TECHNOLOGY…THE DEVIL’S SPAWN

A word of caution to my teaching friends and peers who will soon return to the education wars.

“Please allow me to introduce myself

I’m a man of wealth and taste

I’ve been around for a long, long year

Stole many a man’s soul to waste”

“Sympathy for the Devil”-The Rolling Stones

 

The technology advances from writing on wet clay tablets to the Promethium Boards of today has been a great boom for teachers…except when it wasn’t.  There is always a learning curve for a teacher that continues to slope upward especially as it relates to students and how well they use or misuse technology.  For every website blocking program utilized, there is a technology savvy student ready, willing and able to hack it.

With the invention and use of iPhones, technology abuse is at an all-time high with little chance of thwarting it.  Teachers, on the other hand, have had trouble dealing with technology even when it was something as old school as the use of video.

It is true that the “best-laid plans of mice and men sometimes go asunder”.  During the late Seventies or early Eighties, teachers and coaches, along with the rest of the world, made the transition from eight and sixteen-millimeter film to video equipment.  First Beta and then VHS, the video was a great teaching tool and we not only used in the classroom but also used it to film practices and games.  What made it a great tool was that it was easy to use, instantaneous and would provide immediate feedback.  If it was easy to use, it was also easy to abuse.  At a nearby high school, teaching and tool would take on a new meaning.

A scrimmage had been videotaped and afterward the video camera, with scrimmage tape still installed, was placed in the locker room.  One of the team clowns, we all have had them, decided that it would be humorous to turn on the video camera and point it at the entrance to the shower room, not realizing that it was taping on the end of the scrimmage video.  Bozo further complicated his crime by telling people that it was taping.  Boys being boys, many decided to display their man parts by shaking and twirling, some even attempting to make one man part twirl in one direction and others twirl in another.  All of this could have been considered stupid and innocent fun but sometimes reality rears its ugly head, pun intended.

The coaching staff watched and graded the video, showed it to the team and did the normal film breakdown associated with high school football.  Each time the film was viewed, as soon as the last play was shown the video would be stopped and rewound, never showing the innocent but stupid fun.  That was until the video camera and tape found its way into Ms. Crump’s senior public speaking class.

The video equipment had been purchased from the library budget and was to be shared with any teacher who wanted to use it when not being utilized by the athletic department.  Ms. Crump, a very innovative teacher, decided it would be a good idea to video her classes’ first attempts at speech making and then critique it during the class.  It would have been a better idea to have used a fresh videotape rather than recording over the previously mentioned scrimmage, but she was using what she had been sent.

I can only imagine the class’s reaction to “Little Johnny” holding his man part and pointing it right at the camera while yelling “S&*k my d@#$!” after the final speech ran out.  I don’t know if they had to resuscitate Ms. Crump or not, but I do know that the powers tried unsuccessfully to fire the head football coach.  I don’t know if “Little Johnny” got any takers or not.

In a related story, there was a much respected English teacher, who for years had shown the same version of Macbeth to her English classes. She would go to the local video store, rent it for a day to show to her classes.  There is a pornographic version of the same film and no I have not seen it.  I do know Lady Macbeth spends most of the film “au natural”.

Someone at the local video rental accidentally, I hope, placed the porn version in the original PG version’s sleeve.  We all learned a valuable lesson that day; preview all videos to be shown during class no matter how many times you have shown it previous.  Popcorn anyone?

Excerpt from “Winning was Never the Only Thing….” which may be purchased at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Image from https://drawception.com/game/Xwb3Ectqd9/nerdy-demon/

Advertisements

The Dark Side

 

The new school year is just around the corner and I find myself feeling as if I should be somewhere other than sitting in my recliner typing this.  I expect the feeling will pass but my thoughts are on the teachers who will soon be welcoming students into their classrooms and those students themselves.

With all the political debate over private and public education, South Carolina’s dismal ranking, teacher pay, House Bill 610, vouchers and the like, I wondered if I was just lucky and somehow caught lightning in a bottle late in my career as I ventured over to the “dark side.”… to a charter school.

A traditional public-school teacher my entire career, I had not been a supporter of the charter school programs, considering them to be havens for the elitist and entitled offsprings of parents who “Didn’t want THEIR kids going to school with those other kids.”

I was confusing charter schools with elitist and entitled private schools like…I’ll let you fill in that blank.  I also believed charter schools were just the educational program “de jure” and, like dozens of other “innovations” I had taught through, would eventually run their course and disappear from the landscape of education.  I was wrong…and rightly so.

