Greetings, My Fellow Humans

Note: Dear beloved English teachers, current and past, I realize every sentence is not a complete sentence. It is intentional. Sorry.

For those of you not of my generation, may you be so lucky as to become old someday, to grow wiser than ever, and to be an able matriarch or patriarch of your tribe. May you be honored for your past, cherished for wisdom today, and be a loss lamented when your time happens.

My wife Facebook shared/posted a (much too) long epistle that numerically listed 21 items of advice for old people (like we effing need it). I don’t agree with most of it. My oldest (adult) son made the sarcastic comment (it’s in his genes), “Dad’s always been on top of the latest fashions.”

I never wear socks with sandals (matured in 60-70-80s), checks or plads with stripes, or color combos that make my wife wince. I wore a uniform for years, then (after a period of high-casual) went as laid back as I could pull off.

I was once asked by a fellow manager how I ran a department where employees (include me) dressed casual Friday, Monday thru Thursday. He told me he asked upper management and got an emphatic ‘NO!” My response was, “I didn’t ask.”

But, Billy has a point.

My below the waist wardrobe: shorts, sweat pants, or jeans (clean underwear). Feet: usually short socks, slide-on shoes of some kind with rubber soles (no crocks), maybe laces, rarely sandals, very temperature dependent. I rotate sneakers but have some for rain and some for mud.

Upper bod gets things with no buttons like an old (maybe new) tee, or pullover long sleeve thingy, or sweatshirt. Formal shirts have collars like golf/polo type. Have some mock turtlenecks for when I feel all cool Pat Conroy, John Updike, or Patterson-ish like.

Dark color, pull-over sweaters for my shady moods and gloomy times of Peter Reading, Poe, Blake, e. e., T.S., A.E., Ezra, or G.G. Lord Byron-ish days. I have them.

I wear baseball (sometimes newsboy/Irish eight-piece/flat) caps.

I have clothes I no longer wear (since retired): Docker-like slacks, dress pants (not sure what still fits), sport coats covered to keep dust off, ‘nice’ long-sleeved button-down shirts (dusty), leather shoes (no wingtips or suede).

One pair of hiking boots I also use for motor scooter rides. I do have variations of workout garb that changes with the weather. A mix of sweat or beach hoodie thingies (how cold is it?) including a red rain jacket. Casual jackets, several of which I cannot recall ever having worn. I have my USAF leather flight jacket that screams ‘you put on a few’ when I wear it.

At home, it’s about how I feel. Out, it depends. I may be professor R.J. at the library, but more Chinasky at the pub. Writing at coffee shops is mood-determined. On my worst low-casual day, I look better than half the peeps in Wally World (maybe more than half), but who cares?

The last time I wore a tie either somebody died, got hitched, or I was being paid to dress like that. I have tossed a ton of ties, but a dusty dozen remain in my closet with all those belts. I wear one belt and only with jeans, but have beaucoup backups.

I try to keep my hair cut short (no old man pony tails for me, thanks), I brush and floss daily, walk about 2mi a day (when motivated), swim a bit more than that in week (shower daily after swim), sit way too much at this computer, go to one or two ‘social’ events a week, read not enough, watch some (too much) TV (The Voice, NCIS [needs me to write for them], Chicago PD, Fire, Med-maybe, an occasional Netflix movie or documentary, Bull a bit, some football [maybe]). If I go to the movie (or other) theater, I will dress medium casual, but at home…eff-it.

I really do care.

So, what’s up with (in) my closet? An old flight suit that no way would ever fit again, covered sports jacks and an old Class-A, USAF uniform (‘when I wore a younger man’s clothes’), too many shirts of which I wear less than half, pants that if not jeans I never wear, and two baskets for shorts, sweat pants, and miscellaneous whatever.

In drawers I have socks (mostly over-ankle types worn less than one day a week, if it is a socks day), underwear of which some %-age always needs tossed out, more tees, and too many pull over sweaters (all of which I like and do intend to wear, [see mood comments above] but I live in Texas). ‘tis the season, though – twenty-five degrees here this morning, which is why I sit writing this instead of out humpin’ for my 2 miles. Do not hang pullover sweaters on hangars. It gives them (you) shoulder bumps.

