The Third Time is the Charm

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When I moved to Lancaster I planned to get more exercise and so I bought an Itek watch, which is similar to the more-costly Fitbit watch. It keeps track of how many steps I take, how many miles I walk, how many calories I burn, and how many minutes of exercising I get a day. The first thing I had to do with the watch was program in my daily goal.

Back in the late 1980’s I worked for Publishers’ Phototype International (PPI) in East Rutherford, NJ. That was back in the days before Desktop Publishing, and we prepared the camera-ready pages of various magazines for the printer. I started on the day shift, but soon found myself on the evening shift. I had stopped driving by then and quickly found out that there was a problem with working 4-12. The bus to Jersey City, where I lived, stopped running around 10 p.m. So, I had to walk home at night. It was seven miles, and that first trip home seemed to take forever. I’ve always liked the motto of the Christopher Society, “It’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.” So, I looked for ways to make my walk more enjoyable. I brought a Walkman with me and listened to my favorite songs as I walked. Then, after a while, I started carrying two Walkmen. I listened to my favorite songs on one, and recorded my voice on the other as I sang along.

When I listened to myself singing the lead on one Walkman, I’d record background vocals on the other. Then I’d switch tapes and listen to the background while I sang lead into the other. I enjoyed my little walking recording studio.  The seven-mile walk zipped by and actually became the highlight of my day. After a while, I left that job at PPI to teach Word Processing in the Adult Education Program at Ferris High School. I missed my co-workers and friends at PPI, but I missed that nightly walk even more. Eventually, over the decades, I forgot the names of my co-workers at PPI, but I always remembered that walk fondly.

So, I had that in mind four years ago when I set my goals on my new Itek watch. I decided to start my new exercise program with half that distance, and typed in my goal at 3 and a half miles per day. I never reached my daily goal until one day when I was on a visit to New York and walked all over the town. Then last year I learned that there was Women’s Flat Track Roller Derby about 3 and a half miles from my apartment in Lancaster. I found a bus that would take me there, but this bus didn’t run late, so I would have to walk home. Like Yogi said, “It was Déjà vu all over again.”

It rained the first time I went to the Roller Derby, so I wound up taking a taxi home. Eventually, though, I went there on a beautiful night for walking, and I brought along my Walkman and a flashlight. Knowing that I’m not in the same shape I was in back in the 80’s, I planned to split the trip into two parts by finding a bar around the midway point and taking a break there. The only problem was that I didn’t spot a bar until I was almost home. I was dragging ass by the time I got home, but I made it, and checking my watch I saw that for only the second time since I had the watch, I had actually managed to reach the daily physical goal I had set.

Last Saturday, after watching the undefeated Dutchland All-Stars defeat the previously undefeated New Jersey All-Stars, I decided to try it again, but this time without the Walkman as I concentrated more on finding a bar someplace along the way. I was starting to get tired when I saw a neon mountain in a window up ahead by the Days Inn. I knew that the neon mountain had to mean Coors beer, and I knew that meant there must be a bar inside the motel. There was and I went in. There was only one customer there. I looked at my watch and found that for only the third time in four years I had reached my walking goal for the day. I could have called a cab then, but I figured that all I needed was to “hydrate” myself and I would be ready to continue.

After a few pints, I was rested, refreshed, and eager to finish my trip home. I walked down the nearly deserted road and the long-forgotten names of my co-workers at PPI suddenly flooded into my memory. From the day shift, I remembered my boss Joanne, her assistant Paula, the other CSR’s Chris and Laura, the typesetter Kathy, the paste-up artist John, and my good friend in Personnel, Debra. From the evening shift I remembered my supervisor Willie T, who was a famous DJ back in his Caribbean homeland. I remembered the paste-up artist Ron, and the other CSR, Debbie. I smiled as some great memories crept into my mind, and I noticed one other thing – I was singing the old songs I used to sing. It truly was Déjà vu all over again, and I was loving it, and maybe, I thought, if I just practiced more, I wouldn’t be so off key next time.

Peace & Love, and all of the above.

Earl

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Help Stamp Out Ignorance

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Fifteen years ago, I received a Bachelor of Nescience degree from the International University of Nescience in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada. Nescience, for those who don’t know, (he says, chuckling to himself) is the study of Ignorance. I guess my University realized that the word Nescience was far more likely to encourage enrollment in the program than would the word Ignorance. A Bachelor of Ignorance Degree doesn’t really do much for a resume, not that a Degree in Nescience is worth anything, but it does sound a whole lot cooler.

The International University of Nescience, may not be too well known, but it does bill itself as “The Leader in Agnostic Education Since the Second Millennium.” Truth be told, the degree was not that difficult to obtain. The only exam was a one-question online test. The question was “Does God exist?” A “Yes” or “No” answer got you kicked out of the school. “I don’t know” was the only acceptable answer. I got it right. So, now, armed with that prestigious degree and the 15 years of subsequent research I’ve done on the subject, I think I am qualified to write a little bit about Ignorance.

