The Protectorate

30 Dec

image

 

The Protectorate was written in December 2015, and is particularly appropriate for Super Bowl Sunday. If you would like to read it and comment, please go to About Me and find my email address, then email me so. I’ll send you a PDF file of the story.

BTW: I don’t care who wins today’s Super Bowl as long as it’s not New England.

The Drink

23 May

The Drink

By L. Stewart Marsden

 

He dipped deeply into her fantasy
Drawing the ladle of golden liquid to his lips
His nostrils flared, awakened by its effervescence
And drank as she watched
Smiling at him
Tenuously patience till the draught was finally drained
Yet remained cool with expectation
Even haughty in her look
“Cheers!” said he
“Cheers!” said she

New Instruments — Part II

23 May

New Instruments — Part II

The piano. The trombone. The harmonica.

The Piano

Well before, and sandwiched in between my learning to play the baritone ukulele or classical guitar, were the good intentioned desires of my mother that I learn to play the piano.

I was probably somewhere between five and seven years old.

Dad had bought a mid-sized Mason & Hamlin grand piano from a friend who needed the money. It sat in the livingroom and occupied a corner. Whenever my sisters and I played tag or hide-and-seek, it was a favorite place to hide, sitting on the thin carpeted floor underneath. Many times I dashed around the corner and banged my head on the underside of that piano.

For a short while I would walk a couple of blocks to the home of a piano teacher, who, in vain, tried to give me the fundamentals of piano. I’m convinced had ADD been a diagnosis at the time, I would have had it. I had no patience, and my lessons were short-lived. I rue that to this day.

Instead, I would spend hours seated on the piano bench, tapping out my own music creations, and playing with the foot pedals for effect.

Dad also had a Hammond electric organ, which he would play infrequently. He only knew a few songs, and those were mostly from “South Pacific,” his favorite musical. Of course. It was about the war, which had impacted him so very much.

Through the years the piano went through some transformation. At one point my parents had the black glossy finished removed for a softer, chestnut-colored stain. For the majority of its life, it remained unused and out of tune.

My sister took the piano and used it primarily for a lamp stand. She said she intended her children to learn to play, but that never happened.

Years later I bought it from her, and commissioned a person to refinish the instrument. She was glad to have the piano stay in the family, but more happy with money to use to go on a trip.

Of the family, only my first daughter flourished as a pianist. To this day she plays fluently, and teaches chorus in public school. She has a white enameled piano in her house.

When I separated and divorced from my Ender Wife (I had two: a Starter Wife and an Ender Wife), she got custody of the piano. To my knowledge, it is still in pieces from her move to another city, stacked among other furniture that awaits final resolution and use. She does play the piano, and had an old church upright for a time when I first met her.

Like any instrument, I believe, pianos are only happy when they are played.

The Trombone

In high school and college, my dad played the trombone. He had a silver-finished simple slide trombone that sported a small bell. I saw an ad featuring a trombone brand — King, I think — endorsed by the great Tommy Dorsey.

The summer between elementary school and junior high school, I decided to learn the trombone, and to play in the junior high band. Dad proudly presented me his to use. By that time, what might have once been a shiny silver lacquer finish, was now more like a dull gray pewter.

I sat in a row with other trombonist would-bees, with their very shiny Conn trombones sporting HUGE bells, and the fuse of my continuing sense of inadequacies was lit. Their slides slipped effortlessly along the double-tubed track. Mine? It slid like a rusty screen sliding door — jerky and unpredictable. I hated my trombone?

“What’s wrong with it?” my Dad asked. In his day it was probably the finest instrument money could buy. To me it was like comparing a Model-T to a Corvette Stingray. He made it more difficult to explain when he told me that Dorsey had come to his fraternity once at the U of Minnesota and actually played the thing. I thought of the sappy story about an old violin being auctioned off. Do you know that one?

  • “Let’s start the bidding for this violin at $10,000.” No bids.
    He dropped it by half to $5,000. Still no bids.
    Once again, he dropped it to $2,500, and then to $1,000, and then $500 — until in exasperation he had reached $10 for the violin.
    “Wait!” shouted someone in the back of the grouped bidders. An old bent man shuffled forward and took the violin in his hands, tucked it under his chin, and drew the bow across its strings.
    The result mesmerized the room. It was beautiful, and the violin sang like a Stradivarius. He handed the old violin back to the auctioneer and disappeared among the amazed bidders.
    “Who will offer $50,000 for this violin?” said the auctioneer.
  • Yeah, well I was no expert, and still wanted a bright, shiny brass like-silk sliding trombone.

