Fireworks – Redux

On this eve of Independence Day, I thought I would have a rare “repeat.”  This one is from October 10, 2012.

So what do you think about fireworks? Firecrackers? Cherry bombs? Should they be legal? I was in Wisconsin this last weekend and the fireworks stores seem to outnumber cows.  The weekend festivities were punctuated by the staccato of firecrackers or boom of a larger “device.”

When I was 9 years old (and on), I loved firecrackers and fireworks. Loved the smell of cordite. We used to break open firecrackers, shake out the fulminate of mercury powder into cigar tubes with homemade fins, balance them on an incline and then light a fuse sending the “rocket” skyward (often with an enormous explosion). We would pack match heads into the tubes, pouring in the powder for more incendiary displays.  And bombs.  It was wonderful! 🙂 Every guy had a supply of firecrackers, cherry bombs, M-80’s and such.

I am keenly aware of all of the arguments of the armchair howlers (“what about accidents?” “they can blow your finger off!”).  Give me a break.  I believe that fireworks (at least firecrackers) have a place in a young boy’s life. Wisconsin and 39 other states have got it right. Illinois – as usual (with its regulations on everything) – is marching to the wrong drummer. . . . .

Listen to the Crickets. . . .

My daughter was driving my 4 year old granddaughter to camp earlier this week. The windows were down.  As they approached a train crossing gate, Eve yelled to Lauren “SLOW DOWN!” Lauren turned and dutifully slowed down.  And stopped the car by the crossing gate.  And looked back at Eve.

Eve said “listen mommy . . . . listen to the crickets.” And through the open windows came a heavenly choir of chirping crickets – or “hot bugs” as I used to call them – singing in the trees.  And Eve said “listen” to the chorus of birds singing.  Lauren said she had really not paid attention.  It took a 4 year old to appreciate this music of nature. 

When I heard this story, my eyes got a bit misty.  I know we are often told to stop and smell the flowers but I’ve never really thought of stopping to listen to the crickets.   There are five traditionally-recognized methods of perception:  taste; touch; smell; sight; and sound.  Five senses.

I love the smell of a campfire.  The taste of spaghetti carbonara, the sight of a golf ball (my golf ball) heading toward the green and the feel of hot sand under my feet.  But I sometimes forget about slowing down to truly enjoy the world’s auditory offerings.  Like listening to crickets.  

The Last Box

I’ve been doing some cleaning up around the house. Going through old boxes.  Getting rid of “stuff” and trying to get organized.

Up in the attic, in the corner, there’s been one box. Gathering dust. For 45 years.  Before Donna and I moved into our first house, I boxed up “stuff” that I’d accumulated and sealed the boxes with tape. Over the years, all the boxes had been moved around, opened and emptied at one time or another. Except one.  One box.  Sitting in the corner of the attic.

Flash back 48 years.  In 1968, I bounced around out West with my pal Tap Tap.  A year later, with my bud Ox.  Driving my blue 1964 Ford Falcon Sprint convertible.  Chrome under the hood.  Sweet.   On one foray in the middle of nowhere in Montana, we found some old bottles (one dating to 1850) and some green glass telephone pole insulators.  I shoveled them into the trunk and we went on our way with the haul.  It is that collection that ended up in that last box.  Sitting in the corner of the attic. 

Last weekend, those bottles and insulators saw the light of day for the first time in nearly half a century.  I opened the box.  Washed up the bottles and piled them in some bags to take to a local antique shop.   Maybe I can get a few bucks for them.  If so, I can retire a day or two earlier than planned. . . . .  

Are We Embarrassed Yet?

Is anyone embarrassed about the state of politics in America?  Disappointed?  Angry?  Think about it. . . . .

Donald Trump.  A derisive, racist and despicable bully. Would you want /trust him as a friend?  If your 1st grader acted like him, you would march him off to his room.  He would deserve a sharp whack.   

Hillary Clinton.  Corrupt.  Arrogant.  Liar.  Has more baggage than the Queen Mary (that goes back 40+ years).  

And of course there’s still Bernie Sanders.  Wants to turn America into Venezuela with long shuffling lines for gas, food, bread and water.  Never held a real job in his life.   All he talks about is stealing money from those who pay taxes.   

Why couldn’t it be Joe Biden against Mitt Romney?  Seriously.  Whatever your politics, most would concede that Biden and Romney are good/honest individuals.   What ever happened to guys like Ronald Reagan?  JFK?  Ike?  Even Bill Clinton?

If America’s choices in November are this toxic trio, as I said on April 16, 2016, I will write in the name of someone who is honest.  Dependable.  Has integrity.  Treats everyone with respect.  My poodle.  Name is “Daisy.”  D-A-I-S-Y.    Yes.  I am serious. 

Clearbrook 3 – 75 _ _

When I was about 10 years old, my pal Darryl M. lived across the creek from my home. Darryl and I would walk across a narrow foot bridge to play catch or just hang out. Darryl’s telephone number was CLearbrook 3-75_ _ .  Sometimes I would call him.  We’d chat.  And hang up. 

One bright day, I called Darryl’s number.  (Ring) (Ring) (Ring) And a woman answered “Hello.”  I said “hello is Darryl there?”  Sounds pretty innocuous.  Eh?   Well it was the wrong number.  This woman began screaming into the phone “you #$&*$X. . .  you have the wrong $%@&@X number!”  I sat there listening.  Mouth open.  Mesmerized I realized I’d dialed a “7” instead of a “6.” 