One might ask if I was so against the charter school programs, why was I teaching in one?  I wanted a job.  I had retired six years previous and had enrolled myself into the Teacher and Employee Retention Program, TERI for short, which allowed me to teach after retirement while building a “nest egg” for later down my life’s pathway.  NO, IT IS NOT DOUBLE DIPPING!  My TERI had run out and I had become an “at-will” employee and could be terminated without cause which is exactly what happened.

My timing was not the best…it never has been.  With a declining economy, my district did not want to pay a thirty-nine-year veteran with multiple advanced degrees when they could pay a first-year teacher less than half of what I was making.  A sound fiscal policy?  My argument was of course, “I was worth every penny damn of my salary!”

In 2009 I found myself, along with six other teachers, a secretary, and an administrator, opening a new charter school, Greer Middle College Charter High School.  A mouth full.  I was teaching geography to 90 or so fresh-faced freshmen who might have been the most diverse, curious and interesting group I had ever taught.

Many of my students were refugees from “normal” public schools (If there is such a thing).  Some had attended Christian private schools their entire lives; others had been homeschooled and only a few had made it through the public-school system…unscathed and without some type of baggage.  We had a few who were combinations of all three and carrying steamer trunks loaded with baggage.

This was not what made them curious…and delightful.  They were all over the political and religious spectrum.  Third generation “flower power” hippies interacting with the religiously fundamental and politically way right.  I consider myself to be a political and religious moderate which put me far to their political left and religiously…a heathen despite my Methodist up bring and my public dunking into the Baptist Church.  Somehow, we all got along and there is a lesson there somewhere.

During a mandatory student-parental conference, one parent offered to pray for me because of my “liberal” belief that the earth was a bit older than her belief of six thousand years.  I thanked her and considering my many indiscretions decided to allow her to intercede on my behalf.

Due to a glitch, we opened our first year in a church far from what would eventually be our campus and in very tight quarters.  Sausage casing tight.  Everyone knew exactly what every other teacher was teaching, and which student was in trouble.

During my last five years of teaching, I would find I missed the comradery developed with those students and teachers in those close quarters.  It turned out not to be the dark side at all.

Don Miller’s author’s page can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Don Miller writing as Lena Christenson can found at https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B07B6BDD19

Image from https://steemit.com/funny/@lordvader/one-of-your-teachers-needs-to-learn-a-lesson

 

Liberal Christian is not an Oxymoron

 

I used to believe I was a moderate, a centrist (?)…hmmmm, maybe not…but a moderate independent none-the-less.  I knew I leaned left on certain issues, leaned left not the whole hog left.  I refuse to say social liberal, fiscal conservative because I can’t seem to keep my bank account balanced.  I am a social liberal.

I am being pushed farther and farther left though my beliefs haven’t changed much over the years.  As I have aged, if anything at all, I have found my way back to a path I had fallen off earlier.  The political spectrum has moved and taken religious beliefs with it…or is it the other way around?

Normally, a person’s religious beliefs are fine with me…provided no one loses a body part, gets disparaged or called an abomination while being publicly stoned…with a rock stoned.

I look at different “Christian” religions as “different flavors” of the same dessert.  Cherry cheesecake or strawberry cheesecake kinds of differences, both are tasty but different flavors of tasty.  Different religions?  Desserts from different ovens?  Yes, there are certain desserts I’m not going to eat and certain denominations I will not follow.

Two days ago, instead of cheesecake, I received a shaving cream pie to the face for expressing my belief that I am a left-leaning Christian.  The shaving cream is burning more than my eyes…a location considerably south of my eyes.

My anger has bothered me greatly, biblically (?), and for two days I have prayed for enlightenment and some anodyne to soothe the burning.  I’ve seen no light and my metaphorical Preparation H seems to be acting like Atomic Bomb.  Therefore, I will burden you, both of my faithful readers.

The comment I made was in regard to what I felt was spreading hatred and division, what I deemed to be hatred and division.  I typed, ”I am a left-leaning Christian, this (the meme) is simply not true about liberals.”  I thought but didn’t type, “Shouldn’t religion be about love and inclusion?”  I should have known better.  The responses immediately went sideways and took on a political slant…no a political jump off a cliff.

Had I left off the words “left-leaning” I would have gone unscathed, but that was my point.  I chose not to engage and barely survived being pummeled by “true believers’” welding social media generated “family Bibles.”  I turned off the notifications and whimpered off into the night.

