Posted by: Norm | July 4, 2013

1969

I really don’t expect anyone to read this post except our son-in-law, Shawn; a finer man from the auld sod ye’ll never meet!

Here Are Some Facts You Can Associate with Your Birth Year, My Son

1969 Karmann-GhiaMy 1969 Karmann-Ghia

(Bought it the day after my last final)

Bell bottom jeans, long wild hair, head bands, peace signs worn on military style combat jackets, and tie dye shirts, were the fashion trends in 1969. Anti-war demonstrations were commonplace as Americans struggled for their voices to be heard in a much needed plea for peace and their wish for the United States to withdraw from the Vietnam War.

(Shawn, I can just see your mom and dad making their way to the hospital that July 4th in paisley bell-bottoms, tie dye T-shirts, mutually wrapped in a tattered flag!!)

SPACE TRAVEL:

Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Neil Armstrong were the first humans to set foot on the moon in January.

Apollo 12 landed on the moon a 2nd time in 1969, putting the second set of American astronauts on the moon.

MEDICAL:

The first temporary artificial heart transplant in a human being was performed at the Texas Heart Institute.

MILITARY:

The draft lottery for US Forces was instituted for the Vietnam War. This was the first draft since WWII. Ironically, the first United States troop withdrawals from the Vietnam War were also made this year.

DEATHS:

Sharon Tate was murdered by the Charles Manson Cult.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, our 34th President, died.  (He grew up twenty miles from where I did in Kansas)

Judy Garland died of a drug overdose in her home.  (Such a sad, sad life and death.  I read her biography years later)

Former Rolling Stones guitarist, Brian Jones, drowned.

MEDIA:

Regular color TV broadcasts began.  (We finally got a color TV in 1972 and it was stolen the next day.  Police suspected neighbors.  What?)

The last issue of the Saturday Evening Post was printed.  (Sadly, quite sadly; I had looked at the pictures and read the Post since I was a little kid)

All cigarette advertising on TV and radio was banned by the FCC.  (We lost “The Marlboro Man” and a good bit of his swagger that year too)

FOOD:

Dave Thomas opened his first Wendy’s chain restaurant.  (Such a good, good man!)

The 1st Long John Silver’s chain restaurant opened.  (Haven’t been to one since they quit giving away the Norman Rockwell Christmas glasses, decades)

ENTERTAINMENT:

You are the same age as these famous people born in the year 1969: Catherine Zeta-Jones, Brett Favre, Renee Zellweger, Jennifer Aniston, Gwen Stefani, Rachel Hunter, Jack Black, Bobby Brown, Emmitt Smith, Steffi Graf, Ice Cube, Jennifer Lopez, Matthew McConaughey, Christian Slater and Kimberly Kidd-Gorman.

The Brady Bunch premiered on ABC network.

PBS network on TV was established and Sesame Street made their debut on this network.

Hee Haw made its debut on CBS network.  (The show you never admitted you loved)

The Beatles released their record “Abbey Road” and also made their last public performance.

Elvis Presley hit Number 1 with “Suspicious Minds”.

Popular Films in the year 1969 were: The Love Bug, Funny Girl, Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, True Grit, Midnight Cowboy, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Easy Rider, and Where Eagles Dare.

The novel “The Godfather” was published by Mario Puzo.

Popular musicians in the year of 1969 were: The Rolling Stones, James Brown, The Doors, Led Zeppelin, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, The Beatles, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Creedence Clearwater Revival, John Denver, Simon & Garfunkel, Fleetwood Mac, Marvin Gaye, Cream, Pink Floyd, David Bowie, and Elvis.

Elton John released his 1st album “Empty Sky”.

The famous music festival “Woodstock” took place on a New York farm, attracting more than 350,000 fans.

George Jones and Tammy Wynette marry.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono were married.

SPORTS:

NY Jets defeated Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III.

NY Mets win the World Series.  (Really?  Yep!)

POLITICS:

Richard Nixon was inducted as the 37th United States President.  (Inducted?  Odd.  I think they meant “Inauguration”)

TRAVEL:

The first Concorde test flight was conducted in France, breaking the sound barrier for the first time.

The British ocean liner, The QE2 departed on her maiden voyage.

The Boeing 747 Jet made its debut carrying 191 people from Seattle to New York City.

The Pontiac Firebird Trans Am was introduced.

