Thursday, March 22, 2018

Proust Question 3

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

I think this is one of the tougher questions. It probably arises from my doubts that anything is ever perfect. You can be happy in the extreme but I don't know that it would reach perfection. We have chosen to live at least part of the year in Georgia. It separates us by about a 1,000 miles from our friends in Illinois. It isn't just the separation in miles but in time that is significant. It is not the separation that makes me happy. It is when we get back and have the chance to visit with old friends again. Sometimes months or even years pass between opportunities to see some friends yet we can sit and talk almost as if no time has passed at all. The conversation is easy, no topic seems off limits and we don't feel any need to hold back on any opinions. It is that easy familiarity that makes those moments happy and as close to perfect as I can recall.

I walk a good deal for a couple of reasons. First, it is good exercise. From time to time I think about joining the YMCA. It seems silly after I think about it because all I would do there is walk on a treadmill or ride and exercise bike. If I am going to walk it seems like walking outdoors is a much better alternative. It is the second thing that I find gives me almost perfect happiness. Somehow walking in the sun, seeing the world at a slower pace brings some clarity that other activities cannot. I am often surprised by how much you miss driving a car at 30 miles an hour or even a golf cart at 15 miles per hour that you see walking at 3 miles per hour. The flowers in the yards. Squirrels in the trees. Art or other decorations people put in their yards. The sound of gravel crunching under your shoes. The wind blowing in your face. The sun on your back. The solitude of your thoughts. The opportunity to think about anything and or nothing as the miles slowly pass you by.

The last thing would be sitting at home with Rose, Lily and Carol. We don't have to be doing anything. Just sitting and being with each other. There is no place I would rather be and no one else I would like to be with as much as them.

Happiness, friends, walking and home. Who could possibly want more?

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Proust Question 2

What is your favorite journey?

It is tough to narrow this down to one journey.  I enjoy returning to Illinois and our home there in the Spring. Carol finds it odd but I truly miss the smell of fresh turned dirt. The earthy smell of it reminds me of the springs of my youth. I don't mind being in Illinois for the summer heat. The heat brings those special treats that belong to the Midwest. Blackberries and black raspberries fresh off the vine. The best sweet corn you can get anywhere. The sweet corn they sell in Georgia is barely edible. So the journey north calls me in the Spring. Depending on how things go I am at least in the fall of my life and perhaps I have started winter. There really is no way to be sure. I am certain the flower of my spring has faded away. The summer of growth and productivity has passed. Yes, fall has arrived. The leaves have turned, the gray in my beard and the age spots on my hands provide ample evidence of fall. So while I enjoy the journey to home of my youth in the spring there is another journey I look forward to with equal anticipation. The return to the mild winters of Tybee. The sound of the waves breaking against the shore. The call of the ever present gulls. The smell of the salt in the ocean air. In the winter of my life I am looking for the mild embrace of the Georgia winter. A brief dip or two into the high 20's or low 30's. The mild afternoons in the 50's and 60's.  If last winter was any forecaster of things to come we should not see snow again here until sometime in the late 2030's. I'm good with that forecast. I have scooped plenty of snow up north. I have not had to shovel sunshine down here on the coast. So the journey for me is north and south depending on the season. The difficult part is choosing to be happy wherever you are. My happiness is assured as long as I can enjoy the company of my wonderful wife and the companionship of a couple of great dogs. The three of them make the journey worthwhile.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Proust Question 1

So the experiment begins.

1. What is your current state of mind?

I've been thinking about that most of the day. I guess the best word I can use at this time is apprehensive. Part of it has to do with taking on this social experiment. Am I will to be honest in my answers to every question? How much do I want to reveal? Where is the line between not enough and too much. It's like realizing at some point in life that you are here because your parents had sex. You know it had to have happened but you really don't want to dwell on the thought. God forbid you ever have to hear the details. Sometimes ignorance is bliss. I am, in this case, blissfully ignorant. So, I will share what I think is appropriate. I also understand that there are times that my lovely bride of 43+ years wishes I could or would shut my damn mouth.

My apprehensive nature is not limited to this blog. Our daughter in law is currently in Dallas, Texas at a women's conference. The conference is not what makes me apprehensive. I hope she has a wonderful experience and comes back energized and confident. Travel always concerns me especially when it involves flying in an airplane. I know in my head that air travel is one of the safest forms of transportation. It does not stop that little nagging worry in the background that something could go wrong. My granddaughters need their mother and my son needs his wife.

Owning two houses, as Mike knows, is not the joy everyone thinks it is. When you are in Georgia you worry about the house in Illinois. Is everything okay? Are all the automatic systems like heat working? We will go back there in a few weeks. There are lots of things that need to be done here before we go there. Tomorrow is going to be taken up doing some painting downstairs. I tried to program the sprinkler system last week. I had trouble getting part of it to shut off. The instructions looked simple. Apparently I am simpler than the instructions. I still need to finish cleaning and water sealing the deck. I have some landscaping to do. The list goes on.