Not what I was expecting but maybe I should have.  I shared a post about a fence post that started an argument over cement.  Maybe they were funnin’ me…maybe.

Is it just about abortion?  I was told in a different post, reasonably civil, that I was copping out for not basing my entire belief structure and political affiliation on one issue.  Maybe I am skirting the issue…but it is my belief structure and not my issue.  A belief structure involving not only black and white but subtle shades of grays.

I believe I can hate abortion and still believe it is not my right to dictate what a woman or a couple decide for themselves.  If that is copping out I’m not the least bit sorry.  I must answer to my God.  For me, it goes deeper than one issue…albeit,  a big issue.

A really, big issue…but so is war and supporting the death merchants who benefit from it.  So is the gun lobby and our highest percentage rating of gun deaths in the first world.  So is ignoring science for corporate greed while fouling the air and water my grandchildren will have to breath.  Allowing children to go hungry and without medical care while pharmaceutical corporations continue to stuff their offshore bank accounts.

What about an equal education for all?  One that not only teaches people to think but prepares all to compete in a MODERN world.  How do we treat our LGBT friends and their rights?  What are their civil rights?  Why has there been a rise in open hostility some have toward people of color and other religions?

Just some of the issues I discussed with myself as I walked Saturday morning.  There are others, but I only walked for ninety minutes.  I also discussed the question, “Is the other political side any better?”  For now, I say yes but will continue to ask for guidance…and a prescription to calm my anger.

I do not believe Liberal Christian is an oxymoron.  I believe people who say so are using religion to further divide a divided humanity.  Why would we want to do that…or who would want US to do that?  Do not all our Christian religions follow a Middle Eastern man who was, by every modern definition of liberal, a liberal Jew.  I just started to feel better.

For lighter fare try Don Miller at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

For romantic adventure try Don Miller writing as Lena Christenson at https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B07B6BDD19

Image from TheChristianLeft.Org and http://whatwouldjackdo.net/blog.html

GOOD NEIGHBORS

“Don’t throw stones at your neighbors if your own windows are glass”-Ben Franklin

After thirty years in the foothills of the Blue Ridge, we still haven’t met a lot of the local folk.  We aren’t anti-social…oh…maybe we are.  Since retiring, we have gotten better at meeting our neighbors but the people around here, the “my family has lived here for one hundred and fifty years” people, are a little slow to “warm up” and will look at “foreigners” with a “jaundiced eye” until you’ve been in the area for a while.  After nearly thirty years, our church family still refers to us as the “new couple” that moved in across from the Runyon’s old place…and the Runyon’s haven’t lived here in a decade or more.

Our “original” across the road neighbors, Farrell and Libby Runyon, were “interesting” in every GOOD way you could use the word.  Retired Baptist missionaries to Africa, our Methodist friends characterized them as “good Baptist brethren.”  With over forty years spent in the southern and western areas of Africa, the Runyons were a fount of information, some that could be applied to the “Dark Corner” where we lived.

During a conversation taking place in the middle of Dr. Runyon’s pasture, he periodically would raise his hands above his head.  After the fourth or fifth time, I could not control my curiosity.  “Dr. Runyon, what are you doing?”  “Keeping the gnats out of my face.”  To emphasize, he raised his arms and sure enough, the gnats not only left his face but mine too…and hovered around his armpits.  I was impressed…and concerned over Dr. Runyon’s personal hygiene…and my own as I apply this “jewel” of knowledge during the hot, humid and gnat filled days of summer.

Dr. Runyon also had the ability to make me feel like a fool…an easy task?  A beekeeper, one of his little minions took offense to me bush hogging too close to their hive and nailed me right on my upper lip.  During the ensuing conversation, as my lip swelled out past my nose, I asked the good doctor how they dealt with the “African” killer bees we had heard was invading the southern United States.  His comment?  “You know Don, all bees in Africa are ‘African’.”  Really?  Silly me.

One morning, after an explosive, expletive-laced argument with Linda Gail the evening before, she met Dr. Runyon at our mailboxes.  Gently and with great tact he informed her that “You know, sound really travels well in this little valley.”  A somewhat puzzled Linda walked to the house contemplating the significance of his comment when the consequences of arguing in our backyard fell on her, and later me, with the weight of the proverbial “ton of bricks.”  Oh my, he heard everything we said.