I got on my bike and rode over to Darryl’s.  Darryl answered the door and I pushed inside.  Grabbed Darryl, picked up the phone and said “listen to this. . . .”  And I dialed the wrong number again.  (Ring) (Ring) (Ring) And a woman answered “Hello.”  I said cheerfully “hello is Darryl there?”  And she began screaming again.  This was really something special.  We shared the “wrong number” with our pals.   It seemed entertaining (at the time) and we all learned new four letter words in the process.  Mind you — these were the days before caller ID. . . . .  

The Problem. . . . .

Talk to Muslims.  The faithful.  And ask them what the problem is in the world of Islam.  Many (as I observe on 8/19/12 and 12/20/15) will confide that the problem in Islam can be summed up in two words:  “Saudi Arabia.”

Saudi Arabia is a paragon of hatred, repression and discrimination.  Saudis are Wahhabi — the ultra orthodox branch of Sunni Islam.   The country is the hub of anti-Semitism.  A glowing, seething inspiration for groups like ISIS. Boko Haram.  The Taliban.  Al-QaedaAl-Shabaab.  An instigator of state terrorism.  Responsible for the murder of 2,977 souls on September 11th.  Women are subject to genital mutilation.   They must be completely covered (it is the woman’s fault she is a woman).  Cannot leave home without a male relative.  May not drive.  Or marry without permission.  No passports.  Higher education is haram (forbidden).  The penalties for defiance are steep.  Women may be beaten or killed for missteps.                  

On Fridays, one can saunter down to the public square to watch beheadings, eye gouging, stonings or hands getting chopped off.  Children too – can watch.  Or have a hand amputated for misdeeds.  Thus enforcing Sharia law.  If you are a kafir (an infidel) – you are not welcome in Saudi Arabia.  There are no tourist visas (except for business or to visit a family member).  And a non-Muslim may never visit Mecca or Medina (see 11/16/14).  Criticism of the government is a crime punishable by imprisonment.  Or worse.  Saudi Arabia has been condemned by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.  But they are an ally of the U.S. . . . . .             

Shuji Shuriken

Kenjutsu is the overarching term for all schools of Japanese swordsmanship.  Swords.  Very important in the martial arts in Japan.  And to the samurai class.   The study of kenjutsu has been a sub-culture in Japan since feudal times.  For practice, they used the bokuto (solid wood stick) or shina (bamboo pole).  For battle, they used the real McCoy.    And only the most disciplined of swordsmen could repeat and internalize the magic words of the Shuji Shuriken — “the cutting of the nine ideographs.”  Only the most devout of Japanese swordsmen could give life to these nine words.  

U – Being 

Mu – Non-being 

Suigetsu – Moonlight on the water     

 Jo – Inner security 

Shin – Master of the mind  

Sen – Thought precedes action 

Kara – Empty:  the Void.  Virtue       

Shinmyoken – Where the tip of the sword settles.   

Zero – Where the way has no power. . . .

It was not enough to merely think or speak the words.  The words and their meaning must be summoned from deep within.  The thought was – if you get through the first one while meditating and contemplating, you’re doing pretty well . . . . .

Bacon

Speaking of food. . . . .

When I head to the golf course on weekends, I usually drive by two popular breakfast spots (Ridgeview and Sarki’s for those of you in the ‘hood).  I have all I can do – to not stop. And have a second breakfast.

It is the smell of bacon. Cooking. That starts twisting the wires in my primitive brain.  Gets me blinking.  Drooling.  Twitching.  Bacon. Is there anything better than the smell of bacon?  Yes – the taste of bacon.  I love bacon.  Well-done and usually piled alongside an omelet or a stack of French toast.  “And” a stack of French toast is okay too. . . . .

But alas my bacon days have been severely limited by a breakfast regimen of high fiber cereal and fruit.  And dinners featuring two-legged or no-legged protein and vegetables.  But once a month or so, Donna and I will go out for dinner.  And go to Walker Brothers Pancake House.  And it is there that I let my hair down (no wisecracks) and tear down the fences.  “I’ll have the bacon and cheese omelet, hash browns and six orders of bacon – well-done.”  I’m sure my heart is going “the man is CRAZY again. . . . let’s get pumping . . . .”  There is spaghetti carbonara (see post of 8/9/2011); bacon, lettuce & tomato sandwiches (“hold the lettuce & tomato“); and those appetizers made with thick bacon and maple syrup.  Be still my heart.  But not too still. . . . . 

Freshness Dates

How did my generation (and those before) ever survive without freshness dates.  Those dates that counsel that food is “best by” or a store must “sell by” or you have to “use by” — a certain date.  How did I live?   I will tell you how . . . .

My father would take a sniff of the carton of milk that had been in the refrigerator since before I was born – and say “it’s okay. Drink it.” And I would.  I remember going to my grandmother’s apartment once.  She made me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.   I took a bite and started chewing.  I looked at the sandwich and then at my grandmother.  Mouth open.  About to heave the whole thing onto the table.  She picked up the peanut butter.  Waved it under her nose.  And made a face.  “It’s rancid” she said [I swear those were her words].  “Okay – spit it out.”  And I did. 

My cousin Wayne came over to our house one day.  I was perhaps seven or eight.  He went into the frig and pulled out the orange juice.  Poured a glass.  “Ouch!” he said.  “This stuff is baaaadddd.”  My father took a whiff and said “it’s just a little over the hill.”  “Over the hill” as in enough botulism to wipe out the entire State of Pennsylvania.   I’d been drinking it sporadically for the last few weeks.  Or months. 

I’m sure my experience is not unlike many of those reading this post.  We’ve become a nation of wimps.  Allowing the “freshness date” to dictate whether a food is good.  Or not.   What about letting the old sniffer make that determination?  But for the fact that I have granddaughters (who will never know the meaning of the word “rancid” or “over the hill” except as it applies to me), I might be using the “sniff test” to determine what’s good.  And what is. . . . yuck.  Then again . . . .