A to Z Theme 2016

For my 2016 A to Z theme I used a meme that I ran across on the blog of Bridget Straub who first saw it on the blog of Paula Acton. This meme is a natural for me to use on my memoir blog. It's an A to Z concept and it's about me. No research and nothing complicated. I'm given twenty six questions or topics to discuss that are about me.

In April I kept my posts short and uncomplicated. In the midst of it all you might learn a few things about me that you didn't previously know.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Deja Vu


        Once again D.L. Hammons is hosting the Deju Vu Blogfest.  This is the blogging event where participants are invited to share one of their lesser performing blog posts in order to give a wider audience one more chance to read what they may have missed.  My post comes from early February of 2015.  Weirdo addresses the topic of "Being Different".

Arlee at Christmas in Tennessee 2004

        To be called a weirdo is not something to which most of us aspire.  When I was a kid I didn't necessarily think of myself as a weirdo nor did I want to be thought of as one.  But I really didn't think that much about it either.   After all, I was just a kid and being weird is often synonymous with being a kid.  Kids are mostly in their own world of imagination and from the standpoint of an adult they might seem a bit la-la--you know--out there so to speak.   Adults expect silliness and naiveté from children. I delivered on a regular basis.

       There were plenty of other kids whom I thought were a bit odd, but I didn't usually count myself in that category. Oh, there were those times when I reveled in doing weird things. But that's when I was on a mission of strangeness. Whether it was to annoy, shock, amuse, or for whatever other reason, when I was trying to be weird, I was happy if I fulfilled that mission which I had initially set out to do.

      For the most part though I was a normal child. I made decent grades and the teachers always had good reports to send home about me. That's mostly been me even into adulthood. Employers liked me and I always got promotions. I've typically had good relationships with people--other than certain people who were really weird in kind of a bad way.

        And yet I see myself as a bit on the weird side.   Not wacky weird or scary or like some kind of a pervert or anything like that.  My neighbors and people who I encounter in public probably rarely give me a second look because I appear to be so damn normal.  When I'm in Walmart no one would ever think to take a picture of me to post on the internet because I look so--well--normal.   That's me--Mr. Normal Average Guy.

         It's some of my tastes I guess that put me out there some.  I like classical music, seventies rock, and jazz influenced pop music from the 20's and 30's.  My interest in films is eclectic though I have a strong interest in the films of Fellini, David Lynch, and old film noir.  I often read things that most people I know don't read.  Give me a thin crust pizza with onions, jalapenos, and anchovies and I'm in food heaven.

         I'm not saying that I'm the only one in the world who likes the things I like, but often I feel in a distinct minority regarding my tastes.  Some people think I'm weird because of what I like.  Or they at least think I like odd things.  I know there are plenty of people who do like what I like but I rarely seem to encounter them.  My tastes don't bother me, but often I have no one with whom to share what I like.  I never have anyone to discuss Fellini movies with me.  When my pizza arrives you can bet that I'll likely be the only one eating it if I've ordered my favorite.

         Being different is fine with me.   I've not only gotten used to it, but I'm a bit proud of it.  A lifetime of being a bit of a weirdo is something that one usually can adapt to.   After all, we're all just a bit daft in our own ways.  Aren't we?   Well, don't just stare at me like I'm weird or something.  Come on and admit it:  You're a bit of a weirdo too--in one way or another.

          I think its kind of the human condition.

         Do you think you're weird?   What do you think comprises "weirdness"?    Who are some weirdos that you have known?

          For more Deja Vu fun visit D.L. Hammons for the list of participants.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Fear and Oblivion

This image was selected as a picture of the we...
This image was selected as a picture of the week on the Malay Wikipedia for the 44th week, 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

        When I was a child I was fearless when it came to the woes facing the world.  My fears dealt more with issues at school or being embarrassed because I did something stupid.  Nuclear destruction or devastation from natural forces barely crossed my mind other than a certain fascination with those things.  Disasters such as these were movie themes or fantasies in my head.  Nothing to be concerned about or of which to be afraid.

        Even though in school we regularly had disaster duck and cover drills, the concept was far from any reality in my mind.   Even during the tension of the Cuban Missile Crisis, hiding under my desk periodically in preparation for the bombs to come or hearing the ominous sounds of the air raid sirens that were tested precisely at noon one Friday each month did not instill trembling within me.  On the contrary the drills and exercises were fuel for fantasy rather than a reminder of the reality of any threat to my existence.

        During the fifties and sixties I developed a curiosity and edgy enjoyment regarding things that should reasonably instill fear and dread in most of us.  A part of me longed to see giant mutated insects, prehistoric beasts, or monstrous entities roaming my neighborhood and destroying the city in which we lived.  An atomic bomb detonated in some nearby city seemed like an interesting possibility.

