At the VA: 1968

At the VA: 1968

Live each day like it’s your last,
and someday you will be right.
Says Granddad – a man in his
77th year…I was entering my 12th.
After that:
A Doctor enters the day room
of the VA  hospital,

Doc crushes his
cigarette in the ashtray  near the
door. It’s a clove cigarette doc says.
Piss poor excuse for a smoke.
Chesterfields are a smoke.

Then:
Who’s the young man says doc.

My grandson – he says.
Granddad looks pale.
I say:
I hope we can go home soon and
hunt rattlesnakes in the timber behind the house.
Someday grandpa says.

I want to plant corn in the spring he tells me.
So do I, I tell him.

Knee high by the fourth of July.
he tells me.

Corn planting knowledge will serve me
well in years to come.

A hotel clerk in Colorado insulted your
grandmother on our honeymoon in
1920 he tells me.

Poor guy didn’t know grandpa.

*
Doc leaves and
darkness gathers.
We talk about
the War (again)
the Big One.

We talk about the Navy.
When you get old enough,
join the Navy, he advises.
Never join
the Army.
Too much marching in the Army.
A guy is free on the ocean even if  he doesn’t
know it.
I say I will never join
the Army. Ever.

Granddad is dying.
Prostrate is shot
In five more days
he’ll go on
planting corn
and sailing
the
seas.

Plane reading

In a couple of weeks,  my wife and I are going to Las Vegas. We have been there a number of times, and we hadn’t planned to visit Sin City this year, but circumstances intervened, so here we go.

Due to the pandemic, our trip to Vegas will be the first time I have been on an airplane since February of 2020. Before I continue, let me say, I enjoy flying. I always have. Some of my fondest memories are of flying across the United States – seeing the flatlands of the plains merge into the Rocky Mountains — flying over the Grand Canyon at night — seeing the tips of the World Trade Center twin towers peeking out of the clouds over an overcast, Manhattan morning. Chicago at sunrise is particularly impressive when viewed on approach into O’Hare. I recall flying down the west coast of Florida on an August evening in 2005, watching the sinister clouds of Hurricane Katrina moving toward New Orleans.

One thing that I enjoy about air travel is that I get to read for pleasure, something my daily grind job doesn’t allow me to do. I like to spend my travel hours reading something that I would not normally read in my day to day life.

Our upcoming vacation involves several hours on an airplane, and after that, I am going to have some time to lounge beside a pool (if I don’t disintegrate in the desert heat). So what should I read? I have a list of books that I want to read before I die, and I have written about some of them here.

One book that has been on my ‘to read’ list for a number of years is “Jackson Pollack: An American Saga by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith”. This Pulitzer Prize Winning, New York Times best seller has been on my reading list since the 90s, so I finally ordered a copy last week.

When It arrived, I knew that I would not be taking this door-stop on vacation. At 934 pages, and just about as many pounds, this book has been consigned to the “shelf of the unread” in my office bookcase. I’ll read it someday, but not soon.

In its place, I have decided to read the following on my summer vacation:

  • The Garden of Eden; by Ernest Hemingway. This is Papa’s last book, published posthumously in 1986. Hemingway started this novel in 1946 and worked on it until his death in 1961. He gives me great hope for completing some of my older work. He wrote about 800 pages on this novel. When the book was published, only 70,000 words of the original work remained of Hemingway’s original 48 chapters and over 200,000 words.
  • The Mango Opera; by Tom Corcoran, long time photographer of Jimmy Buffett and co-lyricist of Buffett’s song, “Cuban Crime of Passion”. This download has been languishing on my Kindle for far too long. My advice: If you want to write a novel set in the Florida Keys, you need to read Tom Corcoran. He catches the Key West vibe better than anyone I know.

So that’s it for me. When I am through with those it will be time to catch the red eye home to the East Coast. What are you reading on vacation this year? In my opinion, keep it light. No books about the insurrection…not yet. Save those for the fire next winter. Go to the beach. Read something you have been putting off. Take a hike. Read on a plane…

—E

A tale of two souls

I looked through
the glass once, and I noticed
your soul moving quietly
wonderfully, methodically
from room to room
occasionally pausing to
move some small pieces
of furniture, to try on
new clothes, to adjust
‘Cupid with Butterfly’
above the headboard,
to return Kant to the
bookshelf, and
to position the blinds for
late afternoon sun,

and you have
caught me too, an Old Soul
with creaky bones and
hardened liver, moving
cautiously down the steps
to the basement, groping
in the dark, hoping to find
the light switch, hoping the
bulb still has life, hoping
the floor isn’t damp and
the electrical panel has
survived the storm.

Happy National Clerihew Day

It’s July 10th everyone, and if you aren’t celebrating already, you should be. For those of you who might not know a clerihew from a sonnet, a clerihew is a style of poetry developed by Edmund Clerihew Bentley (July 10, 1875 – March 30, 1956).  Clerihews are four-line poems that are for the most part humorous and/or whimsical. Clerihews always begin with a person’s name on the first line. The person might be real, or fictitious.  As an example, I will post Bentley’s first clerihew here:

Sir Humphry Davy
Detested gravy.
He lived in the odium
Of having discovered Sodium.

To be a true clerihew, a poem must conform to the following rules:

  • In must begin with a person’s name
  • It must contain rhyming couplets of AA/BB
  • The content must describe the person noted in the first line
  • It must be funny. Serious clerihews are strictly forbidden

I close with another wonderful clerihew from Bentley:

What I like about Clive
Is that he is no longer alive.
There is a great deal to be said
For being dead.

Enjoy the celebrations my friends.

Last night in Key West

put it back in the blender.

pack the Keys disease, &
haul in the bikini, Patricia.
The games are over. No
more days playing nights
no more sand seeking shovels.


Philly awaits, shit can
Margaritaville, print the
boarding passes and order
a cappuccino,

the Old Order
Amish knew what they were
doing. Stay close to home
and ride in a buggy.


Fun is relative. 3 hours
in the air is all it takes.
You could write a song
you could discover a myth
remake cocktail napkins
fortune will find you
sobriety will find you.


The old man finds you whether you’re
looking for him or not.
You’ll give up the Ghost
before Big Torch Key goes down.
You’ll be buying the condo
in Vail before Islamorada is
under water.
You’ve a decade to party.

Horizon line

we’re in rented
beach chairs on
Pompano Beach,
it’s late November – two days
before Thanksgiving
when she asks me how far it is
to the horizon
and I tell her it is 3 miles
give or take a foot or two…

I further explain:

…that it’s 3 miles from the point
where her lavender painted
toes touch the water
to where the water touches the sky.

I go on:

That’s fifteen thousand
eight hundred forty
feet I say to her —
from your toe tips to
horizon line

then I say…

That’s one foot
for every year that
we’ve known each other…

she laughs

then she tells me that I am not
the world’s most renown

mathematician.

You’re no Euclid, she says
you’re no Blaise Pascal,
no Pythagoras, and
certainly you are no
Archimedes…

then she tells me that
we’ve known each other
much, much longer than that

The U.S. Government report on UAP

This morning, I spent some time reading the U.S. Government’s exhaustive, nine-page report on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena. This report was delivered to the U.S. Congress on the 25th of June by the ODNI – that being the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. That said, I can hardly believe I have managed to use the ‘U.S. Government’, ‘exhaustive’, and ‘nine-page report’ together in a sentence. I think it is remarkable that this report, or at least the publicly facing report to Congress, can be contained in such an abbreviated document. I should think a volume of at least a couple of hundred pages would be required for a topic that discusses at minimum, the military and safety concerns of erratic objects of uncertain origin navigating our airways at blinding speeds, but if nine pages is all that is required, so be it. I will leave a link to the document here, so that you can read it for yourself, should you be so motivated.

For many of us, myself included, who have seen UFOs, this report seems to say it is finally ok to come out and discuss what we saw without fear of ridicule, or in some cases, jeopardizing our employment. Reading further in the report, it states plainly, that “UAP threaten flight safety and, possibly, national security”. Think of the implications of that sentence alone.

