Monday, November 16, 2015

You Must Remember This .. A Kiss Is Just A Kiss

Something light, or perhaps not, depending on your reflective mood at the present  moment.

I love this stuff, and all things related to it.  I stumbled across an 11 minute video on youtube that you must see, especially if you are a fan of the movies.

Google this:  AFI's 100 years, 100 movie quotes (musical montage) youtube

A clip lasting 10:45 should pop up and the first clip should be from Casablanca.  Ilsa asks Sam to play "As Time Goes By."  The fact that these clips begin and end with Casabanca quotes (with a few other Casablanca words thrown in for good measure-for a such a great movie) automatically make this a must see.


Mark Twain Quote:  "It is always the way; words will answer as long as it is only a person's neighbor who is in trouble, but when that person gets into trouble himself, it is time that the King rise up and do something."

Friday, October 9, 2015

The Lesson Never Learned

He resides quietly now, my life long best friend, on a small parcel perfectly suited for his needs, the large tree in his backyard giving him comfort and shade.  It's a nice spot, on a corner, facing south to catch the winter sun.  Curiously, it is almost exactly 200 yards from the house where he grew up.  Standing in one place, you can almost see the other.  Seventy one years - 200 yards.  The circle of life.  So short a time, so small the distance.  And yet, the circle was large, and full.

The address, formally, is 2401 Court St., Syracuse, NY  13208.  Assumption Cemetery.  Home to  thousands like him - each, like him, with their own story.

He didn't want to die.  He was cetainly not planning on it.  Religious as he was, he did not foresee it.  I talked with him the evening before, and he made no mention of it being his last night on earth.  We talked of other things, things that embraced the future, things he was going to have to do, decisions he would have to make - all things that spoke to next week, next month, next year.

The following morning, I called again.  No answer.  No worries, he was probably off to the doctor's office by himself.  Afternoon came and still no answer.  His sister and her husband, worried now, went to his house.  I joined them. I had a key to his front door.  His brother-in-law and I entered, calling out, searching, praying, dreading.  Then, there he was, waiting for us, dead on his kitchen floor.  No person should ever have to experience that moment.  He was there, but he wasn't.  He was more mannequin than person.  Sixteen hours previous, he spoke, he thought, he breathed.  Now, those elements that made him human were all gone.  We could just stare at what used to be him, and in vain, try to comprehend.

He taught us lessons in his life of course.  Most people do, to one extent or another.  Different lives, different lessons.  But one stands universal, and so impossibly difficult to grasp.  It involves the essence of life - the absolute certainty of its fragile nature.  Understandable.  No one wants to think of life ending.  We don't start conversations by talking about death.  It isn't the main topic at the dinner table. Even faced with old age and infirmities that will one day claim us all, we avoid, except for light barbs of "gallows" humor, any reference to our temporary status on the planet.

We should, of course, plan for the future, but we should never count on it.  The raw reality is this.  There is no tomorrow.  Only today.  Only now.  But we continue to travel our days, thinking of tomorrows, and next weeks, months, even years, as if we had a secret guarantee that we would be there to greet them.  Armed with this perceived certainty, we famously, humanly, convince ourselves that we will "get to it" tomorrow, or next week, or month, or year.  Whatever the topic, or issue, whatever the things are that we have to do, or say, there will always be tomorrow.  So many kinds of waiting.

One such kind involves the people in our life.  At our core, we are social animals, and so much of our happiness and fulfillment depends on our human relationships.  Yet we seldom take time to honor those who enrich our lives, on whatever level.  Seldom, hell, we might as well say never.

It's only when someone dies that we tend to find this hidden in our subconscious and with good intentions, vow to reach out, call, write, text, visit - whatever - those special people in our life.  Be they parent, child, sibling, relative, mate, friend, or significant other, we promise that we'll tell them how, and why, and just how much.  Tomorrow.  For sure.  Promise.

Can we finally learn a lesson, just this one lesson?  I'll wager not.

Mark Twain Quote:  "People ought to start dead and then they would be honest so much earlier."

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Death an Exaggeration

As Sam would say, but not by much.  My life, to put it mildly, has been a lot "topsy turvy" of late (I think that is a movie line, but I can't recall).  I haven't forgotten, I'm just in a pickle.

Soon I hope, the pen will return, full of ink once more.  I'm thinking Oakwood Cemetery, and a little visit to an obscure arrangement of letters, plus one number - brca1.

Hang in there - I am, with the help of Sam Adams and Dr. Frank.

Mark Twain Quote:  "When I am king, they shall not have bread and shelter only, but also teachings out of books, for a full belly is little worth where the mind is starved."

Thursday, April 23, 2015

So Close - Yet So Far

Oh, the places your blog will go.  Apologizes to Dr. Seuss.  Just a few weeks ago, I received an email from a gentleman at the Harwich Chamber of Commerce.  Seems he was surfing the internet for information on Vivien Oswell, my favorite Cape Cod artist.  He found my blog, and even more important, read my profile, which gave him my blog email address, which lead to this.  Oh, the places your blog will go.

The Chamber publishes a magazine annually that is targeted for all the folks who visit the Cape every year.  It is filled with advertisements, information, and special articles about all the good things that make Harwich so special. For the 2015 edition, he informed me, the Chamber was doing an article that featured Vivien. 

Two years ago (has it been that long?) I did a blog post on Vivien (Vivien Oswell – 8/16/2013), and in that post is a photograph I took of her sitting with her paintings at Art in the Park, a weekly outdoor art show that runs the entire summer season in Harwich Port.  The official asked permission to use that photograph in the article, and I of course quickly said yes!  How cool is that, to have one of my pictures in an article about my favorite Cape artist.  I was so looking forward to seeing that.
My almost published photograph of Vivien
However, the creative process had other ideas.  As he explained, they found a slightly different one that they wanted to use. But he did tell me he liked the article. I’m really glad he enjoyed it, and that is some consolation, but the inclusion of my picture of Vivien – well, that would have been an honor.  

Tourist season is fast approaching, and the magazine is now published.  You can view it online.  Google “harwichcc” and that will bring you to the Chamber website.  Scroll down to the bottom and in the middle you will see the magazine.  Open it to page 20 and read another delightful article on a true Cape treasure. Then, read my blog post on Vivien. By the way, that article on Vivien is my most read post ever on the blog!

If you head for the Cape this summer, please stop and see her if you get the chance.  You’ll be better for the experience. Art in the Park takes place every Monday in the little park across from the Post Office. Vivien is usually on the right as you walk into the park.  And say hi to her for me, as it looks like I may not make the Cape this year.  Talk about depressed. You have no idea. 

Mark Twain Quote: “A photograph is a most important document, and there is nothing more damning to go down to posterity that a silly, foolish smile caught and fixed forever.”

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Susy Clemens Again….and Sam

As long as I’m in a Twain state of mind, let’s revisit Susy.  She was, as Sam wrote, at times much given to retiring within herself and trying to search out the hidden meanings of the deep things that make the puzzle and pathos of human existence and in all the ages have baffled the inquirer and mocked him.

He continuers to write, in his autobiography… as a little child aged seven she was oppressed and perplexed by the maddening repetition of the stock incidents of our race’s fleeting sojourn here, just as the same thing has oppressed and perplexed mature minds from the beginning of time.  A myriad of men are born; they labor and sweat and struggle for bread; they squabble and scold and fight; they scramble for little mean advantages over each other.  Age creeps upon them; infirmities follow; shames and humiliations bring down their prides and their vanities.  Those they love are taken from them and the joy of life is turned to aching grief.  The burden of pain, care, misery, grows heavier year by year.  At length ambition is dead; pride is dead; vanity is dead; longing for release is in their place.  It comes at last – the only unpoisoned gift earth ever had for them – and they vanish from a world where they were of no consequence; where they achieved nothing; where they were a mistake and a failure and a foolishness; where they have left no sign that they have existed – a world which will lament them a day and forget them forever.  Then another myriad takes their place and copies all they did and goes along the same profitless road and vanishes as they vanished – to make room for another and another and a million other myriads to follow that same arid path through the same desert and accomplish what the first myriad and all the myriads that came after It accomplished – nothing!

“Mamma, what is it all for?” asked Susy, preliminarily stating the above details in her own halting language, after long brooding over them alone in the privacy of the nursery…at the age of seven!

So why does Clemens, in his twilight years, paint such a dismal picture of life?  Why present himself as a bitter old man?  What happened to arguably the most famous person in America (and perhaps the world at that time), and certainly its most popular humorist?  For the answer, we have only to look at what life presented to Sam Clemens.

Clemens was immensely talented, as everyone knows.   That alone should contribute to happiness, but doesn’t.  He had the good fortune to fall in love with a very rich girl, one Olivia Langdon of Elmira, NY. Again, a false precursor of happiness.  After an unusual (to say the least) courtship, they married.