         When I was in junior high school I read John Hersey's Hiroshima--a true account of the first use of the atom bomb on a city.  The book impacted me, yet still did not frighten me in any way.  If anything, reading the book made me even more curious about the horrors of a major disaster.  My interest wouldn't necessarily translate into any strong desire to experience actual horror, but I did have a deep seated interest in the subject.

         Since childhood I've had an interest in the topic of world annihilation and that continues to this day.  Judging from the popularity of apocalyptic and dystopian genres I'm not the only one.   The B sci-fi movies of the 1950's have become in more recent times big budget extravaganzas as well as intriguing low cost indie films.   More than one television show has addressed the topic in varying ways from the serious to the comedic.   Apocalypse, death, and destruction seem to translate into big money.

         Do you think many people in our time have a societal death wish of sorts?    Do you enjoy films in the genres that center around fear and oblivion?   Do you have any favorite apocalyptic or catastrophically themed films?

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Securing a Place in History

Arlee Bird a.k.a. Lee Jackson of the Juggling Jacksons

An Estate in Limbo

      For many of us our biggest mark on history will be our tombstone and whatever memories we leave behind with those who knew us or knew about us.   Having a memoir published is a big step in establishing a physical presence in history no matter how big or small that place might be.  Recently I came upon another concept of legacy in the tangible sense--becoming a part of a museum collection.

      My own story of this type of archived preservation memory relates to my family's reputation as a professional juggling act.  Though we may have not been widely known to the general public, the name of The Juggling Jacksons was known to many jugglers as well as others in the world of entertainment.  When my father was still living he and my mother would regularly attend jugglers' conventions and other gatherings thus establishing themselves in that community as iconic figures in juggling history.

       With my mother's passing in November of 2014 it became evident to me and my siblings that her house and everything in it would have to be sold, disbursed among ourselves, or gotten rid of in some way.  Part of this estate included decades worth of juggling props and artifacts.   None of the family had the proper space or wherewithal to hang on to these items even though we were aware of the sentimental value as well as the potential historical value.  Since none of the family continues to work in the juggling profession these props served no functional purpose to any of us.

A Fortuitous Inquiry

       A few years prior to my mother's death a juggler who at that time was working professionally in the art learned of the treasure trove of juggling memorabilia residing in my mother's house.  He passed this information to another professional juggler and juggling historian by the name of David Cain.

      David had been building a considerable collection of anything related to juggling for many years, maintaining space in his home as a juggling museum and touring juggling gatherings throughout the country with his collection.  Upon learning about the accumulation that my mother had, David contacted us to see if we were interested in donating to the museum.   We told him we'd think about it and left it there.

       Nearly a year after my mother's death, our family put her house on the market.  As we began clearing out her possessions, keeping what we wanted and selling, donating, or throwing away other things, I got back in touch with David Cain.  Juggling equipment was not going to be something easy to sell and we sure didn't want to just throw it all away.   Within a few weeks David drove down to Tennessee from his home in Ohio and loaded up nearly everything we had to add to his museum collection

        He was excited with this addition to his collection and we were pleased to have found a reasonable way to remove these from our possession finding a suitable home for them.  The arrangement served all concerned very well.

The Future of the Juggling Jacksons Collection

         David Cain is highly regarded as a collector of juggling history and his home museum is open to interested parties by appointment.  He has created a very fine website (links below) that details much of his collection to date.  Though his collection currently resides in his home, David dreams of one day establishing an official museum space for his valuable collection.

          Perhaps eventually the collection will end up as part of a larger museum or in a permanent juggling museum devoted to the art of juggling and the related history.  Whatever the case may be, the Juggling Jackson legacy will carry on through its place in the Historical Juggling Props collection.

           I encourage all of my readers to stop in to visit the online museum at Historical Juggling Props:  an Online Museum.  There is a lot of interesting information as well as many photos of items in David Cain's collection.  David has even added my blogs on his link page.  For those who are interested in furthering the outreach of this collection there is also information on how you can donate or offer your services in some way.

           Be sure to visit the Juggling Jacksons page at the site to see my family's contribution to the collection.  Since I hadn't gone through the props that we had in storage, I was very surprised at the extent of our collection as well as how good of condition these props were considering the amount of use they had endured.  Many of these juggling props are akin to works of art in my view.

          Another stop you might enjoy is the Juggling Jewels page.  The "Jewels" were an all female juggling act originally from England.  They worked extensively during the vaudeville era up to about 1950.   In 1967 one of the surviving members who lived in Roanoke, Virginia had gotten wind of our family and sent us some of their historical props which were included in the collection my family sent to David Cain.  He has credited us with this contribution on that page.

          I hope you will "visit" David's museum online to see some of the history of juggling which most people might never even think about.   Definitely visit the "Home Museum Display" page as I think you'll be impressed by the size of Cain's collection to date.  And it's always growing!