Further reading of this ‘acronym saturated’ report says that UAPs are likely not explained by any single factor. The report suggests that most will fall into these 5 categories:

  • Airborne Clutter: birds, balloons, maybe unmanned drones, possibly even high-flying plastic bags
  • Natural Atmospheric Phenomena: ice crystals, moisture, and other naturally occurring stuff that will cause a misleading radar return.
  • US Government, or Industry Developmental programs:  All kinds of things the government along with the private sector might be messing with that they can’t or won’t tell us about.
  • Foreign Adversary Systems: Stuff the Russians or the Chinese are doing that we don’t know about, but we are pissed as hell we don’t, so don’t even go there.
  • Other: Here is the big one. The words of the report explain this away as “We would group such objects in this category pending scientific advances that allowed us to better understand them”.

So, there we are. The report includes 144 cases of UAP encounters reported between 2004 and 2021. Of these only one has been attributed to a deflating weather balloon. It appears the rest are largely unaccounted for.

You are probably asking if I am going to wade into the deep dark mirth of whether or not we are being visited by beings from some other world, and I won’t do that, or at least not right now. I am not a scientist, or a mathematician. Not even close. But I do think that the government report is focusing on a very narrow dataset. Would we attempt to make assumptions about hurricanes, droughts or sunspots based upon only data gathered during a period of a few years?

As the report goes on to say: As the dataset increases, the UAPTF’s ability to employ data analytics to detect trends will also improve.

Perhaps the government is preparing another report which will further clarify the meaning of this phenomena. Or maybe not. Maybe we will wait for 80 more years.

Your thoughts are encouraged, but never required.

Happy 4th to all of my US readers.

On reading great writers

If he were still alive, June 28th would have been the 122nd birthday of legendary author Eric Ambler. Ambler is considered by many to be the ‘father’ of the spy novel/thriller genre. Graham Greene called Ambler “the greatest living author of the novel of suspense”, and indeed his post World War II novels have withstood the test of time and make for fine reading today. Ambler had an uncanny eye for staring into the future and his great, 1935 prophetic novel “The Dark Frontier” discussed the atomic bomb and the rise of nuclear weaponry nearly a decade before the first atomic weapon was dropped upon Hiroshima.

Since his death in 1998 at age 89 his books remain as popular today as they were a half dozen decades ago. But this blog is not a bio about Mr. Ambler, but rather something that I read about him in a 1998 online obituary.

The obituary noted that in a conversation with Eileen Bigland, herself a well-known, serious author, Ambler told her that he had been reading a lot. When she asked him what he was reading, he said that he was reading Nikolai Vasilyevich Gogol, Italian playwright Luigi Pirandello and James Joyce. Upon hearing this, Bigland offered this advice: “Never read very good writers while you are trying yourself to write good trash. You’ll only get depressed.”

At first, upon reading this, it appears to be a nod to mediocrity. But upon further examination, Ms. Bigland’s words hold some worth. I recall talking with a member of our Ft. Lauderdale writer’s group a number of years ago. She was writing a romance novel set in 1940s New Mexico. But she had been reading a lot of Nicholas Sparks and Nora Roberts and she didn’t feel like her work measured up. She had become so disillusioned with her work that she had walked away from her writing project twice. At the time of our conversation, she had just picked up her novel where she had left off months earlier, and she really wanted to see it through to the end, just for the sake of completion. I told her that it might be wise to resist comparing her work to that of the great writers of the genre. Another member of the group said that she should avoid reading romance novels by anyone until her novel was complete.

So, can reading the work of great writers be detrimental to our writing projects? I think that if we compare our work to theirs it can, and in the case of my friend from the writer’s group, such comparisons had caused her to lose focus and discontinue a project that she really wanted to complete. A painter who compares her work to Rembrandt or Picasso will surely be disappointed if she is trying to paint like Rembrandt or Picasso.

I recall a radio interview with singer songwriter Jimmy Buffett many years ago, Buffett told the interviewer that he was aware of the fact that he was not the best singer in the world, or the best guitar player in the world. But he went on to say that he was the best Jimmy Buffet in the world. Maybe that is the key to it all – being the best that we can be without comparing ourselves to the best of the best.

