It’s convenient and fortunate when this prompt coincides with a recent road trip. It wasn’t a long trip. About three hours from our house to Tom and Ellin’s place in Connecticut and an easy drive. Only one city to cross — Hartford — and that’s usually easy unless you get there exactly at rush hour. We didn’t and it was a smooth way down.
Lots of talking and hanging about. Some good, old-fashioned table-thumping ranting — a good way to let off some steam. And Garry discovered the miracle that is virtual reality. You’d think I’d love virtual reality because I love amusement parks and rides, but for me that experience is shared. It’s not a “me with me” experience. It’s doing it then being able to talk about it with the other kids who were playing there too.
We didn’t go out much, probably because it was raining and sleeting for two out of three days. Of course the day we went home was glorious, as is today. Oh well.
Driving home — starting later than usual — was no big deal. Nothing special until we were almost home. The sun had been swinging to setting down for the night, but at about four thirty, everything turned gold. The gray naked trees turned bright gold. They looked like deep autumn trees. The combination of the shadows and the sunlight were absolutely amazing.
I’ve been in the presence of golden light a few times. Once, at sundown, on our street, facing almost due west into the lowering sun. Another late afternoon on the Mumford river. The sun was gold, the trees were amber from the very end of autumn and the light hit the water and turned it to molten gold. This was similar but it lasted much longer. It was first pale yellow and deepened for close to an hour. By the time we were within a mile of home, we had to pull off the road and take pictures.
I’m sure there is someone out there who knows what causes light to change color? Particles in the air? Some odd configuration of a falling sun and the shape and form of the clouds? Reflections of amber leaves on the last of the Autumn trees? It is a remarkable event for the human eye. I may never find myself in that ring of glowing gold again, but I won’t so easily forget it.
Ellin wrote a blog on that same topic as this andit follows immediately right here. We didn’t plan on doing. it. We both came up with the same idea separately. Two takes on the same theme.
Last night my wife and I watched “Galaxy Quest.” It’s one of our favorite movies. We’ve seen it so many times we can both recite the dialogue with the actors. We hadn’t planned on watching it. We have a ton of shows and movies we haven’t seen clogging up our DVR. We only meant to watch a minute or so because we just got a new TV and I wanted to see how it looked on a better screen. Then the movie was ending. Ellin and I looked at each other and said “I can’t believe we just watched the whole movie again”. But we both had smiles on our faces.
Then I noticed something.
Ellin hadn’t looked at her phone once for more than two hours. Lately she — like most of us — is constantly reading news about the latest insanity coming out of the White House and Congress. It’s become an obsession. I find myself saying more and more to her while we’re watching TV at night, “Put the phone down! This is your favorite show!”
Most of the time, I’m guilty of doing the same thing.
I’ve realized to keep our sanity, we need to set aside a few hours each day and NOT READ THE NEWS. Do anything else. Watch your favorite TV show. Watch a movie, read a book. Take a walk. If you have a fireplace, light a fire. Stare at it for a while.
I can give you a few suggestions of shows you might want to check out. My favorite shows are ones I call “Too Hip For The Room.” These are shows that didn’t get great ratings, or slipped under the radar. Not that many people watched them, but they were fantastic shows. People didn’t watch them because they were put on at the wrong time slot, or people didn’t understand what the show was supposed to be.
These are some of my favorites.
Firefly. BEST SCIENCE FICTION SHOW EVER! To this day, it has a following that rivals Star Trek. It got canceled because the moronic suits at Fox had no idea what they had. How much of a fan am I? I named my boat “Serenity.” After the ship on the show.
Powerless. There’s a show now on NBC TV. It’s an office comedy, but takes place in the DC comic universe.
It’s not about Batman, Superman, or the Flash. It’s about normal people who live in the cities where super heroes and super villains routinely destroy property. It’s a common occurrence to leave work, walk to your car, and watch a bus fall on it because a super battle is going on nearby. The show centers on an R&D group working for a company owned by Wayne Enterprises.
The boss is Bruce Wayne’s cousin. A rich idiot who wants nothing more than to get to work at the main building over in Gotham City. They make products to help people survive the DC Universe. My favorite, an “Anti-Joker Venom Epi-Pen.” Don’t leave home without it. The show is Better Off Ted — with super heroes.
Better Off Ted is on Netflix. Also an office comedy. Ted is head of an R&D division for a large multi-national corporation called Veridian Dynamics. They make everything from food to military weapons. Anybody who has ever worked for a large corporation will love this.