TECHNOLOGY:

Seiko sold the 1st Quartz watch.

The 1st ATM was installed in the United States in the state of New York.  (God bless ’em)

The Internet, at that time called ARPANET, was used for the first time by the US Military.

The 1st battery powered smoke detector was made.

SHOPPING:

The 1st Gap store opened.

ECONOMICS:

Postage stamp: 6 cents

Dozen eggs: 62 cents

Gallon milk: $1.10

Coffee 2lb can: $1.39

Bacon 1lb: 89 cents

Gas: 35 cents per gallon

Movie ticket: $3

New House: $15,550

Average annual income: $8,550

Monthly rent: $135

New Car: $3,270

In Longmont, Colorado, a young, married couple welcomed a baby, Kimberly, into their home on Christmas day, 1969.  She would go on to become Mrs. Shawn Gorman.

Posted by: Norm | April 25, 2013

Is Your God Too Small?

I tend to worship the Big God.  The One who spoke galaxies into sight.  The One whose presence moved across the face of the deep.  The One who separated land from water with the sweep of a hand.  The One who looks you straight in the heart and mind and says, “I Am.”  He’s the one who, in my experience, is still shrouded with mystery and my response is awe.

Harry Emerson Fosdick, a minister of another generation, caught my thoughts precisely when he wrote,

“I would rather live in a world where my life is surrounded by mystery than live in a world so small that my mind could comprehend it.”That’s the God I worship.  The one behind the mystery, the awesomeness of creation.  And the One who still works among us.  His creation not yet complete until it is reconciled to his eternal standards.

If I cannot understand my wife completely, after 47 years, what makes me think I can understand the Big God completely?

Yeah, my God is Big.

Posted by: Norm | April 18, 2013

The Grief of Love Long Lost

I write a monthly article for our magazine at Valencia Lea.  Owing to my work for the last twenty years and the numerous grief support groups I’ve facilitated over the years, the articles appear under the heading, The Grief Journey.  This month’s article deals with a topic not often discussed in grief groups but is, nonetheless, sentient for many people in the midst of the process of grief.

________________________________

 black and white sadness photo: lonely-missing-you-black-and-white-photography-2-lindos-black-and-white-black-white-sadness-sad-czarno-biac581e-sad-beauty-nikki-images-w-1 lonely-missing-you-black-and-white-photography-2-lindos-black-and-white-black-white-sadness-sad-czarno-biac581e-sad-beauty-nikki-images-w-2.jpg

What if the grief doesn’t come?  What if the tears are few and, instead, there is only a general relief that it’s all over?

Not every marriage is a happy one, even if it lasted multiple decades.  Not everyone loses the love of their life at death.  The passion ended somewhere near the beginning.  Respect, love or tenderness departed.  The weaker of the two spouses gave in and gave up to keep peace in the home.

Life was lived like in an oyster.  The grain of sand irritated, so you protected yourself with insulation.  This defensive reaction placed a barrier between you and the chronic irritation.

When the spouse died, not much changed because the choice to retract and insulate was made years ago.  Logically then, grief doesn’t look like it does in so many other spouseless homes.

Let me assure you, you are not doing grief wrong.  Your reaction to the present death is simply a continuation of choices long-since made.  The grief you think you should be feeling, was observed when the expectations of your marriage were doused in the far distant past.

When the spouse dies it’s an event like the breaking open of an oyster.  It’s recognition of the wreckage of a marriage long ago. “Insulate.  Insulate,” you said.  You chose to protect yourself from the pain or loss of what you hoped a marriage would be.

So, does this leave you bereft, staring into an empty future?

Miraculously, there is lying within you a pearl.  And it’s now up to you to discover that pearl and use it to seek a new life.  What will you discover there:  patience, kindness, hope, freedom, peace, self-control, faith?  What have the years taught you on which you can build the life you wish?

Posted by: Norm | April 14, 2013

My Brothers Take Me Fishin’

When I reveal to people I have two older brothers, what I really want them to know is these two siblings are 19 and 17 years older than me.  They were more like uncles.

This, however, did not keep me from worshipping them.  What time I had with them was a luxury.  I’d discover other heroes growing up like the Mick, Stan the Man and Hammerin’ Hank.  But my true heroes have always been my big brothers, Howard and Jim.

