Archive | August 2012

An open letter to a friend..

Dear D.C.

It was early in 1984 and my mind was occupied with thoughts of Germany, my next assignment. Having completed flight school, the Army was going to extract its payment…..my service was required in Germany. I was to fly attack helicopters, gunships, in support of the deterrent mission.

The airliner was at thirty thousand feet winging its way across the Atlantic headed for England….Gatwick I suppose. I was trying to relax a little; there were a lot of hours in front of me. I reclined my seat a little trying to get comfortable but it wasn’t really possible. Standing up, I turned and bumped into someone who was returning to their seat behind me. I apologized for my clumsiness and stood there enthralled. You were young, and pretty, and so very polite. Introductions complete, we settled into our seats and immediately drifted into a comfortable conversation. I discovered a lot about you. You were English, returning home from the United States. You lived in Thornaby, Stockton-on-Tees. You were busy thinking about your future, and worrying, I guess, about things that all young women contemplate at that age. You spoke quite elegantly I thought and were not afraid to talk about things that were important to you. More importantly, you were a good listener. We talked and laughed and enjoyed the company on that long flight.

Arriving back in the United States later, I was impressed to receive a letter from you. I had sent you a postcard or two from Germany but hadn’t really expected an answer. You were as busy as ever but just as willing to talk. You told me about your life and how you had settled back into a routine at home. I think you were anxious to get on with your life. I wrote back to you and told you some of my experiences. You were always polite, and interested in what I had to say.

Christmas, 1984. Another letter….and a Christmas card. You were seeing a young British serviceman. You seemed happy and life was good. Trials and tribulations though….there were always things to think about and problems to overcome. I never doubted that you would find what you were looking for……happiness, I suppose.

Letters were infrequent, but neither of us had forgotten. Things were always in the way…..some pressing matter to attend to. 1987 now….midyear I guess. Another letter from you has tracked me down. I am at Ft. Bragg when your latest missive arrives. Same cheerful attitude and another wonderful long story to read. You always seemed to be doing the things I wanted to do. This time it was a tentative trip to New Zealand. You had your reasons, and your plans. I knew only that I wanted to do those things too. I never found out how that trip turned out. Was it fun? Did you find a job there or just visit? I still want to know…..

The truth is, I have missed your letters. I don’t know what happened. Maybe it was just time. Maybe it was time for both of us to get on with our lives. Time to make a clean break with the past and forge a new future. I suppose that is what has happened. Time…..

My wish for you is fulfillment and understanding. I hope that you have a caring, loving person as a partner in this life. I hope you have experienced the joy of children. I hope that you have found joy in your life wherever you are. And I hope you are well…..There isn’t much else worth talking about.

Your friend,

Howard  
 
 

So, why now? Why after twenty-five years? That’s an easy one. I was cleaning out a safe drawer yesterday and found this bundle of letters. I knew they were there of course, but hadn’t looked at them in many years. Why did I keep them? I am not sure. I guess because these moments, hidden in old letters and pictures are important. They are important because they help define who we were, and who we have become. In any event, I will re-read them and look at the pictures. Then back they go into the safe–just moments captured in time.

 
 
 
Comments welcome…

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Poetry—Under-appreciated Works…

Thoughtful Readers…

I have said several times on these pages that I do not write much poetry. That does not mean that I do not like poetry. Nor does it mean that I can not appreciate poetic works for the value they add to society. The fact is, I read a lot of poetry. On occasion, while reading some sort of literature, I stumble upon a work that I have never before seen or heard. I try to look it up, and find precious little about it or a lot of supposition that creates only additional questions. It is essentially a “lost” work. Usually (and in fact always in this blog…), these works are unknown. That is to say the author is unknown. Usually the date of the work is unknown as well. These works have existed for some time and because someone, somewhere wrote them down, they still exist.

One other thing to note. Please understand, that these works are not mine. I did not control the author’s writing, or their use of words and terminology. That is a nice way to say that I am not responsible for the political correctness (or lack thereof…) of the words or thoughts as expressed in these works. It is not my intent to cause any consternation among the readers here, or to imply any form of prejudice or bias based on nationality, politics, creed, race, religion or anything else you would care to assign to it. This is the way the authors wrote them….and hence the way they appear here.

If you read these works and recognize them, good for you. You are ahead of me. I did not. My only purpose here is to keep some of these obscure works from fading into the great abyss.

This first work is one I found some years back and wrote it down. There seems to be some disagreement about when and where it came from, and there are several versions of it. Once again, author unknown.  
 

