Ignorant People

20 Jul

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Ignorant People

By L. Stewart Marsden

With acknowledgement to The Beatles

Ignorant people
Stumbling about while they shout in the wind all the day
What do they say?

Ignorant people
Pointing a finger while lingering close to the pit
Just full of sh*t

All the ignorant people
Where do they all come from?
All the ignorant people
Where do they all belong?

Ah, look at all the ignorant people …
Ah, look at all the ignorant people!

 

“Stupid is as stupid does.” — Forrest Gump

Checking in/Checking out

16 Jul

Checking in/Checking out

By L. Stewart Marsden

 

Checking in:
The remote.
CNN, MSNBC, Fox and the like.
SOS*.
Ranting. Raving.
Can’t cave, but craving.
The line.
The stance.
The visceral futility.
Animal hostility.

Checking out:
Cellphone, laptop, PC.
Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and more.
SOS*.
Ranting. Raving.
Can’t cave, but craving.
The line.
The stance.
The visceral futility.
Animal hostility.

 

*Same Old Shit

When I drool

14 Jul

When I drool

By L. Stewart Marsden

When I drool,
When I foul the air with curse and more
Will you turn headlong towards the door?

When I fail,
Will you roll your eyes and deeply sigh
And flee without a last good-bye?

When my youth and heart and lively soul
Have all but vaporized —

Will you

Avert your eyes from mine?
Withhold your smile?
Lie alone in another bed and think of anyone, anything else but me?

Will you wonder how we came to be
And why you’ve grown to such a fool?

When I drool?

 

Love … endures all things …

1 Corinthians 13: 7

 

From Extreme to Extreme: the search for sanity

13 Jul

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Photo by L. Stewart Marsden

 

From Extreme to Extreme

The search for sanity

By L. Stewart Marsden

My last two weeks have been spent at two “opposite” locations. One along the coast of North Carolina, with a broad view of the shore and the thin horizon line separating water from air. The other, in the mountains of the same state, with a view of Grandfather Mountain from my top deck. There is no horizon line. Simply the jagged outline of rocky contour against a sky steeped with thick clouds.

In both locations two similarities exist: the impact of weather, with coastal storms raging from the land to the ocean late in the afternoon and into the night; and the cool, quiet build of cloud shapes and substance above the mountain range; and the quietude.

These two weeks those intrusive electronic devices — flat screened TVs — have not infringed so much on the sounds of silence. I suppose that may be the result of necks bent reverently over tiny cellphone screens. Though irksome in itself, it still allows for others to wallow in the peace, while having the deeper and perhaps more onerous effect of estranging family and friends from conversation.

For me, the separation from the world into these idyllic sanctuaries comes at a time when I feel pounded by things I cannot change. The bile and sputum that fills the airways of social media has become so corrosive one wonders what has happened to civility and the exchange of ideas within the forums of debate? It has become a smack-down, no-holds-barred UFC-style free-for-all.

While not a very religious person anymore, there is a verse in the Old Testament that begs repeating. I apologize in advance for the number of readers this may offend:

Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.

It comes from the Book of Isaiah, Chapter I, verse 18. It is the King James Version, which we all know was the version Jesus used.

Here’s the point — I wonder if large pockets of people have lost the ability to sit down and reason. When you spend a week at the beach followed by a week in the mountains, and the air is filled with the sounds of surf and wind and thunder and goldfinches, all the stuff we see, read and hear from our various sources fades. I know it’s still out there somewhere. But I’d have to want to see, read and hear it.

Pie in the sky, I know. Everyone can’t spend time in seclusion. People gotta earn a living, take care of families, prepare for the future.

When I was a small boy, my bedroom window opened out onto a roof. Sometimes, when I heard the beckoning call of a distant train, or the low rumble of heat lightening, I’d climb out onto the roof and sit for what seemed hours. The sky above was amazing! Lit up with the Milky Way. Periodic falling stars zipped across the expanse. Where were they from? Where were they going?

I don’t believe you need to go to the shore or the mountains to find a place to think and ponder and meditate. It’s a conscious decision and can be accessed nearly everywhere and in nearly every situation.

I will invariably turn on the TV, and I haven’t yet weaned myself from my social media fixes. This eureka is not anything new — the sounds of silence are hallowed halls I’ve always known about, yet seldom used. Poets and philosophers alike have pointed the way throughout time. As did the writer of Isaiah.

