Sunday, February 28, 2016

Rain + Sun = Rainbows

Another weekend in the Emerald City. I've been here long enough to complain about the current changes. I've also lived long enough to know that complaints, for the most part, go unheard and cause the complainant unnecessary stress. I should be like the water flowing around the rocks. The water flows easily over and around the rocks, but over time the power of the water wears the rocks down into sand.

I went to a college basketball game with my son last night. I'm still surprised sometimes at the power of parental love. The greatest prize I've ever received is introduction of Justin into my life. He is a sweet, energetic and funny boy. He's smart and empathetic, always looking out for those who are important to him. It was a great game, with a three-point buzzer beater. The kind of game every basketball fan enjoys. My son brought along a friend from school and I brought along my wife, or she brought me. Often I cannot tell the difference.

Tonight is the Oscars and I don't give a shit anymore. When I was a boy with visions of a future in film, I would religiously watch the Academy Awards, typing out each winner on my prepared sheet, as they were announced. I tried to see each film nominated for best picture every year, before the ceremony, so I could be a fair judge myself. Now, with eight nominees for best picture and more needless gossipy PR than you can shake a selfie stick at, I just don't have any interest. In fact, I have an anti-interest.

Today is Sunday with periods of sun. I'll be searching for rainbows throughout the day, with he knowledge that there are no pots of gold at their source. Just more weather. The colors are an illusion. The skies are switching from rain and dark clouds to sunshine with potential. The wind is just blowing everything around. It blew away an entire hour last night!

I have tomorrow off. How about that? The reason is that the store and restaurant are closing for the day in order to resurface the wood floors. We will not be paid for this unwanted day off, unless we choose to use a vacation day, which I will, or work extra hours to make up the time. There will still be toxic fumes lingering on Tuesday. I heard the floor repairman say just that, but then he added, "I only have one day, so what can you do?" Toxic fumes on a Tuesday. The anticipation isn't killing me, but the arrival may do just that.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Book Mark

This post is about books and reading. I tried to get it finished in time to put it up last Tuesday, but my son was with me, which is a good thing, but switches my priorities around pretty quickly. ("Daddy, come shoot hoops with me in my room," "Daddy, let's go to the park.") I had quite a bit written, but I kept looking at it, thinking Blah. Boring. That's the problem though, the idea that books are boring. It's a misconception perpetuated by people, who think time is money, and value cars and jewels more than wisdom and intellect.  Books can take the reader to Mars, or ancient Egypt, or beside the steamy banks of the Mississippi back in the early 19th century. They can provide entry into a myriad of subjects from neuroscience to nanotechnology; from the decks of the whaleship Essex to the dusty wartime excesses in the Middle East. 

I work in a bookstore, and I've been a bookseller for almost twenty years. That's hard even for me to believe, since I started in the high tech industry back in the glory days of Texas Instruments, Sylvania, and Honeywell, all scattered along route 128 in Massachusetts. Until the greedy bastards of industry figured out how to ship all those high tech jobs to third world countries, and have those circuit boards assembled for pennies. Recommending books can be very rewarding, but not financially. I work in an independent bookstore, which appeals to the rebel in me. It's situated in a very liberal neighborhood, just north of the university, so there is not much call for right wing screeds.

The bookstore is a good fit, even though I didn't become a ravenous reader until my 20's. Growing up, I was more interested in filling sketchbooks and watching old horror movies. After returning home from the air force, I started my reading life with cheesy science fiction and Native American history. I keep a little notebook filled with a list of nearly every book I have read so far in this all-too-brief life of my own. It's amusing to look back and see various reading trends, such as the New Age/Self-Help phase. I was there when the New Age section first started to appear in bookstores. I've tried to heal my inner child and swear off codependency for ever. I've found my erroneous zones, and have realized that it's all small stuff. 

These days my reading tastes veer from religious history and neuroscience to gritty fiction and old classics.  I do have too many books. I admit that freely.  I fantasize about a minimalist decor, with just a few shelves of vital titles -- maybe a shelf or two of classics -- but all of my books are piled up along the walls of my office, giving one the impression that I'm a hoarder. It's not like the halls are lined with newspapers dating back to my birth. I stopped buying DVDs and CDs a while ago. It's just books. Books, books and more books.