HELL IN TEXAS  
 
The Devil, we’re told, in hell was chained,  
And a thousand years he there remained,  
And he never complained, nor did he groan,  
But determined to start a hell of his own  
Where he could torment the souls of men  
Without being chained to a prison pen.  
 
So he asked the Lord if He had on hand  
Anything left when He made the land.  
The Lord said, “Yes, I had plenty on hand,  
But I left it down on the Rio Grande.  
The fact is, old boy, the stuff is so poor,  
I don’t think you could use it in hell any more.”  
 
But the devil went down to look at the truck,  
And said if it came as a gift, he was stuck;  
For after examining it careful and well  
He concluded the place was too dry for hell.  
So in order to get it off His hands  
God promised the devil to water the lands.  
 
For He had some water, or rather some dregs,  
A regular cathartic that smelled like bad eggs.  
Hence the deal was closed and the deed was given,  
And the Lord went back to His place in Heaven.  
And the devil said, “I have all that is needed  
To make a good hell,” and thus he succeeded.  
 
He began to thorns on all the trees,  
And he mixed the sand with millions of fleas.  
He scattered tarantulas along all the roads,  
Put thorns on the cacti and horns on the toads;  
He lengthened the horns of the Texas steers  
And put an addition on jack rabbits’ ears.  
 
He put little devils in the broncho steed  
And poisoned the feet of the centipede.  
The rattlesnake bites you, the scorpion stings,  
The mosquito delights you by buzzing his wings.  
The sand burrs prevail, so do the ants,  
And those that sit down need half soles on their pants.  
 
The devil then said that throughout the land  
He’d manage to keep up the devil’s own brand,  
And all would be mavericks unless they bore  
The marks of scratches and bites by the score.  
The heat in the summer is a hundred and ten,  
Too hot for the devil and too hot for men.  
 
The wild boar roams through the black chaparral,  
It’s a hell of a place he has for a hell;  
The red pepper grows by the bank of the brook,  
The Mexicans use it in all that they cook.  
Just dine with one once and then you will shout,  
“I’ve a hell on the inside as well as without.”  
 
 

Unknown…

 
 
As always, comments welcome.
 
Be well,
Howard

Book Lovers—Unite!!!

Thoughtful Reader…

I guess I could set up a poll to answer these questions, but why bother… It is so much simpler to just write up this latest post and let you chime in if you want to.

So, here’s the deal. I like to read. You have probably figured that out by now. I don’t own a Kindle or other e-reader, so that means my appetite must be sated by real books…real, bound, printed books. I think I mentioned previously that I counted over 150 actual titles read last year. So, I think you can start to see the enormity of this problem. Every year, usually in the fall, I gather up my books and start boxing up the ones that I feel obligated to part with. I have to do this, really I do. In moments of clarity I find myself looking in horror at the rising mound of printed paper stored in every available nook (yes, I know…), in my house. If a fire were to break out, the resulting conflagration would be awesome to behold.!!! So, not wishing to incur the wrath of the local fire gendarmes, I sadly (sometimes almost tearfully..) gather up my current stash and head out with all good intentions of parting company with the least treasured of my collection.

My first stop is at the local library where they see me coming, and when my shadow crosses their threshold there is never anyone there to help relieve me of my treasures. I think they hide from me. I really do. I usually manage to convince them that they need some of these epics of literature to add to their collection. Funny, they don’t seem to recognize most of these monumental works. Wonder why that is.?? After lightening my load (by two or three volumes…), I continue my trek to the local thrift store. They make up for the library…they love me here. I think it has something to do with my donating. No matter how hard I try, they always end up with my books and I end up with nothing.

Except sometimes…..and here we come to the gist of this story. After my latest sojurn to the seedy underworld of thrift stores and musty used books, I recouped some of my lost honor. Please don’t misunderstand. They still got my books…for free. But this time I got some books back.!!! Well, yes. I did have to pay for them. No, they weren’t new. Okay, I see where you are going with this. You are thinking, “I thought you were trying to get rid of some books…” And that would be a correct observation on your part. However, and this is important, books seem to have a life of their own…maybe a soul too. So when I came across a small collection in the midst of this shabby thrift store, it seemed imperative that I should save them. Save them from what.?? That is a good question. An ugly demise most probably. And almost assuredly each of them would suffer the ignominy of being separated from their siblings…sold one at a time to someone who couldn’t possibly treasure them as much as I do. So, squealing with delight (if it’s possible for a grown man to squeal with delight…or squeal with anything for that matter..), I grabbed them all up and saved them from who knows what….