          Hopefully one day I can visit the Juggling Museum in person to see my part in preserving juggling history as well as marvel at the array of fun things that David Cain has accumulated so far.

          Have you donated any family or personal heirlooms to a museum or some other collection?   Do you have any things that you think might be good for museum preservation?     What are some of the most unique museum collections that you have seen or heard about?

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Newspaper Stacks and Other Hoards

English: Photo of the living room of a compuls...
 Photo of the living room of a compulsive hoarder --not mine though
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

      I confess that I am a pack rat.  I haven't reached the stage of the hoarders you see on television or the reclusive oddballs who have been found dead, buried by toppled stacks of accumulated junk.  Not yet at least.  But my wife has her fears.

          Actually I have gotten better as I have attempted to pursue a goal of getting rid of something every day.  I do try.  Really.  I'll admit that new things get added on a regular basis, but so do the outgoing things.  Well, maybe I've slacked off of late, but my intentions are good.

          Stuff piles up.  Even when I was on the road with a touring stage production I tended to accumulate stuff.  If I hadn't have had my own vehicle during those years, my collection of material things accumulated during those travels would have been undoubtedly far less.  When I have a place to put things, I am apt to keep more. At the end of each tour year we'd empty our van to store stuff wherever we'd be provided space.  In most cases that would have been my parents house.  They had a lot of space even though they too managed to store a lot of stuff.

          Part of my pack rat nature probably came from my parents.  They were not "hoarders" in the absurd extreme sense of the word, but like most people they kept things.  Some things just accumulated because they rarely got sifted through while many others were kept for sentimental reasons, family history, or just because they seemed worth keeping.

          After my mother's passing I can't say any of us were amazed or even mildly surprised by all the stuff that was in her house because it was stuff that we often saw when we were there.  There were times when, with my mother's blessing, I'd undertake a mission of sorting, organizing, and weeding out.  That helped some, but still that daily incoming flow of stuff typically outweighed the stuff going out.

         In my own home I've had some energetic bursts of stuff removal with items being sold, donated, or thrown away.  This can be tiring and for me it is often a mission that digresses into diversionary exploration and study of what I have in our home's possession.   Memories are often stirred as well as the puzzling pondering of "why did I keep this" or "where the heck did this come from".

          My stacks of newspapers have dwindled considerably as I've cut back my subscription to just a Sunday paper.  I've been slowly going through the accumulations of old newspapers and moving them to the recycling bin.  I've had a thing about newspapers since I was in high school when I felt compelled to read every word, study every picture, and look at every advertisement--an undertaking that seemed to never gain ground as stacks became higher and higher.

         This never seeming to get ahead of the stuff accumulation is what leads to a purging now and then.  My frustration with not reaching my objectives of wading through the stuff that piles up will sometimes spur me to start eliminating things as quickly as I can.  Or I'll sort things into piles, storage spaces, or boxes in order to create some semblance of neatness until I can get to it all later.

          So it goes.  Stuff comes in while some of it goes out.  What doesn't go out becomes set aside for someday.   I suppose that one day after I have passed from this life there will be stuff for whoever I leave behind.  They will sort through it all in wonderment or perhaps even disgust.  I've got some pretty cool things tucked away.  I wonder if they will recognize that?

           Now excuse me while I carry another load of stuff off to the recycle bin.   Not all of this stuff is all that cool.

           Do you find yourself in a never-ending battle with accumulation?   What kinds of stuff do you tend to keep?    When do you throw something away?

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Mom, I Miss You

      It has been one year since you left us, Mom.   In some moments I forget that you're not there for me to call.  I think of something I need to ask you or want to tell you and reach for the phone, but then suddenly realize that you won't be there to answer.

      Life sometimes seems long while we're living it, but looking back it all went by too quickly.  Our family had some great times and so often it was you coordinating it all.  We never lacked for anything.  Food was always on the table at mealtimes.  Our house was a home where all my friends were made to feel welcome.  You were like a second mother to many of my friends as well as the friends of all of your children.

      Now the living room of your old house is still and silent.  There is rarely activity in your kitchen.  The furniture was all taken out last weekend with few traces of a home that once was bustling with people coming and going.   You reigned like a queen and indeed you were the queen of that house.  

       That house will soon be sold and only be another part of my memory and the memories of your children.   Happy times and sad times in the shadowed corridors of our personal histories.   We will remember and pass the memories to our children who also remember from their own experiences.

        Mother, you shaped lives and created a home that may no longer exist in a physical tangible place where we can be,  but will continue to exist nevertheless as a place of comfort, warmth, and safety in our memories.

         I love you, Mom, and I miss you.