As good as the Runyons were, so was “Dodger,” but with “Dodger,” the ravages of an ill-lived life might have caught up with him.  He moved into a converted barn type building straight from Home Depot that was sitting in a clump of kudzu a quarter of a mile down Airline Road.  “Dodger” later moved his new girlfriend in and they cleared kudzu, planted flowers and attempted to build their little piece of the American Dream.  With no running water except what ran down the stream in front of their little mansion, they showered at the nearby park and used their outhouse for “other” needs.  Just like our mixed breed, Sassy Marie, Linda Gail adopted them but stopped short of inviting them into the yard to stay.

“Dodger” could be a fount of useful information…usually as it related to “folk” remedies and sometimes even better information if it was early in the day.  He taught us what to look for to treat poison ivy, jewelweed, a plant that grows almost as abundantly as poison ivy around our home.  He even brought Linda Gail a “tea” made from Yarrow to treat gastric issues.  We still use the jewelweed remedy but Linda Gail was a bit reluctant to try the Yarrow tea…as I was to sample his homebrew…smooooooooth.

“Dodger” had run out of luck and “gubment assistance” by the time we met and despite his best attempts, could not quite get his life together.  It wasn’t because he was lazy, the man worked harder than people who were being paid money…except when he was in his “cups.”  A former heavy equipment operator, his issues might have been the alcohol he made or begged off of his girlfriend and consumed at any time during the day or night.

I would say it was alcohol that betrayed his efforts.  “Dodger” had refined his inebriation to an art form, never “stumbling” drunk but not quite sober either.  When “not quite sober” he could talk the “horns off of a billy goat” and remember, I said he was always “not quite sober.”  I also don’t believe “Dodger” liked being told what to do even though he did do “handyman” projects for Linda Gail.  Seems she picks her part-time helpers according to who is the most interesting and needy.  I’m not sure what that says about me.

Hesiod, the Greek poet, once wrote, “A bad neighbor is a misfortune, as much as a good one is a blessing.”  We honestly don’t know about bad neighbors.

This piece was re-written from the book by Don Miller, “Through the Front Gate.” It and others may be purchased or downloaded at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

If you are interested in an erotic, romantic adventure, you might be interested Don Miller writing as Lena Christianson.  Her site may be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B07B6BDD19

Southern Ju-Ju

“What sorcery is this?!”  William Shakespeare

“Juju or ju-ju (French: joujou) is a spiritual belief system incorporating objects, such as amulets, (or in this case a butter bean) and spells used in religious practice, as part of witchcraft in West Africa. The term has been applied to traditional African religions.”1

On my morning walk, I looked down at my hand.  My arthritis was (is) bothering me and to add insult to injury, I have poison ivy breaking out on the same hand.  My attention was drawn to the star-shaped scar glowing palely on my ring finger…it dawned on me it had been fifty years since I received it.  Memories flooded back about the witchcraft that created it.

I was preparing to head to football practice, the second of the two-a-days we suffered through back then.  In between, I spent my downtime loading hay in the August heat and humidity and had just finished my second shower of three for the day.  My mother’s friend Gracie Deason had dropped by to visit.  Oddly she didn’t look like a witch doctor.

I found them sitting in the den, newspapers spread across their laps filled with unshelled butter beans.  They were shelling them out while laughing at Gracie’s antics and jokes.  Seemed there were more jokes and laughter than shellin’.  Her voice was as Southern as sausage gravy spread on a buttermilk biscuit.  Gracie was larger than life.  She was loud, funny, boisterous and unconventional for the time, the late Sixties.

I don’t remember ever seeing her in a skirt or dress, although that may be the product of faulty memory.  She was much more prone to wearing blue jeans and oversized men’s work shirts.  She was ahead of her time I guess.  She was also very kind to my ailing mother who suffered from ALS and would submit to it a year and a half later.  Gracie suffered too, from Lupus, but it never seemed to slow her down or dampen her sense of humor.

When she clasped my hand, much to my embarrassment, her hand fell upon the wart located on the top of my ring finger.  I had used topical wart removers but this one just wouldn’t go away.

Loud enough to be heard down the road at Pettus’s store, she exclaimed, “Whatcha’ got there Donnie?  A wart?”

In a much quieter voice, I replied, “Yes ma’am.  I guess I’m going to have to have the doctor remove it.”

“You know I can talk it off.”

“Ma’am?”

“Yep, kneel down here and give me your hand.”

I admit to being just a bit unsettled over the prospect.  I also admit to thinking, “Ain’t no way in hell” but because of my respect for my elders, I did what she asked.

Taking my hand in hers she picked up a freshly shelled butter bean and began rubbing it over my wart.  She also began to speak in a tongue I could not understand or translate.  Maybe a combination of an even more slurred “In a godda la vida”, “Wrapped up like a douche, another rubber in the night,” with a bit of “Good Golly Miss Molly” thrown in for good measure.

