Saturday, July 30, 2016

Renaissance Man?

A neighbor called me a renaissance man this morning. Hmm, sounds kind of cool but I'm not sure I earn that title. I was on a treadmill at the time and the rest of our conversation was about music, women, jobs and apartment construction techniques of the 1990s. Yep, exciting topics for a Saturday morning in the fitness room.

The mention of my guitar lessons triggered his evaluation. I know what he means but I decided to research the term a bit anyway. One definition of Renaissance man: a cultured man of the Renaissance (15th century Italy) who was knowledgeable, educated, or proficient in a wide range of fields.

Cultured? I do occasionally wear a tuxedo and I like Mozart, although I'm usually more at home in shorts listening to Kenny Chesney, U2 or Stevie Ray Vaughn. On the other hand, my iTunes does have a wide range of music and my social calendar runs from charity balls to beer bars.

The part that might fit me, and many people I know: knowledgeable, educated, or proficient in a wide range of fields. My job, for example, includes writing, voicing and producing commercials, promos and specials for radio stations plus interviewing non-profit organizations about their missions. My hobbies: photography, writing poetry and this blog, reading and taking the afore-mentioned guitar lessons. I am good at some of this stuff but mostly average. A Renaissance man?  I don't know.

One obsession I have is studying people, another is pondering the meaning of life and trying to make something significant out of mine. I think those are pursuits common to many boomers. As we age, we often ask ourselves why we are here and what it all means. Well, some of us do. Others of us follow a simpler path. Sometimes I am jealous of them. They are quite happy living the plot line of Luke Bryan's latest song "Huntin', Fishin', Lovin' Every Day."  Their lives are somewhat Renaissance-like in that they're knowledgeable, educated, or proficient in those three fields.

A confession: I didn't graduate college. That is unfinished business for me and I might never realize that dream. But I do consider myself a life-long learner. My personal library contains books on presidents, actors, religion, philosophy, music, self-help, Navajo culture, history, urban studies, photography and life in Italy.

The heart of the Renaissance movement was Italy and one branch of my family tree is rooted in Sicily. Am I a Renaissance man?  Are you a Renaissance man or woman? Perhaps I'll ponder this topic in greater depth tonight with the aid of a nice Chianti Classico. Caio.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Dinner At A Diner

Diners are an interesting part of our American past. Although the first diners appeared in the late 1800s and were often horse-drawn night lunch wagons, they became a popular part of American culture in the 1950s at the beginning of the serious ‘car’ era.

They were often next to bars in cities or near factories and open 24 hours a day to serve the round-the-clock urban night owls and shift workers.
Stainless steel exteriors and casual atmosphere were typical.

Diner fare featured meatloaf, burgers, club sandwiches, bacon and eggs. And coffee. Plenty of coffee.

The diner where I had dinner recently has all that plus lemon chicken piccata and Atlantic salmon. I ordered lemon chicken. And a beer. I considered getting meatloaf but I'm trying to stick to the healthier diet my neurologist recommended as part of my MS therapy.

Nice to have options.  I pretended my lemon chicken was meatloaf and my Honda was a ’57 Chevy.

Boomers and Music

Buying a song back in the day, 60s, 70s, 80s, even 90s ... Go to  store, search for the album, initially on vinyl, later on cassette or CD single, take it to the counter, stand in line, pay the cashier, go home, put the 'thing' into a player on one room in your house, hit play, enjoy your song. Total time, about 30 - 45 minutes.

And now ... click the iTunes app icon, type the song title in the search box, click Buy Song, type in your password, watch it download, hit play, enjoy your song anywhere, any room, no room, car, backyard, park, subway. Total time, about 2 minutes.

I wrote this at 10 pm one recent night, shortly after buying two or three songs I wanted at that moment. Couldn't do that back in the day.

Sometimes I miss searching though vinyl albums and singles in a store. Sometimes. But not the other night when I had to have those songs.

I'm listening to one of them now. On my phone. Wow.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Blame It All On...

The thing that bothers me most about political rants on Facebook, political discussions/arguments at my neighborhood bar and political speeches by most politicians is that so many people think that their opinions and those of their political party are the only correct ones. My ultra right wing Republican friends say, in effect, that anything said by a Democrat is wrong. My ultra left wing Democrat friends say anything said by a Republican is automatically wrong.

I say both schools of thought are wrong.

There also seems to be an assumption that all Democrats believe in exactly the same thing and are all 'liberal' and all Republicans believe in exactly the same thing and are all 'conservative'.

Wrong again, in my opinion. And that is exactly the issue: these are all opinions. Not facts, just opinions. Our great country was founded on finding common ground among disparate beliefs.

If you assume that each party stands for only one thing and that the reputation or impression of a party or its members is static over time, here are examples from history that might surprise you.

Republicans seem to be war-mongers who are against anything related to protecting the environment. But Nixon, a Republican president, ended the Vietnam War and began the Environmental Protection Agency.

Democrats seem to be pacifists but Democratic President Lyndon Johnson got us deeper into the Vietnam War.

Republicans who worship President Reagan, the man who often pointed out that big government was the problem, forget that the government grew more during his eight years than during any prior administration except FDR's.

I'm tired of hearing that everything is Obama's fault. My coffee wasn't hot this morning; Obama's fault. That's crazy. Even though I'd like to think everything that went wrong between 2001 and 2009 was Bush's fault, it wasn't. Trump says the terrorist attacks on 9/11 were Bush's fault. Are you effing kidding me!

I think Trump is an evil, racist, sociopathic, bully con artist who would be the most dangerous president in our history and I have many facts and observations to back that up. But that assertion is my opinion. Nothing more, nothing less.