First of all, there is a big difference between being unaware or uninformed and being ignorant. Google defines Ignorance as lack of knowledge or information, but I strongly disagree (and remember, I have a degree in the field). My favorite definition of Ignorance comes from Frio937, who states that “Ignorance is when someone assumes that the knowledge they have obtained is correct, regardless of knowledge presented to them.” An ignorant person doesn’t necessarily lack knowledge or information, they just stubbornly hold firmly to their beliefs, even when presented with a mountain of information to disprove those beliefs. That is why, despite the tremendous increase in information available today via the Internet and other sources, Ignorance is actually growing. Fortunately, Frio937 was also able to explain this irony to me. “Ignorance is growing because information is changing so fast that people are becoming stubborn like rocks in a river, refusing to update their knowledge.”

I’ll admit it.  I’m guilty. With very few exceptions, I am ignorant of the popular music in the 21st Century. I have stubbornly refused to listen to the stations playing today’s music and I cling to the Oldies Stations playing hits of the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s. Why? Because I feel that the music of my youth was the best music ever, and I refuse to update that knowledge. Some of today’s music might be far superior to ooh eee ooh ahh ahh ting tang walla walla bing bang, but I’ve been ignoring it. I’ve also dug in my heels on MP3s. In my lifetime, we’ve had 78 rpm records, reel-to-reel tapes, 45 and 33 & 1/3 rpm records, 8-track tapes, cassette tapes, CD’s, and MP3s. I stopped with MP3s and I didn’t care what they come out with next. I’m not buying it. Years ago, I consciously chose to ignore MP4s, MP5s, music on the cloud, or whatever direction music should take in the future.

Ignorance is a choice, and by definition, those who wish to remain ignorant on a subject can do so no matter how much information is available to the contrary. There are many political things that can be debated, but political debate is not likely to change anyone’s mind, especially if they have already made their decision and locked it in – Final Answer. If you have an opinion on one of the big issues such as Global Warming, the Death Penalty, Abortion, Religion, or Gun Control, most likely you locked in your opinion and then eagerly entered a state of Ignorance. Almost nobody can present an argument that will ever make you change your mind. Any information that doesn’t support your idea is quickly discarded, because to accept that information would force you to think about what you choose to ignore. Ignorance on both sides of issues have polarized us as a nation. People don’t seek out new information as much as “echo chambers” that confirm their opinions. They follow the stations which slant the news in the direction they prefer. Liberals get their news from MSNBC. Conservatives watch Fox News. I get my news from Comedy Central, because I’d rather laugh at what’s going on than take this world seriously.

How can we overcome this gridlock? We can acknowledge that we have become ignorant and listen with an open mind to what others with opposing opinions have to say.   Of course, that won’t be easy. It might even be impossible for some. Remember, you don’t necessarily have to change your opinion. You just have to listen to opposing opinions with an open mind. Don’t try tackling the big issues right away. Start with the easy ones. I know that I’m ignorant of what’s going on in pop music, so I just listened to some of the top pop songs of 2017:

Lady Gaga – The Cure, Shawn Mendez – There’s Nothing Holding Me Back, Clean Bandit – Symphony, Anne-Marie – Ciao Adios, Dua Lipa – Be the One, Ed Sheeran – Shape of You, Ed Sheeran – Castle on the Hill, Little Mix – Touch, J P Cooper – September Song, Katy Perry – Chained to the Rhythm, Zara Larsson – I Would Like, Rag ‘n’ Bone Man – Human, and Camila Cabella and Machine Gun Kelly – Bad Things

I didn’t like all of them, but I have to admit that some I really enjoyed. I realized that I have missed out on some good music by ignoring all the music of this century. So, little by little, I’m working on eliminating some of my ignorance.

Your move.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl

Small Town

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Wicked at Lagoon Park, Utah

 

“No I cannot forget where it is that I come from

I cannot forget the people who love me Yeah,

I can be myself here in this small town

And people let me be just what I want to be.”

John Mellencamp – Small Town

I try to write about the good times, because I know the drill – Laugh and the world laughs with you; Weep and you weep alone. Sometimes, though, the good times are also the sad times. Yesterday was one of those days.

I made another trip to New York, but this time it wasn’t for a show, a concert, a party, or bar hopping. I attended my cousin Janey’s wake. She was a few years younger than me, and passed after a long illness. So, we were able to take some comfort in the fact that she was no longer suffering, but even though we were, therefore, able to look at the glass as half full, it was really completely empty, drained to the last drop.

I can remember playing with her and her siblings when I was a kid. Their family had kids the same age as the kids in my family. Carol Ann was my age. Janey and her twin brother Jimmy were the same age as Brother X.  Pat was an extra, as we didn’t have anyone his age, but he was close enough to all of us, and their baby Rita was the same age as my baby brother, Kevin. It was always a treat to visit them, not only because we all had playmates there, but they also lived in the exotic land of Long Island. Hicksville was probably only about 15 miles from our house in South Ozone Park, but, in those days, it was like going to the Magic Kingdom. Unlike our row house, they had a house that wasn’t touching any of their neighbor’s houses. We had a backyard that was just barely big enough to bury my Howdy Doody doll when he became beyond repair. They had a great big yard that went all the way around their house.