                    In Memory of Lois K Jackson

                                    April 11, 1929 -- November 21, 2014

Saturday, November 14, 2015

El Cumbanchero (from the Soundtrack of My Life)

      Have you ever imagined living your life with a soundtrack playing through key scenes?   Do certain songs evoke special moments or eras in your past?  This is what I've been doing with my "Soundtrack of My Life" series of posts:  Looking back and putting my life to music.

       Robin has been doing the Soundtrack of my Life posts on her blog Your Daily Dose.      I had done a few of my own "life soundtracks" on my Tossing It Out blog as well as the song series (starting at this post) I did for my 2014 Blogging from A to Z April Challenge on Wrote By Rote.    Be sure to visit and follow Your Daily Dose  for more Life Soundtrack info.

A set of juggling clubs.
A set of juggling clubs. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

"El Cumbanchero"

        For effect you can listen to the music as you read the story below.

"El Cumbanchero"

           My earliest memories of music are the ones that involve the musical backing for my parents juggling act.  When they performed they had live music.  This was the performance norm in the 1950's.   Any nightclub that provided entertainment had a house band.   Stage show productions assembled union musicians to play the dates.

          A professional act had to provide orchestral scores to the musicians if they wanted music back up.  My father bought sheet music copies for a number of different instruments and eventually even went to the expense of hiring a professional to orchestrate some of the songs they used for their acts.  All of the music was neatly organized into folders for each section of the orchestra.   He was ready for a small combo or a big band--whatever the producers had provided for the acts.

          Early on for my parents passing act they used songs like "Fine and Dandy" and "Happy Days Are Here Again".   But my father wanted to create a perception of greater speed for an act where fast juggling was becoming what they were most noted for.  They had developed an exciting act and wanted the music to match.

         Though Latin music had been popular for decades, the fifties saw a surge in popularity of the Latin rhythms of the cha-cha, rumba, mambo and many other snappy percussive styles.   The bands of Perez Prado, Xavier Cugat, and Desi Arnaz were well known to American audiences.  This music did not slip past my father's ears as music ideal for fast juggling.

           "El Cumbanchero" was a gold standard song of circus acts and entertainers looking for fast rhythms to back up what they were performing.  The song was quite popular during the 1950's appearing on many albums and released as a single by many artists.  I'm not sure when my parents first started using "El Cumbanchero", but I believe it may have been around 1957.  The song became a staple performance song for the Juggling Jacksons duo act and then later for our four people act.  Due to the fast paced excitement of the song it was used as the grand finale number for the fastest part of the act.

         Sometimes the strains of "El Cumbanchero" echo in my mind as I recall the clap clap rhythm of juggling clubs flying among my family members slapping firmly into our hands.  The driving rhythms made us want to pass the clubs faster and harder.  If it was exciting for us I can only imagine the excitement the viewing audience must have felt.  The applause during the performances and the accolades heard afterwards indicated that the audience enjoyed what they saw when we performed.

           There are several songs that we, the Juggling Jacksons, used in our act, but "El Cumbanchero" is one that stands out most for me.  Not only did I hear the song repeatedly as a child watching my parents perform, but it became my soundtrack feature song when I became part of the juggling act.  Even now I'm juggling in my mind as I listen to the frantic strains of "El Cumbanchero".  

           Have you heard the song "El Cumbanchero" before?    Is there any particular memory or situation that you associate with Latin rhythmic music?    Is there a certain song that you would associate with a work situation in your own life?

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Bali Hai --The Soundtrack of My Life

      Robin has been doing the Soundtrack of my Life posts on her blog Your Daily Dose. I had done a few of my own "life soundtracks" on my Tossing It Out blog as well as the song series (starting at this post) I did for my 2014 Blogging from A to Z April Challenge on Wrote By Rote. Be sure to visit and follow Your Daily Dose for more Life Soundtrack info. 
"Bali Hai"

       After the film version of the musical South Pacific was released in early 1958, my parents took my sister and I to see it in the theater.  They also bought the vinyl LP version of the soundtrack. It was an album that I listened to frequently when I was a child.  I was most drawn to the haunting sound of the song "Bali Hai".   This mysterious sounding song made me think of places that I'd like to go one day as well as places I'd been that stood out in my memory.  The lure of that certain special place is something that is likely common with all of us.

        Here is a version of the song as played by a "10l Strings" style orchestra.  I'm not quite sure if this is the original 101 Strings Orchestra that released so many albums over the years, but if not, this version is certainly close to it.  My mother used to have several albums by the 101 Strings Orchestra and other similar groups.   This recording I present here might be the same one that I used to listen to or at least close to it.

The Bali Hai Lure of Adventure and Experience

          My spirit for adventure was inspired by my father.  He was always ready for a road trip or to go visit someone.  We used to go to movies, circuses, unique attractions--wherever my father's sense of curiosity drew him.   If he wanted to meet someone he would make every effort to make contact and usually it worked.  Often when visiting circuses or other similar entertainment venues he'd get us free access by explaining that we too were entertainers.   Good for his pocketbook and great for our being able to experience more.

         The lure of the unknown, the exotic, and the interesting has always been within me.  Even my own backyard was a place of adventure ready for me to explore or invent new forays into my imagination.   Moving to San Diego in 1959 delivered me to a young boy's dream.  I was 8 years old went we first arrived.  The vast tract neighborhoods were new and still under development.  The canyons near our house were still wild, a veritable wonderland for a boy's imagination.

         My sister, my friends, and I would spend hours of summer days exploring those canyons.  An abandoned old ranch house with debris scattered about the yard was a draw for us though we were cautious about entering the structure.  I made up stories in my mind about who might have lived there.  For me the spirits of Indians who had once dwelt in those canyon lands seemed to be all around us.

         Once we had bicycles our ability to explore the neighborhood and the communities surrounding us increased even more.  Any concern about kids being out on the streets was not particularly on most parents minds and we as kids felt little fear about our safety.  It was a different world then.  We exploited our freedom to the extreme and life was fun and free.

          The thrill of exploration and discovery continued into my adult life with adventures in hiking, camping, and long drives.  This was expanded even further for me once I started working on the road.  My travels allowed me so many opportunities to see places and meet people that would have been unlikely if I'd been tied down to a normal type job in one place.

          How many "Bali Hai's" I've been to in my life is something of which I have lost count.  And more wait for me.   There are places to which I'd like to return as well as places I haven't been to yet but would like to visit one day.   One Bali Hai?   Not one but many.   The world is such a vast and varied place.  The song "Bali Hai" plays in the background as I gaze upon pictures of exotic places and run my fingers along the highways on the maps in my road atlas.

           Bali Hai is calling me.  It always will until the day I leave this Earth.  Then maybe I will reach that ultimate Bali Hai.

           Do you have a special "Bali Hai" that lures you?   Is there a special place that you've been that stands out in your memory?   What is it that constitutes your concept of a Bali Hai type of place?

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Do You Have Ghosts?

Zimmerman portraying a ghost.
Zimmerman portraying a ghost. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

       There have been many things in my life that I've said or done that I wish that I hadn't or at least wish had been handled differently than they were handled at the time.  I'm not a big believer in dwelling on regrets.  What's done is done and if it can't be changed it's usually a waste of time dwelling upon it.  On rare occasions we might be able to fix what we've damaged or at least say we're sorry for something that might have happened so long ago that most of those involved have stopped thinking about it.  Still, we often have those ghostly nagging memories that keep coming back to haunt us.

       Some of my ghosts come from childhood while others are more recent.  I have no doubt that new missteps will arise to haunt me in the years to come.  Like any of us, I am only human and prone to making mistakes that I'll wish I hadn't made.  That's life for any of us.   And as bad as our mistakes might be or seem to be, they can be valuable life lessons as well as subject matter for memoir that can help others learn from the mistakes we've made.

         Besides being lessons from which to learn, in the end our mistakes should not be heavy burdens to shoulder, but part of the story line of who we are and the journey that we've traveled.  Our mistakes should not define who we are unless we are among the unfortunate few who continually return and never learn from the things we do wrong.  The story of this type of person is a sad one indeed and uplifts no one unless there comes a revelatory moment that results in a substantive change for the better and redemption at the end of the tale.

         There are probably few who desire this transformative evolution from bad to good, inept to adept, or lost to found, though when it happens it can be a great story.  The ghosts of past deeds will always be there to haunt us long after the occurrences.  Our choice is whether we allow the ghosts of the past to haunt us into a dark place of retreat or to accept them, try to understand them, and hopefully learn from them.

           Our memories are specters that we must find a way to live with and eventually at some point make peace with.   Allowing bad memories to haunt us into a fear of living and a remorse for having lived achieves nothing positive for us.  You and I all have ghosts of past memories and mistakes.  Rather than becoming a slave to them, make them work for you.   A haunted house can be scary while a haunted life is tragic.

            What ghosts from your past haunt you?   Are bad memories a bad thing?    How do you turn the tide on personal negative thinking to make your past a positive?

           Please visit Tossing It Out tomorrow for my next Battle of the Bands post.  The song I'll be using relates to what I've discussed in today's Wrote By Rote post.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Greeley Incident

English: A car that has been burglarized. Bad ...
A car that has been burglarized. Bad for me, good for Wikipedia.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
        Sometime in July of 1984 our van got broken into during the early morning hours while in the parking lot of the Holiday Inn in Greeley, Colorado.   We never suspected anything as we slept peacefully in our fourth floor hotel room.  The perpetrators of this crime, which irksomely occurred directly across the street from the Greeley police station, took quite a haul of our possessions though upon discovering the incident it didn't immediately dawn on us exactly how much stuff had actually been taken since there was so much still remaining in the van.  After all we were living on the road and carried a good deal of stuff with us.  The window that the thieves had busted out was bad enough, but the loss of our goods was extremely annoying.