In one of my favorite episodes, the company removes all the motion sensors that open doors, turn on lights and turn on the water fountains. They replace them with new sensors that don’t recognize motion. Instead, they recognize people. Unfortunately, there’s a glitch in the system. It doesn’t recognize black people. Suddenly all the black employees can’t get in or out of their offices. They’re all in the dark and the water fountains don’t work. When Ted suggests to his boss they put the old system back, he is told it would cost too much money. And upper management never admits that they did anything wrong. So instead, they first install manually operated water fountains. Just for the black folks. This doesn’t go over very well.
Next they come up with the idea of hiring young minimum wage white people to follow all the black people around. This works until the HR Department points out that to avoid company anti-discrimination rules, you have to hire a low wage young black person for every low wage white person. But of course, when you do that you have to hire another low wage white person for the new low wage black person.
Ted saves the day by pointing out to senior management that under this current plan, they would be employing every person on Earth in just under one month. They didn’t have enough employee parking space for that many people. So they switched back to the old system.
Father Of The Pride is on Netflix. This was a cartoon which originally aired on NBC at 8PM during the height of the Bush Administration when the 8 pm was the ultimate “kid friendly” hour. It was one of the first TV shows done by DreamWorks Animation, the same people who did Shrek. Each episode cost over a million dollars to make. And it was not for kids. It was basically a sitcom.
It takes place in the animal compound owned by Siegfried and Roy in Las Vegas. The main characters were a family of lions who performed in the show. John Goodman was the voice of the lead character. The show shot a full season of episodes, but it was pulled after the fourth episode. Why? Well, in that episode the parents find a vase in their house with a plastic baggie full of catnip taped to bottom.
They immediately think it belongs to their teenage daughter. She’s a “nipper.” She denies it. The parents then go on to accidentally end up eating some “nip-laced sausages” and get ridiculously stoned. It’s any episode of “The Honeymooners” or “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” Just with animated animals. And drugs. Oh and it turns out the catnip belongs to the Grandpa. Played by Carl Reiner. They eventually ran all but two of the episodes, but during off-ratings time periods.
Check them out. You’ll have a good time and forget about reality for few hours. Oh, and don’t forget those late night comedy shows! They are on a roll!
If you follow the news these days, you may not be the happiest of campers. In fact, many informed people are reporting increased levels of anxiety and depression. A sense of impending doom coupled with abject helplessness. Unspecified dread and existential angst.
The usual suggestion for combating these negative feelings, is to avoid the news. Entirely. That doesn’t work for me. Staying informed gives me a small sense of control. Besides, my anxiety would conjure scenarios in Washington far worse than what’s actually happening.
I think a better approach is to find things in your daily life that give you pleasure. Small doses of unmitigated joy can counter a shitload of negativity. Your body relaxes. Your face breaks into a smile. You are flooded with endorphins. Your mind registers happiness and relaxation, even for a short while. For me, those moments recharge me and give me perspective. Not everything in the world is bleak and scary.
There are many things I do to give myself that rush of positive energy. For example, last night my husband and I watched one of our favorite movies – “Galaxy Quest,” with Tim Allen and Sigourney Weaver. It’s a humorous take-off on the Star trek TV series. We know it so well, we can recite some of the dialogue along with the actors. That in itself is a hoot! We smiled and laughed all the way through the movie for the 99th time.
Another sure-fire feel good movie for us is “When Harry Met Sally.” Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan. I beam from ear to ear when I watch that one, which I do at least once a year. Everyone has movies like that. Find yours and enjoy them to the fullest.
Another reliable happiness fix for me is watching my dogs play. The unbridled joy of two dogs wrestling and chasing each other is truly healing. If you don’t have a dog, go to a dog park or look up ‘dogs playing’ on YouTube. Kittens playing should create the same effect if you’re more of a cat person.
Here’s something everyone can do. I have filled my house, like many people have, with art and decorative objects. I get joy from walking around and looking at my favorite things. Some give me pleasure because they are so beautiful or are special because of the memories they evoke – often when or where I acquired them. Many have an emotional connection because they belonged to, or were a gift from, a loved family member or friend. Others evoke memories of another time in my life, sometimes as far back as childhood.
Take the time to enjoy and appreciate the special artifacts in your life too.