When she finished she said in a voice oozing with confidence, “It will be gone before the sun rises tomorrow.”  With a flourish, she threw the butter bean back into the pot to be cooked later.  It has been fifty years for the ramifications of her flourish to dawn upon me.  Yuk.

I did my best to sound grateful but somewhere in the back of my head I thought, with a head shake and mental eye-roll, “Sure it will.”

I didn’t have to wait until sunrise.  The wart was gone just about the time the sun disappeared below the horizon that evening.  It left me just after I had thrown a body block as a running back made his cut…right…on…top…of…my…outstretched…hand.  Specifically, one of his cleats landed on top of my ring finger and the wart sitting on top of it.

It really didn’t hurt, just a sting…until I saw the blood pouring down my hand.  Then it smarted quite intensely.  My coach “with the heart of gold” slapped athletic tape around my ring finger to stanch the bleeding saying, “You’ll be fine.  Get back in there and hit somebody.”  A Mount Everest of compassion.

No Band-Aid, no gauze, just sticky athletic tape.  No hydrogen peroxide or disinfectant…just sticky athletic tape.  Could have been worse, he could have spit chewing tobacco on it or slathered it with Atomic Bomb or poured Tincture of Iodine over it.

Later, after practice I cut the tape and had Al Stevenson yank it off, causing me to use words I had not learned at home.  Displaying itself in the middle of the bloody tape was my wart in all its glory.  I did not float it in alcohol for prosperity’s sake…I couldn’t get it loose from the tape.

Gracie didn’t seem to be very excited when I called to thank her and tell her the great news.  It was more of a “What did I tell you” kind of reaction.  Still, I had a new respect for Southern ju-ju with a butter bean.  Wonder if someone can “talk” away my arthritis and poison ivy?  I’ll supply the butter bean.

1 Mockler-Ferryman, Augustus (1898). Imperial Africa: The Rise, Progress and Future of the British Possessions in Africa. Imperial Press, limited. p. 392.

Image attributed to Lindsay Turner in an article from Sputniknews.com

For more Southern JuJu go to Don Miller’s author’s page at https://www.amazon.com/default/e/B018IT38GM?redirectedFromKindleDbs=true

For hot, romantic adventure go to Don Miller writing as Lena Christenson at https://www.amazon.com/default/e/B07B6BDD19?redirectedFromKindleDbs=true

Prince Albert in a Can

 

I watched as the old man sat on the couch slowly loading his pipe.  Using “Virginny” tobacco from a red metal can, arthritic fingers made the process a slow one.  He was in his very late eighties, I in my middle teens.  It was the middle Sixties and I had driven my grandmother to visit her bedridden mother on Christmas Day.

“Ole Pap” had been celebrating the birthday of our Lord and was at least one nip past a “snoot full.”  Drinking was not his holiday tradition unless every day was a holiday.  Normally he did not progress to the one or two “nips past sober” side of the line.  So adept at maintaining the perfect buzz, not quite sober, not quite drunk, I never realized my great grandfather drank until I found him sober one day.  It was not a pleasant revelation.  My grandmother was not happy with her father and left me to be entertained by his drunkenness.

We sat on a long and narrow porch, enclosed when dinosaurs ruled the earth.  Wide windows lined the southeast facing wall and what heat had been generated by the midday sun had quickly left us.  Still, we sat as he smoked his Prince Albert and talked.

In a slurred voice, he told me he had smoked since he was thirteen and taken to nipping at fifteen.  Nipping had turned into something else entirely.  Great Grandpa passed when he was ninety-eight and as far as I know, was tamping Prince Albert tobacco into his Medico Pipe right up until he died…along with drinking a pint of “store bought” brown liquor a day.  Weaning him down might have been what finally killed him.

He could sit for hours, puffing silently on his pipe.  Just puffing enough to keep it burning, staring off at who knew what.  Half blind from cataracts, I’m sure he was staring back at the past.  From the old pictures I had seen he was never a big man but seemed to be collapsing in on himself and shrinking before my eyes.  The couch seemed to swallow him.

Rheumy-eyed and toothless in his very old age, the old man was still a hard knot, one I was terrified of.  Despite his small stature, from the stories I had been told, he had cast a huge shadow.  He was a hard man who lived in hard times.  According to him, “A man had to be hard to survive” …Darwinism at its best…or worst.”