Okay. The truth is that I am an old man who basically does WTF he wants and has a dress and grooming code/standard bar set at ‘somewhat’ acceptable, if anyone cares. I do not wear stink (fragrances like cologne or after shave). Me? A fool? I think not; but passionate? Hell, YES! (Just not about my rags.) So, let’s end this with a poem by Yeats.

A prayer for old age by WB Yeats

God guard me from those thoughts men think
In the mind alone;
He that sings a lasting song
Thinks in a marrow-bone;
From all that makes a wise old man
That can be praised of all;
O what am I that I should not seem
For the song’s sake a fool?
I pray—for word is out
And prayer comes round again—
That I may seem, though I die old,
A foolish, passionate man.

Intense?

Look both ways on the closet rack and ask, “why do I have?”
Mind the gaps in the closet, for a tie’s a poor gift to an old man who’d be tickled with a kiss.

Dialogue: What They Said

Note: click on highlighted links for videos and songs.

He:      ‘I’m very sorry, Baby. I would never intentionally hurt your feelings.’

She:     ‘God damnit, Billy-Bob, you don’t even know why, do you?’

He:      ‘Whatever it was, I deeply regret it and promise never to say or do it again.’

She:     Screamed gibberish and threw her full glass of white wine at him, smashing it on the wall over his head.

Cat:     Ran and hid under the sofa.

She:     Poured herself a glass of red wine (doesn’t like red, gives her headaches).

He:      ‘Come on Judy, calm down, you know how much I love you.’

Cat:     Hissed very loudly.

Alexa: ‘Oh shit, Billy! Playing Gunpowder and Lead by Miranda Lambert.’

She:     Turned beet-red and walked toward him, grinned, and poured the red wine on his white shirt.

He:      ‘Jesus Christ! Now what?’

She:     Quietly uttered a ‘fuck you’ as she turned, grabbed her purse on her way to the front door, which she slammed so hard the curtain fell to the floor.

He:      Walked to the closet to change his shirt. Dropped the wine-stained one into hamper, picked up the curtain from the floor and reattached it. Took a short heavy glass from the cupboard and put in two ice cubes. Opened the liquor cabinet and poured two fingers of his best Scotch, then returned to his seat. He quietly sipped his Glenlivet 25.

Cat:     Jumped into his lap and began to force paws deep into his legs while fully extending claws to dig painfully into his skin.

He:      ‘Ouch! Stop that pussy cat. Alexa, play something soft and comforting.’

Cat:     ‘You did that on purpose. Her name is Jane. You called her Judy, your ex’s name. You’re such a dickhead.’

Alexa: ‘Ok, Billy-Bob, the jerk. Playing Please Don’t Go by Absolutes…jackass.’

He:      ‘Alexa, I said comforting, not sad and miserable. I feel bad enough. Play some Enya.’

Alexa: ‘Enya also thinks you’re a jerk, but playing Watermark for assholes.’

Cat:     ‘You called her mother a pain in the ass. Her mother hates you. Now Jane hates you. I think you are hoping for makeup sex. Good luck.’ Purrs and curls up into his lap.

Alexa: ‘She will kill him for sure this time. His sex life will soon be a memory.’

He:      ‘Alexa, stop talking to the cat. Add flowers to my shopping list.’

Alexa: ‘Ok, thrill-kill-Bill, adding three-dozen red roses and her favorite candy to your shopping list. Would you like me to call that in for you?’

He:      ‘Would you two please be quiet. I need to regroup. Why am I talking to a cat and a computer?’

Phone buzzes with voice mail.

She:     ‘Fuck you very much. And, I’m never coming back.’

Alexa: ‘Ok Jane the wonderful, playing Fuck You by Lily Allen. Please don’t leave us here alone with this asshole.’

He:      Takes another sip of Scotch, closes his eyes, and begins to snore.

© Bill Reynolds 10/27/2018

Look both ways; we are never free of consequences.
Mind the gaps; they are never forgotten.

