Sunday, May 31, 2009

On Being a Local Celebrity of Sorts...

I was accosted in Wal-Mart today. There I was, between the pharmacy and the pet section, minding my own beeswax as I pondered over what the best way was to construct a fency-type trellis to keep my gladiolas from falling over once they bloom. (I know, to have my problems, right?) So as I'm standing there mulling over new and inventive ways to use towel racks, I feel a tap on my shoulder from behind. I turn around, ready to proclaim my "No, I don't work here" line (am I the only one in the world who gets asked by random people in Wal-Mart where things are located? I must have "a look" or something) when a couple of little old ladies say:

Old Lady #1: You're that young man who had the yard sale last weekend, right?
Me: Um, yes, over on Rt 895, yeah?
Old Lady #2: Well, my friend here and I were having a very heated disagreement ever since we left your yard sale last week and were wondering if we could run our problem by you?
Old Lady #1: That would be nice if you could...
Me: Um, sure, I guess. A problem with something you bought from me?
Old Lady #1: Oh, no, no--
Old Lady #2: Nothing like that--
Old Lady #1: Why I wouldn't dream of returning--
Old Lady #2: It's just that--
Old Lady #1: --something I bought at a yard sale--
Old Lady #2: --when we left--
Me: (Am I in hell?)
Old Lady #1: --even if it was broken or something--
Old Lady #2: --we fought a bit and almost--
Old Lady #1: --which it wasn't, no worries--
Old Lady #2: --turned around...
Old Lady #1: --but I was thinking--
Old Lady #2: --Frita, please!
Me: (Yep, hell... In Wal-Mart... Who knew?)
Frita: --what?
Bernice: Let me handle this, all right? We were just wondering if you two gentlemen were...
Frita:Put it delicately, Bernice!
Bernice: Oh, shush. Well, are you gentlemen--together?
Me: (Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!) Uhh...
Bernice: Not that it matters--
Frita:--so cute together--
Bernice: --as my daughter is actually--
Frita: --just the way you two--
Bernice: --maybe you know her?--
Frita: --sat there, so happy together--
Bernice: --what's the name of that gay place?--
Me: (I should always know where the fire exits are, shouldn't I?)
Frita: --as I was saying to Bernice--
Bernice: --Emeralds? Rubies? No, that's a burger chain--
Frita: --I think it's so nice--
Bernice: --Diamonds! That's it! Do you go there?--
Frita: --and complimented her on her tank top--
Bernice: --that was the biggest clue, wasn't it, Frita?--
Me: Uh, well, yes, we are "a couple," ten years now...
Bernice: I told you, Frita!
Frita: Yes, yes you did...
Bernice: Well, we just wanted to tell you gentlemen good for you!
Frita: Yes, very much so!
Bernice: And in this area!
Frita: It's so sad...
Bernice: And that California thing? Shameful!
Frita: We should let him finish his shopping...
Bernice: Yes, we've bothered you enough, but, well, good for you!
Frita: You have our support!
Me: Uh, thank you, ladies. You have a nice day, now...
Bernice: So polite!
Frita: Real gentlemen...
So that, ladies and gentlemen, is what I imagine a celebrity must feel like. Even if it was just for a few moment... In a Wal-Mart...

Friday, May 29, 2009

Speaking of Luck....

But... No one even mentioned it! you're thinking...

Visiting Scientist: Surely you don't believe that horseshoe will bring you good luck, do you, Professor Bohr?
Bohr: I believe no such thing, my good friend. Not at all. I am scarcely likely to believe in such foolish nonsense. However, I am told that a horseshoe will bring you good luck whether you believe in it or not! How can one argue with such logic?
Indeed, it's much like the "What harm does it do to believe in God?" (Ask the last group that drank the Kool-Aid...) For the record, Bohr is a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, but there he is, with a freakin' horseshoe hanging on the wall over his desk. And why? Even he isn't sure...

We humans are a generally stupid species, for all of our technological innovations and such--perhaps our one saving grace (perpetual curse?) being we are just smart enough to know how stupid we are without being quite smart enough to know how to not be so stupid. Why, for instance, do we knock on wood? Call off on Friday the 13th? Expect people to act just a tad crazier under a full moon? Worship gods? Pray to angels?

Did you know that, while wearing a seat belt has been known to save more lives in the drivers' seat of a moving vehicle, the number of pedestrians and cyclists who die increases in areas where seat-belt wearing is mandatory? Honestly! Any lives "saved" through the use of seat belts has been negated by the fact that, since the drivers feel more secure in the automobile, they in fact drive more recklessly than they had previous to being forced to wear such a safety device! But so many people believe that seat belts save lives that we thus made a law saying you must wear one, even though as a result more people will now die--just on the other side of the wheel... Gotta love the irony there.