They were known throughout our smidgen of Kansas as athletes, hunters and fishermen.  To my recollection they never came home empty-handed.

I was on tippy-toe with arms outstretched toward adolescence when they off-handedly offered me the grand prize for my adulation.  Jim was home from Colorado and was in a rash over “settin’-out-some-lines” up on Madison Creek (hereafter known as the Crick).

We stopped at the farmhouse to the west of the Crick and got permission to fish.  “Permission” took almost an hour and two glasses of sweet tea.  They had to discuss who was related to who and who got married, who died and where they are now, not particularly in that order.

On leaving the front porch we were told by the farmer to be careful not to “hook” any of his cows.  A reference, no doubt, to an ominous line he used in the Fall when my brothers asked permission to hunt on the property.

We crawled back into Howard’s ’52 Bel-Air Coupe and straddled a two foot high green median of “somethin” grass down a two rut trail to a crossing of solid limestone well below Streeter’s Mill, our final destination.

It was here we would seine for crawdads and minnows to use for bait.  We worked about a quarter-mile of the Crick to fill two minnow buckets with enough temptation for the catfish to come.  To be honest, I was rather disappointed we didn’t get to start fishin’ right away.  But I swallowed my discontent and kept both buckets at hand for them to fill.

We scrambled back into the Chevy and made our way another half-mile or so up just beyond an ox-bow in the Crick above Streeter’s Mill.  It took us two trips to get all the trot-lines, limb-lines, and pole-lines down to the Crick’s edge.  Howard had an old inflatable “canoe” of sorts, left over from WWII, we used to float all the paraphernalia down the Crick as we set out lines. 

There were spots along the way that I and the minnow buckets disappeared from view.  I’d just paddle with my feet until my head was above water and I could reach a shallower place in the Crick.  Looking back on it, my brothers were so intent on their business I could have drowned and floated downstream before they turned and asked for more bait. 

Lines all set, we drug our tired, sorry selves up the bank and walked back to the Chevy.  I went to sleep on the way home.

Around midnight I had this dream I was floating down a river.  I was at the mercy of the current and the flat-bottomed boat simply turned round-and-round at an alarming pace.  I came to an inlet into a gigantic lake and saw a lighthouse off to my left.  The light became brighter and brighter.  I couldn’t take my eyes off it.  Rudely, manhandled really, I was awakened by someone shaking me.  It was Jim and he was pointing a flashlight right into my eyes and telling me, “Get up Tenderfoot, we gotta run the lines.”

I slept all the way to Streeter’s Mill.  We both walked and slid down the bank.  The moon was high and we made our way to the bait buckets we had nesteled away in some underbrush in the Crick.  The water seemed icy now.  At line after line, there was “action”.  We must have caught a dozen catfish.  We rebaited the hooks that needed tending and went home with the largess.

Standing out back of the old outhouse, my brothers set up two saw horses with a couple 2/12’s stretched across to make a cleaning table.  We skinned and gutted the fish, throwing all of it down a steep embankment; sure that critters would come along and have a feast. 

Smelling like fish guts and the bottom of a Crick, I stepped inside the house and immediately went to bed, not knowing I would be put upon again around 6 a.m. to run the lines just after sunrise.  Interestingly, we were allowed some breakfast of scrambled eggs, fish eggs on the side and toast.  To this day caviar holds no interest for me.  Things pretty well went the same as during the midnight foray.

After a couple of days of this routine, we had enough fish for a big fish fry.  Friends, neighbors and relatives were invited to the old homestead.  Energetically, my brothers revealed my every fault and foible during the trips to the Crick.  Everyone loved it.  It was then, I think, I discovered fishing with my brothers was so cool I was willing to put up with a bit of laughter at my own expense.  I had become one of them.

Posted by: Norm | April 13, 2013

Since I’m Dyslexic, I play floG

UNM Golf

Ahhhhhhhhhhh, golf.