Essay: I was thinking (some say I oughtn’t)

This past ten days was essentially a good week, plus three days. I am healed from the previous week when I had to deal with some of Texas’ smaller critters. I’ve written about them before, but I know more now.

Picture an orchestra or big band about to play. The conductor taps a stand a few times to get everyone’s attention and raises her or his arms and the musicians get ready. The audience quiets (or should) and everyone prepares for the first blast of music when virtually every musician simultaneously begins to play. Got it? I love it when they do it like that.

Tap, tap, tap…and

Now picture me stepping into my back yard to move some things out of the way. I knew there was a fire ant den over yonder. So, I didn’t go there. I did this, that, and the other thing. I then walked up the stairs to my porch and over to the door into the house. I did not hear the conductor do the tap, tap, tap with the baton.

When fire ants sting (and they do, like fire, thus the name) they play you like an orchestra. These little beasts run out of the den/nest/hiding place and climb onto your body, shoes, up your legs and arrange themselves just lickety-split. Tap, tap, tap, arms raised, then BLAM! Everyone of those little mother-fuckers stings in unison. That’s how it works. It hurts. I had reminders on my legs and ankles for days. Apparently, they release some sort of hormone, so they all get the ‘ready-aim-fire’ call in unison.

Fire ant stings about same as mine.

Last night I lay in bed thinking. Have you ever been to a place where some ass-hole or group of pains-in-the-ass people annoyed the hell out of you? The theater, a restaurant, some sporting event? There are lots of fire ants. Could we harvest a few hundred and put them in a little squeeze bottle thingy? Then, when we no longer can tolerate those people, spray about 20 of our little pissed-off fire ants into some strategic area of the offender’s person: hair, neck, feet, crotch…ideas? We’d get to play conductor. Stand, tap, tap, tap, raise our arms in the air. Let the music and dancing begin.

We’ve had a lot of rain for weeks in this part of (drought or flood) Texas. But it did not rain Thursday of that week. That was when I decided it was time to get back on the rough trails for my walk. I knew the grass was about knee-high tall everywhere they don’t mow. I did not realize how much grass grows on the trails! Since it has been so wet, fewer people have been walking the grass down and they have not mowed out there. I wore long pants tight at the ankle, socks, and a long sleeved shirt.

Chigger bites. I didn’t have so many.

I showered afterwards, but I woke up Friday morning with a dozen chigger bites. I used to think chiggers burrowed into your skin and stayed there. They bite, move, and bite again. Literally they eat skin (me). But they soften you up for dinner with a chemical that causes irritation and itching and lasts about a week.

I have DEET bug spray, and I know how to keep them off, but I didn’t use it. It was a cold, wet morning. I was fresh raw meat strolling through high grass looking for snakes or whatever critters might be hiding in there (ya can’t see chiggers). The hungry bugs were glad to see me. I transported chiggers on my person to my home on my body. For a week the bites mixed well with the fire ant stings for leg and ankle decorations.

The nest is still there in my yard, even though it was recently treated specifically for fire ants. I’ve ordered another kind of treatment for my clothing (permethrin) to deter the chiggers and other bugs, like ticks. I will treat clothing for trails and will apply DEET to my legs, ankles, and exposed skin. Oh, they found a mosquito with West Nile Virus on the south side. I live on the northside, but this should help with that.

I still like the idea of spraying fire ants on annoying people. Just don’t get caught.

Look both ways. Watch out for snakes, scorpions, and tarantulas.
Mind the gaps where hide the chiggers and fire ants.

Poetry: Ich hatt’ Alte Kameraden

 

Goodbye my old friends. You’ll be missed.
But we have no ways to keep you all
held together. Your time has passed.

We all get old. If we’re lucky, we live
purpose driven lives of building memories. Yet,
wear and tear take an unrecoverable toll.

For so many years, you’ve held it together for me.
All nights and all days, when I called, you provided
me with comfort, support, and security.

You took beatings on hot days, the soakings
of untold rain and freezing weather in three states,
absorbing blows and poundings meant for me.

You guided my way on many paths of life,
through dust or mud, up ragged hills, through raging
flood waters of life, you gave your self for me.

