DREAMING OF SPRING

This is the worst part of winter for me because by now, I’ve had more than enough winter. Even thinking about snow makes my back hurt and my sinuses back up. Spring tends to be very brief and rather late in this latitude. Beautiful for all of five minutes.

Pink apple blossoms
Magnolia
A flowery road by the farm
New leaves

I thought I’d give you some springtime visuals. Something for all we northerners to dream about.

KNOW WHEN TO WALK AWAY, KNOW WHEN TO RUN! – THE GAMBLER

Kenny Rogers – The Gambler Lyrics


On a warm summer’s evenin’ on a train bound for nowhere,
I met up with the gambler; we were both too tired to sleep.
So we took turns a starin’ out the window at the darkness
‘Til boredom overtook us, and he began to speak.

He said, “Son, I’ve made my life out of readin’ people’s faces,
And knowin’ what their cards were by the way they held their eyes.
So if you don’t mind my sayin’, I can see you’re out of aces.
For a taste of your whiskey I’ll give you some advice. ”

So I handed him my bottle and he drank down my last swallow.
Then he bummed a cigarette and asked me for a light.
And the night got deathly quiet, and his face lost all expression.
Said, “If you’re gonna play the game, boy, ya gotta learn to play it right.

You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em,
Know when to walk away and know when to run.
You never count your money when you’re sittin’ at the table.
There’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealin’s done.

Now Ev’ry gambler knows that the secret to survivin’
Is knowin’ what to throw away and knowing what to keep.
‘Cause ev’ry hand’s a winner and ev’ry hand’s a loser,
And the best that you can hope for is to die in your sleep. ”

So when he’d finished speakin’, he turned back towards the window,
Crushed out his cigarette and faded off to sleep.
And somewhere in the darkness the gambler, he broke even.
But in his final words I found an ace that I could keep.

You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em,
Know when to walk away and know when to run.
You never count your money when you’re sittin’ at the table.
There’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealin’s done.
Chrousx3


Songwriters: DON SCHLITZ
The Gambler lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

COURAGE – THE REAL DEAL

COURAGE AND VALOR


People are always saying I’m courageous because I’ve survived a lot of illness. I tell them surviving is not courage. It’s instinct. That is the kind of “courage” you can find in any living thing — including an earthworm or a slug.

Flames from the Valley Fire cover a hillside along Highway 29 in Lower Lake, California September 13, 2015. The swiftly spreading wildfire destroyed hundreds of homes and forced thousands of residents to flee as it roared unchecked through the northern California village of Middletown and nearby communities, REUTERS/Noah Berger

Every living thing does its best to stay alive. To survive and continue to exist. Sometimes that’s hard, but it isn’t courageous. It may show tenacity, grit, intelligence, and luck, but courage is something else.

Courage is when — at your own personal peril — you run into the fire from which everyone else is fleeing to try to save those who are trapped.

Courage is going back to the fight because your patrol is trapped and they need your help.

Courage is going against your natural instinct to flee the danger and get to safety to save the lives of others — human or animal.

Courage is counter-instinctive. It isn’t “natural” and I am pretty sure you will never find an earthworm with genuine valor.

I’m not brave. I’m gritty, determined, persistent, and sometimes, clever. I also have been lucky. Luck is the single thing common for survivors and the truly courageous. You wish for it, but you can’t count on it.

The lucky get to hear their praises sung — hopefully. The unlucky may get a really nice funeral and a posthumous medal.

RED FINCHES ON A WIRE – WITH A BIT EXTRA INFORMATION FROM AUDUBON ET AL

Last April, I looked out my window and there was a pretty little finch with a bright red-head on the wire. He was a very small bird on a very high branch … far away. I grabbed my super zoom Panasonic and took picture.

One red finch on a wire
A little closer …

Shooting through the not very clean living room picture window that also has a rectangular frame around each pane to a tree above my line of sight at almost a full 600 mm extension. It was no surprise that the pictures were not sharp.

Red finch and best lady friend
Two of them on a wire

I was happy to have gotten any pictures at all because by the time I get a camera in hand, there’s nothing to shoot. This time, at least I got some pictures. Not great pictures, but a lot better than nothing.

The lady on her own

The biggest surprise was discovering this was a new bird. The red finches used to be found in pet shops. They originated in the southwest, but made popular cage birds until caging wild birds was made illegal. Pet shop owners just let them go and suddenly, there were red finches all over the country. These were the first I had ever seen.

The boy again …

First there was the male with the bright red-head. Then his lady friend joined him on the wire — our cable wire — and they sat there. Chirping. Surrounded by the buds of a spring that had not yet arrived.

Close up of our lady

Today, I tried to see if i could do something to make the pictures a little less fuzzy and blurry. Better, I think.