The trombone is a dirty instrument, in my opinion. To get a sound, you have to basically spit through pursed lips into the mouthpiece. After a time, enough saliva collects in the slide tubing that the “voice” of the trombone gets very gurgly-sounding. At the end of the slide is a spring valve that the player opens and blows hard — which forces the liquid yuck out. Next time you see an orchestra, watch the trombone players. They will quickly lean forward to empty the slide of spit onto the floor area next to their feet.

As with nearly every instrument, learning a brass instrument comes with a painful learning curve — painful to listeners as well as the player — who wants to sound just like Dorsey, or any well-known instrumentalist. Tone and pitch are nonexistent in the learning months. And practice? Well, my ADD tendencies didn’t allow for much of it. I did find that the acoustic reverberation effects of the bathroom made whatever I played sound much better, though. And louder. You were out of luck if you needed to go and I was playing my trombone.

To complicate matters, I wore braces. Pressing my lips to the mouthpiece to get a sound ravaged the insides of them. And so my career was short-lived. Plus I played football (better suited to an ADD kid), and so couldn’t march in the band.

My band teacher was great, though, and all the band members were fun. We were herded into the same homeroom so that we could be in band class. Teddy Harris, a tall, skinny guy, played a mean drum, and in home room, all of us pounded our desks to the beat of a favorite rhythm. Our homeroom teacher was a saint. Or should have been.

And who doesn’t like a man in uniform? Blue and white swirling down sleeves and pant legs. Stove-like hats with a plume shooting up at the front, and a shining black visor. Brass buttons. And you got to march down Main Street in the Christmas Parade! Although we were always positioned just behind a group of gaily-dressed cowboys and cowgirls riding Palominos who definitely had digestive problems.

While my skill levels and interest in continuing trombone definitely plateaued in junior high, the experience was great. AND, the strangest thing happened forty years later.

I was working at a hospital in Western North Carolina in public relations and marketing. One morning I received an email from a guy who had also played in the band back in junior high school. Back then he called himself Steven, and was kind of a squirrelly kid with big eyes and curly hair. He played trumpet. We will call him Steven C. Now, he addressed himself as Steve C., and he attached a photography of himself with his family.

Steven had grown up. He looked like a male model. His family looked like a perfect group. And Steve’s wife? Her name was Lisa, and she had played the part of Blair in a TV sitcom called “The Facts of Life.” He was now the music minister of a mega-church in California.

Imagine that?!

Within the year the couple were in the news — news like ET and such — as things unravelled for them. All the time I watched thinking, “Gosh, this will really help when I play Six Degrees from Kevin Bacon next time!”

The Harmonica

There was a time, when as a student in college who was majoring in fraternity, I came to my senses. It was such an about-face for me that I literally turned from everything I had known to that point.

I had grown reasonably adept at my guitar (Part III), and had begun to write songs. Lots of songs. Christian-oriented songs. Thank You, My Lord, For the Day came into my head while driving to my college apartment. You’ve never heard it, unless you knew me back then.

I even rewrote the lyrics to Killing Me Softly:

We met beside the water,
My life was ebbing low,
And I could go no farther
Till He began to show,
A way of quenching dryness,
The cup of Life
And he was … (Wait for it)
Filling me softly with His love,
Filling my life from above
Filling me softly with his love
Forever giving me new life
Now I am living his new life
Filling me softly
With his love.

The Jesus Movement. But not a lot of Christian groups at the time. Then came the 2nd Chapter of Acts and others.

So I had written all these songs. My father, always the fan but never the critic, encouraged me and another song-writer, Ken, to record an album he and another of his friends would finance.

Ken WAS a musician. Up through the southern beach music tradition, he too had turned from all he knew. And he too had written a lot of music, and had formed a Christian band.

So we recorded an album in a local studio. Jubilant Feet. You’ve never heard of it, unless you know either me or Ken.

