Life in Black and White

 

I share quotes on my social media accounts.  Quotes I can’t create because I’m not bright enough or because someone said what I wanted to say first…and said it better.  I wish I could be profound but instead, I rely on the words of others to enlighten, humor or sometimes, provoke.

I call these quotes, Don’s Daily Dose because a former student suggested the moniker after reading a few day’s worths.  I’m thankful to her for suggesting the title and helping me to realize someone was actually reading them.

I share these quotes along with some form of artwork to emphasize the point…or just because I liked the snake wrapped around an arm attached to a hand holding an apple… the quote was about temptation after all.  The apple different shades of red, the snake a bright kaleidoscope of color…I find the painting tempting.

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Original Sin by Raluca Nedelcu https://fineartamerica.com/featured/original-sin-raluca-nedelcu.html?product=art-print

Usually, the art I choose is psychedelic, me embracing my inner hippie.  Vibrant and wild colors from the LSD trip I never took; peace signs, VW microbuses, Janis Joplin or Jimi Hendrix….  Sometimes I use the book covers from the authors I quote from.  I lean toward bold colors with purple and pink being favorites.

Then I quoted Ansel Adams and looked for art to go with my quote.  I was awed by his landscapes in black and white.  The quote was about the environment, something Adams photographed in black and white, his mode of artistic expression.  Mother Nature stark and sharply in focus…maybe auster.  Nature laid bare, no makeup to soften its features.

The picture I chose of a two-lane blacktop took me back to those thrilling days of yesteryear when “filmed in Technicolor” was the exception, not the norm.  Stark blacks and whites along with muted grays were the standards, life laid bare in living black and white.

Ansel Adams

Ansel Adams Road, Nevada Desert, 1960

Movies, television, stills from Life magazine, most were in black and white in those days.  If I wanted color I thumbed through my grandmother’s National Geographic.  Wild animals and bare-breasted native girls filmed better in color.  In this modern-day, life is replicated exactly as it is on large screened TVs, tablets and I Phones. I still find black and white to be more poignant, more shocking, more potent.

Doretha Lange’s depression-era Migrant Mother does not reflect her pain in its colorized form.  Color is too soft.  Her turned down mouth with fingers stroking the side of her chin…pondering her lot in life it would seem. Her furrowed brow, two of her seven children hiding their faces from the camera.  There are no soft colors, just sharp black, and white pain.

DortheaLange

Destitute mother of seven, Age 32 Doretha Lange https://www.wdl.org/en/item/81/

Marlon Brando as Stanley Kowalski pleading for “Stella”, wearing a torn and dirty T-shirt, his hands clasped against his head…Same in Technicolor?  Only if his head explodes.  Stanley Kowalski was not a nice person, black and white suits him.

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Marlon Brando, A Streetcar Named Desire https://macmcentire.com/2017/04/03/random-warner-bros-a-streetcar-named-desire/

I watched Jack Ruby shoot Lee Harvey Oswald, Freedom Rider buses burn, and Walter Cronkite tell the nation a war was unwinnable after Tet, all and more on a black and white TV.  Those depressing moments were befitting of black and white.  No color necessary, no sugarcoating with pastels, no bold makeup.  Just stark black and white.

Jack Ruby

Jack Ruby shoots Lee Harvey Oswald as Detective James R. Leavelle looks on.  Leavelle passed away on August 2019.  He was 99.  https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/29/us/james-leavelle-dead.html

Most of my childhood memories are in black and white.  Friends and family posing, smiling on three, frozen as a Kodak catches their likenesses.  My parents so young in their courting pictures, people long dead, their faces faded in the old albums I liberated after my father’s death.

I sigh, exhaling heavily as I think about them. My winter depression may be sneaking up, edging closer.  It is a bit early yet but it always catches me by surprise like those “backshooters” in the black and white “oaters” I watched as a child.  Bad men willing to do their worst to the Lone Ranger and Tonto.  Willing but not able as they live on in the reruns of life.

It is still pre-dawn as I edit this and there are no colors other than black and gray of night.  Not even a hint of the sunrise to come.  The almost full moon nearing the western horizon doesn’t give enough light for colors to reflect.  I seem to do my best writing in the dark, surrounded by blacks and whites.   My best writing is relative and it is not the way I want to spend the rest of my life.

Life in black and white seems harsh and I’ve had my black and white moments.  Life needs a few black and white moments to give depth and meaning to the warm colors in between.  Profound.  Maybe I am capable of a good quote after all.  Time to greet the sun.

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Autumn Sun by David Galchutt in 2019 | Fall | Sun art, Moon …

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

The featured image was lifted from https://pearlsofprofundity.wordpress.com/2014/07/12/life-in-black-and-white/

 

 

 

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Dealing with Writer’s Block

 

And that is a huge joke…one I’m not laughing at.  It’s not writer’s block, is it?  No, it is insanity.  It’s a little early for Seasonal Affective Disorder to rear an ugly head.

Writer’s block…”All work and no play make makes Jack a dull boy…Don a dull boy.”  I feel like Jack Torrance in The Shining although I’m not ready to chop a hole in a door….Maybe mad enough to chew nails and spit rivets…what in the hell does that even mean?  I think Don was a dull boy before the writer’s block.