If profanity had an influence on the flight of the ball, the game of golf would be played far better than it is.  ~Horace G. Hutchinson

Golf combines two favorite American pastimes:  taking long walks and hitting things with a stick.  ~P.J. O’Rourke

Golf balls are attracted to water as unerringly as the eye of a middle-aged man to a female bosom.  ~Michael Green, The Art of Coarse Golf, 1967

Columbus went around the world in 1492.  That isn’t a lot of strokes when you consider the course.  ~Lee Trevino

The first time I played the Masters, I was so nervous I drank a bottle of rum before I teed off.  I shot the happiest 83 of my life.  ~Chi Chi Rodriguez

They call it golf because all of the other four-letter words were taken.  ~Raymond Floyd

If you’re caught on a golf course during a storm and are afraid of lightning, hold up a 1-iron.  Not even God can hit a 1-iron.  ~Lee Trevino

Golf is played by twenty million mature American men whose wives think they are out having fun.  ~Jim Bishop

I know I am getting better at golf because I’m hitting fewer spectators.  ~President Gerald Ford

I would like to deny all allegations by Bob Hope that during my last game of golf, I hit an eagle, a birdie, an elk and a moose.  ~Gerald Ford

“Play it as it lies” is one of the fundamental dictates of golf.  The other is “Wear it if it clashes.”  ~Henry Beard, Golfing, 1985

Swinging at daisies is like playing electric guitar with a tennis racket:  if it were that easy, we could all be Jerry Garcia.  The ball changes everything.  ~Michael Bamberger

Golf is the cruelest game, because eventually it will drag you out in front of the whole school, take your lunch money and slap you around.  ~Rick Reilly, “Master Strokes,” Sports Illustrated

Golf is the cruelest of sports.  Like life, it’s unfair.  It’s a harlot.  A trollop.  It leads you on.  It never lives up to its promises…. It’s a boulevard of broken dreams.  It plays with men.  And runs off with the butcher.  ~Jim Murray

Give me the fresh air, a beautiful partner, and a nice round of golf, and you can keep the fresh air and the round of golf.  ~Jack Benny

If I’m on the course and lightning starts, I get inside fast.  If God wants to play through, let him.  ~Bob Hope

While playing Golf today I hit two good balls.  I stepped on a rake. ~Henny Youngman

The only time my prayers are never answered is on the golf course.  ~Billy Graham

One minute you’re bleeding.  The next minute you’re hemorrhaging.  The next minute you’re painting the Mona Lisa.  ~Mac O’Grady, describing a typical round of golf

Golf can best be defined as an endless series of tragedies obscured by the occasional miracle.  ~Author Unknown

If you think it’s hard to meet new people, try picking up the wrong golf ball.  ~Jack Lemmon

It’s good sportsmanship not to pick up lost balls while they are still rolling.  ~Mark Twain

“I loved golf; I love fishing.  I find there’s less cussing in fishing.”  ~Norm Kidd

Posted by: Norm | April 12, 2013

Christ Follower

I am a follower of Jesus Christ because I placed myself under his leadership over 50 years ago.  It was my choice to do so and the more I’ve learned from the Scriptures, the more I’ve followed his way, the older I’ve become; I know it was the right decision.

We are all broken.  If some had wanted to, and they had the personal knowledge of my life, they could have pointed at me on far too many occasions and said, “He is a hypocrite.”  If I had been truthful, I would have agreed with him.  Some of us followers of Christ make it far too easy for others to laugh at the Way because of our shortcomings.

Thankfully, my Father in Heaven is the God of the second chance.  The same kind of father we wish we all would have had when we were kids.  Some did and they are the ones who should most easily grasp the thought of a loving God who forgives our shortcomings.  Others should see for themselves there is a better way to live than to drag the old father around like a sickly omen.

People have every right to criticize the church.  There is much of which to be critical.  To do so, though, is to short-sheet the bed and wonder why you can’t get a good night’s sleep.  Far more hangs on this matter than any of us fully realize.

There has been a story (apocryphal, no doubt) told of Hugh Hefner’s relationship as a child to a Methodist church in Chicago. It wasn’t until he was famous that someone found some old attendance records in the basement of the church. Recorded there was his name. Was there no one in or near that church that might have said to the boy, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” What a moment to offer alternatives to the fallen world.

I used to get so angry every time I read Mohandas Gandhi’s words, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”  Was there not one humble, authentic follower of Jesus who could have sidled up to this revolutionary and pronounce, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God”?  What a bonding moment that could have been.