The very first track of the album was a harmonica solo. You were waiting for me to get to this, right? A guy from California named Steve Humphries played it. Foot-stomping and lively. His rif bent notes and wailed as he literally provided drums with his feet. Hence the title of this song and the album.

He would sing between playing.

Well I ain’t been to heaven but I been told
Streets up there is lined with gold,
See me walkin’ down them golden streets
An’ dancin’ to da Lord with the jubilant feet!

The harmonica craze hit our little Christian hippie group like a hail storm, and everyBODY went out and bought a Hohner Blues Harp in the key of C and began huffing and puffing, trying to coax music out of that small reed instrument.

Kind of like the baritone ukulele craze.

Yeah, I got one too.

But one of the guys, who played drums on the album, and had come to Jesus from a time of drugs and hard living, did something with his. Not at first. At first, everyone begged Terry to quit the harmonica and stick to the sticks.

Terry traipsed off to Nashville, still blowing that harp of his the wrong way (he held it backwards from the way you are ‘sposed to play it). He ended up being — I think — discovered at an open mic at Roger Miller’s restaurant, and became one of the most sought-after harp players in the town. He rode with Jerry Reed and played on Ronnie Milsaps albums, and others, like JC (do I have to tell you?).

My harmonica sat in a drawer. Then, maybe twenty or thirty years later while checking out of Cracker Barrel after a meal with my family, I spied the familiar Hohner blue boxed harmonicas they had for sale, and bought another one.

I have played mine at a few places. But I have never bought a harp holder and played my guitar like Dylan did. I prefer the single-note tunes, like Moon River, and such, where I can create dreamy vibrato.

I think of Terry whenever I pick my harp up. Even wrote a story about a kid and his harp, based ever-so-loosely on Damn Yankees. You’d have to read it to understand.

Terry’s no longer here, but his music is.

Perhaps this love of new instruments and music is because of Terry’s legacy: music lives on. It’s eternal.

 

Part III: The Martin. The Acoustic. The Mandolin.

New Intruments, Part I

10 May

New Instruments – Part One

Anticipation. Disappointment. Delight. Devastation.

In my early teenhood, a fad swept our little southern town: the baritone ukulele. The baritone is a size larger than the small Hawaiian instrument known then for playing those island tunes, and little else.

Kids around the town were popping up as groups — some rather large — to play the popular songs of the day, which happened to be folk tunes. Peter, Paul, and Mary; Joan Baez; Bob Dylan; New Christy Minstrels. Songs like “Puff the Magic Dragon,” “Five Hundred Miles,” “Black, Black, Black is the Color of My True Love’s Hair,” “Green, Green,” and so forth and so on.

I wanted a baritone ukulele. Badly. It’s the one on the far right of the picture showing ukulele sizes.

So, Christmas Day found me — like Ralphie — shoving my younger brother aside under the tree among stacks of painfully-wrapped presents for that instrument.

It was not to be. Oh, there was an instrument, alright. A ukulele. A little small Hawaiian piece made from blondish woods with four plastic strings. The one on the far left of the picture showing ukulele sizes. Little more in my estimation than those plastic guitar-shaped toys with the crank jutting out of the end of the sound box.

Disappointment didn’t begin to describe my reaction. Mom and Dad couldn’t imagine why I was not overjoyed.

After the holidays, my dad righted the error and took me with him to the music shop, where I picked out a real baritone.

If you are a golfer, you know the sign of someone who is more than a duffer is when you shake hands, and you feel the rough callouses gloving their hand. They are players!

So it is with anyone that plays a stringed instrument and has to practice and practice and practice. The tips of their fingers blister to the point of agony if they are as avid as I was. From the time I got home from school to deep into the night I was strumming and fingering cords and learning songs. My sister, whose bedroom was adjacent mine, would pound on the wall and tell me, “SHUT UP!!!” repeatedly to no avail. My finger tips were toughening.

I took my baritone everywhere. I even made a protective case for it using thick mil plastic and sheets I cut up, which I sewed together. Strap, too.

Every song I heard was a project to master. Over time, my ear for chords and progressions developed, and I could hear a song and KNOW what the chords were. It really didn’t matter that most popular songs were little more than three standard chords. All rock and roll songs basically use the same chords.

After a while, I grew weary of the baritone with its tinny sound, and began to eye the next step up: a full guitar.

This time Dad knew well enough to take me with him when he shopped for the instrument.