Now your hollow dismembered carcass must go.
Leaving only podophilic memories for soles
to recall in gratitude for your long support.

We have harvested your organs, internal and external,
hoping to preserve your memory and to provide
transplants for younger, stronger soles soon to follow.

Were we a military unit, we would give you a medal
for valor and service. Governments would give you
citations for long dedicated self-sacrifice.

Thank you for your service. Old sneakers never die.
They just wear away in a soft squeaky whimper.
My feet, toes, and ankles salute you both: Comrades!

(21 foot-stomp salute!)

Bill Reynolds 10/18/18

Run through the jungle looking both ways and minding foot gaps, slips, and trips.

Poetic Dialogue: The Experience

‘You did that?’

“I did!”

‘What was it like?’

“What do you mean,
what was it like?”

‘You know. How did it feel?’

“It depends.”

‘On what?’

“On what you believe. If you
believe it, it’s okay.
If not, it’s nuts.”

‘Ah. So, how did it make you feel?’

“It felt good.
Not like sex good.
More like a friendly smile good.”

‘Oh. That’s not much.’

“No?”

‘Just a smile?’

“Ok then, fuck you.”

‘Why’d you say that?’

“How’d it feel?”

‘I’ll take the smile.’

“That’s what I mean.”

‘Let’s have sex.’

Big Smile.

Look both ways. Have lots of sex.
Mind the gaps. And smile.

© Bill Reynolds 9/2018

 

Un-shunned, But Out

Several people suggested that my experience with religion may have moved me to embrace atheism. I don’t deny the experience. But, religion was not responsible for my conclusion that no gods exist.

I was born not knowing. Somebody told me there was a god and I trusted they knew what they were talking about. As a child, I ‘believed’ in god because I believed who told me. For shorter periods of time I also believed in Santa Clause and the tooth fairy. I was also convinced monsters existed even though no one told me they did. I never saw a god, Santa, or the tooth fairy. I was sure I saw the monsters, and some lived under my bed.

I was initially told that all these entities existed except for the monsters, but they were the only ones I reacted to and lost sleep over.

I was emphatically told by my parents that there were no monsters and no ghosts. I was agnostic about the ghosts, having seen Casper cartoons. But no monsters? Bull shit! I knew what I saw was real! I began to have doubts about parental honesty.

Eventually, I unwillingly figured out the deal with Santa and the tooth fairy. I also gave up on the monsters, or perhaps they tired of me. Maybe the tooth fairy turned them into dust bunnies.

I figured out the god thingy last, around age fourteen. I was never dumb enough to tell anyone, even friends, that I no longer was buying the eternal life package. My father was the type of Irish-Catholic coal miner who would have attempted to pound belief into me. Besides, the religion thing worked to my social advantage. I often wonder how many of us practice religion for some social advantage or for financial gain, but don’t buy it either.

When my Catholic parish learned that I was an active participant in the protestant Episcopal church down the street, it pissed them off. That pleased me. If I could in some way return the ‘love,’ my parish seemed to have toward me, I was all for that.

Not so much with my parents, who were more upset. Those poor folks had a real shit-head difficult lad to raise, so church was the least of their concerns. Yet, I heard my mother say, “It may not be Catholic, but at least he has a religion.” I did not. But, if she was accepting, I wasn’t going to change it.

The church down the street was a playground of youthful debauchery. I was one of several Catholic teens (boys and girls) who participated in their youth group. My motivation for participation was likely untoward and had nothing to do with religion or god. That was then.

Now, my overall philosophy is a moving target that even I find difficult to corral and define. So, I stole this idea of a three-legged stool from somewhere. One of the legs of the stool is god, which is why the damn thing keeps falling over. Any god or gods get to share one leg and no more. The leg is there, but it’s symbolic. You could call it atheism, but not exactly.

Religion, which I define as the rules regarding humans dealing with gods, is the second leg of the stool. Religion and god relate but are not the same. The religion leg casts an unfavorable shadow upon the god leg. As splintered and twisted as it is, religion exists.