He had seen much history.  The Spanish American War, airplanes, and automobiles. The Great War, The Great Depression, paved roads and the magic of electricity, World War Two, a man stepping on to the moon.  Something tells me he wasn’t too concerned about those events…unless they related to scratching out a living.

“Ole Pap” ran a general mercantile store at a railroad water and fuel stop during the age of steam.  In his free time, he hammered nails as a carpenter until he could buy a piece of land.  I believe he was a bit of a hustler, anything for a buck kind of guy, including making corn liquor during the depression and prohibition…or maybe that’s a story from an overactive imagination.

He married a woman well above his station and helped her raise ten “youngins” to adulthood he said.  “Raising his own workforce.”  Ten children, he recognized and if my grandmother was to be believed, at least one that he didn’t recognize. I believed her.

He hoed corn and grew tomatoes until he was in mid-nineties.  All the while consuming most of his corn from a jar or a bottle…a pipe stuck between his gums and a tin of Prince Albert stuck in the front pocket of his bib overalls when he wasn’t nipping.

I wish I had asked him more questions about the life at the turn of the Nineteenth Century.  I had been taught that children should be seen and not heard…I took it too literally.  Too literal and I was scared to death of him.  I don’t know why he terrified me, he never mistreated me.

I’m sure he was tough on his children, maybe even cruel.  All were hard nuts in their own rights, especially the elder ones.  My grandmother, his oldest, certainly was a hard nut to crack…and she loved her father dearly warts and all.

I do have fond memories, mainly of large family gatherings, cousins galore.  They seemed to always end on the narrow back porch…or wide front porch. Tales being recounted or maybe even created.  Great Grandpa lightly puffing on his pipe, a can of Prince Albert somewhere close by.

If you liked this story you might wish to download or purchase “Pathways” or “Cornfields…in my Mind.”  The can be found at  https://www.amazon.com/default/e/B018IT38GM?redirectedFromKindleDbs=true

The image came from Argosy Magazine, November 1962

 

Hope For Mankind

1968 had been a bad year and early in 1969, the world had not recovered from its sickness.  Much of our pain in the United States derived from the war in Viet Nam or from the Civil Rights unrest.  The two-and-a-half-month Battle for Kha Sanh began along with the Tet Offensive.  Three college students were killed by the police in a Civil Rights protest in Orangeburg, South Carolina.  Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert “Bobby” Kennedy are both assassinated.  Much, much more would occur before we watched a glimmer of hope in July of 1969.

The country, and the world, seemed to be coming apart at the seams.  Student and civil rights protests and riots, not just in the good old USA but all over the world.  Cronkite said what many of us feared and others denied, “the war is unwinnable”.  LBJ announced “I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your president” setting the stage for the hot mess that was the Democratic Convention in Chicago.  We hadn’t even made it to August.

As we limped into the summer of 1969 little changed.  I was a nineteen-year-old college student determined to exercise my god given right to drink myself blind and chase young coeds I would never be able to catch.  I was not oblivious to the issues, especially Viet Nam.  I did not want to be sent “nine or ten thousand miles away from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves”, from an early LBJ quote.  Unfortunately, we still had a draft and I had registered in the very bad, previous year.

Still, in July 1969 there was hope…at nearly a quarter million miles away from the troubled world.

Many of us are being quizzed about the significance of July 20, 1969.  Former students often asked, “Do you remember?”  Perfectly.  I was with some two-hundred close friends taking a break from nickel drafts and the dance floor at the Cellar in Charlotte.  I don’t remember the band that played that night or who I was with…I was stone cold sober.  I remember the small black and white TV above the bar we all crowded around.  I remember the cheers when Neil Armstrong hesitated and finally made his “giant leap.”  I admit it would be the next day before I learned what he said.

I remember the night.  I remember it bringing a bit of hope to a troubling era.  We would continue to tear ourselves apart with the news of Mai Lai breaking, a random draft lottery announced, more student and civil unrest, and the Manson Family begin their killing spree.  Well, there was Woodstock and the Amazing Mets win the World Series.

No matter how bad things got during the Nixon years, humanity had been to the moon and back.  Humans had left their footprints.  Maybe we should think about returning…and soon.  We need a “giant leap for mankind.”

For more musings go to https://www.amazon.com/default/e/B018IT38GM?redirectedFromKindleDbs=true

If you are interested in sexy, romantic adventure, Don Miller writing as Lena Christenson can be found at https://www.amazon.com/default/e/B07B6BDD19?redirectedFromKindleDbs=true

The Toad in the Corner

 

I am bad.  I continue to smoke my one cigar a day…unless it turns into two…never more than two.  I just executed a mental eye roll.  Normally I sit under the massive tulip poplar in my backyard and enjoy an adult beverage while I feed my addiction.  Do I enjoy the cigar due to my addiction or because of the joy it brings me? That is a discussion for a later date.