Over the years our two families drifted apart geographically. I think Carol Ann started it by moving to California. Maybe it was when some of us went into the service.  Anyway, when the kids were all grown, their parents, my Uncle Leon and Aunt Rita, moved to Florida. I visited them once when I went to visit my Dad who moved near them after my Mom died. Now, the only time I see them all is when a family member passes away. The last time I saw them was when Uncle Leon died, and, like yesterday, those moments are always bitter sweet. The sadness of the passing is always tempered by the joy of seeing them.

This time was no different. In between viewings I went to a restaurant with my cousins, their spouses and grown children. We told stories, laughed, and joked just like old times. Somehow, we got on the topic of amusement parks. Then we talked about the hit TV show, Game of Thrones, where the midget seemed to be everyone’s favorite character. Then, naturally, we wondered if there were any big roller coasters that would allow little people to ride.

What do Peter Dinklage or Danny DeVito do when they go to Amusement Parks? They can’t be happy riding in tea cups all day. A Google search showed that there is a dwarf amusement park in China, but it’s not about thrilling rides for small adults. Instead, all the employees are dwarves. The only roller coaster I could find that was engineered to safely accommodate short adults is a ride called Wicked in Lagoon Park in Utah.

So, we (jokingly) planned the first Amusement Park built specifically for short adults and their children. We would have Randy Newman there on opening day, performing his big hit, Short People. The jokes started flying and soon we were all in tears. Perfect, since it was time to go back to the funeral parlor.

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My condolences to The Long Family, and I hope I don’t see you again for a long, long time, but I’m really looking forward to getting together with you again.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl

The Foul and the Fair Weekend

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Baseball can be an “in your face” kind of game, and the spectators don’t have any immunity from the action. They sit at their own risk and face foul balls, flying bats, infielders, outfielders, catchers, and just about anything else that can hit a fan. I guess, if you consider the birds nesting overhead, shit hitting the fan should probably be on that list, too.

So, when my friend John showed up from New York for The Barnstormers home opener, I had tickets right behind home plate, where you’re protected from flying objects by a net. That way you can watch the game with a beer in your hand, like Abner Doubleday intended. John wasn’t my only guest. Debbie, and our friends Mike and DeeDee were also there. Debbie was mainly there for the souvenir tie-dyed T-Shirt given out to the first 1,000 adults. She all but assaulted the guy distributing the T-shirts to get one for John, who had nonchalantly strolled past the free T-shirt stand. Mike and DeeDee were just there to party. Mike is German and knew little about American baseball, and his wife knew just as much. They did know how to uphold the proud American tradition of Baseball and Beer, though.

Midway through the game, Mike, DeeDee, and Debbie decide that since all they really cared about was the food and drink, they were just gonna go to a bar. Good. Fine by us. “Let’s get rid of the ribbon clerks,” my Dad said whenever he raised in a game of poker. Now, it was just the two old friends, two baseball fans watching a close game from seats right behind home plate. Baseball as it oughta be. We watched the game intently, commenting on every play.

We watched a foul ball behind the plate that rose steadily higher and higher into the sky until it flared up in the stadium’s lights and looked like the Star of Bethlehem shining right above us. It hung there in the night sky for a brief second, and then, of course, what goes up must come down. John and I waited anxiously for the foul ball to come down. We didn’t have baseball gloves on, though. “We won’t need them,” I had said as we were leaving my house. “We’re sitting right behind the net.” Now, gloveless, we were both camped under a monstrous foul ball, which was racing towards us. Galileo may have been the very first one to calculate that things picked up speed as they fall, but John and I figured it out in time. When the baseball started to look like a speeding asteroid headed straight for us, we both dove out of the way. That was just a split second before it crashed into the back of John’s seat and bounced all the way up to the announcer’s booth.

There were fireworks after the game, but nothing could match the adrenalin rush we got from our narrow escape from the speeding baseball. We went to the bar where my friend Randy’s band, Hee Bee Gee Bees was supposed to be playing. Supposed, being the key word. There was no band and the modern equivalent of a juke box was blaring out “today’s hits” for the college-aged crowd. We retreated to my place after just one beer.

The next day, our usual breakfast location, The Onions Café, was packed, so we went to Grub N Stuff, right next to Puff N Stuff, the local head shop. Then we walked around town. There were quite a few people in costume. They were mostly girls with their hair tinted a neon color, and they were wearing very short flaring skirts. Eye candy. After a while, John asked me if there was a parade today.

“No,” I said, trying to be as nonchalant as possible, “It’s just a typical Saturday in Lancaster.”

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There was no way I could continue the This-is-just-a-normal-day-in-Lancaster ruse, but I continued to try. “A lot of the kids around here like to get their hair done on Saturdays. We’ve only got one McDonald’s, but we’ve got twelve tattoo parlors in this town. This is not average America. It’s more like Greenwich Village in the Fifties.”

Then our barmaid told him that there was an Anime Convention in town.  Blabbermouth.

“See?” John said. “I knew there had to be something going on.”

“Yeah, well, just keep in mind that they chose to hold their convention in Lancaster for a reason. This town is very freaky friendly.”

“I knew there was a reason you moved here.”

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl