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.

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?