It was a beauty! A Terraga classical guitar! Six strings a bit more difficult than the four-stringed baritone, but, once again, I was determined. Nearly all of the popular songs on the radio were folkish in nature, AND, they had song books with the chords and everything!

I went away to school in the tenth grade. My guitar was my solace for what I thought was punishment for some of my, shall we say, less-than-perfect behavior. Only knew one guy at the school who was also from my small southern town. Walter. Glasses. Skinny. Yep, I was one of those who shunned the early nerds before they became kings of the hill.

I and my guitar gently wept that first semester of school. I was homesick and hated being at the school. The seniors on my dorm were Dylan fanatics, and played their albums non-stop. I began to hate Dylan with his nasal talk-singing style. Never mind he was the guy who wrote nearly all the songs I loved that were recorded by other artists who could sing and play their instruments correctly. Who would have thought Dylan would one day win the Nobel Prize for Literature? Not me.

It happened just before Christmas holidays. A guy who lived down the hall came running into my room laughing and giggling about something. Time slowed to a frame-by-frame recording. John Rust (not his fake name) was a portly lad with curly blonde hair and was always red-faced. Anyway, he ran into my room with a bound, and leapt onto my bed. On the bed was my Terraga classical guitar. As his arch peaked, I could see his expression of hilarity turn into horror. His landing was pin-point.

The destruction of the Tarrega classical guitar was complete.

“Oops!” said John’s body language.

He managed to get out of my room before I killed him.

Barely.

 

 

Part II: All is not lost and it is well with my soul

Opposite Poles

8 May

Opposite Poles

 

I had two related but poles-apart experiences today.

Experience One:

I read a post on Facebook that featured a picture of a rather large person tending one of those huge wood grill thingies where it looked like dozens of chickens were barbecuing. The gist was this is representative of Western North Carolina people.

The comments were varied to the extent those with something to say said the same thing from a different perspective. Red-neck came up often, along with colorful castigations of who the photo was being used to represent.

The Basket of Deplorables, no doubt. Those ignorant, overfed, racist North Carolinians. You know, the Andy Griffith type. Farmers. Factory workers. Hard-working people with bad teeth who like country music, apple pie and fly the American flag year-round, and not just on the 4th of July.

Why that grieved me so I’m not certain. I only have a college education — a bachelor’s degree. Plus I attended a summer class in screenwriting at NYU in NYC. And got my lateral entry teaching certification at Lenoir-Rhyne. You know … one of the ig’nant North Carolinians. Don’t have a Masters Degree. Don’t have a PhD.

Their bumper stickers read “My red-neck son can beat the hell out of your Honor Student.” Confederate flag covers the back cab window of their big-wheeled Hemi Dodge truck — a gun rack perhaps suction-cupped to the glass.

It grieved me. But no one else on that post, apparently. It was gang-tackle, pink-belly time. Dare I say it? Kind of a mob mentality.

Better than. Smarter than. More deserving than. Glad we’re not them.

Experience Two:

I went in for a weekly booster to help with my low iron counts. A very remote internist’s office in the North Carolina mountains where the physician (from Tennessee) and his PA take time with their patients, and know them by their first names. I sat across from a lady who preceded to hold church.

“I’m so glad I’m saved!” And went into great detail about her experience, down to the place (Pentecostal church), month, day, and nearly the time when she “died and came alive again! I ain’t been the same since!”

I had no reason to doubt her.

She flashed an eye my way and said, “God knows how many He is going to save before the end time.”

I’m thinking, but not saying, “144,000?”

“I’m so GLAD I’m SAVED and am NOT going to HELL, Amen?”

The others in the waiting room echoed, “Amen!”

She sounded like a familiar character out of a Stephen King novel. There’s one in each of his stories, if you hadn’t noticed.

Mercifully my name was called and I went into the back where I rolled up my sleeve for the stick.

“We were having church in the lobby!” I grinned.

The nursing assistant, pinched my upper arm skin and preparing to stab me with the needle, said, “That’s Mrs. Praise the Lord!” And she laughed. We all laughed and winked, then hushed ourselves so as not to be heard from the waiting room.

I did not fully recognize I was doing pretty much the same thing that was accomplished by the earlier post I had read on Facebook.

Better than. Smarter than. More deserving than. Glad we’re not them.