I think Hillary Clinton is annoying and untrustworthy. But I also think she would not get us into another war and she does understand how American democracy works. Trump doesn't understand any of this.  Clinton would be ineffective as president but not dangerous. Trump would be dangerous.  My opinion. Facts back it up but it's still just an opinion.

Facebook ranters who think they have all the answers are delusional. In my opinion.

People want to blame 'others' for all this discord and there are some easy targets. Maybe it's time for each of us to look inward and consider the possibility we've done this to ourselves.

My wish through all of this is that we would all shut the fuck up and just vote for the candidates in each race who we truly believe can make a difference.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

My Dad Plant

When I was moving out on my own a few years ago and negotiating plates, wall art and furniture, my ex asked me if I wanted a few of the plants. I said sure, I'll take two. The two she suggested looked good to me and appeared to be easy to care for; a definite plus because I'm not good at caring for plants.

As I put the plants into my car she asked if I remembered where the larger one (pictured here) came from.   I did not. She told me it was the plant my office sent me after my dad died fifteen years ago. Wow, I had no idea that plant was still alive. I remember getting it but lost track of it years ago in the jungle of our house.

As I sat next to it on my patio sipping my coffee this morning I decided to learn more about this plant.

My GF said she thought it was some kind of lily. I would never have guessed that. Armed with that speculation, however, I found it on google in about ten seconds.

Spathiphyllium is also known as the Peace Lily.  It has Asian origins and thrives in wet tropical environments. That explains why mine survived for years in a dark hallway, within earshot of many less-than-peaceful arguments.

My dad was a peaceful, stubborn man and maybe that is the reason for the plant's survival. Maybe he visits me through what I now call my 'dad plant'.

Some people say deceased loved ones visit us through various objects.  I don't usually believe things like that but I do find comfort in having this plant in my apartment. I draw some inspiration from the plant's tenacity and stubbornness in staying alive through adverse conditions. My dad did a reasonably good job of surviving more than fifteen years of Parkinson's disease. That horrible disease robbed him of the retirement he dreamed of but he fought it well, at least initially.

Maybe there is a learning opportunity with this plant; something along the lines of 'you can survive almost anything if you try'.

Or maybe this is just a nice plant and it inspires me to tell yet another story, something I enjoy doing.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Random Writing Exercise - Including Errors

A creative writing seminar I went to a few years ago suggested an interesting writing exercisd.  Start writing and keep writing without stopping, no stoppint to edi, just write whatever comes to mine, for a certain length of time.  I don’t remember how long , so I icket 4 minutes as I began to write this.  Today is Saturday and plenty is on my mind, but several times today I took a break to just look out my window.  What a nice site.  My patio overlooks the courtyard in my apartment complex.  There are plants everywhere, and trees, grass, some natural wood landscaping.  A pleasant site.  It relaxes me.  The adjacent neighborhood is pretty cool too.  This is a very walkable neighborhood.  I try to walk everywhere, to the grocery store, my wine hangoug, restaurants, my guitar lesson, the farmer’s market.  I say try because since my MS diagnosis, y wlaking has been somewhat limited, compered to just two years ago.  But I still try to walk.  I’m not sure how cohesive this writing is but here I am still writing, only stopping, well NOT stopping at all.  Is my 4 minutes up yet.  It’s a bit rambling no because in the spirit of the exercise, I don’t want tostop.  So I am basically writing my observations of today.  I love Saturdays.

Timer just went off.  Now I’ll go back and see how I did.  I won’t change anything before posting.  Try this some time.

My evaluation:  not bad, except my keyboard skills aren’t too good.  But I intentionally left the errors in.

Saturday, July 9, 2016


Spending time outside in nature is calming and therapeutic. There is scientific backing for that assertion.

Of course we didn't need scientists to verify what our moms and dads already knew. Boomers, you know what I'm talking about. "Go outside and play."  Sunshine and fresh air all lead to physical activity. Playing outside was generally healthy for the body and recent scientific studies point out that the great outdoors is good for mental health too.

A random collection of reasons why green is better than screen:
Cognitive improvements, a  sense of wonder, deeper understanding of planet earth. Creative exploration. Psychological benefits for children related to unstructured play.   Learning. Burning off excess energy and increasing mental activity with activities like hiking, riding, fishing and gardening.

Being outdoors increases concentration. There are mental and physical positives related from fresh air. Vitamin D.

Here's one I like: Spending time outdoors helps us age gracefully, partly as a result of the exercise and partly because of social interaction and sharing hobbies. Stress reduction and lower heart rate also happen outdoors.  The scent of fresh pine can lower anxiety and reduce depression.

The point: life improves when you go outside.  So stop reading this and take a hike.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Twenty Five, Eighty One and 1776

Numerical narrative: 1776, 2016, 4th of July, youngest person at the party: 2, birthday boy: 81, oldest 84, number at the party: 25, give or take, number of people whose names I didn't know or couldn't remember: 12, give or take.

Blowing bubbles, chasing bubbles ... and that's just the adults. Wine was involved.

Screaming kids.

A few short political comments and reactions to Fox News Channel. Quiet commentary, maybe because they know I'm the only registered Democrat in the room and they didn't want to offend me. Or maybe they were just being quiet at that moment and it had nothing to do with me.

More screaming kids. They're playing and having fun. But they're screaming.


Pizza last night instead of leftovers. Nobody remembers why we ordered pizza at 9 and ate it at 10. Maybe wine was involved there too.

Daddy, I'm going to miss you. Don't go.
I'm just going for a day to pack the house.
No I mean don't go to Afghanistan again.
Well that's not for another month, so let's not talk about it today.

Nationals beat the Reds 11-4. Yay!

My third July 4th weekend in a row here. Noisy and chaotic but fun. Grateful to have friends like this. Grateful to live in the land of the free.