Another Saturday on Dry Land

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been helping family members move things, carry things as they’ve gone through the belongings of the oldest surviving family member.  He has realized that he will not be living independently again, and has given the go-ahead to clear out the home he had built in about 1973 and had lived in up until a few months ago.  In his right mind, this 96 year-old man now resides in an assisted living facility and, although he complains a little about the quality of food served there, has expressed in my hearing no other complaint

I drove over to the house early Saturday morning after staying up until nearly the stroke of midnight to meet a deadline.  Unshaved and unwashed I drove through Stepford at a time when most of the town’s residents are still in their pajamas or thinking about eating fattening convenience foods they can microwave.  Hot as heck already by 7:20 or so a.m.  Workman were resurfacing one of the main routes across town, and I had a longer than usual stop until a flagman waved me past after the asphalt truck had gone by.

I drove past three big mainline denominational houses of worship.  One of these is the First Big Southern Denomination meeting house.  As I drove by, I wondered whether, if I showed up there one Sunday morning, I’d recognize anything that happened under the building’s roof as particularly Christian.  Not.  Probably not.  But I may be too critical of the religious practices of others who, like me, claim to be Christian.

After spending a couple of hours helping my mom move some stuff out into the garage for the auction people to haul off, I drove out to the Pot County seat Administrative Plaza to visit a friend who works over there on Saturday mornings, then drove back to Stepford (which, oddly enough, is not the county seat) to put gas in the XC before returning to the house.

At home, I found my son and wife had already eaten breakfast.  My wife went to the store, and I made a bowl of oatmeal.  While it cooled, I watched the last part of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang with Seventy-Six.  He didn’t want to watch the part where Caractacus, Truly, and Benny Hill visit with the kids in the watery cavern under the castle, and asked me to fast-forward to part where Gert Frobe and Anna Quail sing a comically lethal duet, which never fails to amuse the child.  I shared my bowl of oatmeal with my now 3 1/2 year-old son while we sat in bargain faux-wicker furniture in our somewhat dilapidated sunroom.  Second breakfast for him.  The boy is exceedingly tall for his age (95th percentile height, 75th percentile weight), and when he jumps (cannon-ball, knees-first) on my back if I’m lying on the carpet reading a book, the impact is no joke.

After my wife came home from the store with the week’s groceries, I got my shower and changed.  We ate lunch as a family – BLT sandwiches, while good tomatoes are in season and available.  My little boy only wanted grilled cheese, but was willing to eat a piece of low-fat bacon.

Shortly after lunch, I called my friend, neighbor, and relative by marriage, John T., to ask whether I could borrow his small pickup truck to carry off some things from the house across town.  He said, sure, come on over.  I walked over to his house and as I approached observed him pulling the truck out and parking it in the shade of a tree in the driveway.  We exchanged greetings and he asked whether I could use any help.  Any time a super-intelligent 88 year-old World War II veteran with a realistic sense of humor, and whom you’ve known all your life asks whether you’d like his help, the right answer is “Yes.”

“You drive,” he said.

We made a couple of trips.  Hot all day, the small truck has no air-conditioner, so we drove with all the windows open, including the wind-wings.  Cars now don’t have them, but they permit one to direct a flow of wind toward the car’s interior as it is driven.  I sometimes wish my 850 had them.

Jeep-Jockey

I’ve been reading Ernie Pyle’s Here is Your War, only the copy I’m reading came out of a rural Indiana farmhouse and was published in 1943 or 1944.  The cover is present, but not worth mentioning as it is ragged, the insides of the hardbound cover at front and back have yellowed newspaper clippings pasted into them in the style of old fashioned scrapbooks.  About a dozen to 20 other clippings are stuffed into the middle of the book, and notes handwritten in pencil on a folded seed-company mailer postmarked dating from 1944.  I’m using the seed-company mailer as a book mark.  I’ll read the clippings after I’ve read the book.

John is a veteran of World War II.  A year or two ago, he told me about his Honor Flight tour of Washington, D.C.  It sounded interesting, but I found myself wishing someone had provided such a tour for him and other veterans when they were all younger and more independently mobile.  John said he enjoyed the whirlwind visit to the memorials and monuments honoring the men and women who fought and served in that defining conflict of the mid-Twentieth Century.

I don’t know how, but we got onto the subject of cellular telephones and John said he and Irma, his wife, had been at a movie and the cell-phone of the woman seated next to him rang three or four different times during the film’s showing.  Although annoyed, John didn’t say anything to the woman because, “You never know if it’s someone who’s going to try to shoot you.”  We started talking about the debased state of even semi-rural society here in Southern Middle Tennessee, about how it seems at least 75% of the population is using psychoactive medication with or without medical advice, and another 10% probably ought to be prescribed something.

I asked John, “Is this (motioning with my hand to indicate a mix of current circumstances of place and the things we’ve been talking about) what you guys were fighting for?”

“No,” he said, “it’s not.  We went to war to defeat Hitler and Stalin.  And the Japanese.”  When asked, he denied with a shake of the head any regard for the manner in which the victory of his generation had been spent to build a medicated welfare state.

It’s Friday again as I return to complete this post – the last Friday in July.  After the preceding paragraph, I’d started to write a bit about the following Sunday, but just now returning to it, I’ve completely forgotten what it was I’d wanted to say about last Sunday.  I recall that my family and I skipped worship service and performed all manner of ox-freeing work on the small ‘c’ cultural ‘c’hristian Sabbath for which the Almighty will doubtless not condemn us, the Sabbath being made for Man and not Man for the Sabbath.  And anyway, Sunday’s just the first day of the ancient world’s working week, and Christianity was at first a working man and woman’s religion.  Do not make the mistake of reading any kind of Marxist cant into my remarks thereby missing entirely their various points.