On the way home, it gradually dawned on me. And I grieved again — for different reasons.

BREAKING NEWS … !

20 Apr

BREAKING NEWS: Animal Federation employs MOAB* to send message to imminent domain residents.

SUGAR MTN, NC — The Western North Carolina Chapter of the Wild Animal Federation sent a definite message to residents of Chestnut Ridge in Sugar Mountain last night.

The message? GET OUT!

“We were here first,” said chapter spokes-“person” Pogo, an opossum elected by the Wild Animal Federation to represent their complaints.

“These interlopers, not to be confused with cantalopers or antelopers, forced their way onto our reservation without so much as a how-do-you-do. It’s gone on way too long. We’re mad as hell, and we’re not going to put up with it any longer!”

Bud, the bad-ass black bear who is the Enforcer of the group, volunteered to do the deed, which was under the cover of night.

“Sure, come sneaking up in the dark. Pretty cowardly if you ask me,” said one of two year-round residents.

“Fine with me,” said the other year-round resident, who asked to remain anonymous. “I got my 30-ought-6 loaded and at the window if they want to test me!”

“It’s not only the bears,” said the first residents. “Deer, raccoons, squirrels, chipmunks, and crazy-ass Robins have colluded to make this serene and picturesque area a place of potential carnage! What we NEED is a wall to keep these critters OUT!”

Both sides have been reluctant to come to the bargaining table.

“Just look at me!” complained Bud, the alleged perpetrator of last night’s melee. “I’ve put on 183 pounds this month due to all of the sugar and fat these humans have tossed! It’s not only unHEALTHY for ME, it’s a cruel kind of baiting I think has got to stop. Look at all the damn bird feeders, for crissakes! There’s not a wren or a titmouse for miles around able to fend for themself anymore. They’ve all become dependant. It’s like — here’s some free and easy bird seed — come and get it! Then, in the winter, these snowbirds fly south and take their birdfeeders with them! That’s as bad as giving away a free hit of heroine, if you ask me!”

The decades-old battle between squatters (how the animals refer to the humans) and animals is not likely to find resolution any time soon.

“They are just not like us,” murmured Bud under his garbage breath.

“Animals is what they are!” replied one of the year-round residents.

*Mother of all Bears

 

Garbage carnage as a result of MOAB attack during last night’s raid

 

Little Foxes

12 Apr

Hubba, hubba! Who dat bathing over there?

Little Foxes

By L. Stewart Marsden

Solomon 2:15 (KJV)
Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.

I’ve both thought for others and said of my own situations when tragedy strikes, “Well, that puts things into perspective.”

Things like the death of a loved one. Sudden illness. An unexpected downturn, like loss of job or worse.

As a result, for a while — longer or shorter as the case may be — I’m back in the doldrums of daily existence. I should know better.

Solomon, to give you unchurched a little background (how haughty was that comment?), was the first legitimate offspring of King David and Bathsheba. If you have heard Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah (and if you haven’t, you need to get out more), they are the subject of at least one of his lines in the song*:

Your faith was strong, but you needed proof,
You saw her bathing on the roof (BATH-she-ba … get it? Moses definitively had a sense of humor/irony).
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew ya …

I digress.

Anyway, David and Bathsheba hook up, and, because they didn’t have a local Family Planning Clinic in Jerusalem at the time and sheep intestines were not yet being used for protection, she got pregnant. The seed of David was strong.

“King David …I have good news and I have bad news.”

“I’ll take Good News for $200, Alex.”

“I’m preggers.”

“Great! Wait! What?” (David was also smart, but Michelangelo couldn’t quite convey that in the statue).

Soooo, because David had not heeded the long-time tradition of going off to war in the spring, and all of that moonlight and beauty stuff had knocked him slightly askew (excuses, excuses), he set to figuring out a remedy for this wonderful, yet not-so-wonderful situation. Again, had Family Planning been around, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

Now Uriah was Bathsheba’s husband, and he was out standing in the field of battle (literally), fighting David’s war. Must have been a pretty high-ranking officer, as his house was within spyglass distance of the palace. David had him brought home for some R&R, thinking that Uriah and Bathsheba would get it on, and, voilà! No more problem! Sure, Bathsheba would have to lie about the paternity of the baby, but in the long run, David’s position involved in far more important stuff to worry about, what did he care about that? (I think this story is dog-ear marked in Willie C’s Bible — but don’t quote me, please).