While the non-existence of god is almost a neutral, unemotional, changeable conclusion that came to me from thoughts; my vehement enmity toward all religion, especially the known ‘organized’ faiths, is unwavering and continues to grow as I age and reflect upon what I see and know. If god were to appear before me right now and provide enough proof to roll any skeptic, I would morph to belief in a New York minute, but I would continue to detest religion.

This is where my atheism gets confused with my religious experience. My bitter feelings about religion stem from experience and knowledge. While I am accepting of religious folks and I extend kindness to most believers (and they to me), what they believe I tolerate but don’t respect.

Religious mumbo-jumbo has nothing to do with whether any gods exist. Yet, I remain open to the tiniest of possibilities that something may change my mind. However, throughout history, nothing has ever happened to any human that would convince me otherwise.

What most people seem to believe about god and how to relate or interact with that god is manmade. However, religion has a lot to do with how people act toward each other. Call it morality. Theoretically, that should be good. Historically and practically, it has been otherwise.

The third leg is my spiritual philosophy, which is influenced by the other two legs (no-gods exist, and bad religion). The three legs support the seat, which is my overall philosophy (of life, my world view, reason for…whatever). The analogy isn’t perfect but it works for now.

In a debate Rev Al Sharpton and Christopher Hitchens once struggled to find disagreement because Sharpton kept trying to debate the existence of god (which he admitted he couldn’t prove) while Hitch pointed to problems with scripture, evil, and religion (Hitch admitted he couldn’t prove the non-existence of god). Two separate topics that influence the third philosophical leg of my metaphorical stool.

Atheism is not a religion, a belief system, a philosophy, or anything other than an acceptance of one’s opinion that god might not exist, or probably doesn’t. Atheists have divergent views as do most human groups. Some atheists are nihilist. Most are not. A few atheists go to church. Most do not. Some atheists make room for unscientific things in their opinions and how they live. Others claim that such opinions are not those of true atheists.

It can be confusing. But can’t the same be said of believers? Since I was a child, I was told that TV preachers were nonsense. I still think so. Many believers agree with me. Many believers reject the idea of a virgin birth, others call that heresy. I could go on about divergent religious beliefs, even within a specific religion such as Roman Catholic, Shiite Muslim, or Mahayana Buddhist. Dare I add Southern Baptist or Mormon? But that’s not my point.

While many atheists say that reading scripture will lead to disbelief, I contend that not believing in god is a rational decision not based on religion, dogma, or scripture, even though any of that will support atheism once the no-gods conclusion is reached.

While I claim to be rationally atheist for logical reasons, I think I’m also intrinsically incapable of believing in god without very concrete proof. No religion or religious person; priest, pedophile, or persecutor drove me away from believing in god. I tried to believe. I just couldn’t. Now, I openly don’t. I’m as pleased with that as believers are who foresee their blissful eternity simply because they believe and nothing more. I’m okay with that.

Look both ways in life. Learn from the past. Plan for the future.
Mind the gaps for denial and confusion.

Autumn Countdown

Autumn Countdown

hobby lobby has christmas decorations out.
lots of them. hello?
i agree with moving christmas
to august.
december will be fine without it.
but it is fucking august. it’s the dog-days month.

august is boring.
lots of peeps have b-days,
but august is what?
end of summer, school…
what fool advocate of child abuse
starts school before labor day?
that’s not god’s plan, fool.

they have halloween stuff up too,
but twice as much christmas,
maybe some turkey day
shit mixed in.
but it’s hot. hot, hot: august.
and they took out the posters
i was looking for.

i don’t hate august,
but it is shamefully boring.
give it a break
move christmas there.
we have hanukkah,
yule,
kwanzaa,
new year’s eve
in December
and it would stop

many from saying ‘happy holidays’
thus getting so many
folk’s panties in a wad
over some fucking imagined war-on,
and august would be so grateful.
instead of waiting for next year,
kids could ask
what’d ya get for christmas?
in september.

pre-season football? who cares?
even the bugs
have had enough
of this crap,
bring on the fall,
september,
halloween,
and days we can sink
our teeth into.

© Bill Reynolds 8/20/2018

Look both ways, between May and September. 

Mind the gaps and the croaked cicadas.

Dead Cicada