There is coming a day, described by Bishop J. C. Rylie thusly:

“A day is coming when banknotes will be as useless as rags, and gold will be as worthless as the dust of the earth. A day is coming when thousands will care nothing for the things for which they once lived, and will desire nothing so much as the things which they once despised. The mansions and palaces will be forgotten in the desire of a “house not made with hands.” The favor of the rich and great will be remembered no more, in the longing for the favor of the King of kings. The silks, and satins, and velvets, and laces, will be lost sight of in the anxious need of the robe of Christ’s righteousness. All will be altered; all will be changed in the great day of the Lord’s return.”

I take no delight in knowing those days are on the horizon, as some do.  I feel no anticipation in saying, “I told you so”, as some do.  What I feel is a great sorrow that any person would die without making amends with the Father of the second chance..

Posted by: Norm | April 11, 2013

No Individual Consequence

“Suppose a problem in psychology was set: What can be done to persuade the men of our time — Christians, humanitarians or, simply, kindhearted people — into committing the most abominable crimes with no feeling of guilt?

There could be only one way: to do precisely what is being done now, namely, to make them governors, inspectors, officers, policemen, and so forth; which means, first, that they must be convinced of the existence of a kind of organization called ‘government service,’ allowing men to be treated like inanimate objects and banning thereby all human brotherly relations with them; and secondly, that the people entering this ‘government service’ must be so unified that the responsibility for their dealings with men would never fall on any one of them individually.”
― Leo Tolstoy, Resurrection (1899)

The enigmatic Russian Christian and social reformer, Leo Tolstoy, author of some of the greatest literature of the 19th century, wrote those words.  I was struck by the phrase, “. . . allowing men to be treated like inanimate objects and banning thereby all human brotherly relations with them.”  I’ve not read a more compelling definition of most of those who “serve” in public leadership roles today, from councilperson to President.  If you don’t believe that, you’ve not tried to get a marijuana dispensary closed down in your neighborhood or  petitioned the President and Congress to stop the tinkering with Social Security lately or a multitude of other things that seem to fall on the deaf ears of the elected, professional politician.

It would be a good history lesson to realize these words were written leading up to the Russian Revolution.  The ideologies of Marx and Lenin found fertile ground in the masses who had no memory of brotherly relations with the governing elite; who had no recall of the privileged ever being punished for belittling the worth of the common man or woman.  I am reminded of those scenes in Dr. Zhivago when anarchist take by force simple things like housing, food or clothing.  They were crazy-eyed radicals and the reign of Czars and government officials came to a bloody end because the huddled masses rose up and disenfranchised them.

Not done yet, brother Tolstoy continues, ” . . . the people entering this ‘government service’ must be so unified that the responsibility for their dealings with men would never fall on any one of them individually.”  Our office holders face little consequence, individually, for all the messes they have made and try now, ever so earnestly, to either cover up, downplay or clean up.  Truth has been deposited so far away from the eyes of the common folk; facts have been shredded along with memories for so long, we will probably never feel safe again.

The next quote is also lifted from Tolstoy’s remarkable book, Resurrection.

‘This is what it comes to,’ thought Nekhlyudov, ‘these people accept as a law something which is not a law, and they do not acknowledge the eternal, immutable, pressing law that God Himself has written in man’s heart. That is why I feel so depressed in their company,’ thought Nekhlyudov. ‘I am quite simply afraid of them. And indeed, they are terrible people – more terrible than brigands. A brigand might, after all, feel pity, but not these men: they are insured against pity as these stones are from vegetation. That is what makes them so terrible’.”

For those of us who benefit from the love of God, the love of others and who love both in return, this is dangerous time to be living.  The oppressor knows no shame, no recognition of the potential goodness, impending bitterness or growing rebellion so many feel.

Posted by: Norm | March 27, 2013

Spring Trout Fishing

A NOTE TO THE REGULAR READER:  You may have read this piece about two years ago.  I reprint it here as an ode to a good buddy of mine who has started his own blog.  Thinking about him I was reminded of a fishing jaunt he and I took to the old falls on the Blue River below Tuttle Creek Dam near Manhattan, Kansas.  He hooked a ten-pound walleye, fought him for 20 minutes and made us late to Greek class.  Professor thought we were quite inventive with that excuse for our tardiness.  The fact we hid it away in about 30 inches of water in a four-footed bathtub our apartments mutually shared is a whole other tale of woe. 