Uriah comes home and David invites him to eat and drink (from the private wine collection) until he’s pretty sure Uriah doesn’t know which end is up.

“Go home and make puppies with Bathsheba,” he commands.

BUT, (perhaps this is a small fox?), Uriah goes to his house and sleeps outside the gate (a gated community) instead of insulting his men who were sleeping on the ground at the battle site and going in for a luxurious night’s — well.

So Bathsheba texted David: “LOL! Uriah slept outside the gate last night! We are in deep doo-doo!”

Once again David wines and dines Uriah, and urges him to “Go home, Bro’! Have a roll in the hay with your wife!”

Once again Uriah staggers home and makes a rock on the ground his pillow for the night.

Frustrated, (those damn foxes), David sends Uriah back to the battlefield with written orders to have him placed at the front of the lines, charge the enemy, and then suddenly retreat, leaving the hapless Uriah standing by himself when the enemy swarms.

See, now I might have taken a peek at those written orders. Not Uriah. Stalwart to the last. “Here you go, Colonel! The King’s orders!”

NOW David has TWO little foxes to deal with: Bathsheba, who is preggers with royal semen (no, not the Navy); and now an indirect murder.

Probable cause.

Nathan the prophet has a direct line to God, who leaks the information to him about what’s going on with David. And just like a CBS reporter, he storms the royal press conference and asks the question, “Is it true you’ve quit banging Bathsheba after Uriah took a hit on the battlefield?”

No good answer in hand, David is more than ferkempht.

Karma prevailed, and the bastard son died. Didn’t need Family Planning after all. Which David was glad about because that would have been one more fox in the vineyard to take care of.

Nathan tells David: “Remember that temple you wanted to build? Ain’t gonna happen. Wouldn’t be prudent. You will have another son by Bathsheba. He will build it, and they will come.” Or something like that. I’m not a Presbyterian in my Biblical interpretation. More of a combination Methodist/Unitarian.

Solomon.

So another window of opportunity was open, albeit not quite what David was expecting.

Pretty heady stuff.

But, I digress again.

For me little foxes are the things that irk me. And I know I should be able to get over them. But as I improve with age like a fine wine, those little buggers take up a lot of my mental/emotional space.

Like, people who get the usage of there, their and they’re mixed up on Facebook. Or, to, too and two. Or when news reporters (local AND especially national) say, “The victim is in stable condition.” (Search my website for that blog. I won’t repeat it here — suffice it to say stable is not a medical condition according to HIPAA).

Like, people (and you KNOW who you are!) who pour a glass of filtered water from the Brita water jug, and don’t refill it.

Like people (and you KNOW who you are!) who order a nice steak well done, and then cover it with A-1!

I could go on ad nausea.

These are minutia, and should easily roll off my backside, especially with my perspective of very serious stuff (I’m old enough to have a list of those that have happened).

It’s not really OCD. It’s the little foxes, nibbling constantly on the vines of my life.

The metaphor is actually the reverse of how I’m using it here. It really means take care of the little things in life so you don’t end up with a field of withered grape vines. But I’m the author, and I’ll decide how to use it. If I took that stance, I’d be Biblically correct. But because I know too many who are “Biblically correct,” and how that plays out, then I’m satisfied to be incorrect.

Gnashing of teeth. I hear gnashing of teeth.

 

 

*I first heard the tune in Disney’s Shrek, and then was under the impression Jeff Buckley was its composer. Wish I had known about Cohen years ago — but I didn’t. Oh, Cohen mixed his metaphors (that’s what metas are for) with Sampson and Delilah (She tied you to her kitchen chair, she broke your throne and she cut your hair). I’m pretty sure God is okay with that. AND, Hallelujah is NOT a Christian song! Kind of like George Harrison’s My Sweet Lord is not a Christian song, or Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog is not in the United Methodist Hymnal. But, these, too, are little foxes.

National Do Not Email Registry

30 Mar

Do Not Email Registry

Or

The Bear I Didn’t Shoot

By L. Stewart Marsden

 

We all get spam. I’m so pleased with Gmail’s ability to filter most of it out. Still, some inevitably slips through the cracks in the filters.