These are just some of my books.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Age of Innocence

The Boro Drive-in Theater
Coming of age in the 1960's and early 70's, my siblings and I were entertained by the simple things: dinner at the A&W drive-in restaurant, or taking in a double-feature at the Boro Drive-in Theater. One night on a whim, my parents decided to answer our questions about those stationary flashing red lights we saw to the south every night. We drove through the unlit back-roads of Rehoboth and Seekonk. It took a while, but we eventually pulled into a gravel parking lot at the base of the radio towers. We were so excited to find the source of those flashing red lights that we saw every night.

On another occasion, we drove to nearby Attleboro to find the source of the festive searchlights, traversing the night sky. It turned out to be the grand opening of Mars Bargainland. Long gone now. I remember that we walked through the store, but left unimpressed. Back then we were freer to explore our world without fear of imminent danger. At the age of ten -- my son's current age -- I would ride my bike two or three towns away, just to explore and maybe stop at Bliss Brothers Diary for an ice cream in a waffle cone.

Maybe some form of innocence comes along with country life and living in a small town. There's a scene early in "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town," where Longfellow Deeds is in a law office, being informed about his substantial inheritance. He hears firetruck sirens from the street below and runs to the window. The suits in the room get a chuckle, as if Longfellow had never heard sirens before. When you're from a small town though, a siren usually means that someone you know is hurt or in trouble -- neighbors are actually neighborly (sometimes.) -- but the hardened cynical city folk thought innocence was humorous.

"Mr. Deeds Goes to Town"
Innocence is nothing to be scoffed at. Innocence is sight without looking through discriminating and judgmental filters. Innocence and naivete are precious, because they are so ephemeral. When innocence fades away, it is often replaced by cynicism, as this aging curmudgeon can testify to. Now my task is to try and maintain my son's innocence for as long as possible, or at least until he is better prepared to see some of the sights and human behaviors that cannot be unseen, or unfelt. Justin is wonderfully empathetic and caring, and always perceptive of others' feelings. I just want to make sure that his own precious nature is protected along the beginning of his journey.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Talking Entropy Blues

The eternal breakdown. Humans love to create order out of nature, with their roads and suburbs, but nature eventually retakes its acreage. Roads break down with the cycling of the seasons. Rain beats upon the rooftops, and moss grows on the north-facing side. The leaky roof at the bookstore doesn't get better over time. It gets worse, with the water finding new ways to leak onto the wood floors. Water is one of earth's most powerful agents of erosion. It carved out the Grand Canyon and all the little canyonettes. The power of water. It can cut through rocks, and entire civilizations.

We get shorter as we get older, because our spine starts to compress. Our feet, nose and ears get bigger. All part of breaking down. We all succumb to gravity eventually. While I was busy living life, my own physical being and faculties have been breaking down. I can't eat the foods I used to. My eyesight is fading like old Polaroids. My knees ache more with every rainfall. And don't get me started on my sleep patterns.

With the popularity of crudities like  Cruz and chumps like Trump, one could easily believe that the end is near. We're witnessing the breakdown of our own society, and we're all fiddling with our smart phones, as the world burns down around us. Maybe my passion for Bernie Sanders is just another way of trying to impose some sort of order in this crazy-ass country of ours. No one values intellect anymore, and reality has just become another entertainment show.

The desire for order and meaning is a purely human characteristic. Some people believe that religion and faith in a higher power gives their lives meaning, but the truth is that we create our own meaning in our meager lives. Even your religious belief is a creation to make sense of this chaotic world.

It's maddening to think about the past and future and our microcosmic place in all of this. In the grand scheme, we're not even a blip. About 1.2 billion years from now our sun will flare up and swallow up the earth, before it becomes a red giant. Most of us are not even cognizant of the fact that we're on a rock hurtling through space at a speed of nearly 67,000 miles per hour. Never mind that our solar system whirls around the center of our galaxy at some 490,000 miles per hour.

I'm just trying to carve out my little calm corner in this chaotic universe. My time is limited, but my love is unlimited. My life is filled with meaning: Raising my son, putting good books into the hands of waiting readers, and continuing my quest to become knowledgeable and enlightened, two unattainable but worthy goals. Even gazing at the stars, or talking to the neighborhood crows fills me with a sense of a life worth living. Chaos is unavoidable, but it's up to us to find the meaning in our own lives.