So, all of that said, I will not be reading Eric Ambler for some time. Not until my project is complete.

Post-pandemic remorse

The company that I work for in Florida shut down one day in March 2020 with a single email from our corporate office.  The email announced that due to the corona virus outbreak, our local office would close,  until further notice. All employees were told to work from home until otherwise instructed. It was a short email and it said that further directives from corporate would be forthcoming.  In a conference call with management a day or two later, we were told that the closing could last as long as two to four weeks.

Should I go on?

Today, as I sit in my home office, I think a lot about the past year and a half. Now as businesses are starting to open, travel restrictions are being lifted, and employees are being redirected from dining room tables back to corporate cubicles, I think of the past year more in a blur than anything else. Will we return to normal, I mean, completely normal anytime soon? In doing a bit of research on this question, I came across something that seems to fit well with some of the time use/management/ topics that I have been writing about on this blog the past few weeks. I am talking about post-pandemic remorse.

Post pandemic remorse is a feeling many people are experiencing which is akin to guilt. Guilt over squandering time. Time which had been awarded them to produce, to create, to do something they have always wanted to do. Now many are feeling that they have wasted this ‘gift’ of time. They are thinking that this negative pandemic experience should  have been parlayed into something positive. They are thinking that they should have written that screenplay, novel, or deeply researched non-fiction essay. Maybe they should have become certified in something, learned a new skill, mastered something…anything.

As I look at my own, incomplete, novel, I am tempted to fall into the pandemic remorse trap myself. I mean, with the restaurants all closed, what did I have to do but write a best seller?

But maybe we are being way too hard on ourselves. Maybe our desire to achieve and create needs a reset. Maybe on the other side of this whole pandemic lies fallow soil in which to plant. Do we really need a worldwide shutdown to inspire us to sit down at a keyboard and write something we want to write? Is our time such a commodity that we need rely on global disaster to access it?

How about you? Are you dealing with pandemic regret? Or were you far too busy coping with this worldwide disaster to consider self improvement?


This afternoon as I was writing this, I was listening to a fine song that I hadn’t thought of in some time. It is a song by Chuck Mead called “On a Slow Train to Arkansas”. It is a great song to listen to if you want to forget all about post-pandemic remorse. It is also one of the few songs that I know that talk about Arkansas.

Yeah, I know… how about “Uncle Elijah” by Black Oak Arkansas, so don’t go there.

But Slow Train is a great song so I will leave a link to it here.

Thanks for reading…

Ed

Planning with Seneca

A few days ago, I was cleaning out an old Franklin Planner, prior to disposing of it, looking for any phone numbers, business cards, etc. that I might want to save. Now if you aren’t familiar with the FranklinPlanner company, they are the makers of some of the finest time management tools anywhere. I was a devoted user of the Franklin system for over twenty years, and during my all too many years in Corporate America, I have gone through more daily planner pages, binders, and calendar pages than I like to think about.

But that said, I  hadn’t used my old paper calendar planner in a couple of years. Being a home worker, I found a big spiral notebook and small desk calendar provided the same time management results for a fraction of the cost, so my old planner sat on the shelf collecting dust, until I decided it was time to clean house.

In the process of cleaning out my planner, I ran across a quote that I had copied from the internet and pasted on one of the monthly divider tabs in my planner. I read this quote daily for a very long time, and since it seems to dovetail in with some other things I have been blogging about here on EEOTPB, regarding mindfulness and our time and how we spend it, I thought I would pass it along to you.

The quote comes from Seneca the Younger, the stoic Roman philosopher (b 4BC – d 69 AD). If anyone’s words can be said to have real staying power, it’s Seneca’s. They are as true today, as they were in the first century:

“No one will bring back the years; no one will restore you to yourself. Life will follow the path it began to take and will neither reverse nor check its course. It will cause no commotion to remind you of its swiftness, but glide on quietly. It will not lengthen itself for a king’s command or a people’s favor. As it started out on its first day, so it will run on, nowhere pausing, or turning aside. What will be the outcome? You have been preoccupied while life hastens on. Meanwhile death will arrive, and you have no choice in making yourself available for that.”

Talk about a guy who has a way with words…that Seneca…