Putting our Heads Together

Putting our Heads Together
I don't think he sees me

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

What the Hell is That?

It seems that in January of this year Khronos the god of time said, “Hey, Teever, what the hell is that?”  Humor being my default position, I turned my head while thinking of the wonderful SNL “What The Hell Is That” skit.  Instead of thinking of comedy, I should have resisted the urge to fall for the oldest trick in the book, because when I turned my head back around it was late December 2015.  Where did the time go?  Tempus fugit on wings getting mightier by the moment.

It used to take forever for my birthday to come around.  Forget about Christmas, when I was a kid it was little more than a weak hope, it took forever to arrive.  Summer vacation was a little more reliable and felt a little more achievable – just a little more.  But as I have grown older, the things that I waited for pass by at supersonic speeds barely giving me a glance.

I have a theory of why this is.  I have run the theory by my family and friends here, so why not bore a larger audience?  Time is relative.  Not in the Einsteinian since, but in a proportional sense.  This is where I lose most people who at this juncture in my theory begin to gesticulate wildly in random directions saying, “Hey, Teever, what the hell is that?”  And you know where I end up – talking to myself.  But if you have been willing to read this far, perhaps you will walk with me a little further.

My theory is best illustrated as follows:

1.      When you are born and first see the light of day (or the glaring maternity ward lights through clenched eyelids with your grandfather in the corner praying the rosary as much for a healthy grandchild as to be spared the exact details of natural childbirth – inside joke, consult my family for explanation), even a second is incredibly long because in the next second you are twice as old as you were.  Think of it, at one second old, a year is 35 ½ million times longer than your young life.
2.      When you are one-year-old, face buried in birthday cake while your parents click away with their cameras or phones assured by your determined motions you are still breathing, you and a year are on equal footing.
3.      Down the road at ten, a year is no longer as daunting as it once was.  A year is only one tenth of your life and getting relatively smaller all the time.
4.      I am now 53, and a year is less than 2% of my life.  The years fly leaving me to feel as if I am wearing roller blades on a treadmill foolishly and helplessly watching the world turn beneath my wheels.

It is not a difficult theory, nor is it earth shattering (even if I give it a name like “The Asymptotic Behavior of Time Relative to Life”).  It is really just me trying to rationalize why it is increasingly difficult to accomplish anything in a hectic life.

However, thinking of time in this way has shown me that we are part of a miraculous and chaotic dance.  The young at the Arthur Murray stage following foot prints on the floor, with each successive generation getting a step closer to mastering the Tango.  So as the clock ticks down the seconds to the next in a ceaseless procession of new years, enjoy the dance, and make your resolution one to teach those learning by looking at their feet, and for you to learn from their attention to details you may have missed.  Part of leaving the world a better place, is passing it on to good and prepared hands.  Happy New Year, and if you could just look over there.  Over your right shoulder…no there…what the hell is that?   

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Time and Time Again

I’m convinced that Christmas is so cherished a holiday in part because it fits our oral tradition so well.  Gatherings of family and friends to open gifts and share meals is not only the perfect incubator for new memories, but is the ideal venue to share old ones.  I’m no different.  I am drinking in the experiences of this holiday season, and I find past Christmas’s rising happily unbidden to the surface.  These memories come in no particular order, no particular priority of smiles, and they come as naturally as the season itself.

When I was a young man and in my freshman year at Clemson, I remember coming home for Christmas break.  I couldn’t wait to see my friends from high school and their families.  One of the first things I did was grab some magic markers and a square of cardboard from one of my dad’s dry cleaned shirts, and I made an arrow sign with the words “My Tree” on it.  I then got my little brother Greg and my youngest sister Ginny to pose for a picture in the upstairs hallway pointing the arrow sign towards the family tree in the living room downstairs.  I then took this sign and my camera to the Lovejoys, the Wilsons, the Barkers, the Campbells, the Whitakers and others.  I got that film processed as quickly as possible and put together an album, I just couldn’t wait to do that.  I think on some level I intuitively understood that I could only experience these connections that were so critical to my formation this one last time in my life.  Beyond freshman year, the centrifugal spin of life casts childhood friends apart towards their individual destinies.

I also recall a Christmas just seven years ago when I was in the car with my grandson, Russell.  He was about ten years old.  It was Christmas school break and he had been to work with me for the day.  We were listening to 850 KOA Sports Zoo on the radio for the long ride home, and one of the hosts was going on an uncharacteristic rant and accidently implied the nonexistence of Santa Claus.  I took a quick look toward Russell and held my breath, I didn’t know what to say to him.  At ten, some children believe, some don’t, and others are on the cusp.  I didn’t know what Russell thought about Santa, and I was frozen as my mind held a veritable traffic jam of scenarios it was attempting to deal with.  In the midst of my panic, my grandson placed a calming hand on my shoulder and said, “Don’t worry, Bumpa, I know about Santa.”

