , well ! shakespeare

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Laurel and Hardy – The Deep Wisdom of Folly!

I’ve got to re-blog this one . It fits in to how I’ve been feeling lately .

The Immortal Jukebox

Sometimes it seems the world is so full of war, pestilence and strife that no amount of lamentation can ever be sufficient. Daily, we near drown in a deluge of news pouring out outrage after outrage – with each man made or natural disaster confirming that power and greed and corruptible seed seem to be all that there is.

I suppose I could accept that this world is condemned and lay back listening to the hoot owl’s despairing elegy for a fallen world. Instead, today at least, despite or because of being somewhat more than in the middle of life I’m taking the other path through the thorny wood – the path illuminated by the gentle light of humour.

My guides on this path are the blessed shades of the greatest comedic partnership in the history of entertainment: Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.

I’ll be very surprised if just the…

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cautionary tale

One of my  sisters  told me a cautionary tale from Ireland .  A  fishing boat sank and the fishermen were thrown into the sea . Only one of them knew how to swim and he saved the other men , one at a time . He pulled them in to shore , one at a time , by their hair , except for one . One fisherman drowned .  Not enough hair to take hold of .GOSCIM VACATION 2015 112

I’m not sure why my sister chose to issue this cautionary tale . I’m not exactly sure , to be honest , what a cautionary tale is . Am I supposed to be cautious from now on whenever I row out on the Irish sea with the lads ? No one could drag me in to shore by my hair , for sure .  But , then again , I know how to swim .model hair down 1895

That tale got me thinking about cautionary tales .

I visited with a couple of long lost friends recently . I know them from  35 years ago when we all were young and spry . Now , none of us are quite as spry , if spry means what I think it means . I should have looked it up before I wrote this , I know  . But , hey , it is whatever  it is . Sometimes we just have to go with our best guess and hope for the best . Sometimes also , after all , the best laid plans of mice and men are often gone for naught . Right  Lenny ? Right George ? ( Literary reference ! ) .

My friend Tony told me his memory of what he calls ” The Sermon on the Mount ” when  he and I went camping once all those many years ago, more than thirty ,  and I , evidently , stood up on a boulder and preached at him in older- brother style about his intentions toward his  then  girlfriend , Kathy .  It was a ” You’d better treat her right or you’ll  have me to deal with ”  sort of a lecture , I guess .

” And at some point I realized he was serious , ” Tony said of me  , as he told the story in his living room to Ada and Kathy and me . He laughed gleefully  as he spoke , and the very air in the room  reflected the sparkle of the generously shared joy that frolics playfully within the limitless playground of his dark Sicilian eyes .

I  have blocked the specifics of the sermon out from my memory for now . I don’t often preach . Sometimes , sure .  I , evidently  , had been well- oiled at the time with  too many beers when my deep evangelic side kind of brusquely showed itself .LASSEN TRIP 2-3 014

A cautionary tale told to my friend Tony ?

I won’t claim much credit , necessarily , for a successful long-term loving couple’s relationship  , but the two of them have been together all these many years , settled and content , and working as an effective team . He remembers my sermon on the mount , anyway , and that must say something . All I know is that he let me inside his house a week or so ago , after thirty  years , and he offered me a bottle of good beer .  That’s a good sign .

Enough of cautionary tales , though . I think the culture is drowning in cautionary tales .  I think that I hear , subliminally at least , cautionary tales all day long . Everyone in the news and over the internet issues dire warnings about us all being on the brink of disaster . On the Eve of Destruction . Things are worse by far than ever before , I hear . The country is collapsing ! The founding fathers are turning over in their graves ! All that we’ve ever believed in and cherished is disappearing fast !  bad advicd

The sky is falling in . The sky is falling !

It’s an old familiar  folk tale , folks . Henny Penny , aka Chicken Little , sounds the alarm that the world is coming to an end . We are all tempted to run for the hills .

The collected tale was first published in Danish in 1823 by Just Mathias Thiele. Now , nearly 192 years later , the sky is still falling ?  More and more people churn themselves into hysterical panic as the manipulators stoke the fires of fear for their own various reasons .  Fear is the modern mode ?hen

Come on ! Get over it . 

Amen.