       The point of this story is that within a short time after this incident we had the smashed window fixed and most of the items not just replaced in kind, but also in additional quantity.   For example where one case of cassette tapes had been stolen in the burglary it was not long before we had more tape cases filled with tapes than any burglar could easily carry off.

        Some of our stolen possessions were replaced by my coworkers who had felt bad about our loss.  A couple of them had gone to a pawn shop and bought us a bunch of used cassettes that they thought we might enjoy.   While there they looked around to see if they could recognize anything that we had lost, but even if our stuff had been fenced to a second hand goods dealer, by the time it had we were gone from Greeley and in our next town.

        Stuff comes and goes in our lives.  Theft, loss, or just throwing it away dwindles our ownership of goods as we in turn keep buying more and have more given to us.   Material possessions are often so ephemeral that we eventually don't even notice when they are gone.  Others on the other hand are sadly missed and even mourned.

         A briefcase containing a lot of my writing, including a journal that I had kept about events in my life and a notebook full of original songs, was stolen on that sad night across from the Greeley police station.  We replaced most of our lost goods, but the contents of that briefcase cannot be adequately replaced.  That was my biggest loss on that night.

          Soon after the Greeley incident we had a car alarm installed in our van and all of our vans after that included an alarm.  Still our vehicle was again broken into twice over the following six years.  None of those break-ins resulted in as significant losses as that first one, but nevertheless they were a hassle.  Especially having to replace the broken windows.

           Taking into account all of our years on the road with a van load of personal possessions, I guess we were fortunate to not have had more incidents like the ones we had.  Road life is a risk, but so is living in one place.  Only once, many years ago when I lived in a dump of an apartment, has my living space been violated with break-in and theft.   Crime can happen anywhere and anytime.  Precautions are well advised, but never completely fail proof.

           Crime against our stuff can be disconcerting, but much less so than crimes against our persons.  In that respect I've been very lucky.   That's a crime I'd rather never experience.

           Have you ever been the victim of a break-in?   If so, what was taken?   What do you do to avoid being a victim of crime?

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Success (Soundtrack of my Life)

Crown Navarre
Crown Navarre (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

       Success is measured differently by each of us and often we have different views of our own success within our own lifetimes.    The standard of success might be the amount of money we have, what level we've achieved in our careers, who knows us or whom we know, or any other number of factors.  The view that others have about your success might be very different from how you view your own success.  There is no one standard that defines personal success.

         Naomi Ruth Eisenberg who was a vocalist and violinist with Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks, one of the finest bands to come out of the early 70's San Francisco music scene, wrote the song "Success" which appears on the final album of this particular incarnation of the band.   Last Train to Hicksville...The Home of the Happy Feet is now considered an album classic from a band that could have offered so much more if they had continued.  Still, Hicks went on to form the Acoustic Warriors and perform as a solo artist.  Eisenberg continued playing with other acts including her own band Naomi Vice and occasional reunions with the Hot Licks.

        The song "Success" pretty well sums up the feelings of many in the entertainment industry as well as any other field of endeavor.    Success is always playing with our minds.  Enjoy the song and let me tell you my own thoughts pertaining to success as it relates to my own life.

Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks "Success" (1973)


       When I was a kid I had dreams of what I wanted to be someday.  Those dreams changed at times and at times those dreams were pretty big.   Back then my hazy concept of success had more to do with recognition from others than any tangible understanding of money or other personal assets.  For me at that stage of life things like a house, a family, and everything that might surround me one day were merely a given that somehow I accepted would be there in some way, but nothing specific or definable.

       In junior high school a class social studies project had us looking to the future to research five potential fields that we might like to pursue as an adult.  My chosen fields--entertainment, music, writing, photography, and teaching--were each achieved by me to some degree in my life.  This is a certain success that I can claim though the individual success I achieved in each realm might not be especially significant.

       Millions pursue a successful career in entertainment while relatively few make much of a mark in the field.  Just having the opportunity to have worked and actually made a living in entertainment is my claim to having achieved a certain success.  I have little to claim as far as fame or money, but my experiences have been a wealth deposited to my bank of life memories.  I wanted to do something that many people dream about and I actually did it and made money.   To me that was a success.

        Success as an all-encompassing term that defines me is not something to which I can lay claim.  However the cumulative small successes in my life have brought me some degree of satisfaction.  I feel like I'm still on that proverbial road to success and I still have a long way that I can go with time now running out.  Not knowing when my time will run out puts me at some disadvantage though still I would have to ask one question:   If I knew the end of my story would I be more likely to achieve the success of which I dream?