This Christmas while listening to carols as my wife and I drove to our daughter Haley’s Christmas party, the radio station played “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”  Jean-Marie and I were singing along and laughing as we took turns forgetting how many maids were milking and how many swans were swimming, only sure that there were five golden rings.  After a time, we were both struck with memories form a Christmas at least fifteen years ago.  We found ourselves hosting a dinner for a group friends from Texas.  A dozen of us around a long table, enjoying good food and good conversation.  After dinner, Jean-Marie and I served dessert on our brand new “Twelve Days of Christmas” dessert plates.  I no longer recall how it started or whose idea it was, but we began singing and laughing our way through that song, each person singing the part that was on their plate.

There have been other Christmas’s and other memories.  There will be more Christmas’s and new memories.  They will find places for themselves in my brain with no guarantee when or if they will rise to the surface.  It’s not that different from looking at presents beneath the tree.  You don’t know what lies inside the wrapping, but each box is a gift and a surprise and a smile.  Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Duck! They Have the Bomb!

Every time I walk through airports, I notice they make many visual offerings available to travelers both sublime and ridiculous, perhaps to take the edge off the anxiety that flying from here to there and back again can bring. Flotsam and jetsam adorning walls or in plexiglass cases, displaying the local board of tourisms version of a Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum.

On one trip, I had some time to kill before braving the security line at DIA and toured some of the large wall mounted exhibits around the main terminal building. One of my favorites is a colorful map of the United States, with a picture or two in each state of some little known tourist trap or oddity.

Naturally I looked at Colorado first because I live there, then I looked at Tennessee attractions because my wife is from there, and finally I looked at South Carolina because that is the land of my birth. What I saw posted in SC wiped out any memory of what I found in Colorado, Tennessee, or any other fifty states for that matter. Apparently there is an Atomic Bomb Crater in South Carolina. Let me say that again, apparently there is an Atomic Bomb Crater in South Carolina!

I was shocked, stunned. I was aware of many facets of my home state, but never knew somebody had attempted to nuke her. Fortunately, I was armed with my smart phone and therefore the all-knowing, all-powerful internet to dispel this hoax. For surely it was a hoax perpetrated by some drunken local with too much time and a shovel on his hands. I Googled it, then I tapped on the Wikipedia entry for it, and then my jaw dropped. Here is what I found.

During the Cold War (oh to again have an enemy that we only made pouty faces at), bombers were launched from an Air Force base in Savannah on March 11, 1958, to take part in European exercises and to be on the alert in case war broke out with the Soviet Union. As one of the bombers flew over South Carolina, the captain noticed an error light on one of the bombs showing it was not properly secure. He dispatched the navigator to the bomb bay to investigate. Apparently the locking pin had not been properly latched, and as the navigator reached around the bomb to reset the pin, he inadvertently pulled the emergency release pin. When the bomb hit the deck the bomb bay doors opened and now comes good news, bad news time. Good news, the navigator was not sucked from the aircraft. Bad news, the bomb obeying the quite insistent dictates of gravity plummeted 15,000 feet down to Mars Bluff, South Carolina not too far from Florence. Good news, the fissable material was stored elsewhere on the plane. Bad news, the bomb still contained high explosives. Good news, the bomb landed on an empty playhouse in the woods and exploded leaving a seventy-five-foot crater. Bad news, three little girls, their father and brother were injured (not killed thank goodness!) by the blast. The incident made international headlines, and the family made $54,000 for pain and suffering incurred by friendly fire.

Having found this out, I discover that I am unable to set the incident aside as easily as the Gregg family and the world did. Now, I love Georgia as much as anyone. As a youth, I was taken on many pilgrimages to Atlanta to visit family. When I was older, I would drive there on my own for family and Braves baseball games. When I was fit, I would go to Georgia to run in road races in places like Atlanta, Augusta, and Tacoa. I still have two uncles, an aunt, and numerous cousins of various types in Georgia that I keep up with through the wonder that is Facebook. That being said, I believe that back in 1958 a line in the sand was crossed when Georgia dropped an Atomic weapon on her neighboring state.

The US will not tolerate a missile test in North Korea, and it spends untold amounts of money trying to curtail Iran’s weapons program in the hot and sandy Middle East. The US goes about the world trying to stop proliferation of the nuclear variety where ever it may raise its ugly head. It is intolerable that they simply shrug, dip their hands into their pockets, and are content to simply buy off the victims of state-on-state violence and then go their imperious way!

That is why I am calling for a unilateral disarmament of Georgia. More than that, I want the United Nations to send its inspectors to dismantle Georgia’s nuclear programs and arsenal. I want Hans Blix to be set up as supreme overlord until fare and free elections in Georgia can take place and this heinous act of unwarranted aggression by the Peach State can be finally and completely put behind us.

It is hard for America to justify being the world’s police force when we cannot police ourselves. It is difficult for our government to make a case for curtailing the sales of small arms, when weapons of mass destruction are indifferently handed out to whatever state desires them. And it is impossible to bring about world peace when Georgia has the bomb!