Monday, April 16, 2018

Proust Question 5

What is your most marked characteristic?

I think other people may have a different opinion but to me it is humor. I find all too often it can be a two edged sword. You think something is funny and when you say it there is an audible gasp from those who are listening. I'll give you an example. A few nights ago we went to a local restaurant with a group of friends. There was a gentleman playing a guitar and singing. He was very good even to the point of mimicking the voices of the original singers of the songs he was performing. He was wearing an occluder over one eye which apparently had been lost to accident or illness. Someone in the group commented that he looked like a pirate. I had been uncharacteristically quiet and one of our group asked what I was thinking. What I should have said was something along the lines of how wonderful the evening was with such nice weather, good friends and great food. That really life doesn't get any better than that evening had been. I didn't go there. I went this way. I said I would like to see the guy performing on Wheel of Fortune to listen for him to say he would like to buy an "i". It was one of those moments when the entire group looks at you with the same look on their face. You know the look. It's the one that says: "What the fuck is wrong with you?" I gave them a moment to recover and then said: "You asked. Bet now you wish you hadn't. I have stuff like that going on in my head all the time. I just don't usually let it out."

Even Carol at times suffers from my attempts at humor. One night we were watching the local news and there was a report about a man killing his wife and then killing himself. It led to the following exchange.
Jeff: "I would never do that."
Carol: "Really?"
Jeff: "Yea, I would never kill myself."
She did not find the exchange at all humorous.

So, if I had any advice to offer it would be this. If you are going to attempt to be funny take a moment or two to consider the audience who will be receiving your words. Sometimes they just aren't ready for the tale you are going to share. It is good to learn when to shut your mouth. I'm a work in progress.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Proust Question 4

What is your greatest fear?

This is one of the tougher questions. It would be easy to be a smart ass or flippant about this question. You know something like clowns or midgets. I find both to be a bit disturbing but they don't rise to the level of my greatest fear. It would also be easy to choose death as the answer. I think deep down we all share a concern about our ultimate demise. How will it happen? Will it be painful? Will I be alone? Will anyone care? Death is not my greatest fear. I don't go out and do things deliberately that might kill me. At the same time I don't refuse to do things because they might result in my death. I drive a car and ride a motorcycle. I understand that either one of those activities could result in my death. While I can control how I drive or ride I cannot control the actions of those who share the road with me. Some of them are, in my opinion and experience, stupid, inattentive and careless. Knowing this I still choose to drive and ride in a car and on a motorcycle. I do my best to drive defensively and follow traffic laws in an attempt to reduce my risk. Well, what is my greatest fear if it is not those things?

Dependence. I don't want to be physically or mentally incapacitated. I don't want to have to depend on others for my physical care or for someone to have to handle my business affairs. My father in law Larry had a heart attack and was in a nursing home brain dead for more years than I can recall. It was well over a decade. I can imagine no worse fate in life than what his physical body had to endure. If he had a choice I'm sure he would have wanted almost anything else to happen. To lay in a bed unable to control your bodily functions. To have to see your family come to visit and be unable to communicate with them. To be completely dependent on others for everything in your life strikes fear in my heart. There is no way to know what he thought or felt. What he could see or know. If I had to be in that place I would prefer that I had died instead. So when I look at the world and consider bravery I often think of Stephen Hawking. He was stronger and braver than I could ever be. I would have given up and died many years ago had I been in his condition. So take a little time today and consider what really scares the hell out of you. I hope in my heart you never have to face whatever it might be.

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.