MORE INFORMATION:


House Finch | Audubon Field Guide – National Audubon Society
http://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/house-finch
Adaptable, colorful, and cheery-voiced, House Finches are common from coast to coast today, familiar visitors to backyard feeders. Native to the Southwest, they are recent arrivals in the East. New York pet shop owners, who had been selling the finches illegally, released their birds in 1940 to escape prosecution. A few better pictures below from various other sources:

WHICH WAY WITH A HORSE … ALMOST

Cee’s Which Way Photo Challenge


A faux horse, an old-fashioned carriage and a back road in Gettysburg. Imagine a real horse and you’re home free!

Back end of faux horse. No clean up! 
Follow the trail? Wait … that’s not a real horse! 
Almost a horse, but definitely, a carriage. Or is that a buckboard? 
Photo: Garry Armstrong Just in case, I thought I’d include a real horse. 

THE MARRIAGE CONTRACT

The subject has been on our minds lately, probably because it’s almost baseball season and the slugger the Sox need has refused to sign a contract.

“It’s not about the money,” he assured everyone. The current offer is at $125 million for 6 years, but he wants to play outfield rather than designated hitter — which is what we need. The Sox have three brilliant outfielders who can also hit, so that’s not happening. Martinez isn’t getting more money and he is definitely not getting third base.

Since no one else has made him a better offer, there’s a possibility this great player is going to wind up sitting out the season or going to Japan because he won’t sign a contract. There aren’t many teams with this kind of money to offer. The Yankees, Dodgers, and Red Sox are pretty much the big three for big money and this guy has said no to all of them.

No contract? No baseball.

Meanwhile, we are also watching reruns of “Blue Bloods.” Danny the cop with PTSD and his lovely wife Linda are going through a variety of marital issues. He says “You have to quit doing that.”

And she says “Or yeah? Or what? Eh? Whatcha gonna do about it, huh?”

And I say: “Until the new contract season comes up.” This is a rerun, so I can see the future. I know she’s going to die at the beginning of next season – belatedly — because she can’t renegotiate her contract.

That made me think about how life would be if our marriages were based on contracts and negotiations. With agents and lawyers. Lists of  requirements and assurances from the medical team that we’re okay to play five more seasons. All the things we are required to do or no renewal for upcoming seasons.

Sorry buddy. Empty out your locker and good luck in your next endeavor.

This might result in all of us getting better terms for our relationships or maybe not. More likely, a lot of lawyers and agents get richer. We get poorer, and a bunch of married people discover they have not been renewed for the upcoming season. I can see us negotiating for a five-year contract, with someone saying “Of course, this contract is based on a doctor’s assurance that you are in good health.”

Oops.

Poor people would have to work month-to-month because they can’t afford an agent. We’d be lucky to even make the team. On a more positive note, there would be no need for divorce. It would be simple, matter-of-fact business arrangement.

Sorry. Your contract has not been renewed.

THOUGHTS, PRAYERS, OTHER BULLSHIT, AND A STORY – TOM CURLEY

I don’t know why I’m writing this. I don’t know why I’m wasting both my time and yours. But, what the hell. As I’m writing this the news is still in full-time coverage of the latest mass shooting at a public school.

This time in Florida, not that it matters much. It could have been anywhere in the country. Hell, it has been anywhere in the country. Tomorrow it will be somewhere else. And of course, politicians, mostly Republicans, trotted out the same old crap. “Thoughts and prayers” and “now is not the time to talk about gun control”.

You know, the usual bullshit. One of Jimmy Kimmel’s writers posted all the Republican tweets next to the amount of money the NRA has given them. The average is around 3 million dollars. Except for Trump. They gave him 21 million. You can read it here.

I did notice one new thing this time. As the students were being led to safety by the police they all had their hands in the air.

Why? Well, they hadn’t caught the shooter yet and the police couldn’t trust anyone. There might be a second or third shooter amongst them. I thought the photo of the three-year-old girl practicing standing on the toilet seat because that’s what her preschool taught her to do “when the shooters come” was as sad as things could get. I was wrong.

When it was happening, the initial report was that one person was dead and 17 injured. Ellin’s first response was “Only one dead? That’s not so bad”. A few moments later she said “I can’t believe I just said that. I’m getting immune to this”. As it turned out, it wasn’t just one dead, it was all 17. Not the record, but the shooter sure gave it the old school try.

I probably shouldn’t be making bad jokes like that. I just don’t care. This is America’s version of Groundhog Day. Just a very bad version with a shitload of guns and a lot of dead bodies. At this point I was going to repost a blog I did last year called If Now’s Not The Time To Talk About Gun Control, There Never Will Be A Time.   But why bother? You’ve heard it all before. Click on the link if you want.

Instead I’m going to completely change the subject. I’m going to tell you a story. It’s a true story. It happened to me when I was in first grade. I was 6 years old. It was 1957. I grew up in Schenectady, New York. I went to Lincoln Elementary School.

