Burning Leaves

(An Autumn repeat – from September 11, 2016)

For millennia, folks have been burning garbage and “stuff” with relative impunity.  The smoke was often choking.  And sometimes toxic.  

But. . . . as a kid, I remember my father – and other men in the neighborhood – raking leaves in the fall.  And ushering them out to the street – at the curb – and lighting them up.  Saturdays and Sundays in October were the optimal days for raking, gathering and burning leaves.  And the distinct smell of burning leaves was overpowering.  And – from my recollection – not so unpleasant.  Everyone burned their leaves.  I mean what were families supposed to do with them?  My dad would stand – smoking his pipe – and talking with the other men.  As the leaves burned. . . . .   

I tend to think it would be nice if for one day in the fall, everyone could spoon some dead leaves out to the street.  And burn them.  Like the “good old days” (did I really say that?).    I don’t need a “bad for the environment” speech.  Or “think of what it does to your lungs.”  Or “aren’t there regulations?”  Just think about sharing an indelible olfactory moment of those autumn afternoons long ago . . . . .   

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Little Feet

When I was about 10 years old, I pestered my father to let me drive the family car.  Sooooo. . . . one Sunday, my father let me drive home from Church.  Not all the way – but the last mile or so — on a road that was pretty vacant and ran in part along a corn field. I’d sit there peering over the steering wheel – my father with one hand on the wheel, one hand on the ignition and one hand on the gear shift.  From then on, I was the “Chuber” driver (“CHurch UBER”) on Sundays.  

Sometimes, my dad would take me to an empty parking lot and let me drive.  Round and round.  So I “learned” to drive at a pretty early age. When Lauren was about 12, I let her “drive” on occasional Saturday afternoons in our Church parking lot.  

My father had a lot of wisdom to impart to me in my formative years (which – Donna tells me – are ongoing).  He always told me when driving to keep my “eyes moving.”  Watching.  Left.  Right.  Check the mirror.  And he always told me to watch for “little feet.”  As I drive along a street, I was told to glance forward — under the cars parked along the street.  Why?  Because you can see if there are little feet — on the other side — below the car.  And you can slow down.  It’s easy to see an adult standing by a car.  But there’s no way to see a child unless you see the “little feet” under the car you are approaching.  I’m always watching for “little feet.”  Try it next time you’re driving.  Keep an eye out for little feet. . . . .

Game. Set. Match. . . . .

I predict that in the next 25 years, football in America will be no more. And good riddance. There are two reasons. Most compelling is that according numerous studies — including one by the San Francisco Spine Institute (Seton Medical Center) — there are 1.2 million football injuries annually (from sprains and bruises to dislocations, concussions and even death).  Extensive research has been done on the effects of traumatic brain injury from concussions.  In the NFL, the onset – and diagnosis – of chronic traumatic encephalopathy is becoming commonplace in retired players.  Do you want your son/grandson to play football?  Hmmmm?    

The second reason is the aggravating one of recent vintage.  Taking a knee.  In the last few weeks, we have observed NFL players taking a knee during the National Anthem.  To show their displeasure with (contempt of?) America.  And it ain’t goin’ over very well with most folks.  In a matter of weeks, NFL ratings have declined dramatically.  As well they should.   The characters who take a knee during the National Anthem will reap what they sow.

Mark Twain once said “patriotism is supporting your country all of the time and your government when it deserves it.”  Our government may be deserving of criticism.  But our flag, the National Anthem, our service men and women and our grand country are not.  In my opinion, every American should “take a knee” when it comes to watching, supporting and attending NFL games (and any other game where players “take a knee“).  Football?  It’s done.  Game.  Set.  Match.  

Charlie Russell

If anyone has received a greeting card or letter from me – it may have included a hand-drawn cartoon.   You can thank Charlie Russell for the artistic addition . . . . .  

Charles Marion Russell (1864-1926) was an American artist who painted iconic scenes of the Old West.  Charlie was born in St. Louis and moved to Montana when he was 16 years old where he got a job working on a sheep ranch.  Charlie chronicled the bitter winter of 1886-7 in a series of watercolor paintings.  While working on the O-H Ranch in the Judith Basin of Montana, the foreman received a letter from the ranch owner — asking how his cattle had fared during the winter.  Instead of writing back, the foreman sent the owner a postcard-sized watercolor painted by Charlie.  The image was that of a gaunt steer surrounded by wolves – on a gray winter day.  The owner showed the drawing to friends and displayed it in a shop window in Helena.  And Charlie began to get work — as an artist.