If there’s anything good to come out of the stuff going on, it’s the fact I need to have that silence. I need the time to think and ponder and meditate. It is the antitoxin to what’s going on, and will help me maintain a semblance of sanity.

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Photo by Graham R. Marsden

 

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Photo by L. Stewart Marsden

WTF: Is there NO ONE out there?

20 Jun

WTF: Is there NO ONE out there?

By L. Stewart Marsden

So I’m sixty-six. A 1968 high school graduate. A private school, to boot. Plus college.

Sure, I’ve been married twice before, but you’re not perfect either.

And I’ve got five kids and three grandkids.

And they span the generations. The oldest is Forty-something and the youngest will be 13 at the end of August 2016.

Am I perfect?

No.

I’ve been married most of my adult life, but not to the same woman. Two Mrs. Exes.

Glad to tell you about both. But remember, it’s from my perspective.

I have a lot of incredible stories to tell. You won’t believe them. That’s why I’m a writer. I can write about them and you will then give them credence.

At the same time, I recognize there is a diminishing amount of time I have left on this earth, and wouldn’t it be nice it I could spend them with someone I liked?

I’m not an orgre.

People tell me I’m actually a quite likable fellow. Like Professor Higgins in “My Fair Lady,” for example. Although I’m not British, and not a professor.

I kind of wish I had more to recommend me. But I don’t.

I’m a writer.

That, in and of itself, is a negative I think.

And, I write about weird stuff.

Oh, God!

Plus, I’m overweight.

Seems that’s okay if you’re a woman. But not if a man.

Does it bother me?

Sure it does.

I was once a lithe and agile young youth. Had ribs stretching my skin.

Not now. Now I struggle. Like Oprah.

In my mind I am youth and virility and all things good.

In actuality? Not so much.

But is there credit for good intentions?

You there.

You’re looking for someone intelligent, yes?

I fit the bill.

You want a challenge?

Again, me.

You want someone to bump hips when the music’s hot, and to roll and laugh!

Right?

That’s me.

But I don’t want to be changed.

I don’t want somebody that wants to make me into something I’m not.

That’s a deal-breaker for most. And especially for me.

So I will resign myself to the fact that there is probably no one out there who I can match up with.

I’m just not there.

I’m a moment away.

I wish you could see what I see.

From where I’m sitting, it is a spectacular view!

I wish I could play a song for you on my guitar. Let the view and the music carry you away.

I wish I could hum on my harmonica, and let the tune play in the wind.

It would be only for you.

But I think, sad to say, that you are not listening, and do not have eyes to see, and you will miss me.

And I will miss you.

C’est la vive!

Say it ain’t so! The conspiracy between Donald and Hillary to elevate Lebron to Victory AND to undercut America!

20 Jun

 

Say it ain’t so!
The conspiracy between Donald and Hillary to elevate Lebron to Victory
AND to undercut America!

By L. Stewart Marsden

A close-up on Stephan Curry in the final game last night.

“He doesn’t look like he feels well,” thought I. And pondered it as the unanimous 2015-2016 MVP proceeded to miss shot after shot, and throw incredibly bad passes which resulted in turnovers.

“What is wrong?” my heart cried out.

Then I saw it. Out of the corner of my eye. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, together, sneaking out of the Golden State locker room.

Quickly I called in the troops — a band of Millennial hackers I had befriended during Y2K.

“Check the locker room video tapes … And do it quickly!”

Within nanoseconds the reports came back, and it was bone-chilling!

BOTH Donald Trump AND Hillary Clinton switched out the peanut butter that was used to make Curry’s traditional pre-game peanut butter sandwiches from ALL-NATURAL non GMO spread to Skippy Peanut Butter! Skippy! My NAMESAKE, for God’s sake!

The nefarious union of Trump and Clinton to undermine what America KNEW was a foregone conclusion (in spite of Yogi Berra’s wisdom) was SHOCKING!

Could it be that the duo was going to claim that their politics was the reason Lebron finally got the monkey (can you really say that?) off his back? As did Charleton Heston! Cleveland had overcome the odds and defeated the most prolific basketball team as far as season victories goes!

Goliath had squashed David! Finally, the BAD guys win!

But wait! Does this nefarious alliance — this unholy coupling of unruly hair and straight calfs — could this possibly point to some OTHER dastardly deed?