None of these are any kind of permanent solution to the ennui we are feeling, but taking control of your emotions — even for a short — time is empowering. And it does put the goings-on in Washington in perspective.
Presumably our daily lives will not be affected today or tomorrow by whatever the Trump administration or Congress is doing at the moment. There will be more than enough time to panic if we are personally screwed by the government’s actions.
In the meantime, take a few deep breaths and enjoy what you can, when you can, as often as you can.
We had a great time. We really did. We talked and ate and watched stuff on television and Garry discovered the joy of virtual reality. It was terrific.
We were away three days and I have so many emails in my inbox, I can safely say I will never get to them. It is mass-delete time. I have to start fresh or I will be buried, never to emerge.
While we were driving home, the sky turned gold. It was something else. The tops of all the winter trees changed color too. It’s difficult taking pictures in the car. Windshield and all that, not to mention the annoying habit the dashboard has of popping up. But it got so remarkable, Garry pulled off the road, grabbed the camera and jumped out to take few more.
A very golden welcome home for us and a good thing. According to our weather forecasters, this is going to be the only sunny day for the week. Even a hint of snow is predicted by Friday. Spring will come. I have faith.
Garry and I have a lot of stuff to do in the next few weeks. Every now and again, the rest of life catches up with us. This is one of those times. Meanwhile, a few really pretty pictures from the road home. Don’t they look like autumn trees? They are actually fir trees topped with gold from the sun as it was setting.
“Yesterday is another country, all borders are closed.”
It was a wonderful piece of dialogue from “MidSomer Murders.” In the episode, Chief Inspector Barnaby is questioning a murder suspect about his whereabouts the previous day. The suspect tries to dodge the questions with thinly veiled irony. “Yesterday, Chief Inspector, is another country. All borders are closed.” Barnaby ultimately opens the borders and nails the suspect. Still, I liked the perp’s style.
Now that the new year is ending its first quarter, many folks would prefer not to think about the last year. Here, in the United States, many of us think of 2016 as another country with all borders closed. We don’t want to recall the epic long Presidential campaign and the result. Regardless, we’re in it now — and it’s every bit the nightmare we feared.
Reality bites. It has fangs, claws, and power in congress. Reality is taking a big ugly chunk our of our flanks this time around.
Our yesterdays are always subject to border closings, depending on how we remember them. I often write about legendary people I’ve met in my professional life. Those are pleasant stories to recount.
A lot of the borders to yesterday are closed because we don’t want to revive the memories. I certainly don’t. They aren’t happy memories. They make me sad. I’ve never been good at handling emotions.
Someone recently wrote a Facebook piece about the pain of seeing a loved one pass away, deep in dementia. Quickly, I tried to blot out the images of Mom, whose last years were diminished by dementia. No luck. I could clearly see the woman who used to be Mom. Strike that. That’s what I was thinking in the moment, especially during the final months of her life. She was still Mom but she didn’t know me.
I struggled during those final visits. In part, I struggled because I felt guilty I couldn’t come to see Mom more often. It was a four (or more) hour drive from Massachusetts to Long Island. During the drives, my mind would fill with images of a younger Mom. I could hear her laugh and see her smile. I remembered the things we did together over the years. In my mind, I saw her wedding pictures — Mom and Dad in the prime of their lives.
By then, Dad had already been gone for five years, yet I hadn’t been able to cry for him. Now Mom was slipping away. In what turned out to be my last visit, I tried my best to reach through the dementia, to reclaim a few moments with Mom. I failed.
A few weeks later, in the middle of sub teaching a high school class, the principal and Marilyn entered the classroom. I instantly knew Mom was gone.
I was the main eulogist at Mom’s funeral. I’m a wordsmith. I could see people crying and smiling as I recalled my mother’s life. My stomach was tight, but I couldn’t cry. Not a tear.
I’ve talked to Marilyn about the grieving process. She understands and at least in theory, I understand too. Yet, it troubles me. I’m such a sucker for sentimental old movies, but real life is something else, something I find very difficult to share, even with myself.
I’ve tried to shoebox the frailty of life. Keep the anxiety behind one of those closed borders. Marilyn was 70 in March. I’ll be 75 in a few weeks. We have lots of health issues and we work hard at not worrying about them. As the character in Bridge of Spies” said, “Would it make a difference?”
Would worrying more fix something?
Instead, we use our energy to enjoy each other and our life together. We feed off each other. The borders are open. For both of us.
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