In 1897, Charlie and his new bride moved to Great Falls, MT where he remained for the duration.  Charlie was a prolific painter – with over 4,000 works (oil, watercolor, drawings and occasional sculptures) to his credit.  Today, the works of Charlie Russell go for big bucks — like “The Hold Up” which sold for $5.2 million in 2008.

Four decades ago, while visiting Charlie’s studio in Great Falls, I learned that he had adorned many of his letters with drawings.  And I got a bright idea. . . . .

If you want to see some of Charlie’s artistic letters, check out  http://www.google.com/search?q=charlie+russell%27s+letters+images&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiJ0sOonbzXAhUE4oMKHZM8B2AQsAQIJQ&biw=1920&bih=949   

Sukiyaki

Way back when, I had a half year course in Japanese. We learned basic conversation, the Hiragana alphabet, a bit of Katakana and snippets of Kanji (the adoptive Chinese characters). I don’t have much use for the language anymore except for one thing — singing.  

When my granddaughters spend the night, I always sing.  Oh Shenendoah (see August 14,2011) and other fraternity songs.  And I inevitably launch into the famous Kyu Sakamoto song – Sukiyaki (Ue o muite Arukō).  I remember that tune vividly from my junior prom in 1963.   So when my granddaughters are closing their eyes, I’m warbling to them in Japanese. 

The song title means “I look up as I walk.”  It is about a man who walks whistling – while looking up.  So his tears will not fall.  Sukiyaki was released in Japan in 1961 and the U.S. in 1963.  Kyu Sakimoto (1941-1985) was an instant phenom.  For nearly a year (1963-4) Kyu was on a world tour — performing and appearing on television (including in the U.S.).  On August 12, 1985, Kyu Sakamoto sadly died in the crash of Japan Airlines Flight 123 — the deadliest single aircraft accident in history.  He left behind his wife and two young daughters.  

If you’d like to hear Kyu Sakamoto’s beautiful song – and visualize me singing it – click on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C35DrtPlUbc     

 

All Saints Day

Sunday, November 5th was All Saints Day.  A celebration of all those men and women who have been canonized by the Church.  Do you have a headache? Then pray to St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582). She is the patron saint of those who suffer from headaches. Are you a lawyer? Then St. Genesius of Rome (circa 300 A.D.) is your patron saint. Though perhaps it’s no surprise that St. Genesius is also the patron saint of comedians, actors and clowns. . . . .

Where do we find the saints of today?  Do we need a window? Or can we use a mirror? As I have gone through life,, there have been plenty of people who have been “saints” for me. Teachers, a judge, a college dean, friends, strangers.  And then there are those who have been saints to all of us.  Parents.  Relatives.  Founding Fathers.  Men and women of the armed services.  Clergy and laity.  Charitable organizations.  Volunteers.  Teachers and tutors.  None have been canonized but many deserve the title “saint.”   Who are the saints in your life?    

We all are equipped with the same tools to be saints to others.  Are you using yours?  

Knucklehead

My brother-in-law’s favorite word to describe those of questionable intelligence is “knucklehead.”  He likes the word – and so do I.  According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the term “knucklehead” was first used in 1942 by ventriloquist Paul Winchell for his dummy “Knucklehead Smiff.”  The word was adopted to describe a “stupid person.”  There are dozens of synonyms for the word.   And there are millions of people who fit the description.  Many are in Washington. . . . . 

The word “knucklehead” is the name of a Canadian punk rock band.   It is the title of a 2010 movie and a 1975 song by Grover Washington.  It is the name of an indoor amusement park in the Wisconsin Dells and a bar in Kansas City.    The word is not derogatory as to race, religion, gender, ethnicity, culture or sexual orientation.  It is an equal opportunity descriptor for a really stupid person. 

I frankly can see limitless application for using this word.  In fact it can probably best be used for anyone who disagrees with me on any given topic.