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tarzan

” The time has arrived , when patience becomes a crime , and mayhem is garbed in the manner of virtue ”  —-Edgar Rice Burroughs
WEISSMUELLER

I don’t know if you remember Johnny Weissmuller . He was a competitive swimmer . He was an actor , too , later . Played Tarzan .

Me Tarzan , you Jane . We used to say that as kids . We watched Tarzan on the TV. Tarzan the Ape man .

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Tarzan of the Apes  , the novel , was published in 1914 . Edgar Rice Burroughs was the author .There is a city now , called Tarzana , on the site of Burrough’s former ranch in California . You can make an offer on a nice little starter home there , 6 bedrooms — 8 baths , in Tarzana . They’re asking $ 3, 995 ,000 .  8500 square feet , but  if you pay cash you might get a better deal . Make an offer ?

Tarzan , himself , was the son of an English lord . Tarzan wasn’t his Christian name . Evidently,  the parents lost him on a journey to Africa . He was raised by apes . I believe that he was later found and taken back to England, but that he found civilization so uncivilized that he decided to return to the wilds of Africa .

I’ve never read the book , but I’ve seen some of the TV episodes . In those , Jane shows up and the original theme dissolves into an emphasis on the ‘Me Tarzan you Jane’  romance . I noticed that there is a cartoon movie out in the last few years . I wonder if the emphasis there is the romance or the disillusion with so-called civilization theme . I suspect the romance perspective takes over .

I could be wrong . Hope I am . It would be nice to believe that contemporary thought has some depth. Nevertheless , perhaps old Tarzan of the Apes was right about the world . We “civilized” people trick ourselves into claiming some higher moral status than others . Oh, we are such first-rate superior creatures ;  we know what’s what and how things should be done . Everyone should be like us — or else !

” We will never have true civilization until we learn to recognize the rights of others .” —Will Rogers

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Amen.

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railroad museum hotel

In the little town of Dunsmuir , California , there is a collection of cabooses , restored and rented out to travellers . Ada and I stayed one night on our way north . Dunsmuir is north of Redding and south of Weed on Interstate 5 . r1

We made a great hike up to nearby Castle Crags State Park . r2

We soaked in the jacuzzi that evening . There is a pool , too , but by the time we got out there the air was too cool to swim . r3

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r6Life is good .

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The End Of The World Didn’t Happen, Again.

If you’re reading this, the world didn’t end on Wednesday, as predicted. As worlds go, I guess ours is sort of unreliable that way. All the signs supposedly point to its imminent destruction and then, boom…the world doesn’t go boom.

1945, first atomic bomb dropped Yeah, sorry, wrong again. Maybe next time, Reverend Doom.

How unreliable is our unpredictable world? People have been incorrectly predicting the end since 68 A.D.. It has failed to end as predicted thirty-two times in this century.

The bulk of those making predictions are best categorized as religious zealots. Actually, they’re best categorized as religious nuts, but that term gives nuts a bad name.

And yet time after time, when these people make their predictions they get press. And a certain part of the population does whatever one does to prepare for the end of the world. You might think there’s no harm in these predictions, but I think…

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ocean and mountains

I am here retelling an old story . I do that . If you’ve heard it , then just turn away for a few minutes . Please don’t give me an exaggerated ” Oh , no ! ”  as someone I know sometimes does. Well , I will admit that’s more often after I tell a joke again . She’s heard them fifteen or twenty times , so I can’t blame her .

I had a brother-in-law who , all through his adult life , had the mental capacity of about an eight year old . He and I were pretty much on the same mental level , therefore , and we got along swell . His memory was what my memory is rapidly becoming . He could remember things that happened years ago , but not what he had for lunch that day , or what happened yesterday . Now , think about that . I could tell him the same dumb joke over and over and he laughed freely and heartily every time . He hadn’t remembered that I told the same one to him last time I’d seen him . ” You’re a card , Dan ! ” he would say to me . With his Boston accent it sounded like I was a cod , but be that what it may . Or he would sometimes say to me , ” Hey , Dan , you belong on the stage .” Then there’d be a dramatic pause . ” The first stage out of town ,” he’d finish . He’d sit there in his wheelchair and laugh and I’d laugh and it was great fun .