Writing about writer's block

I’m writing about writer’s block.  Geez.

Honesty is the best policy.  It’s not just writer’s block.  It is do anything block.  I gave up and tried reading and then continued to binge-watch the series Justified… looking for motivation, to no avail.  I failed. I didn’t get my chores done either.  I’m such a slug.  All I did was vacillate between the activities I refused to do.

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I have too many voices chanting in my head.  Imaginary friends, voices of long-dead friends, voices of enemies I wish were…no, I don’t wish that on anyone.  I have voices from characters in three different storylines I’m having trouble completing.  Completing?  I just want to move forward a bit.

I just reread forty-four chapters in one and deleted half of them.  I deleted them on purpose…garbage I say, garbage!

Writer'sblock1

I went for my morning exercise.  Usually, a bit of exercise will clear my head and quiet the voices.  I focused on the portion of the story involving the death of a major character.  I wrote it in my head, around and around it went, like flushing an imaginary toilet until I got it just right.

Returning home, I sat the chapter aside and let it marinade before sitting down and failing to get it written down.  Could death be the problem?  She is a fictional character and the story won’t work without her untimely demise…Geez.  I’ve become attached to someone who doesn’t exist.

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It is another day and I write in the morning, in the pre-dawn hours…or in this case stare at my computer screen.  It suits me most of the time.  Friendly ghosts seem to surround me, whispering in my ear.  They provide no help.  I hear their little “Casper the Friendly Ghost” voices ridiculing me.  Maybe they are not that friendly.

I’ve wasted two hours of prime writing time writing this blog.  My story sits, unwritten…all three of them.  Lucretia still lives.  Allen Kell is frozen in my mind, his hand hovering above his six-gun as he tries but fails to save her.  How will he not save her?

Total word count for today

I must shut down the computer and start my day.  Exercise and then major chores.  Like the story of the hard-working ant and the lazy grasshopper, winter will soon be upon us and there is so much left to do…from not doing it during the summer.  Preparations must be made, must be made, must be made…if I say it enough….  How does a fiddlin’ grasshopper morf into a hard-working ant?

Don Miller, when sane, writes on various subjects, some real, others imagined.  Access his author’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Images from various meme mines.

Because I Can

 

I always hated to run.  Some of you will remember…timed forties, perfect plays, home to first, home to second, etc., fitness tests in PE….  All my running was athletically related and involved sprinting.  I was never very fast…never very athletic.  Snail like but I never left a yucky trail.  Football, baseball…I didn’t do basketball.  Couldn’t get that huge ball in that tiny ring and there is a bunch of running in basketball…minute drills?  No way.

Hundred-yard sprints to end the practice are not fun.  They were never intended to be fun.  Show me someone who enjoys hundred-yard sprints and I’ll show you a masochist…or someone who pulls wings off flies and plots murder.

I found myself coaching in addition to teaching in the early Seventies and learned that, deep down in my soul, I was a sadist.  Marquis de Sade with a whistle and a clipboard.  “Men, we’re going to do all the forty-yard sprints in the world…plus one.”  “You’re going to run forever…too long? Subtract a minute.”  I didn’t do it in a sadistic way per se, sadism was not the goal.  I tried to apply reason, never running for the sake of running and interjecting humor into my expectations. Still, deep down…there was sadistic joy seeing my charges puke at my feet. “Look! Eggs!  Anyone hungry?”

In the late Sixties, the jogging craze hit.  By the mid-Seventies, I had joined it.  Not that I was particularly interested in the health effects of jogging…I was in my mid-twenties and indestructible.  I was more likely to get my exercise skipping “the light fandango” with a beer in my hand.

I jogged not to get into shape, I was more interested in the good looking, long-legged brunette, teaching peer who wore those minuscule Seventies running shorts over her tight and athletic…you get the idea.  I tried to run just hard enough to keep her backside clearly in view.  I chased her but I never caught her.

Despite her external motivation, I had no self-motivation and was sporadic with exercise until a heart attack dropped me in my tracks on my fifty-sixth birthday.  Great birthday present.  A blockage and a stent to correct it and save my life, three more stents a month later, six weeks of rehab and instructions on what to eat…cardboard slathered in cow poop.  Nothing from the Southern-fried food groups.  I learned to eliminate salt on everything except eggs and grits.  I even learned to tolerate oatmeal…with enough fruit and yogurt covering it.

On my days off from rehab I walked.  While I enjoyed walking, the effort just didn’t seem to be enough.  I was from the “No Pain, No Gain” era.  Exercise should have an element of pain involved.  Walking was too easy, and I began to run, albeit slowly.  Underused lungs and quads screaming, maybe I was a masochist.  I don’t pull wings off flies and the only murders I plot are in the books I write.

Five months after my heart attack I ran my first 5K.  After six months I had dropped sixty-plus pounds.  I was my cardiologist’s dream patient.

Only Stevie Wonder or Ray Charles would ever look at me and say, “He looks like a runner.”  Stockily built for comfort not speed, it is best to line me up with a stationary object to make sure I am moving.  But I was a runner!  I ran races to prove I was and to provide motivation.  I needed goals other than beer and pizza after the race and fit women in athletic wear to run behind during it.