Years ago when I was a reporter for a local newspaper, I was somehow put on an email list that has been distributed to God-knows-who. These are people who want their story printed, at the paper’s expense, with their point-of-view. Fake news? Hard to tell.

The upshot is that I have tried numerous times to get my name/email address deleted from this list or these lists to no avail.

It’s really not that big a deal in the long run. But, gosh, in this day and age when everyone makes a big deal about everything, why not join the fun?

Seems to me there should be a way to include my email address on a National Do Not Email Registry, like I can do with my landline and cell phone. I mean, what an incredibly effective deterrent the registry is, right?

In lieu of that, perhaps I should at least get something from this continued irksome problem. Hey, maybe an opinion piece for my online writing studio!

So here’s the latest sample of the emails I’m talking about. At least SPAM is somewhat interesting (I’m long overdue, by the way, to go check my cache of spam and post the craziest ones).

 

To: Mr. L. Stewart Marsden

From: Chelsea Giacobbe, Senior Account Executive

SUBJECT: Interview Opp: Rosetta Stone and Forbes Release Joint Study On How Providing Employees with Language Training Helps Global Enterprises Compete


Hi L. Stewart –

Hope all is well. Today, Rosetta Stone and Forbes released a new report on how providing employees with language training helps global enterprises compete. According to the report, as more companies are expanding into a global economy, having a multilingual workforce has become a critical success factor and businesses are taking action to provide employees with language learning resources.

Key findings from the report include:
· Management is seeing results. Nearly 60 percent of managers cited improved customer feedback as the area most impacted by employees participating in language learning. Performance improvement and more confidence also ranked high at 46 percent and 51 percent, respectively
· 92 percent of executives surveyed indicating that the entire company realizes the benefits of language training, though businesses in the customer service, travel and hospitality sectors are more likely to report this than other industries
· Successful learning aligns with organizational goals. Companies that build language training into employee development plans and track KPIs are twice as likely to successfully link language learning goals to the organization’s strategic priorities
· Opportunity awaits. The proliferation of online learning is prompting organizations to rethink traditional learning approaches and adopt technology-based models for training and development.
· Language training must become part of the corporate culture. While companies understand the necessity of language learning, incorporating it into the corporate culture remains a challenge


I’ve pasted the full press release below for your convenience. Please let me know if you’re interested in speaking with Bruce Rogers, Chief Insight Officer at Forbes, to discuss how companies are using language learning to not only better their business but their employees as well.

Thanks!
Chelsea
130 W42 Suite 950 | New York City | 10036
212.730.7277 | http://www.coburnww.com

* * * * *

A benign email, I’ll grant you. I won’t bore you with the article Chelsea pasted into the body of the email for me to read and decide whether or not to post it on Facebook. If she happens to take me up on my response and offer (prompted much in the same way when you get a call on your phone from some marketing person — or worse, scam agent — and you want to teach said caller a lesson, playing them along until they erupt with their expository genius), then I’ll reprint it and let you know. You can always go to her website where I’m sure the article will be available.

Here’s my reply to Chelsea:

 

Hi, Chelsea

All is well, thank you. For the last couple of days I’ve been working on putting up a vinyl rain gutter ceiling on the deck where I’ve just installed my new hot tub. It’s a two man job: me and myself are doing the work.

So that’s why I missed getting a picture of the black bear that has been raiding my garbage bin since spring has arrived.

Did you know that there’s no real way to repel a bear through the use of odors? In fact, use of things like clorox or other aromas you would think would stay the creatures, attract them!

I’ve set up my Nikon camera on a tripod and it’s facing the drive area from my bedroom window. I’ve got all the settings in place, as the lighting at night is a bit critical, especially since a floodlamp affixed to a telephone pole bathes the area in yellow light.

A few nights ago, my son’s dog, Mowgli, dashed out the door of my condo and down the hill, barking come hell or high water after what we figured out must be a bear (I had been awakened the night before and saw the culprit).

So, for two nights in a row I’ve been sleeping intermittently, hoping to get a shot of the bear. That, plus the project of the vinyl ceiling, left me utterly exhausted last night. And guess what?

It’s the first night in a long time I slept soundly throughout the night.

And guess what else?

Wouldn’t you know it, the bear decided to visit again, and — drat — I missed getting a picture of him.