         Let's face it, success can sometimes be pretty arbitrary and it's never guaranteed for most of us.  Many years ago I decided that while I could aspire and admire the success of others, my own success was what I would recognize it to be.   Over the years I've been pleased with a good many of my career accomplishments.  Maybe they were not especially impressive to many when compared to the success of others, but my success worked for me and most importantly I've never just stopped to bask in the sunshine of what I've achieved.  There's more to come I hope and I hope my dreams will not be thwarted too soon.

        As the song "Success" asks, "Will they remember me or leave me far behind?"  Riches and fame are nice, but what will my legacy be?   And even if I am remembered by a few if only just for a short time, I don't think that memory matters as much as the life I lived while I was living it.  Success is mostly a personal measurement and that's what is most meaningful to any of us.  I've enjoyed my life and want to continue to enjoy many more years of accomplishment.   What others think is important--I won't dismiss that fact.  But what I think about my life, what I've felt while living it, defines success on a personal level.

         I hope that I leave something worthwhile behind me.  I hope that I have contributed some modicum of positivity to the world.   I hope I have enjoyed my life once I have left it.  Hope--perhaps that's the most important thing we have.   A life without hope must be a dark place to be.

          What have been some of the successes to which you can lay claim in your life?   Do you continue to plan on future successes in your life?    Is the pursuit of success ultimately meaningless?

       Robin has been doing the Soundtrack of my Life posts on her blog Your Daily Dose.   I had done a few of my own "life soundtracks" on my Tossing It Out blog as well as the song series (starting at this post) I did for my 2014 Blogging from A to Z April Challenge on Wrote By Rote.  Be sure to visit and follow Your Daily Dose for more Life Soundtrack info.  I hope you'll also visit my current Battle of the Bands to vote on your favorite version of the Dan Hicks song "I Scare Myself".  

Saturday, October 10, 2015

My Life According to my Books

The forty five cent paperback version published in 1967.
I still have it intact!

         Earlier this week on my blog Tossing It Out I mentioned about how I had pulled an old paperback book off of one of my bookshelves in order to read at the auto dealership as I waited for some work to be done on my van.  This copy of The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder was one that I had purchased in 1967 for forty five cents.  It had been required reading for my junior year of English and rather than borrow a copy from the library I chose to purchase a copy of my own.

       Coincidentally as well as ironically I had read a Los Angeles Times review of a book called Letter to a Future Lover by Ander Monson the day previous to having pulled my old high school paperback off the shelf to read at the car dealer.  Monson's  book consists of essays regarding the things found tucked away in and written on the pages of library books.

A corner torn from an English class vocabulary quiz.
I doodled my strange little drawing after the
 paper had been returned to me

       Opening my book I discovered that the bookmark that still remained hidden within was a bit of paper torn from a vocabulary quiz.  In my own cursive handwriting (which was not too bad I think) I had written my name, the class, and the date of December 20th of 1967.  On the outer margins of the book pages I had drawn in pencil sequences that when the pages were flipped through depicted animated scenes of cars and a person running.  Throughout the pages I had circled (or more accurately "rectangled") vocabulary words selected by Mrs. Vincent, my English teacher.

One of over 100 tiny drawings on the outer margin of the
book.  When the pages are flipped animated sequences
are depicted.  As you might see, art was never my forte.

        I was never one to mark up my textbooks for fear of being charged for the damage at the end of the school year, however I did occasionally deface my own books.  Thankfully I did not treat too many of my books with disrespect so most that I still own are in decent condition despite their age.  In fact, I have rarely marked books with notes, underlining, or highlighting.  Most of the time I considered my books my treasures unless I happened to be using them at school where boredom frequently set in.  Mindless scribbling was often my act of defying the tedium of school.

        Looking through my current personal library I would undoubtedly find odd scraps of paper--receipts, religious tracts, newspaper clippings, candy wrappers, and any other number of bits that would have served as the makeshift bookmark for the moment.  If there are books with penciled in marginalia, those written words or drawings were probably because the book had belonged to someone else and the markings were not done by me.

         All of the doodlings, notes, and detritus to be found within the pages of books are artifacts of history in a sense.   Those that are mine represent some part of my past that I might immediately recognize while other findings might be more puzzling and require some deciphering of my past.  When such ephemera comes from a book that has been acquired from a friend, a family member, a spouse, or even a second hand acquisition from some unknown past book owner then the artifacts become more of a mystery that might be solved or more often might remain something upon which to speculate.

         My rereading of The Bridge of San Luis Rey was worth the time spent though no specific memories were roused from the book itself.  However it was interesting to see the tiny drawings and the writings done by my own hand.   Some memories were revived.   I don't plan to be riffling through the pages of all the books in my home library, but I will now have a heightened awareness when I do happen to look within one on those old books.