I still hated running but it became a mind over matter endeavor.  I found it cleared my head and correctly put together the jigsaw puzzle that was my mind. I did it because I could.  I did it because I was still alive.

5Ks, 10Ks, Half Marathons…I put a marathon on my bucket list and signed up for one in three months’ time.  I didn’t win any races, but I always finished in the top half of my age group.  I was proud.  I was running against myself and the grim reaper in my rearview mirror.

Four years ago there was a misstep and the pain that came with it…physical and mental pain.  For two years I ran, I limped, I quit running to walk…then started the process over only to be hobbled again.  I finally went to the doctor.  A torn meniscus and early-onset osteoarthritis.  Bone rubs on bone in both knees and the orthopedic surgeon shook his head, “Not soon but if you live long enough there will be a knee replacement in your future.”  I walked and I walked but I couldn’t jog.  For two years I’ve walked or ridden my bike.  I wouldn’t do the marathon.

As much as I hated running, I missed running…still miss it…but I don’t miss it as much as I did Monday.  Why? Because on Tuesday…I ran.  I blame it on the song “Domino” by Van Morrison.  When I heard it over my earbuds, I wanted to dance but my dancing is worse than my running and I was on a public road.  Rather than having people think I was having a Joe Cocker ‘fit’, I took off jogging. Slowly, smartly and with no pain on the following day.  The day after, I ran again.  Alternating jogging and walking from mailbox to mailbox or driveway to driveway my lungs screamed but my knees didn’t.

Probably a mile’s worth of jogging split up over three and a half miles.  It is a start…it is running.

Both days, I argued with myself the whole time.  I was careful but apprehensive, waiting for a familiar twinge of pain.  Waiting for the throbbing ache when I finished.  Promising myself that if I felt an odd twinge or the throb I would quit and chase the foolish thoughts from my head.

Why am I taking the chance?  My “firetrucking” knees hurt when I don’t run.  They hurt when I sit around for too long…but they didn’t hurt any worse than they did after a four-mile fitness walk.  Still, why I wondered?

“Because I can,” I told myself.  Because I want to.  Because it allows an old man to dream a bit…to remember.    There will be no marathon…maybe, not even a 5K.  I may have to be satisfied with a mile jog, but it doesn’t matter.  I run because I can.  I run because it makes me happy.

Addendum

I awoke this morning with a twinge…of sciatica.  My knees are fine. ‘Iffin’ it ain’t one thing it is a thousand others.  I’ll test myself with a short walk and stretch.  If all feels good I run/walk a bit on a nice soft athletic field.  I’ll be smart…maybe.

The line ‘skipping the light fandango’ comes from the Poco Harum song, “A Whiter Shade of Pale”.  The complete lyric was, “We skipped the light fandango, turned cartwheels cross the floor.”

…And since I’m on music and running kicks, get up, dance and enjoy the day.

Don Miller is a multi-genre writer and can be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The image is from Canva

Hey, Y’all Watch ‘is!

The girl child leaving the local gas station yelled “Hey, y’all watch ‘is” as she exited the entryway.  I cringed but turned in time to see the eight or nine-year-old execute a perfect cartwheel.  “Whew, that might have been a close one,” I thought.  Usually, those words preface a much different outcome.

For those of you uninformed, “Hey y’all watch ‘is” are usually the last words from a good ole boy’s mouth just before meeting his maker.  Living where I live, we have a bunch of good ole boys and I can tell you many have uttered those very words before reaping their heavenly rewards…or hellishly rewards.

An acquaintance of an acquaintance decided to strap a saddle to a high limb of a pine tree overlooking the lake his trailer was on.  He would ride it during windstorms.  Who thinks of such?  Some of the best windstorms ’round here are associated with thunderstorms which can be quite violent.

This good ole boy forgot, or likely never knew, pines are a bit shallow-rooted and I’m sure his two hundred and eighty pounds upset the tree’s center of gravity.  With the freshening breeze of a thunderstorm, his last words were, “Hey y’all watch ‘is”…just before the tree uprooted sending him to his just desserts.  What no Darwin Award?

I have other acquaintances who follow the “Good Ole Boy Manifesto” which states clearly, “Any good time can be amplified by applying copious amounts of alcohol and having a deadly weapon nearby.”  Shotguns and beer…what could go wrong?

A drunk Jethro loudly uttered, “Hey y’all watch ‘is” just before he attempted to emulate William Tell and shoot a PBR can off Bubba John’s head with a high-tech crossbow.  Bubba John accurately called Jethro a dumbass when the first bolt fired destroyed an unoccupied snake aquarium three or four feet to the left of the intended target.  The second shot was also to the left but only three or four inches…and two or three inches south.  Bubba John doesn’t seem to miss that ear a bit and thankfully didn’t qualify for a Darwin.

These memories only come to mind because I have to crawl on top of my front porch roof this mawnin’.  We received our first appreciable rain in six weeks yestidee.  I’m tryin’ to get into character by usin’ words like mawnin’, yestidee and droppin’ my gees.  Okay, I’ll quit.  I’m not sure if it is yestidee or yesteedee anyway.

Praise be to the rain gods, but I found out that I have a leak over my front porch.  Boo to the porch gods.  I don’t understand.  Rain, no leak, no rain, six weeks later, rain, leak.  I must climb up upon it and look around.  I don’t want one of those “watch this” moments and metal roofs can get slippery.