In the event you are wondering why I’m telling you this, it’s probably the same as my wonderment over the continued article ideas I get from you and a host of other people who think I care at all about the ideas. I suppose I could post them for you on my Facebook page, but I’d have to charge you $1,000 for my services.

If that sounds good to you, please respond accordingly and arrange for me to draft your checking account, and I’ll gladly post your story — whether or not I think it will be of interest to my Facebook friends.

I hope this response finds you well.
L. Stewart Marsden

PS: Here’s a photo I took of the bear when I didn’t know what camera settings to use. Hard to tell, but that’s one big Teddy!


 

This second photo is after I was able to correct my settings, which are still on my camera. Didn’t matter, though. I still missed the shot of the bear.

 

 

Related item:

Here’s a poem/story (poestry?) I wrote several years ago about a Do-Not-Call App that you really should be able to download to rid yourself of those nuisance calls: click here.

 

 

I used to yearn for coming Spring

2 Mar

I used to yearn for coming Spring

(A remembrance of Columbine, Blacksburg and Boston)

By L. Stewart Marsden

 

I used to yearn for coming Spring
Its all-things fresh, and fragrant, and full;
Erupting through thawed earth,
Newly fertilized by cold and frozen things,
The ring of bell-like blooms
Of blue and red and yellow and white
Creating day from darkest night
The New out of the Old.

Yet, as thawed mountain snows
Rush through down-curling arteries
To quench the warmth-starved lands below
They seem to re-deem the time from things that grow
To things that know no bounds;
That do not hesitate to loose their rounds
Of hate and monstrous deeds
Upon young and old alike
They strike — juxtaposed against sweet renewal days —

I pause, while breathing in the newness once again
Renewing, yet knowing, once again why
I used to yearn for coming Spring
Yet remember why I hesitate to bring
Myself to full embrace of that time I used to hold so dear.

 

2 Samuel 11:1
In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war …

The man in the valley below is firing his gun once again

2 Mar

 

image

The man in the valley below is firing his gun

once again

By L. Stewart Marsden

The man in the valley below is firing his gun once again,
A slow but steady cadence that echoes on and on,
The reports bouncing off the nearby ridges and beyond.

I think — a mountain man —
Angry, preparing for the coming storm,
Or rich and bored, perhaps.

The cost of ammo must be more than I can afford —
All that brass and lead and gunpowder carefully, precisely packed —
Because I have to ask.

He breaks his monotone drip-drip-drip drill
With sudden, quick bursts of blam-blam-blam-blam-blam-blam
Rapid fire.

And I wonder,
Semi-?
Or automatic?

And where do those bullets go?
Slamming into black and white targets hung low?
Concentric circles, flapping in the crisp mountain breeze?

Do they smash tin or glass?
Pulverizing metal or shattering shards into the air
Where they catch the late sunlight like a fragile prism?

Dividing rays into rainbows?
Colorful and beautiful in their own assaulted way?
As the gunfire finally subsides for the day?

He has sheathed his weapon and stowed his bullets
Examined his targets with grimace or grin
The man in the valley below has finished firing his gun

Once again.

Fear Ice

1 Mar

image

Fear Ice

By L. Stewart Marsden

 

It’s frozen tendrils wrapped his heart at first
Then gripped his feet to meld his soles to soil,
And pierced his soul with long accusing fingers

The Fear Ice pulled him to its gaping maw
Hot white teeth gnashing to feast on his resolve
Dissolve his bravado in its cold, blank acid-filled belly

Reduce him to quivering, whimpering lack-of-backbone jelly
And roar the victory accusations:
“You aren’t,” “you can’t,” “you never will!”

As when a child, from under dark things and in darker corners
The Fear Ice had awaited him,
Reminding him, “You are mine.”

Yet the boy-man turned,
And burned with flame barely aglow
“I shall die, I know, but I shall not be dying when I go!”

“And you shall not sway over me
“And I will have the last to say
“No matter how you pierce or grip or roar!”

The Fear Ice shrank back to its lair of dark
And all but melted there,
Then turning from the boy, a man, to seek another.

 

1 Peter 5:8 (KJV)
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.
Note: but for an extra vowel, “e,” the letters in the title Fear Ice can be rearranged to spell “fierce.”