Why, yes!

And this is it: Donald has sucked in all of Conservative America into his camp, as agreed previously on an un-aired segment of The Apprentice, where he and HRC agreed he would be the Fall Guy and take the Republican Party down so that she, Hillary, could — like Lebron — FINALLY win! Trump will humbly accept the post of Secretary of Finance in the Hillary cabinet. She didn’t really ever intend to give Bill power over the purse.

You heard it here, folks. CNN, Fox, MSNBC got nothing on this breaking news.

And you KNOW you can trust this insider information. Why? IT’S ON THE INTERNET!

The altogether obvious parallels between finding an online match, and securing a publisher

19 Jun

The altogether obvious parallels

between finding an online match,

and securing a publisher

By L. Stewart Marsden

I hadn’t thought about it before. But after a solid string of “thanks, but we’ll call you …” responses from potential matches through an online yenta (that’s really all it is), and the billowing stacks of “thanks for your submission, but it doesn’t fit our current needs” from literary agents and publishers, I’m convinced the two separate endeavors are equally difficult.

I really enjoy writing. What I write is a bit on the edge — you know, a bit creepy. My preteen daughter keeps asking why I can’t write something normal? This from a kid who is glued to her iPhone and uses Instagram 24/7.

As far as the online dating — okay, I’ll admit that I’m far from the ripped abs and rugged good looks of too many men out there who are prowling the internet. I’m an old fart, and pretty set in my ways. So right there the pool of possibilities shrinks to the size of maybe a foot bath.

And the weight. God, the weight! I think there’s some double-standard at play here. Now super-sized models are adorning more and more magazine covers. Women. Not men. Where are the super-sized men? Can I even say that? Good think no one but the government knows where I live.

So I’ve embarked on a get myself down to a weight through changing my lifestyle. God, if Oprah can do it …! I think the only profession I could pursue where weight is not an issue would be stand up.

As far as the writing goes, I consider myself to be a halfway decent storyteller. Can’t get anyone to critique on my blog, though. It’s the Facebook curse of “likes.” I like that people like what I write, but I”D LIKE TO KNOW WHY YOU LIKE IT!

I know. It takes too much energy to think about it. You read something and say to yourself, “Eh, that was good!” But you can’t figure out why you like it. Your brain might explode if you have to think beyond “Like” or “Dislike” (even though dislike is not an option — at least for WordPress and other blogs).

This is a really short complaint. It comes only moments after the creation of a really nice poem. THAT’s what writers are like! We’re up one moment, and down the next. There’s a diagnosis for that, but we don’t like to bring that subject up.

I think of Fiddler on the Roof. Yente makes her living matching up couples. “It’s a match!” I need her. For my writing, and to find that someone who will watch the sun set with me.

I suppose I’m a project. I told someone today who has dozens of rejections from publishers, “Add a line at the conclusion of your query: Don’t be the agent/publisher who is the last agent/publisher to reject me before I am discovered and soar to the literary heights!” I thought, it’s worth a try.

And to those reluctant love matches: don’t be the last to reject me and suddenly I become a famous writer and trim down and get a face lift and a tummy tuck and get ripped!

It’s worth a try. Right?

These are the best nights

18 Jun

These are the best nights

By L. Stewart Marsden

These are the best nights,
The nights of wind whistling through nearby tree tops;
Of clouds sailing quickly across a moon-tinted sky;
Of dark outlines of mountains and the
twinkling eyes of the village below.

These are the nights you want to be quiet,
To listen and observe,
To spectate, and not be an intrusive player,
To watch and not wield,
Meditate and not pontificate.

These are the nights that music
Floats up from the valleys below,
Wistful and mournful,
Laden with hard-bought wisdom
And with a hope for better — how so we do need better.

These are the nights that memories paint misty moments
With those we loved
And those we love
And those we hope to love.
They are the best nights.
The best nights of all.

Jury-Rigged

18 Jun

Grandfather Mountain, NC

Grandfather Mountain, NC

Jury-Rigged

By L. Stewart Marsden

I live in a condo in the mountains of North Carolina. The focus of the condo is a great room that has a spectacular view of Grandfather Mountain. The great room is about 24 feet high on the exterior wall, into which two sets of casement windows have been built, one set low, and one set high.

That wall is also southern-facing, and catches quite a bit of sunlight — and heat — during the day. In the wintertime, the heat is a welcomed source of comfort. In the summertime, not so much.