________________________

March 5, 2011

Stream fishin’ has to be God’s way of proving Murphy’s Law. The Law states:  If something can go wrong, it will. Some see this as a window into God’s sense of humor.  I tend to think of it more as how God flushes his plumbing on the good and bad alike.

Takin’ two boys stream fishin’ is like letting the cats outta the bag so you can herd ‘em up again.

When Carson and Adam fished with me on a lake, our schedule followed somewhat of a routine:  set up the fishin’ chairs, bait hooks and cast, sit down, talk about school, bait hooks, eat lunch at 8:30 a.m., retrieve line from snag, bait hook and cast, eat the donuts before the ants get to them, bait hook and cast, talk about fishin’, retrieve line without hook caught in snag, add hook and weight to line, bait hook and cast, eat the three Butterfinger bars before 9:30, check line and bait hook, move boys’ chairs nearer to where “they’re catchin’ em”, rebait hooks and cast, walk the 40 yards back to my spot and light a cigar because the guys are far enough away I won’t kill ‘em with second-hand smoke, walk 40 yards back to the hot spot, rebait hooks and cast, 40 yards back to my chair; relight the cigar I left next to my rod, 40 yards back over to the boys, try to untangle the 50 foot Gordian Knot attached to Adam’s reel, snip off line just below the knot and explain to Adam he has to fish closer to shore the rest of the day, 40 yards back to my cold cigar, get a small copper bell out of my tackle box and attach it to the tip of my pole so I’ll know when I have a bite, open a diet IBC Root Beer and slip down into my fishin’ chair into an extremely relaxed position with the thought of a few winks, 40 yards back to the snag pit, glory be both poles are snagged on the same tree limb underwater, I’m thinkin’ I’m glad I left the lighter fluid in the tackle box or I might have built an altar and sacrificed these rods of Satan to the Dark Side.

If all of that sounds rather pastoral, then you know as I do, the possibility of a bad thing happening while stream fishin’, compared to lake fishin’, is directly proportional to the square of the amount of disaster it can cause you.  Stream fishin’ is not for the slight of heart nor a poor man who cannot replace tackle in a timely manner.

Stream fishin’ is a whole other egg under the hen.  Stream fishin’ requires health, stamina, keen observation and  a complete understanding of the wily trout . . . but I choose to go anyway.  And in so doing, I rounded up James’ two boys and blatantly involved them in my nightmare.

It is in stream fishin’ we draw upon the extension of Murphy’s Law:  Nature always sides with the hidden flaw.  Nature has been flawed ever since Adam and Eve got kicked out of the Trout Cabin deep in Eden.

Her waters were crystal to the eye, icy cold to the touch and filled with the Lord’s trophy trout. Here, Adam could work a Royal Coachman on a 12 foot leader lightly attached to an Orvis bamboo fly rod as a symphony to creation.  Dolly would rise to the dry-fly at the setting of the evening sun.

Along willow shrouded banks the progenitor of all fly fishermen could work his wet fly in such a fashion as to be totally natural in the stream’s melodic current to bewitch the erudite German Brown.

Yes, everything was perfect for Adam anytime Eve wanted trout for supper.  His orchestration on the river was an “Ode To Joy” to the Creator.  Never has there been worship of any higher degree than when Adam lightly clutched the handle, made his conductor’s motions of sheer mastery and landed a fly a perfect 6 feet upstream from a cresting trophy fish.  Jonah wouldn’t have had nearly the troubles he had with a fish if this story had been included in the book of Genesis.  He’d have known how to outsmart them and make them think it was their idea to be caught by humankind.

This weaving of the Great Tapestry of Trout lies in our genes.  It runs silently, indefatigably along the dike of our humanness, looking for the smallest hole to penetrate.  And like the Dutch Boy, Satan cannot keep us from our genetically empowered adoration of the beauty of creation.  It is in all of us, though many have settled for NASCAR, grilling, MMA  and curling (note: for definition look under Canada).  Our souls reach for what is beyond.  Robert Browning said it best, “Our reach should exceed our grasp, or what’s a Heaven for?”  I have no doubt he was describing the inner yearning of the trout fisherman who has finally beheld the epiphany of the trout stream.

It is in to these headwaters I march my two grandsons.  They seem to be 40 to 50 feet ahead of me at all times.  It’s because I’m walking on “winter legs” and being led by summer aspirations.  At 6,000 feet my lungs make sounds like bellows feeding a blacksmith’s white-hot fire.  I curse forgetting my fishing vest as 10 pounds of tackle box hangs from one lifeless arm to my right.