You gots to have a sense of humor . That’s what I think . Luckily , most people do .

Ada and I stopped by a fish shack last night for some clam chowder . She got hers served in the bread . That’s the way she likes it . I got just the chowder in the styrofoam cup . They had the three sizes out on the counter with “small” , “large” , and “other” written on them with black marker . They weren’t cheap . I ‘m usually kind of a cheap guy , so I weigh those factors . The “large” looked like it was pretty small but the price for it was not . Don’t ask me about the “other” For that one I guess you take a second mortgage on your house or put your car up for collateral .

Ada said , ” Why don’t you order the ” other ” when I mentioned my astute observation that the ” large ” was pretty small . No , I don’t travel in those circles , so I  ordered the “large” . I tried to joke a bit with the girl who was taking the orders . ” Is that the ” large ” ? I asked . ” It’s not very large , ” I said . I tried to make it a light humorous comment . I tried to make a light humorous face , indicating that I was joking in case she missed other hints . .

I guess she was tired from a long day in the fish kitchen and in no mood for jokes . I suppose she had no snappy comeback , so she just frowned . The frown was verging pretty close to a sneer . I dropped my smile then , too , and ordered the little ” large ” cup of clam chowder . It was pretty good , by the way .

But , as fellow blogger Dan over at No Facilities often says : But , I digress . My story is not about clam chowder or brothers-in-law .

When I was in high school I worked at Redman Van and Storage in Santa Monica , CA . It seems to me the warehouse was over on Santa Monica Blvd and 23rd Street , but it was a long time ago . Santa Monica’s transformed itself into a jet-setter’s paradise , or something like that . Do we still use the designation “jet-setter” ? Probably there’s some hipper term nowadays . But , you get the general idea , I guess. They took the sleepy streets of my youth and made them all one-ways ; they stretched them and narrowed them and made them , somehow , uncomfortable to travel along . I’m always on edge when I ride through Santa Monica these days . But , then , that’s me . Lots of other people like it that way . Edgy is cool , I know .Anyway , I’m pretty sure the old warehouse is long gone , turned into part of the Saint Monica Hospital’s complex ,or      UCLA’s , or into a high end health spa , or something .

But , my tale has little to do with cities jumping head-first sans helmets   into the 21st Century . It does have something to do with Santa Monica , though . You might be happy to find that out .

I was in the yard one day at the warehouse when a car came in and parked . An old fogey opened the driver’s door and stepped out .  His wife got out on the other side chewing the old guy out .LASSEN trip 1. 011

” Oceans and mountains ! ” , she kept repeating . The old man was frowning . Maybe he was on the verge of scowling . Maybe he’d been listening to this ” mountains and ocean” stuff all day long . He looked a little like the fish shack girl ,now that I think of it .

They’d driven Highway One all the way from Seattle to Santa Monica . If you’ve ever done that , you know it’s a beautiful drive , but , yes , it’s mountains and ocean . The old lady was stuck on that motif.

Turns out they had driven all the way from Ohio. Their furniture had come in to the Redman warehouse on a moving van earlier in the day .LASSEN trip 1. 009

After several “mountains and oceans ” minutes , she finally switched to ” We have everything in Ohio . We never should have moved out here . All you’ve got in California is mountains and………. ”  And she got stuck with the ” We have everything in Ohio ” line , while her husband  cringed and kept silent .

After several ” We have everything in Ohio ” pronouncements , I decided to answer her . ” Except for mountains and ocean , ” I said . It shut her up for awhile . She probably reported me to the bosses up in the front office . They probably put another red mark next to my name . They didn’t like instigators on the payroll .

You can’t take life too seriously . Otherwise you’ll keep repeating yourself and wish you were in Ohio or something . Or you’ll turn into Santa Monica before you know what hit you . Hawking clam chowder from an open window in a fish shack will lose its thrill when you , for whatever reason , can’t see the humor in it . You stand the chance of going crazy , or worse ,and not in a good way . Amen.

Ada and I were driving  along Highway 1 today and she was the one who began saying “Oceans and mountains! Oceans and mountains ! ”  Not me . Neither of us had to re-tell the Ohio story to get another  laugh out of it .

Amen .

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