        Our books are often a storehouse of small hidden treasures that can stir up the dusty hallways tucked away in the recesses of our minds.  A note scrawled on the page of a book can revive a forgotten memory as well as present a puzzler on which to ponder.   That odd scrap grabbed in haste for a bookmark might be a relic that awakens the past.  If you have old books from high school or college or just from a younger day, flip through a few.  You might be surprised by what you might find.

         Do you write on the pages on the books you own?    Have you ever made an exciting discovery within the pages of an older book?    What is the oddest thing you've ever used for a bookmark?


Saturday, October 3, 2015

My Life in Entomology

English: Unidentified insects. Part of Don Ehl...
Unidentified insects. Part of Don Ehlen's Insect Safari collection on display at the Hiawatha Artists Lofts, Seattle, Washington, during a "Bugs and Beer" night. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

       Like many young kids I had a fascination with insects.  This is not to say I didn't experience a certain yuck factor in regard to insects.  I didn't particularly want the little critters crawling on me or getting into my food, but I did enjoy looking at bugs and observing them in action.

        Bug curiosity probably comes with childhood, but perhaps my parents egged my curiosity onward when they gave me a book about insects at Easter when I was about six years old.  This Easter gift came as a bit of surprise to me since previous Easters had only found me with baskets filled with sugary eggs and chocolate bunnies.   Receiving something other than candy for Easter brought the springtime holiday to a level more like Christmas and I had no problem with that.

         My sister and I each received a similar looking book that year.  I can't recall what book she received, but only remember my book about insects.  Actually the book had few pictures other than some line drawings and a lot of text that I couldn't read all that well.  I don't think the book was intended for someone my age, but that was fine with me.  I loved books.   The fact that this particular book was a bit advanced for my age made it all the more intriguing to me.  I'm not sure whatever happened to this book as the memory of its presence exists for only a brief period of my childhood.  Besides, it was a rather cheap looking book that might have been some kind of educational workbook that my parents found on sale somewhere.  I never bothered to ask them about it and now that my parents are gone I can't ask.   I doubt whether they'd remember anyway.

        Throughout my elementary school years I developed a greater interest in insects.  We lived in San Diego by this time.  The area where we moved was near undeveloped canyons where we spent much of our play time when we weren't in school.  That canyon had plenty of wildlife such as reptiles, birds, rabbits, and insects.   Often I would include red ants in my play since they were abundant and somewhat large.   As long as I avoided getting bitten by one of these ants--their bites could be furiously painful, raising a sore swelling--they provided a great deal of entertainment for me.

       Also during that time I often watched the sci-fi movies of the 50's where some event such as nuclear testing caused insects to grow to monstrous proportions.   These were some of my favorite films back then.  During my playtime I would fantasize my own monster bug movies using my plastic toy soldiers as the players and an ant cast of thousands that were never willing participants in my imaginary movies.   Other times I would collect ants, beetles, or other insects in jars just to observe them as though they were specimens in my own personal insect zoo.

        In my sophomore year of high school I had a more serious revival of interest in insects.  By this time we had moved to East Tennessee where there was a wide assortment of insects.  During that school year I took biology and the study of insects was part of the program at the first of the school year during late summer and early fall when insects were in great abundance.  Our first biology project of the school year was to assemble an insect collection.   Once I'd gotten past the idea of impaling dead bugs with large pins onto a styrofoam board,  the endeavor took on a fascination for me.  My collection wasn't huge, but it scored me an A grade.

        As an offshoot of my school insect collection project, I took a special interest in grasshoppers.  By the end of summer grasshoppers seemed to be everywhere and they were reasonably large.  They were also very easy to catch.   I gathered a few of these grasshoppers and put them in a jar filled with grass and plant material.  Keeping the jars outside by day and in our basement in the evening, I spent uncounted amounts of time watching the grasshoppers and studying their structure.   With their armored bodies and rigid jointed legs they looked as much like small machines as they did living things.  I fancied myself as becoming a grasshopper breeder raising a herd of my own trained critters.

        My breeder dreams were dashed however when I looked in on my "pets" one morning to discover that there were only hollowed out grasshopper shells in the jar.  All of my grasshoppers were dead and in their place was a small spider that had apparently gotten into the jar through the air holes that I had punched in the lid.  That was the end of my dream of starting a grasshopper ranch.  It was just as well since winter was around the corner and bugs would be doing whatever they do during the winter.

         I suppose I could have become an entomologist (a bug scientist), but that was not to be.  Just as well I think.  I've had a good life as things turned out.   I'm not bugged about not becoming an entomologist.   That might have been a very strange life.

          Did you ever assemble an insect collection?   Are you afraid of bugs?   What are your favorite insects?   Which ones do you dislike the most?