My initial thoughts are, I’m a good ole boy but I reckon if I don’t say, “Hey y’all watch ‘is” I should be okay…but then there was that chainsaw incident followed by the plate glass window incident…and a dozen or so other scrapes with death…or at least severe injury.  Not one time did I utter the magic words…but then I’m not dead either.  Those damn stitches sho nuff hurt and the concussion knocked me loopy…not that anyone really noticed.

One of my earliest remembrances of good ole boys doing stupid things was a local man who, as the story goes, thought he had run out of gas one night but wasn’t sure because the old Chevy’s gas gauge was non-functional.  Undeterred he uncapped his gas tank and used his Zippo lighter to see if there was any gas left in the tank.  This was before the advent of Darwin Awards but he sho nuff would have qualified.

For the uninformed, the Darwin Awards select individuals who have supposedly contributed to human evolution by selecting themselves out of the gene pool via death or sterilization by their own actions.  I am desperate not to be an inductee.

For more other larks access Don Miller’s author’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Image courtesy of https://www.dumpaday.com/funny-pictures/women-live-longer-men-28-pics/ “Why women live longer than men.”  Take a look there are some funny ones…funny?

Fast Dancin’

“Dance like there ain’t no tomorrow, son.” I’m near seventy, how old does someone have to be to call me son. I’m old…he’s damn old. I also thought, if there is to be no tomorrow, I plan to be doing something other than dancing.

The old man was dancin’…dancing around a bonfire that should have been warming a cool, fall evening. Instead, the roaring orange and yellow flames were adding to the oppressive heat we have been experiencing this last week of September. As I watched the embers dancing in the smoke, I worried about the red flag burning alerts that were being ignored. We haven’t had any appreciable rain in the area for six weeks and my little piece of heaven is suffering.

As I watched a hand-rolled cigarette being passed, I realized “red flags” might not be the worst law being broken. This group certainly was not suffering…unless it is from a hangover tomorrow.

The heat didn’t seem to slow the old man. He was a member of the overalls over tie-dyed crowd…a crowd I’ve only begun to embrace in my later years. I was always the “more” conservative guy in amongst the hippy types until I reassessed and from too many years in education, “monitored and adjusted.” I’ve found the tie-dyed crowd to be infinitely more caring and loving…and accepting. Seems to be the “old-fart” hippy types are just more fun. I now consider myself a “middle of the road” human.

Wiry and bent, he wore faded and patched “Oshkosh By Gosh” bib overalls over a tie-dyed tee shirt in pink and green. Jerry Garcia’s bushy hair peaked out around the bib. He wore leather brogans and a leather western style hat which failed at covering his own Jerry Garcia-like hair. Tuffs like white cotton bolls peaked out from under a floppy brim.

He had skin like tanned shoe leather, ancient and cut with crevasses rather than wrinkles. His face narrow, his nose hawk-like. His smile lit up his entire face and showed irregular teeth. It pulled tight over his cheek showing a lump from a “chaw of tobacky.” I never saw him take it out…and I never saw him spit. I doubt he has to worry about tapeworms.

Earlier in the day he had been holding court on organic, sustainable farming. He regaled us on many subjects. I paid rapt attention when he enthusiastically informed us, “Chicken and bunny shit makes for the sweetest tomatoes.” Inquiring minds want to know. I saw the old POW bracelet when he pointed at someone and silently wondered what had happened to the similar one I used to wear. Mine had been a Navy flier lost over Laos in 1967. I quit wearing it when my skin began to react to it…but not until he came home.

My new friend had bushy salt and pepper eyebrows. Like mine, uncontrollable and wild when left to grow. His had been left to grow for a while. I found them distracting as we shared a bit of conversation and a sip or five of white liquor. The unaged spirit of this past summer’s corn bounty exploded in my stomach causing my perspiration to perspire. The old boy looked at me and smiled, “Smooth ain’t it?” I nodded as my eyes watered.

He had a bit of a snake-oil salesman’s delivery as he tried to convince me, “It’s organic and natural. Consumed in moderation, medicinal. Consumed in excess…well, what don’t kill ya makes ya stronger.” He laughed at himself and slapped me on the shoulder before going back to dancin’ with a group of little girls who called him Pappi Tom.

I watched him as he allowed his internal child to run wild. Janis’s voice, tinny from the speakers of an ancient boom box, lamented her lack of a Mercedes, a color TV, and a night on the town.

I’m lamenting my tight assed self. I watched the old man fast dancin’ with anyone nearby and realized what I’ve always known, “I have issues about turnin’ loose.” I don’t have an internal child and I want one. Maybe I need to join the group passing the odd-smelling cigarette around. I’ve never been able to quit worrying about who might be watching.

Dancin’, religion…getting undressed in the light of day. Yeah, I am one tight assed forker of mortar. There is a quote by Howard Phillips Lovecraft, “Almost nobody dances sober unless they happen to be insane.” My new friend is not suffering from sobriety and I feel the need to join him.

Don Miller is a retired teacher and coach who writes to pass the time he no longer has. His writer’s page may be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM.

How Did We Survive?

 

My downstairs air conditioner is out…specifically the air handler.  I felt it when I came downstairs first thing this morning.  For some reason, air-conditioned air at seventy-one degrees feels different than non-air-conditioned air at the same temperature.  Am I crazy? Oh yes but not because of that last statement.  I knew immediately something was amiss.

I am anxiously awaiting my rescue from the remnants of the lingering summer.  It’s not too bad…yet.  We are well shaded but I’m expecting temps in the mid-nineties by week’s end…it could be bad by Friday if my problem hasn’t been rectified by then…it could be bad tonight as inside temperatures approach a balmy seventy-five.  I don’t sleep well above seventy-two…who am I kidding?  I don’t sleep well.

I should warn you; I sweat in Biblical proportions.  Noah’s forty days and nights look like a clearing off shower.

My predicament once again has me scurrying down a pig trail that leads to those thrilling days of yesteryear.  How did we survive in the days when air-conditioning was not the norm?

I know.  You get used to what you get used to and I have become acclimated to air-conditioned air.  There was a time….

I remember an unairconditioned school building.  We never called off school because of extreme temperatures, hot or cold…but I forget we were built of sterner stuff.  As first graders, we walked ten miles to and from school, uphill in both directions, wind, rain, snow or asteroid strike be damned.

A brick building with wide and high windows.  Ceilings twenty-five feet high if they were an inch, not really but twelve at least…may be.  Unscreened, high and wide windows, I  remember the panic caused by red wasps visiting our eighth-grade history class and trying to take notes around the droplets of perspiration dripping onto my notebook.

During those wonderful years of junior high school, one young lady decided shucking her underwear might help with heat transfer…in the middle of class.   Much in the same way my wife can change clothes using her tee-shirt as her dressing room, this girl squirmed out of her slip.  Our teacher, a somewhat flustered Mister Gunter cautioned us that we should reframe from removing foundation garments due to the heat.  Somehow, we survived with most of our clothing on.

Church Sundays were the same…except for the removing of our underwear.  Tall windows open to catch whatever breeze was available.  No screens and plenty of wasps visiting, dispensing their own version of hellfire and brimstone.

Handheld funeral fans causing us to sweat more with the effort needed to keep the hot and humid air moving.  Sweat soaked dress shirts ruined when the varnish on the pews stuck to them.  I survived even if my shirts didn’t.

At home, it was ceiling box fans and window fans, sitting on the front porch until the bedroom had cooled sufficiently enough for the sandman to visit…sleeping on the front porch when it was miserably hot.  Hmm…decisions, decisions.  Sweat yourself to sleep in the bedroom from Dante’s Inferno or risk getting sucked dry by mosquitos.  I believe I’ll just lay here with a window fan installed backwards in the window at the foot off my bed.  I actually slept that way…with my head at the foot of my bed with chicken wire covering the backside of the fan so I didn’t accidentally stick a body part in it.  Somehow, we did survive…body parts and all.

I know we spent our awake time outdoors.  No matter how hot it was outside, it was cooler than inside.  A lot of the time was spent in my grandmother’s garden, playing cowboys and Indians in and around the barn or recreating World War Two in the woods or on the clay bank behind my house.  For some reason, it didn’t seem as hot then.

It’s persimmon season despite the heat and I remember running barefoot under the persimmon tree in my grandmother’s backyard.  Rotting persimmons caking on the bottom of my feet, oozing between my toes, sticking to the brown, dusty, dry dirt.  Hearing, “You chaps clean your feet before you come into this house!”  Heading to the stream that ran through the pasture trying to pry the mud off our feet.  Getting distracted with the crawfish and minnows…forgetting it was time to do my chores.  “Go out there and pick me a keen hickory!  I’m gonna switch them legs.”  No physical marks remain and eventually my feet came clean.

When my bride and I first moved to our little piece of heaven in the foothills of the Blue Ridge, we had no air conditioning and were surprised at the low ceilings our little farmhouse had…until winter hit, and we understood.  It gets cold in them thar hills.  The original owners were required to feed five fireplaces to heat their home.  Low ceilings make for a warmer house.

In the summer we never ventured onto the second floor, it was just too hot.  For seven years we survived with the help of the hemlocks, poplars and black walnuts surrounding the house along with ceiling and window fans.   Late nights sitting on the front porch waiting for the bedroom to cool down.  Just talking and rocking or swinging, holding hands, the smell of a cigar mixing with the forest smells and citronella.  Good times.  Maybe we did more than survive.

My guess is we will survive this little blip on our radar.  Still, I hope it is a short little blip.

The image is of Robert Hays sweating it out as Ted Striker in Airplane! (1980)

Further musings may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Summer’s End

 

We need water badly.  Little rain for the past month has taken the starch out of the leaves, fall blossoms…and me.  A wet early summer has turned into a dry late summer.  A cold front is on the way…a dry cold front.  Rain is as likely as me eating Pumpkin Spice Spam…well, Spam period.

The dry weather seems to have angered the already angry yellow jackets too…I think my mere presence angers the yellow jackets.  I water my bride’s flowers daily so she doesn’t get carried off or bled dry by mosquitoes.  The yellow jackets appreciate the water, they just don’t appreciate the person laying it down.  Three have expressed a stinging rebuke of me over the past week along with two red wasps adding their own firey reprimand.  Fair is fair.  I dislike them too and retaliate with wasp and hornet spray.  “Die you little bastards, DIE!”  I may be as angry the yellow jackets.

My own anger comes from more than the lack of water or hostile flying assholes.  Less than a week from the Fall Equinox, despite the summer-like temperatures, I can tell the seasons are changing.

“All things have their season, and in their times all things pass under heaven.”  Or, if you like the Byrds better, “To everything, turn, turn, turn.  There is a season, turn, turn, turn”…so forth and so on.

A change in wind direction causes falling leaves to swirl.   The wind still blows warm but the fallen leaves crunching underfoot turns the backyard into a minefield of sorts.  Searching for puppy leavings and not finding any until I step on them.  Not realizing I stepped on a turd taco until I get back into the house.

Being knocked unconscious by this year’s bumper crop of falling black walnuts or rolling an ankle over on those already on the ground when not paying attention.  I hate black walnuts almost as much as yellow jackets.

Oh, Lawd, gutters to clean out and what to do with Linda’s plants as the temperatures fall.  The power washing I didn’t get to do in the spring.  Wood to cut and split. Time to pay the piper I suppose.  “All things have their season” and ’tis the season of doing today what you should have done three months ago.

I’m of two minds…both very small.  I welcome the fall temperatures while lamenting the end of summer and the shortened days.  I don’t know why I lament.  I’ve been very non-productive this summer…can I be less productive in the fall?  Yeah….

Will we even have a fall?  Some years autumn in the foothills of the Blue Ridge lasts for a whole two hours on the third Tuesday of October.  Otherwise, it is straight from summer to winter.  The weather has been so crazy maybe this year summer will last through winter…”But the mosquitoes!”  It doesn’t seem to matter about the mosquitoes.  If they can survive in the sub-Arctic tundra, they will have no problem here.

Bonfires, hoodies, boots traded for flip-flops, Wranglers for shorts…there will be no bonfires if we don’t get some rain and I don’t ever totally put away my flips.

Store promotions ignoring Halloween and Thanksgiving while attempting to sell Christmas tree lights and tinsel.  It’s a month and a half till Halloween Wally World, two to Thanksgiving.  You’ve already turned your garden area into a bicycle area.  Slow it down a bit okay?

Pumpkin spice…pumpkin spice everywhere.  In an autumn beer?  In Spam?  Pumpkin spice should be limited to pumpkin pie and pumpkin pie…well…should be limited.  Does citronella come in pumpkin spice scent?  Pumpkin spice scented Deep Woods OFF!  I’m sure the mosquitoes would love it.

“To every season” maybe my problem.  Every time I turn around it seems I’m facing a changing season.  The realization that there are fewer seasons ahead than behind?  As God or the Byrd’s song reminds me, “A time to be born, a time to die, A time to plant, a time to reap, A time to kill, a time to heal, A time to laugh, a time to weep.”  I don’t know if I should laugh or weep.

Quotes are from:

Ecclesiastes 3, 1-8

“Turn, Turn, Turn” The Byrds, 1965

The image of Pumpkin Spice Spam https://www.spam.com/varieties/pumpkin-spice

For more click on https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

On World Wide Suicide Prevention Day

Originally entitled, “The Easy Way Out,” I first wrote this three years ago and it bears repeating.  “Suicide is not an easy way out.” My own contemplations of suicide and my battles with clinical depression fuel my emotions, along with the thoughts of three friends and former students who in the last few years have opted to take the “easy way out.”

No one who knows me would think, “Coach Miller is suicidal” without being told so and many would say, “Aw shucks, you’re pullin’ my leg.  You?” Yeah, me.  Many people who contemplate suicide don’t “look like someone” who might because we are masters of disguise.  “So, take a good look at my face, uh-huh. You see my smile (looks out of place). Yeah, look a little bit closer it’s easy to trace, oh the tracks of my tears.”  The problem is Smokey, we do our crying alone and put our smiles on when we are out in public.

The Easy Way Out

Rewritten 9/10/2019

“A brave man once requested me,

to answer questions that are key,

‘Is it to be or not to be,’

and I replied, ‘oh why ask me?’”

“’Cause suicide is painless,

it brings on many changes,

and I can take or leave it if I please…

and you can do the same thing if you please.”

Theme from MASH, “Suicide is Painless” by Johnny Mandel

 

I don’t believe there is anything easy about committing suicide nor do I think is it totally painless. That would be two of the major reasons I don’t attempt it. When you are sick like me, one may find it not to be the easiest of ways out. I don’t mean sick as in “I have a terminal illness and it is going to eat me up from the inside out” kind of sickness but the “I’m crazy as a bed bug” kind of sickness.

I have suffered from clinical depression for over forty years now, so I believe I have the right to say, “I’m crazy as a bedbug.” Also, like a world-class alcoholic, I have become very adept at hiding it. You see, almost daily, I still have thoughts of suicide or when I do something I consider “wrong,” there are the thoughts that I deserve to be hurt in some way even if I do it to myself. YES, I JUST CUT OFF MY FINGER ON PURPOSE!!!! I’ve done neither so suicide may not be the easy way out after all.

Being suicidal and repeatedly not pulling the trigger, not slitting a wrist or taking a short step out of a very high window is hard. I spend some of my “very best” depressed “self-speak” contemplating, quite morbidly, the pain of a bullet entering my head as opposed to the pain the same bullet would have on the people I leave behind. The people I love and, despite my depressive hate speech, those I know to love me, at least I think…maybe.

My wife, my daughter, and son-in-law, my grandchildren, who I don’t yet know as well as I want, my brother and my friends. So far, my belief is that the pain of my action on those I leave behind would be greater…therefore, I don’t do it. There is also the fear of the unknown. Am I going to find myself inside of a vat of boiling “hellfire and brimstone” for instance, am I just going to “wink” out of existence or turn into some type of cosmic energy? Will I be reborn as an Egyptian Dung Beetle?..one of my favorites.  All options are scary, as are others, and I find I am not a very brave person or is “sticking out” the mental anguish, itself, brave?

Clinical depression is one of the odd ducks of mental illness. “Oh, you are just a little blue…” and the Grand Canyon is a little hole. Logically you ask yourself, repeatedly I might add, “What have you got to be depressed about?” Nothing!  Absolutely nothing.  Or, friends and loved ones ask, “Why are you depressed?” Those questions are quite tiring because there is no answer unless it is everything.

My depression is due to tiny, little, itty bitty chemical imbalances in my brain. AND IT IS TREATABLE, once you figure out it is nothing more than a disease. No different than diabetes, or arthritis, or toenail fungus except that for some reason it seems to be much more embarrassing to say, “I am clinically depressed and suicidal” than “I have toenail fungus and it is yucky.” It shouldn’t be.  Toenail fungus is pretty yucky.   We need to dispel the stigma of “I’m crazy as a bedbug” and treat the illness.

These thoughts were triggered by a phone call. A friend told me of suicide. I didn’t know the man; I know the family he left behind and can only imagine the pain they are going through. The unanswered questions, “Why?”, “Why didn’t I see it coming?”, “What did I do wrong?”

Suicide was not an easy way out for them. Suicide was not due to an incurable and painful illness like cancer. It was due to an incurable and painful illness like clinical depression.  There are no answers to the “Why” and “What” questions.  Quit asking them!

His suicide has me, selfishly, thinking about ME. I worry someday suicide will appear to be the easy way out… I won’t have enough clarity of thought to keep me from pulling the trigger. No there is nothing easy about suicide including the contemplation of suicide.

Before you worry, NO! I do not need to be put on suicide watch…at least yet. I’ll try to let you know and you should be paying attention…not only to me but the people who are close to you.  Don’t be afraid to ask, “Are you okay?”  Your loved one will lie and say “Oh, I’m fine” or “I’m just a little blue,” but you should be looking for lies.

This post is for the people who have not had their clinical depression diagnosed or those who have and still battle it every day. You are not alone and you are not an embarrassment. There are many of us out there, a depressing estimate of one hundred and twenty-nine million worldwide, one out of every ten Americans and even more depressing, eighty percent never receive treatment. I was lucky.

There ARE people you can talk to. If there is no one in your life, try these:

National Suicide Hotline (800) 273-8255

Teen Health and Wellness Suicide Hotline: 800-784-2433

Crisis Call Center: 800-273-8255 or

text ANSWER to 839863

For more statistics  http://www.healthline.com/health/depression/statistics-infographic

If you are interested in reading more “Ravings of a Mad Southerner” or other writings by Don Miller, please use the following link:  https://www.amazon.com/DonMiller/e/B018IT38GM

The image featured is from https://www.docsopinion.com/2018/02/25/depression-symptoms/  and comes from an article entitled 10 Important Symptoms of Depression.  I would suggest you check yourself.

 

Deafening Silence

 

I’ve been outside three times this morning…and it’s not yet seven-thirty.  The puppies woke me way too early.

I am troubled by the silence…the sounds I don’t hear.  I seem to be drawn to the quiet like a moth to a flame.  Everything is muted, even the vehicles climbing up the grade toward Hendersonville.

I don’t understand the silence and I am a bit disturbed.  Usually, the birds and bees are active by this time, chirping and buzzing.  But nothing is moving…just the toad that keeps trying to find a way into my house and the mosquito he must be chasing.

I don’t really mind the toad and admire his persistence.  I wish he would nab the mosquito. The blind puppy dogs seem to mind, picking up his scent and leading me to his location.  Waiting patiently for their “good dog” treats after I remove the interloper to his normal habitat.   Where is that damn mosquito?

Now I am looking at the bird feeders and they are not attracting any kind of activity…squirrels included.  I squint into the pre-dawn light to see if they were emptied during the night.

Did some spaceship descend from the heavens and abduct my wildlife deciding they didn’t need my toad?  I’ve seen too many end of the world movies.

My murder of crows has been quite active recently but not this morning.  Why I wonder?  Why are gatherings of crows called murders?  As I ponder, I realize I really have seen too many horror movies and am crazy as a loon.

It is as if the very air is absorbing sound.  Not a leaf moving.  The citronella torches I just lit are burning straight up, reaching toward heaven.  The heavily scented smoke defies gravity, swirling neither left or right as it disappears toward space.