Lincoln Elementary School

It was one block away from the original Freihofer’s Bakery.

The bakery was local back then. Today you can order their products on Amazon. Every day at 3 pm, I would leave school and be enveloped in the amazing smell of freshly baked bread. It was awesome. They had  horse-drawn carriages that delivered their baked goods right to your door. The horse that came up my street every day was named Tony.

Tony!!

My Grandpa used to follow Tony up the street everyday and scoop up Tony’s “droppings”. He used them to fertilize a tiny tree he planted in our back yard. Today the tree is over 50 feet tall. It’s over 60 years old. Tony made good fertilizer.

We only had three TV channels back then. CBS, NBC and ABC. The NBC channel, WRGB, had a daily afternoon show called “Bread Time Stories”. But everybody called it “The Freddie Freihofer Show”. It starred Uncle Jim Fisk.

His sidekick was a puppet called Freddie Freihofer.

They played cartoons, had a band and the show had an audience of kids.

It was basically a rip off of The Howdy Doody show. But we didn’t know that. What made this show different was they also had “Birthday Boys and Birthday Girls”. They got to sit in the front row. They each had their own special birthday cake.  A Freihofer’s cake, or course.

At the end of the show all the kids would line up in front of a big box with a handle on it. Like on a slot machine. Each kid would pull the handle and get a prize.  Freihofer’s baked goods! (Duh) The show was  just a big  infomercial, but me and all my friends didn’t know that. You have to realize that Freihofer’s made some really good stuff. Their chocolate chip cookies were the best in the world. Their sugar donuts where amazing. At school, we had a scale of best to worst. Chocolate chip first, oatmeal raisin second, sugar donuts third and so on.

But the main part of the show, the most amazing part of the show was “The Squiggle”. You see, Uncle Jim was a genius. He would give a kid a big piece of white art paper and a magic marker.

The kid would then make a random squiggly line on the paper. Then Uncle Jim would make his magic. He would look at the squiggle and say “Wow, you just drew a bunny rabbit. He would then draw around the random line and PRESTO! A bunny rabbit!

Forget Picasso, DaVinci, Van Gogh. They were nothing compared to Uncle Jim! I found out later in life that it was something that pretty much any first year art student can do. But who cares? It was a Squiggle!

I tell you all this because I was actually on the Freddy Freihofer show! My friend was having a birthday and his Mom got him on the show. He could bring one friend. He picked me! I was an instant celebrity at Lincoln Elementary School! I was going to be on “The Freddie Freihofer Show!” I was going to get a Squiggle! And a prize!  Cookies? Donuts? Who knew?

Kids were asking for my autograph!

So, the day finally came and reality set in. I didn’t know it then, but the universe was giving me a heads up on what my future career in TV would be like.

First, when I got there I was put up in the farthest back row of the peanut gallery. I wasn’t “a birthday boy”. I was basically an extra to fill a seat. Second, my friend’s Mom had to actually buy the Birthday cake. No freebies from Freihofer’s. Before the show started a producer came out and promised us that if Uncle Jim didn’t make us a Squiggle during the show, he would stay, and we would all get one after the show. Phew, I was worried for a while there.

So, the show started and out came Uncle Jim. Looking and acting much like my Dad and my Uncle Dick used to act on New Year’s Eve. We did the whole show, and of course, I didn’t get my Squiggle. I mean, I was up in the nose bleed section. But I wasn’t worried. The producer said we’d get one after the show. The show ended and we all lined up in front of the big prize machine to get our prize. They ran the credits over us. I was last in line. The credits ended before I got my turn. I then experienced what in the TV biz is called “a union shutdown.” That’s where 5 seconds after you go off the air,  the crew shuts everything off and leaves the building immediately. Whoosh! Gone. Everybody. Including Uncle Jim.

So, there I was, standing in the dark, suddenly realizing I was not getting a Squiggle. But, it was OK. I mean, I still had my prize! By the time I got to the prize box I was all alone. In a dark TV studio. I pulled the handle. Oh, the suspense! I might not be able to bring a Squiggle to school, but I’d have my prize! What would I be sharing with my friends? Chocolate Chip cookies? Oatmeal Raisin? Hell, even sugar donuts would be OK. It seemed to take forever, but finally, out came my prize! And what was it?

A PACKAGE OF ENGLISH MUFFINS!

WTF!!

 

English Muffins!? Are you kidding me???  I have to go back to my school mates with no Squiggle and a package of  friggin’ English Muffins. I say friggin’ because I’m sure if I said fucking English Muffins back then, my Mom would wash my mouth out with soap. It was a thing back then.

So, with my head  down, I slowly walked out of the dark studio, back into the sunlight. A package of English muffins in one hand, and no Squiggle in the other.

But I still got to leave school every day to the smell of freshly baked bread. I never had to practice standing on a toilet seat. And I never had to leave school with my hands over my head.

Those were the good old days.