My parents lived in the condo during the summertime. They loved the green mountains and the area. In the wintertime, they migrated south to St. Petersburg and a temperate winter clime.

I’ve never seen the upper set of casement windows in the great room open before. It makes sense to open them, as hot air rises, and openings would definitely make the condo much cooler in the summer (there is no air conditioning).

Two maneuvers are required to open the casement windows: unlatching a lock lever by pushing it up; and cranking the hand crank one way or other to swivel the windows open. No sweat on the lower set of windows.

But the upper windows?

I called Andersen Windows, figuring they made the casement windows, and surely in vacation homes stacked casements are not a rarity, so they must have some device to do the trick.

Wrong.

“We just make the windows,” said the pinch-nosed customer service person who sounded like I was keeping her from her iPhone activity. “You might check with Home Depot.”

I called, but it was 9:00 am, and the people in the Windows and Doors Department don’t come strolling in to work until 10 or so. And they aren’t always there. Said the phone receptionist. Also pinch-nosed. Also irked because I interrupted some online iPhone game.

I went to Lowe’s.

Hardware stores are a man’s Nirvana! It’s so easy to get distracted by all the things you want but don’t need. But I was resolute, and kept focused, and wandered about until I found myself in the Paint Department. There I discovered telescoped handles for painters who need to reach high wall levels, or maybe ceilings. I mean this thing was industrial strength, and had a girth in the first section that took two hands to hang on to. Massive! And it extended — oh, I don’t know — maybe a couple hundred feet! There were four or five sections and I opened that sucker up all the way! I coulda scratched the back of the people waiting to check out with their stuff had I wanted.

Price: Like more than $50 bucks. At Lowe’s! I figured if push came to shove, I could buy it, use it to open my windows (not knowing exactly how) and return it for a refund. Then go back in the fall, buy it, close my windows, and return it again for a refund. I’m of Scotch-Irish descent, by the way.

Oh, like you haven’t done that before!

But I didn’t. I’m not Catholic, but I still have a conscience that can bother the heck out of me.

When I moved into the condo, I found many things out about my parents, who are now deceased. One, they were pack rats. I found copies of my dad’s public school primary through high school report cards! A little brittle from the wear of the years, but legible. They were in one of the drawers in a desk in the master bedroom. Along with paper clips, and little doo-dads and stuff. Lots and lots of stuff.

I also found that my dad must have felt one electrical outlet could feed twenty more extension plugs and wires. Nearly every outlet looked as though it was regurgitating wires and plugs! Like the dad in the classic movie, A Christmas Story.

And, he had just about every tool known to mankind. Several tool kits. Screwdrivers, hammers, wrenches, saws, ratchet sets, screws and nails … You name it.

I knew if I wandered about and fixated on opening that upper level of casement windows, I would be able to do it. If there’s a will, there’s a way.

Hence MacGyver. Or the crew of Apollo 13 and NASA. Or any other do-or-die situation artist.

Like me!

So I wandered. And I fixated. And in the basement floor level owner’s closet (really a pretty nice-sized room) I found it! An extension painting handle, and one of those paint roller frames! So excited to try it out, I bounded back up to the great room, screwed on the paint roller frame to the extension pole, and then extended the pole!

This should not have been such an exciting and self-satisfying event, but it was! And, voila! It worked! My jury-rigged contraption worked wonderfully well, and I was able to unlock and roll open each casement!

Almost tantamount to a toddler making his first doody in the potty! Look what I did!

Jury-rigging. I used to call it jerry-rigging, for some reason. Then I found out otherwise. The term is nautical in nature. Basically means doing with what you have. Like replacing rigging on a ship miles at sea when there’s no marina or Lowe’s nearby. Like MacGyver, or the Apollo 13 crew and NASA.

It could also refer to rigging a jury, I suppose. Fixing a verdict. Or it could be the determination of something — some design or program — by a jury of folk. You know — “well I think it should do this or that” kind of process. Always works out good, right?

Kinda like our politicians in Washington, where everything is rigged to some extent, jury or jerry or whatever.

You wondered when I was going to get around to that, right?

Good place to stop.