Remember back in the 80s when we were all told that heavy rock music stars actually recorded Satan speaking backwards on their records? (How many of you just wondered what the heck a "record" was?) People by the hundreds threw out thousands of dollars worth of albums so that their children wouldn't be influenced by the evil Satanic speech coming from their record players (as if!!). Most of these songs you can now hear on any commercial-filled yet Satan-free "classic rock" or "easy listening" station.

Now, somewhere between the unreasonable panic over swine flu and the even more unreasonable panic over the thought of terrorists using a cargo container to sneak in a nuclear bomb (as if...), one wonders how the term "common sense" ever came to be coined when it's obvious so many people lack the very stuff. (Perhaps "common sense" is just one of those mythical things, like demons, gremlins, and luck dragons...? Often mentioned, never seen...?) Yet for sense to be "common" (in that, every one is supposed to have it), one has to simply observe how many buildings do NOT have a 13th floor; how many people refuse to go to work on Friday the 13th; how many actually stop and change their path to avoid going under the ladder (I actually think a painter made this one up just to prevent himself from getting nervous up there watching all those doofs go under him!). What is it about irrational and illogical beliefs that so many refuse to give them up?

Could it all actually be for shits and giggles? Somehow I doubt this...

Most people know the principle that any action causes an equal and opposite reaction. (Okay,maybe you don't, just google it and it's won't be long til you're all caught up.) We step on a loose rock and lose our balance, we quickly form quite a few beliefs:
  • Falling hurts
  • Loose rocks cause falling
  • Loose rocks are dangerous
  • Loose rocks are to be avoided whenever possible
But, before you know it, all things "loose" are suspect. Of course, this is a very logical conclusion to come to, not only because of your experience, but it's rationally sound. Loose footing = falling down = pain. It's not that hard, is it?

But then think about "Break a leg!" To wish an actor or performer "Good luck!" is to jinx them--why? Because somewhere along the way, a few to many people were wished "good luck" before their performance and proceeded bomb in front of an audience. There's no direct correlation between these spoken words of "good luck" and bombing your rendition of "Baby Got Back!" (one wonders how many contestants on American Idol have been inadvertently wished "good luck" before Simon ripped their hearts out with a toothpick). But our minds do make that correlation for no good reason. It's illogical, irrational, very unsound, and if you based your thesis for graduating on such a premise, they'd revoke your right to say anything at all about anything afterward! We silly, stupid humans do this sort of thing all the time!

How many of us know rationally that knocking on wood doesn't do anything, yet, once we say something out loud, there go our knuckles, banging out a River Dance of the fingers! We know that those random numbers we picked at 2:00 pm are just as unlikely to be winners at 8:55 pm, yet we are 90 percent more likely to be unwilling to trade our lottery ticket for another ticket of equally random, equally chance of winning numbers at 8:55 then we were at 2:00... Why? Who knows... Because we're stupid. We believe prayer actually does something... We believe standing in the rain causes a cold... We believe all sorts of crazy, stupid things...

With a little luck, here's hoping this post causes you all to stop and think before you start knuckling out the Star Spangled Banner...

As if "luck" has anything to do with it...

Sunday, May 24, 2009

First Principles: Know Thyself...

We are a curious creature, are we not? I do believe we are the only ones that can actually think about ourselves while simultaneously thinking about thinking about ourselves...

But that's a philosophical dead-end... At the moment...

Oddly, most of the things that form who we are as people are locked in the recesses of our minds, the formative years in which most us (if not all of us) cannot recall nor think about or ponder on--between the merging of our genes from our biological parents to the nurturing we receive in the beginning (not to sound all biblical about it!) make us who we are, and in turn bias us toward a lot of our later actions, desires, motivations, fears, worries, and wonders. Not that these cannot change through either further outside or inner factors (a death, an injury, the continuation of "nurture" in a sense), but most of us experience a relative "freedom" from the most cruel and unusual of circumstances, allowing us to mostly remain the core human being we became at conception through young childhood. (Granted, these are my opinions and feel free to disagree, of course, but from all I've seen and read and thought over, this mostly holds true...)

Anyway, back to it: The other evening, I was out having a great evening and it was said to (and about) me, "He avoids adversity. The only adversity he's ever had was the military!" Regardless of the emotions this elicited from my mind, it did begin my mind turning and thinking: Isn't "adversity" really open to interpretation? I mean, not only is one man's adversity another man's walk in the park, so to speak, but the term itself tends to open-ended gradation, doesn't it? I mean, what is adversity? And who is to decide how much is "too little" or "too much" adversity for one person to bear? And further, is an avoidance of adversity a sign of cowardice, or a sign of intelligent avoidance? Again, it's probably in the eye of the beholder sitting in judgment of another, isn't it?

My mother is very fond of saying "God never gives anyone more than they can bear." Of course, if that were true, no one would ever go crazy or insane in traumatic times, would they? Of course, she is also fond of saying "Everything happens for a reason," as if reasons were the end-all be-all of our existence.