Yesterday, or the day before, an idea occurred to me as I was reading or thinking about Pyle’s book that I’ve mentioned above.  And that idea is this – wouldn’t it be interesting to find some accessible and clear way to contrast the United States of 2011 with the United States Pyle wrote about in 1943.  My copy of Pyle’s book bears the publication date “December, 1943.”

One of the things Pyle did was to report the names and street addresses of some of the military personnel about whom he’d written .  That struck me as odd and an obvious security breach.  How on earth could even a half-sentient military censor allow something like that to pass into print?  I can think of one or two possible “conscious” answers to the question.

But that idea I had is this – Wouldn’t it be interesting to Google Street-View those 1943 addresses in 2011?  The visuals might indicate whether or to what observable degree the United States of America has improved since winning World War Two.

Here’s one I jotted down today (I wish I’d thought of this when I started reading and had kept a list):

Page 119

Lt. Victor Coreno

11002 Woodland Ave.
Cleveland, Ohio

It’s a parking lot on the corner in a run-down neighborhood near public housing projects.  Maybe it’d been a storefront with apartments above, or a two-storey frame house, or just an apartment building like the brick buildings beside or behind it.

Here is another one:

Page 130

Navigator Lt. Davey Williams

3305 Williams St.

Fort Worth, Texas

I wasn’t able to find a Williams Street in Fort Worth using Google Maps.  The address at Williams Avenue is a run-down strip mall in what looks like it is now a run-down commercial-industrial area.

I was able to find a Williams Street, and re-linked the address above.  What I’m finding with Google Maps and Street View is that addresses are so approximate in many instances that the online “service” or whatever it is a lot of the time plants its little orange markers in the middle of intersections.  Still, the entire length of Williams Street is pretty badly run-down.  You’ll note a family group reclining on living-room furniture out by a dumpster behind an apartment building nearby.

Gunners

Today I came home early from work because my head felt like it’s bones were splintering like one of those cinematic werewolf transformations.  Explains why I’ve been cranky last two or three days – coming down with an intractable head-cold that only rest will cure.  Once home, I watched the third and apparently final episode of the BBC Masterpiece Theater “Sherlock” – an updated adaptation of the Arthur Conan Doyle characters and stories from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  I thought I’d hate it completely, but found that I very much enjoyed the short series.  What bothers me, or that irks at the back of my mind, is that an updated Sherlock Holmes posits a hundred and twenty or so years of history without Doyle’s character embedded, so to speak, in the culture.  Can you imagine a world that’d never heard of or been influenced by those stories and that one particular character?

Superheroes and Smart People

For about a year I’ve been thinking about repeated appearances in literature (and therefore also in film – I know nothing of stage) and television of the superman.  Not the sort of man whose natural good health becomes something superhuman and ageless in the light of the yellow sun, but of the man whose native ability to make sense and understand circumstance in detail and in whole becomes something superhuman in the light of a painfully clear, blindingly bright intelligence.

While the former experiences few conflicts beyond those imposed upon him by the rigors of maintaining sufficient anonymity to function effectively, the latter’s apprehension of the actual world he inhabits is so conjoined with that unfortunate offspring of understanding, empathy, that his primary and constant experience in/of life is conflicted pain.  As I’ve noted to the annoyance of others here, that is a pretty reasonable state to find oneself in.  Usually the protagonist of superhuman strength wishes to use his great physical powers to benefit humankind and his efforts are narrated as meeting with the resistance of one or more opponents of equal or similar physical power and it turns out to be some quality of character or spirit, if you wish, that decides the contest.  Because he is most frequently the one to whom those in great distress appeal in last resort, and while generally well known not usually afforded celebrity status in the way professional athletes or attractive film stars are known (again, in the ‘public eye’ due primarily to their physical features or abilities) the other variety of superman tends to be known by his given name.

My most popular blog post is the one where I quote a section of Lyle Rossiter’s The Liberal Mind.  Rossiter posits that the problem with nanny-statist political and social liberals is that they wish to indefinitely prolong their infancy by forcing all of society to meet their need for a lifelong coercive-but-protective parent/provider by "legally" stealing in the form of taxes ever greater portions of the wealth created and amassed by those of us who work and produce.  The reason for the post’s popularity is doubtless the fact that in it I discuss my old Murry 11/36 riding lawn mower and contrast its performance with that of the used the John Deere GT235E I purchased to replace it.  Back to Rossiter, however, his view taken to the extreme is a stark vista of purely individualistic self-reliance that seems to deny any human longing for love and care that an Evangelical Christian would probably attribute to a "God-shaped-hole" in a human being’s essential (as opposed to physical) heart.

Sure, some of that folk-religious hocus-pocus linked above is pretty cheesy stuff glorifying helplessness and sickness.  The apparent fact that many people seem to have a desire for or a sense that they need or should have the care of someone greater than they may bespeak something qualitatively different than soul and self-destroying sentimentality.  For instance, it may be a neurological artifact from  time in-vitro or a vestigial grasp-reflex having more to do with the human navel than the human heart.  If it can be explained in that way, this sense of need or desire for care still serves to remind the human that generically he is not self-existent.

In literary fiction, Sherlock Holmes is the stand-out superman of his or arguably any age – soaring intellect, uninterested in fame, energetic, able to communicate with and understand the communications of people of every social stations, unimpressed by social station because he apprehends the truth of the human being, experiencing and dulling the pain produced by extreme clarity of understanding.  And in the realm of televised fiction, Dr. Who is the other such figure – both in and out of time, energetic, active in his own and the circumstances of others, seeking human companionship and working to improve the lives of (mainly) humans.