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Wifi, Cable TV, Stephan Curry, and Grandfather Mountain

11 Jun
Grandfather Mountain, NC

Grandfather Mountain, NC

Wifi, Cable TV, Stephan Curry, and Grandfather Mountain

By L. Stewart Marsden

“Yeah! We ought to put our cellphones and our TVs and all other electronics away for a week — maybe even a month!”

You’ve heard that.

America and the rest of the world has become so digitally connected (or disconnected) that soon babies will be born with built-in microchip processors and USB outlets where their belly buttons once were.

Someone complains at the dinner table where each and every family member is crouched with hands in laps and heads down. Not to ask the blessing. But to make sure they don’t miss the latest Instagram or Tweet or message from a friend’s brother’s cousin’s whatever.

I’m moving from a middle-sized backward community (textiles and furniture … Dead), to the mountains. It’s not an all-at-once move, but is taking several trips to move my stuff into a nice condo underlooking Grandfather Mountain in NC. Yes, I don’t plan to move because of HB2.

The cable and wifi in the condo has been disconnected, and my new service isn’t scheduled to be hooked up for a while.

I facetiously posted that I was going to survive the “dead” time and enjoy the quiet.

I lied.

Try to quit something and see if you are not addicted to whatever that something is. And it’s not just booze or cigarettes that hook you.

You know that.

I still had my iPhone, but because I’m not one of those thumbidexterous digital dandies I see all over, the thought of writing anything became far more than a daunting obstacle. Plus automatic spellcheck.

You can commiserate.

I busied myself with the task of removing photos from the condo (it was my parents summertime retreat for nearly 30 years) and replacing them with my own. Of disconnecting entangled plugs and wires from various electrical outlets my dad had configured over the years (ala “A Christmas Story”), and removing and rearranging furniture to suit my taste and personality.

You’ve moved before. You know the compulsion to get things settled so you can settle down.

All the while documenting stuff on my iPhone. Unable to wean myself from Facebook. Messaging and checking messaging at every opportunity. That’s sick!

The most grating part of no wifi nor cable was that the damn NBA decided to put on the championship finals during my move!

I’m NOT a big NBA fan, for various reasons. College b-ball is my bailiwick. Before ESPN brought college ball onto the screen, my friends and I fed off every word Woody Durham spoke into his radio mic during a Carolina game. We huddled around someone’s AM/FM transitor radio on camping trips with our Scout troop.

And the NBA seemed to be nothing more than individual play — hot-shotting and ball-hogging and nothing that remotely resembled the game I loved.

But this year? This year a phenomenal Golden State team took the heart of the country with its innocent-looking point guard who does things no one should be able to do. Almost dancing to the finals, with one small hiccup in OKC, the history-making Warriors were about to add to their court legacy.

AND, pitted agains LeBron! Like Rocky Balboa v. Mr. T! Finesse v Brute Strength!

And no wifi nor cable.

Wait, what!?

MAY-be there’s a way! MAY-be I could use my iPhone — with it’s unlimited data plan from T-Mobile (don’t they slow that down after about 2 gigs?) — to tether my iPad and my. PC to get to the internet and watch the games in streaming digital glory!

Wait, what!?

Weren’t you the guy who was looking forward to an uncomplicated period of no-digital-no-TV peace?

Who, me?

Yes, YOU!

There it is. The truth. I’m addicted. Didn’t someone say too much of a good thing is bad? Yes, I’m sure of that. And I was clearly on the verge of too much peace and quiet! After 24 hours. Plus the impending NBA playoffs.

In the end, I wasn’t able to actually watch live streaming of the third and fourth games. I made a special trip back down the mountain to my apartment where I have both cable and wifi in order to watch the first two games of the series.

Back in the mountains, I toggled between the new season of Bloodline on Netflix and the ESPN website updated score with running commentary.

Not the same.

Pretty pathetic.

I will say that I still wanted to bite my fingernails as the running commentary gradually refreshed. Who shot and whether they made the shot or not. Who fouled. Who got fouled. Who made 1 of 2, and then 2 of 2 free throws. The last two minutes of the game lasted, I think, for about 30 minutes, what with the time outs and stuff. It’s bad enough when you watch it on TV. It’s incredibly painful to watch it creep by on a 2″x4″ cellphone screen.

I still don’t have TV.

But, as this article proves, I am functioning. Back in the digital flow. Bird feeders with visiting wrens and goldfinches and hummingbirds feet away on the deck underlooking Grandfather Mountain.

You’ve been there.

You haven’t?

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