Audrey is our granddaughter who is involved in competitive gymnastics. One of the girls her age dislocated her elbow the other night. I know the gym she goes to takes every possible precaution to prevent injury. Everything wasn't enough to prevent this accident. You never want to see or hear about you child or grandchild being injured.

So, after all that I know what I got from my Grandmother Beck. Yes folks, clearly I am a worrier. I fret about things that I cannot change. Such is life. Sometimes even knowing does not lead to progress or change. Seems like in my 60's I'm pretty locked in to how I think and feel.

Monday, March 5, 2018


Marcel Proust was a French essayist and novelist. I have never read any of his essays or books. I read the Proust Questionnaire a few months ago and contemplated sharing it and my answers with you. He believed that by answering these questions you reveal your true nature. I do not intend to answer all of them in one post. Some questions may lend themselves to an entire blog post. Some may require several questions and answers to make a blog entry. Today all you get are the questions. I hope the exercise is interesting enough that you choose to examine your life. Perhaps not in this type of public forum, but in a manner that is comfortable for you. Here are the questions.

1. What is your current state of mind?
2. What is your favorite journey?
3. What is your idea of perfect happiness?
4. What is your greatest fear?
5. What is your most marked characteristic?
6. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
7. What is the trait you most deplore in others?
8. What is your greatest extravagance?
9. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
10. On what occasion do you lie?
11. Dislike most about your appearance?
12. Which living person do you most despise?
13. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
14. What is your greatest regret?
15. What or who is the greatest love in your life?
16. When and where were you the happiest?
17. Which talent would you most like to have?
18. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
19. If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?
20. What do you consider your greatest achievement?
21. What is your most treasured possession?
22. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
23. Where would you like to live?
24. What is your favorite occupation?
25. What is the quality you most like in a man?
26. What is the quality you most like in a woman?
27. What do you value most in your friends?
28. Who are your favorite writers?
29. Who is your favorite hero of fiction?
30. What is it that you most dislike?
31. Who are your heroes in real life?
32. How would you like to die?
33. If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?
34. What is your motto?

Some questions on the surface appear to be easy. Some seem almost impossible. I will do my best over the next few blog posts to answer every one as completely and honestly as possible. Take some time as I do this to think about your answers to these questions.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Use Your Head for More Than Just a Hat Rack

A Facebook friend of mine posted a meme from some rocket scientist about gun violence. I will quote it exactly as it was written.

"Remember 3000 people died on 911 and not 1 shot was fired. It's NOT a gun issue it's a HATE issue #truth!!!"

In the recent history of stupid shit I have read this has to be somewhere near the top. Is this person that completely empty headed? Think for a minute. Guys with box cutters or other edged weapons hijacked four airplanes and managed to crash three of them into buildings. So, first part is correct. No guns. Hell I will give him fact two. About 3000 people were killed. Okay, throw in hate. Certainly their acts were not driven by love. Seems like I have given them credit for all their claims. What they seem to have failed to consider was what happened in response to the attack on 9-11-2001.

We stopped all flights into, out of and within the United States while we figured out what happened. How did the weapons get on the planes? How were the terrorists trained. We upgraded security in airports, add armed sky marshals to flights, changed the makeup of identification cards used so they are more difficult to fake, passed the Patriot Act to make surveillance easier. We even went to war with a couple of countries who were not directly involved.

So if we applied the same effort when a gun massacre occurs like Las Vegas or Parkland, Florida things would look something like this. Increased and more stringent background checks to buy guns. There would be restrictions on gun magazine capacity. Perhaps restriction on the types of weapons that are available to the general population. Registration of guns and limits on the amount and type of ammunition you could buy. We don't do that and that is my problem with this meme. Sure no guns were used but the reaction to prevent another occurrence was swift and effective.

 Imagine if you will that we had taken the same approach we take with gun violence. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and the families of those who were on the flights and in the buildings who were injured and killed. We have laws on the books that need to be enforced but there is no need for additional legislation that limits the rights of the law abiding flying public. The many should not be punished for the actions of a few mentally deranged individuals. Please enjoy your flight and if something unfortunate happens know that you will be in our prayers and it must have been part of God's grand plan.

Would those gun loving ammosexuals accept that as a solution to air traffic safety? I think not. They do expect us to think they have a valid point when they say no guns were used on 9-11. As you can see their argument is just fucking ignorant bullshit.