Ahead the boys romp in the snow, throwing snowballs and waiting for the “Geezer” to catch up.  We set on an icy piece of granite and I explain things about trout and trout streams before we make our way to the edge.  For 100 yards we’ve all heard the falls and gushing water and I can imagine the semi-hidden pools, the oxygen enriched water and the soft undercurrents along the banks, carved for such a time as this.  I talk, they listen like linemen dumbly trying to perceive the coaches change of plans.

We bait up and Papa makes his way to a wall of boulders protecting the stream and its rich, trout infested pools.  With a surgeon’s precision,  I lay myself between two of the granite fortresses, careful not to break the crest of the massive rocks and allow the sun to cast my shadow on the creek.  For 5 minutes I felt the need to cry out in awe as I passed my line through little falls and pools and meandering shore lines.  Not a nibble.

I thought, this is the perfect place for me to teach the boys the what and why of stealth on a trout stream.  Thirteen hooks, a can of bait and several wet flys later, I backed them away from the stream again.  I was certain we only needed to find a place of less foreboding, without twigs and with quiet pools.  We’d cross the creek and put the sun to our front and whisk away the problem of shadows.

Having wet feet is no fun when your fishing in 45 degree air and snow blankets 70 percent of the landscape.  A 150 yard obstacle course of snow, displaced rocks and fallen trees remind us of what we conquered to get out as far as we did.  Sadly, the walk back to the place we wish to fish is made no more comfortable by simply having a dry pair of socks.

At the end of the day I made a mental note.  “Go to the sporting goods store this weekend and replenish the tackle box.  Go ahead and break the hundred-dollar bill you’ve been using to keep from buying coffee with your buddies.”

Which brings me to Norm’s corollary to Murphy’s Law:  Murphy was an optimist.

Posted by: Norm | March 26, 2013

The Swinging Bridge

There once was a swing of  rope and plank, a bridge across an unnamed  stream.  I suppose 300 days a year it stood in silence braving tornadoes, humid sunlight, icy wind or falling snow.  For another 45 days  it teetered above a non-existent Kansas creek for summer campers to enjoy.   But there might have been 20 other days when the rains came and the water did everything it could to escape the banks.  It was during those days the swinging bridge was off limits; a titanic about to happen.

I witnessed some of those days.  We campers were drawn to the creek like lookie-loo’s drawn to a fire in the forest.  I’ve stood in cloudbursts, wet to the skin, just to be near the thunderous power of that rain-filled gulch.

The bridge, when we could use it, was filled with the kind of fun a video game or YouTube could never deliver.  Depending on who was on it, it might put your stomach in your mouth, validate the caress of two young sweethearts or energize the imagination of little kids who made their way across to an “island” that could be a pirate’s domain or gunslinger’s lair.  I liked the sweetheart thing the most.

That’s where I met her, so to speak.  I was on the bridge and she was with a girlfriend on a picnic table near the edge of the bank.  The sun flashed her chestnut hair and gave her a halo like in those pictures in the big Bible on the coffee table at home.  She looked confident, assured and not much in need of anything.  No countenance upon her that said, “Please, won’t someone come and be my friend, make me laugh and tell me tales of magic and wunderlust.”

I was under her spell.

MY CUP RUNNETH OVER

Sometimes in the morning, when shadows are deep,
I lie here beside you, just watching you sleep,
And sometimes I whisper, what I’m thinking of,
My cup runneth over with love . . .

Sometimes in the evening, when you do not see,
I study the small things, you do constantly,
I memorize moments, that I’m fondest of,
My cup runneth over with love . . .

In only a moment, we both will be old,
We won’t even notice the world turning cold.
And so, in this moment, with sunlight above,
My cup runneth over with love . . .

My Cup Runneth Over, Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt

Posted by: Norm | February 17, 2013

Serendipity Among the Elders

Gil, from up the street, plays with sticks.  It’s his hobby.  It’s the thing that keeps him from being a religious nut.  If it weren’t for the sticks, I think he would have passed over into cult-dom a long time ago.

We had our estate-wide garage sale the other day, even though only a fourth of the homes have garages.  Some folks went so far as to put a sign at the entrance to their carport, “Carport Sale” they read.  A lifetime of being right makes one  just gotta be right, I guess.