It’s been hot and humid, and I’ve taken to sitting on my back stoop instead of taking the long, sweaty twenty-five-yard walk to the tree and the chair sitting under it.  My picture should go beside the definition of lazy in the latest dictionary.  It is more about the mosquitoes infesting the shrubbery around my normal imbibing location.  There doesn’t seem to be as many bloodsuckers at my stoop and I may know one of the reasons why.

I sat watching the smoke curl from the smoldering end of my stogie, contemplating nothing more than my navel when I saw her.  In the corner where the rock wall and foundation meet, where the leaves have built up due to my earlier admission of laziness, a large toad had backed herself into the corner and is also watching the smoke curl from the cigar.

She is an American Toad…I think.  Could be a Fowler’s but I am not an authority on amphibians…and don’t want to be but I am better versed in toad activities than I once was.  Thank you, Google.  Despite my research, I don’t even know if she is really a she but shes are usually larger than hes and she is one of the largest toads I’ve seen.

Toady has been in the corner for weeks now.  She sits patiently waiting for the darkness and the relative cool of the evening.  I see her often sitting under the flood light, bathing in its glow or waiting for a juicy morsel to fly by?

I check on her often…not just when I feed my addiction.  I don’t know why I check.  I guess to reassure myself that all is right in the world.  I have seen her around for years…maybe it was her, all American toads seem to look alike.  Well, she was still there five minutes ago at least.  Looking fat and sassy from a night of eating mosquitoes I hope.

I’ve not named her because I worry Herbert the Rat Snake and his kin are skulking around waiting for a meal.  As I understand stand it now, from the extensive research on toads I tried to reframe from doing.  I probably could name her.   Seems she is not too tasty…does Mr. No Shoulders have taste buds or does Toady just give him gas?  More research to come and maybe I have named her.

For more musings go to https://www.amazon.com/default/e/B018IT38GM?redirectedFromKindleDbs=true

If you are interested in sexy, romantic adventure, Don Miller writing as Lena Christenson can be found at https://www.amazon.com/default/e/B07B6BDD19?redirectedFromKindleDbs=true

July Flies and June Bugs

I noticed last night before the mosquitoes drove me in, the July flies have made their emergence.  The males are singing their little hearts out attempting to attract their life partner.  “Go forth and multiply!”  I understand the mating period for a July fly is short.

Last night was the second of two cooler and less humid nights in a row.  Cooler and less humid by July, South Cakalacky standards.  I stood outside listening while enjoying a cigar.  Wish the mosquitoes had thought it was too cool, little vampires that they are.

I’m not a fan of many of our local insects but look forward to the emergence of “lightnin’ bugs” in May, then June bugs and finally July Flies.  I never look forward to the emergence of mosquitoes…not that they ever really emerge, they never seem to disappear.

I remember during the BAC period of our lives, before air conditioning, listening to their mating calls through the open windows.  So many singing at once.  Their chorus reminded of the sounds a distant freight train made during the days of my youth.  Not the “clackity, clackity” but the cycling sound as the trains retreated.  Young Ashley, three or four at the time, even asked me to turn down their volume one night as they interfered with her sleep.  “Can you make them stop?”  Sorry, love of my life, I still haven’t found their volume knob.

We call them July flies here in the southern foothills of the Blue Ridge and the South in general, don’t know about in the North.  They are cicadas, big fly looking insects with clear, iridescent wings and big ole…well…bug eyes.

They emerge in July after thirteen or seventeen years spent underground and their singing seems to be a celebration of sorts.  I would be happy too I guess. To be free of a life underground living off root sap, even if their life above ground is brief.  Their singing makes me smile.

Their songs of joy led me down a pathway to an earlier time.  Not as humid June days from sixty years ago and tying threads around the legs of June bugs.  No, they aren’t related to the July fly, but I never know where my mind might take me.

My grandmother was never happy about beetles chewing on her greenery, especially Japanese beetles.  June bugs to her were just big, neon green “Japanese” beetles, something to be crushed between thumb and forefinger and kept off her okra and roses.