Monday, February 19, 2018

I'm Back

I took some time off to contemplate, think, ponder and examine. The question in my head was a simple one. Do I want to continue to write this blog? I was looking at the state of the society we are in and it was making me increasingly angry. Did I want to sit down day after day and shoot my anger out of my fingertips into cyber space? Did I have anything to say that wasn't angry? It is exhausting to stay mad. It seemed as time went on that it just fell into a feeling of hopelessness. Sure, I could get on here and rant and rave about politics, religion, education, stupid drivers, global warming, the military budget, the price of a good steak, and a hundred other topics. What difference would it make? I thought most likely no difference. So, what would be the point? Maybe I should just quit. Then some jackass with a gun decided to shoot up a school in Florida. I watched high school students organizing and saying enough is enough. Stop offering thoughts and prayers and do something. So, if all I have some days is anger to spew about whatever it is that has pissed me off, well that is what you are going to get. Maybe some days it will be a happy story about something nice I noticed around town or a piece of art or literature I enjoyed. Not today. Maybe not for a few days. Maybe never. I am going to continue this blog. If you don't like what I write you have two options. First, take some time to get your thoughts together and write a comment. I don't review them before publication. You get an uncensored shot at a response. Call me stupid, call me names, DILLIGAF. Second option is stop reading my blog. Find some other thing to read or just sit around a scratch whatever itches. I don't get paid for this and you reading or leaving doesn't matter to me.

The school shooting in Florida has reignited the gun debate. I'm sure in a week or two this will all die down and nothing will happen. I am hoping those optimistic high school kids in Florida prove me wrong. The usual arguments are being made. Arm teachers with guns. Really? Just how fucking stupid are you? I wouldn't have to bring a gun to school, I could just take one away from a teacher. Who thinks that at some point a teacher will snap and open fire on their class because they are sick of the back talk and bullshit? This guy! Of course the blame will be mental health problems. Well, only if the teacher is white. Black person- thug. Someone we can identify as middle eastern- terrorist. Hispanic- gang banger, rapist, or drug dealer. Apparently Hispanics are multi-talented. I'm pretty sure if a teacher was to shoot back at an armed gunman in a school there would still be about the same number of deaths, they would just be from two different guns. Lack of training and ongoing practice would result in bullets hitting about anything except what they intended. Those of you who think the issue has nothing to do with the use of an AR-15 need to read the article from a couple of writers who reviewed the autopsy reports from the Las Vegas shooting. Learn a little something about cavitation or hydrostatic shock caused by bullets. Be prepared to be horrified.Those of you with children or grandchildren going to school, the mall, a movie theater or any other public place need to get off your asses and make the government do something. I can hear the gun nuts now. If you outlaw guns only outlaws will have guns. If you want to go with that logic why have any laws at all? If murderers are going to kill people have a law making it illegal won't stop them. If people are going to drive drunk anyway why should that be illegal. It didn't stop them. It is a stupid argument. Sure, semi automatic rifles like the AR-15 are fun to shoot. Do you need one to kill that deer? No. Home protection? There are other effective alternatives. Fight the government? Really? Are you that fucking ignorant? If they want to take you out they got stuff way more effective that you can't fight against. Helicopters, drones, tanks, fighter jets. Get fucking real.

I'm done for now. See you soon or not.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Kansas June 27, 1946

In past posts I have documented the family connection with Kansas. This post moves us ahead to the 1940's. My Dad, John G. Sutor is writing from Kansas back to his mother in Illinois. He has gone to Kansas to assist my Grandfather John J. Sutor with the wheat harvest. That year my Dad would be 17 and my Grandfather would be 39 at the time of the letter. I'm sure it was part of the process of training the next generation of farmer a lesson in hard work. Here is the letter.

There are a few things to note. In the last two days he notes they have worked twelve and a half hours one day and eleven and a half hours on the day he wrote the letter. The wheat on one field was too green so they moved west to Earl Grecian's farm. It is over 70 years later and Ken Grecian now farms some of our family's ground in Kansas. In a world where too often we don't know or care about our neighbors it is important to note in rural America this is more often the case. Families are neighbors or business partners for generations. Ken is near retirement now and I suspect that Earl was his most likely his grandfather. When you get to the end Dad talks about driving the Cat 30. He is talking about a Caterpillar Tractor Model 30. Rudy and I don't know who he is has been operating the Cat 60. A final note before I move on. Note my Dad signs the note "Sonny Boy". When you and your father are both named John it was a quick way to determine who you were talking to or about. I remember many times in my youth my Father being referred to as Sonny.

The Cat 30.

The Cat 60.

This is what wheat harvest would have looked like.

One man would now do the work that two did in those days with a much larger machine that harvests many times faster.

In closing it is in some ways sad the amount of history we are losing. Letters like this one provide insight into the lives of our parents and grandparents. We just don't write letters now and if we do no one seems to keep them.