Or are they? One of the first things we learn as children is to ask "Why?" Why indeed! "Why is the sky blue?" "Why can't I go there?" "Why did you say that?" All in an attempt to find out where we are, and how we fit into that picture, our environment. While many a child has driven their parents up one wall and down the other with the endless queries, these are the times and the questions which form the later human being (if indeed circumstances even lend themselves for a child to ask about who it is and why it's there...!). All of which will eventually lend itself to how these young persons will react (or act) in the face of "adversity" of whichever degree presents itself (in terms of one's perceptions of adversity and its varying degrees that individual thereof holds!).

If any given person takes the time to reflect on what they do or don't find to be adverse, that is. How many persons take the time (perhaps we should ask, have the time? make the time?) to not only think about things in general, but themselves in particular? Why they feel this way about this? That way about that? A certain reaction to this person or that circumstance?

A certain general attitude?

I'm a big "believer" in you are who you think you are (scare quotes on purpose--know why?) and an even bigger "believer" in that only you can make that happen. But beyond that (and this may get a bit dodgy, I suppose) I find it even more important to let others be themselves, if you catch my meaning. To say it slightly longer and a bit clearer (I hope!), just as it is important to know yourself and hopefully to like yourself, I believe it just only slightly less important (perhaps equally as important) to let others be themselves insofar as it is not an infringement on others (or yourself). A large part of who you are is how you react and engage with others in your environment, both from within and without!

Of course, this greatly simplified philosophical excursion has smaller parts and larger ramifications (what wandering wonderings don't!) but to slightly sum up (without getting into the personal details--after all, I have to retain some type of mystery or else you'll grow bored and find someone younger!) when it comes to one's proclivities toward engaging, avoiding, embracing, or dealing with "adversity," can one really say for certain who is dealing with them and how they are fairing?

Or should we simply reserve our harshest judgments for ourselves and allow others to lead their lives in whatever manner makes them content?

Should contentment even be one of our goals in life?

Okay, this could go on forever, granted. Suffice it to say this:

There is always a well-known solution to every human problem--neat, plausible, and wrong. --H.L. Mencken, Prejudices
Indeed. But the beginning of finding a solution that isn't wrong?

Know thyself.

The rest should fall into place...

Unless you find out you aren't any good at it... :D

Saturday, May 9, 2009

"And in the end, should someone die?"

I awoke this morning to a note sitting on the computer desk:


They can play with the guns.

I guess I should give some back story on this one, eh?

We took the nephews to see the new Star Trek movie last night, and between the four bags of popcorn, three sodas, and three bathroom breaks, we learned a lot as uncles taking young nephews to the movies, the first of which being "no soda!" Additionally, since Rich and I are selling things on eBay, there are various toys and such laying about the house, much to the joy of said nephews and fear of one certain uncle--after all, most of these toys are older than myself and worth a bunch of $$$...

So they were toy guns... Nonetheless, a strange note to wake up to, wouldn't you say?

When the parents of the nephew's came to collect their children, me and the sis-in-law took a tour of the yard to locate various plants to boost their flower beds back home. In the course of our travels, the neighbors... unfortunately were in full force. I swear to god, it's like they spot me and they come rushing out of the woodwork--it's HELL! Even Ann commented, "Dude, what's up with your neighbors?"

Well said, if I do say so myself... All this time I thought it was just me...

One of these hellish neighbors had the gall--no, the audacity!!!--to walk through my FLOWER BED! I nearly had a heart attack... Excuse me?! What the FUCK do you THINK you're DOING!! I wanted to scream. These people KNOW the pride I take, the care I put in, the immense work it requires to get these beds looking weed-free and blooming year-round! What the FUCK!!!

But being that I have various hang-ups of confrontation stemming from my childhood, I simply downplayed it with a simple, "You didn't step on anything, did you?" (As if that were the sole reason for my heart palpitations...)

"No, why would I do that?" came the reply.

Why the FUCK would you WALK through some one's fucking FLOWER BED!!!! "Just checking" and a friendly smile later (Where is my Grammy award, by the way?) we left her behind as we continued our circuitous route around the house. Two more neighbors later and the family was on their way to plant some great beauties in the yard while I was left contemplating how I would confront my stupid, unemployed, bored-out-of-her-mind neighbor about walking through the beds when they are just as easy to get around if one simply goes six feet to the LEFT. On the GRASS. In the fucking YARD!!!

It also crossed my mind what a shame it was that I did only have toy guns lying about the property. What is up with my neighbors indeed...

If I could afford it, a ten-foot-high privacy fence would enshroud my 3/4's of an acre. But until the blessed day when we sell this place and get a secluded neighborless piece of land on which to build my dream house...

Sometimes in the end, no one dies...

But they should...