The Estates puts a classified notifying the surrounding communities of our multi-mobile junk/treasure sale in the Daily Rag.  Folks come from all over the inland area to scarf up the knickknacks of dowagers who don’t wish to dust them anymore or who are mad at their kids and decide they’re not gonna get these treasures in the will.  I suspect about half the undocumented/illegal population of southern California shows up and are summarily disappointed there are no baby clothes or cribs for sale.

Mostly, the treasure is stuff bought in the sixties or seventies and was quality furniture, appliances, kitchen-ware or household goods at the time.  Now it’s taking up space in a closet that needs to be thinned out or the “kids” have delivered the ultimatum, “Mom, you need to get rid of this couch.  It’s so seventies.  I’m glad the neighbors don’t see it.”  Of course, the neighbors may have their own set of seventies stuff that’s lasted a good long time and served extremely well too.

I remember toying with the idea of buying a certain home in Albuquerque once.  It was owned by an Old Maid who was an aid to a state senator or something.  He had been in New Mexico politics for ages and she, this unclaimed blessing, had served him for decades.  He was about to retire, explicably, so was she.  She had kept this home in Albuquerque for weekends away from Santa Fe and the capitol rat-race.  Now she was purchasing a condominium or a humble adobe in Taos and she wanted to sell the ABQ home.

We loved the patio covered with the limbs and long-eared leaves of the giant birds-of-paradise.  The front yard was covered with stately oaks.  The lawn was impeccable and seasonal flowers were in abundance.  The inside of the home was another story.  Everything was straight out of the forties.  Everything.  I could see Gary Cooper lounging on the flowering couch, the bird of paradise theme had been brought inside to almost everything, even the dining room chairs.  Claudette Colbert and Fred Murray could have lived here.  The master bedroom had a mural on one wall of what, I would discover later, was a perfect painting of one of the famous falls on the road to Hana.  Somehow we fell in love with this house, but it was going to take all we could afford to buy it.  There would be nothing left over for changes.  We discerned it would take ten years of “raises” to our income to get to a place we could afford any remodeling or the addition of a new theme to the home.  So we backed off.

I tell you that little aside to give you an idea of what might be lurking in the homes of older folks in the senior mobile home estates.  Certainly not the forties, but most certainly the seventies come through as a revolving theme.  I digress.

So here they set.  The accoutrements of a life high-on-the-hog in the seventies when children were being raised and sent to college and to war.  Here set the remains of a dramatic and traumatic downsizing when a couple, or single, decided to give up the big yard, the air conditioning bills and the upkeep of a four to five bedroom home they no longer needed.  Here also sets the “Oh, Mom’s gonna love this for Christmas” gifts that weren’t quite as embraced as the kids had hoped.

And here sits Gil, purveyor of extraordinary sticks.  An indefatigable man who doesn’t know what it means to “do nothing.”  His body can’t keep up with his thoughts anymore, but he sure as hell gives it all he’s got.  He’s a reader and a thinker.  I’ve already shared books with him and he can’t wait to give me a synopsis and personal criticism of each I’ve loaned him.  He especially loves the ones about the Dismal Trade, my vocation, the funeral business.

So, Gorgeous makes her way to the fifty or so paperbacks on carport display, looking to increase her mystery collection.  Enroute, she moves a cylinder of canes to pass by.  One seems to reach out to her like one piece of velcro to another.  She can’t shake it off and it ends in her hands.  Gil speaks across the crowded driveway, “That’s a forty-dollar cane, but you can have it for free.”  Now, Gorgeous loves sales, but she becomes absolutely orgasmic over the word “free” when uttered by a seller.

It is my estimation this cane was made from the unholy wedlock of a persimmon/eucalyptus/myrtlewood orgy in the dark distant past of incestual vegetation.  I called it “gnarly” and I wasn’t trying to be a beach dude when I said it.  It really is gnarly.  There are twists and bends that defy explanation, but when you place the tip to the ground, it automatically spins to the proper position.  The dang thing is so well-balanced, it has reminded me there is a God and He has a plan.

Gorgeous is now the proud owner of an original “Gil” cane.  It’s far too beautiful, far too functional, far too regal to simply be called a cane or a shillelagh.  We call it “Whimsical”.

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