One of my childhood “jobs” was to pick the Japanese beetles off her okra and place them in a jar of soapy water.  I don’t think I was old enough to realize I was drowning them.  I was paid by the number I picked.  I now pick them off myself, but the payoff isn’t pennies to buy Bazooka bubblegum.  It’s the okra for frying or gumbo.

I feel a bit cruel.  Tying thread around the legs of June bugs and flying them in circles around my head.  I can hear their soft drone as their wings beat the air.  I don’t know what we did with those who quit flying but I have an idea…I guess I have effectively purged their demise from my memory.

I haven’t seen any June bugs this year…they tend to appear late in the foothills of the Blue Ridge.  Maybe I’ve been too successful purging grubs from my soil.  No, I’m still battling Japanese beetles in my garden.  Maybe it’s because I just haven’t been looking or avoiding the heat and humidity sitting in my air-conditioned den.  It’s time to slow down and look…and listen…or at least go outside.

For more of Don Miller’s written word try https://www.amazon.com/default/e/B018IT38GM?redirectedFromKindleDbs=true

Image taken from  http://blog.pennlive.com/wildaboutpa/2013/05/cicadas_are_coming_brood_ii_ex.html

“SOUTH WACKO-LAKI”

 

An early morning thunderstorm has jarred me out of a sound sleep.  Sleeping soundly is unusual for me lately.  My sleep seems pain-filled, both from arthritis making its presence know if I lay in one position too long and from the dreams tormenting my mind.  Don’t feel too much concern and it’s not the point of this post.  Compared to many of my friends and family my age, physically I’m doing quite well.

The dreams…the dreams are due to my fragmented mind, torn asunder by depression and anxiety.  Some chemical in my brain has gone wacko, taking the rest of me with it.  I now reside in the state of “South Wacko-Laki” just across the river from “A-Kook-Among-Us.”

Could it have been triggered by diet; the sausage biscuits I should ‘never’ eat, the bee sting or a thousand other triggers that may or may not be the reason?  God how I hate asking, “Why?”  Maybe it’s just getting old.  Maybe there is no reason.  It is what it is…I hate ‘it is what it is’ too.

Anxiety is a new adversary while the depression an old enemy.  I have too much going on, too many things I need to be doing.  Plenty to be anxious about…but I’m retired, I have plenty of time to go forth and be productive…NOT.

My retirement has taught me one life lesson.  I am not a very good steward of my own time.  My lack of self-discipline explains why I’m failing in my early morning attempts at writing while simultaneously NOT really watching a rerun of Bobby Flay, staring at my computer screen wondering where my last thought came from or went to, all the while worrying about the lightning, thunder, and rain washing away my plans for the day.  What plans?

A checklist…that’s what I need.  Little square boxes to check as I complete small tasks.  I wonder how many trees would have to give their lives to create my checklist.  Okay, a few easy things to begin with like “Just get out of bed!”  Sometimes, even that is not easy.  “Walk three miles.”  Why has my walking become so much harder?  Not physically…MENTALLY!

A harder one, “Stay away from social media!”  Scrolling through Twitter or Facebook along with WordPress fits nicely with my fragmented mind…and probably contributes…not probably.  I can’t totally stay away because I use social platforms to advertise my books to people who are NOT buying them.  I must come up with a better plan.  Maybe write something people WANT to buy?  Purchase an advertising service? Quit entirely?

I have four stories I should be working on.  Should be an indication of how fragmented my dried up gourd of a head is.  If I shake my gourd does it rattle with dried seeds?  The seeds are not germinating, I can’t finish the stories.  I’ve reached a point in each…a barrier of some sort.  I can imagine the end but can’t quite find the rain-shrouded path to take me there.

Maybe a hiatus is in order.  Something to recharge my over-used but underutilized brain.  Go hide in a dark cave for a while…no, I’m already in a cave it seems, and the light from the computer screen doesn’t seem to be the light at the end of the tunnel.

Buffett’s lyrics echo in my fragmented head, “but I got to stop wishing, got to go fishing, down to rock bottom again.”  Could it be as simple?  Well, wishin’ sure ain’t gettin’ it done!  Fishing…maybe.  Probably should wait until the storms pass or maybe just embrace being at rock bottom in the state of “South Wacko-Laki.”

For a saner Don Miller, one should probably go to https://www.amazon.com/default/e/B018IT38GM?redirectedFromKindleDbs=true

If interested in “Mommy Porn” with a twist, you might also consider Lena Christenson at  https://www.amazon.com/default/e/B07B6BDD19?redirectedFromKindleDbs=true

The image is from “Rule the Wasteland”  http://rulethewasteland.com/?page_id=28