So, what did I end up with?? What captured my enthusiasm?? Okay, I will tell you. There were two small collections or series’ of hard bound works. The first is a set of four by William Faulkner. Judging by the copyright dates, I will place them in the late 1950’s. Well taken care of. Pages are starting to yellow, but none torn that I can find. Red cloth bindings are solid. Faulkner’s name impressed into the front cover and gold filled. I have read two of the four….The Sound and the Fury and As I Lay Dying. The other two, Sanctuary and Light in August are now on my reading list.

The second series is a collection of fourteen books most of which would be classified as literature. There are a couple in the series that might seem to deviate from the “literature” standard but all are noteworthy. This series dates from the 1930’s. Pages are yellowing (some worse than others..) but blue cloth bindings are in good condition. Remarkably so, really. Most of this style book I have seen over the years exhibit fraying on the bindings and loose threads etc. These titles range from a collection of Ibsen’s plays, to Voltaire, to Bret Harte and George Elliot, to a book of the worlds great speeches and a translation of Tales From the Decameron.

*****
So, you be the judge. Worth saving..???

Be well…
Howard

I don’t write much poetry…but I love to read it. This is especially true when there is a story to be told within the lines. If you like poetry with GREAT imagery, you will love this one…courtesy of jilliankermani…

Answers—-Adages, Proverbs…..

Thoughtful Reader…

Well I have waited long enough for the unveiling. In the last post I ventured forth with thirty adages or proverbs that were sort of “translated” into a modern interpretation. You were invited to take part to try to reassemble them back into their original form. Some of you worked on them, some of you didn’t. I hope they added a little to your thinking over the past few days.

In any event, here are the proverbs as I re-wrote them and the solution (the original form…)

  1. The presence of a winged creature clasped by the phalanges is equal in value to twice the number in the short shrubbery. Ans: A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
  2. To speak not at all is the color of a precious metal.  Ans: Silence is Golden.
  3. If the product of the last is the correct size, use it for its purpose.  Ans: If the shoe fits, wear it.
  4. A vessel while being scrutinized will not vaporize the contents.  Ans: A watched pot never boils.
  5. A person of dubious intellect and the coin he carries will be separated quickly.  Ans: A fool and his money are soon parted.
  6. Dry your grass for feed while an orb of burning gas is present.  Ans: Make hay while the sun shines.
  7. Panhandlers in action are not able to exercise choice.  Ans: Beggars can’t be choosers.
  8. It is best to choose wisely to avoid having to repent.  Ans: Better safe than sorry.
  9. It is always best to avoid speaking and invite doubt about your mental state, than to expound on the subject and allow no room for argument.  Ans: It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.
  10. Seeking after the unknown caused the death of the feline.  Ans: Curiosity killed the cat.
  11. You should not enumerate a totality of poultry while they are still shell-bound.  Ans: Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.
  12. Do not cause tears to fall because of mammary fluid that has left its vessel unbidden.  Ans: Don’t cry over spilled milk.
  13. All members of the canine species have a 24 hour period unto themselves.  Ans: Every dog has its day.
  14. Those of diminished capacity hurry to a place where godly helpers are afraid to walk.  Ans: Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.
  15. A compatriot who requires your assistance is truly your friend.  Ans: A friend in need is a friend indeed.
  16. When possessed with knowledge beforehand, you are better prepared.  Ans: Forewarned is forearmed.
  17. Extreme prior knowledge of a subject causes a lack of respect.  Ans: Familiarity breeds contempt.
  18. Well designed and maintained physical boundaries allow for harmonious relationships with those who live next door.  Ans: Good fences make good neighbors.
  19. Large and strong trees are first conceived from small mast seed.  Ans: Mighty oaks from tiny acorns grow.
  20. Ill conceived speed is the cause of destruction.  Ans: Haste makes waste.
  21. Hades is not nearly as dangerous as a female who is denied acknowledgement.  Ans: Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.
  22. The one who delays his decision unwisely is forever doomed to wander.  Ans: He who hesitates is lost.
  23. If thinking and wants were four-legged animals, panhandlers would have a method of travel.  Ans: If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.
  24. When you cast your lot for a small coin, you might as well figure on wagering a larger amount.  Ans: In for a penny, in for a pound.
  25. Mirth expressed is the best solution for complaints.  Ans: Laughter is the best medicine.
  26. Observe carefully before jumping into the fray with both feet.  Ans: Look before you leap.
  27. Calm and silent things are frequently very complex.  Ans: Still waters run deep.
  28. When the handling of items is quick and continuous, the tasks are easily completed.  Ans: Busy hands make light work.
  29. Those who constantly exhibit despair and regret prefer the solace of others of like mind.  Ans: Misery loves company.
  30. A noisy round device used for transport receives ample lubrication.  Ans: The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

Okay, so there you have it. The answers I know you were waiting for… 🙂

Be well…

Howard