It has been hot and dry…for us.  I think that makes us all crazy…wildlife included.  Mid-nineties in the foothills of the Blue Ridge.  Pre-dawn has become after dawn and there is no dew on the grass at all.  We need rain badly and a break from the heat.  It is as if the wildlife has already hunkered down in a cool place for the day.  Maybe that’s why the toad continues to break and enter.

Maybe it just my diminished hearing or my increasingly bad mood.  I find myself anxious and a bit depressed.  Am I depressed because of…or is because of why I am depressed?  I don’t know.  I don’t know if I even make sense.

What I do know is the silence is as oppressive as the building humidity and heat.

According to the local weather guru, there is hope on the horizon.  Rain chances increase late in the week.  Nothing for sure…just like life.  Maybe what rain we do get will wash away the silence…or maybe I should get off my ass and make some noise.

The featured image from https://dahni.wordpress.com/2012/03/20/words-matter/

Please take time to like Don Miller’s facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/cigarman501/?eid=ARB0OtYgbYydIVtqtxaOGKECb-AvbbILtPybDOE835b4sChVMzC7w_vB9jqu161yiZWOmbn134yI6lwT

Or his author’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

 

 

Chicken Sandwich Wars and Other Useless Thoughts

“And just like that everyone forgot about the Amazon burning and started fighting over chicken sandwiches.” – Forrest Gump

Is the Amazon still burning?  Have seen nothing since Popeyes and Chick-Fil-A began to duke it out.  The battle has been joined by several other fast food empires as they try to control our cholesterol intake.

I wonder what has happened to the real arguments we once picked.  Pumpkin spice creamed coffee, green and red coffee cups that said Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas, “taste great, less filling”, a tan suit and a certain President.  The battles we pick amaze me, much in the same way a bit of tainted chicken turns me into a porcelain throne hugging quivering coward.

Just saw this one….

Popeye's

I know this is posted as a joke but there are people who believe this.  If you are in a closet (Not a Pun), we had a Cat 4-5 Hurricane named Dorian slamming the Bahamas and presently looking as if it will miss most of the East Coast of the USA.  God must have forgiven most of us for eating at Popeyes despite its founding in Sin City South, New Orleans.  I see Charleston and the coast of North Carolina might be in harm’s way.  What did you do to incur God’s wrath?  Maybe you should “eat more chickin’.”

Has the Twitter war that began over chicken sandwiches turned into a religious war of words over good versus evil?  God’s anointed sandwich versus the Devil’s spawn?  If so I find myself on the wrong side once again.  Maybe…I really need humor or satire alerts.  I can’t seem to tell the difference these days.

I’ve never enjoyed Chick Fil A to the degree some people worship it and have been a Popeyes fan since I first ate its popcorn shrimp, dirty rice and slaw in Pensacola back in the middle Eighties.  Love those Cajun spices but I wouldn’t turn down a Chick Fil A sandwich and have purchased one or two or two thousand in my life. Nothing religious, just my eating habits.  My taste buds prefer Popeyes over most fast-food chains involving chicken…Bojangles’s Chicken Filet Biscuit’s pretty good too…Spicy!  You know, warm like the tropical breezes from Dante’s Inferno.

There have been calls to boycott one or the other for various reasons, LGBTQ rights or lack thereof and there have been not so subtle jabs since Popeyes ran out of their chicken sandwich and the fact Chick Fil A doesn’t open on Sundays.

chickfila-popeyes

Boycott?  Not very likely…unless it is KFC’s plant-based, fake as a certain President’s phone call to China, fried imitation chicken.  There are just some things a Southerner can’t eat and still bear to look at himself in a mirror.

kfc

I have consumed my fair share of fast-food chicken dating back to when Colonel Sanders was a young man and hadn’t yet been brought back from the dead by George Hamilton or…gasp…Reba McEntire.  Bizarro …Both Reba and George’s fake tan.  I prefer George Costanza’s reanimation of Col. Sanders anyway.  Let the Col. Sanders wars begin.

Gal

As a child, I would never eat fast food chicken any more than I would eat fast food fried bologna or fast-food TV dinners.  They were staples at my home.  Why would I want to eat something I ate many times during the week?  Fast food was for some exotic meal I didn’t usually get at home…like, I don’t know, a fifteen cent overcooked hamburger with a single dollop each of mustard and catsup along with a single dill pickle resting between two halves of a sesame seed bun.  Did we have hamburger wars between Hardee’s and MacDonald’s?  No, and we didn’t have folks on social media stoking religious disharmony either.  Wait…Wendy’s.

Wendy

I would say food wars should be fought over beef or chicken…again wait…one of the combatants in the chicken sandwich war has already thrown down that gauntlet.

Maybe the war should be over plant-based fake meat products served as chicken or hamburger.  That’s a war I get behind.  Tofu covered in barbeque sauce is still tofu and “parts is parts” shouldn’t include ground-up vegetables masquerading as meat.

tofu

Update:  A Tennessee man has filed suit against Popeyes.  Their crime?  False advertising because they ran out of sandwiches.  “Oh, the humanity….”

Not to be outdone a disgruntled Houston man pulled his weapon on his local Popeyes’s staff when told they were out of chicken sandwiches.  Somewhere there is a Florida man thinking, “Hold my beer.”

Guess I’m gonna have to get one of the devils’ sandwiches just as soon as they reappear.

Featured Image source was Twitter.

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