Clemens wed Olivia in February of 1870, at her home in Elmira, NY.  They had four children.  First born and only son Langdon arrived prematurely, in November, 1870.  Olivia Susan (Susy), born 1872, Clara in 1874, and Jane Lampton (Jean) in 1880.  Wife Olivia, born in 1845, was only 3 days removed from being exactly 10 years his junior.  In those days, that all but guaranteed she would far outlive him.
The Clemens Family, at home in Hartford, CT
But Sam was destined to be kicked, and then when down and hurting, kicked yet again, and again.  The stage lights were shining on him, but they cast a long shadow no one ever saw.

There are really two principal things that can utterly destroy one’s perception of life.  One is financial distress and the other is sickness (and its tragic sibling, death).  Sam Clemens, thanks to his all consuming fear of being poor, was always looking for a way to get rich – fast.  This flaw helped him lose everything during his life, yet ultimately he would work his way back to financial security in his last years.  Those stories are well known and destined for another post.  What really destroyed Clemens, and turned him into a morose and despondent old man, was sickness and death.

Son Langdon died in 1872, at 19 months of age.   The cause was diphtheria, and Sam blamed himself for the rest of his life, for you see he took him for a stroll on a cold and blustery day, and the child was exposed to frigid temperatures when his blanket slipped off him and no one noticed. The first domino had fallen.

Susy was next, dying a horrible death at the age of 24, from spinal meningitis.  Sam was in Europe when she passed, and the news that his favorite daughter was gone was almost more than he could stand.  As he said, it is one of the mysteries of our nature that a man, all unprepared, can receive a thunder-stroke like that and live.

Livy died in 1904, of heart failure, while in Florence, Italy.  The love of Sam’s life was gone.  The final blow came on Christmas Eve day, 1909, when Jean, at 29, suffered an epileptic seizure in her bath, had a heart attack, and drowned.  She was living with Sam at her passing.

Four months later, the great Samuel Clemens could take no more. Everyone he loved dear, save only one daughter, was taken from him.  Alone, he died as much from a broken heart as he did from heart failure.  He simply could carry no more sorrow.

The man who brought laughter and entertainment to millions around the globe, died a broken man, harboring a broken spirit.  

The odd observation here is that in every case, these deaths, today, could have been prevented, or at least the condition managed, to provide for many added years of life. Clemens would no doubt find that ironic.

Mark Twain Quote: “Pity is for the living, envy is for the dead.”

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

More Fun With Letters

Now these are really neat.  It's kinda scary how they work.  Just absurd  coincidence (which I do not believe in), or the hand of some divine creature who rules our every thought and deed, or some mystical principle of physics, or logic, or mathematics at play in an effort to drive us insane?  Who knows.  They are just neat, and very weird.

Watch what happens when you rearrange the letters in a word or phrase and find yourself saying - "how'd they do dat?"




THE EYES:                          THEY SEE

GEORGE BUSH:                 HE BUGS GORE


DORMITORY:                     DIRTY ROOM







Mark Twain Quote:  "Man will do many things to get himself loved.  He will
do all things to get himself envied."

Friday, February 13, 2015

From The Mind of Susy

Susy Clemens was born in 1872, and of all Clemen's children, she was, arguably, his favorite.  She had a way about her that would make us modern folk describe her as eight going on 18.  Or more accurately, eight going on 38.   She exhibited in her too short a life insight and wisdom beyond her years, and a gift for stating the complex intricacies of the world in plain, meaningful language.  When she was but eight years old, she formulated the following, taken from the autobiography of Mark Twain:

For a week, her mother had not been able to go to the nursery, evenings, at the child's prayer hour.  She spoke of it - was sorry for it and said she would come tonight and hoped she could continue to come every night and hear Susy pray, as before.  Noticing that the child wished to respond but was evidently troubled as to how to word her answer, she asked what the difficulty was.  Susy explained that Miss Foote (the governess) had been teaching her about the Indians and their religious beliefs, whereby it appeared that they had not only a god, but several.  This had set Susy to thinking.  As a result of this thinking she had stopped praying.  She qualified this statement - that it, she modified it - saying she did not now pray "in the same way" as she had formerly done.  Her mother said, "Tell me about it, dear."

"Well mamma, the Indians believed they knew, but now we know they were wrong.  By and by it can turn out that we are wrong.  So now I only pray that there may be a God and a heaven - or something better."

I wrote down this pathetic prayer in its precise wording at the time in a record which we kept of the children's sayings and my reverence for it has grown with the years that have passed over my head since then.  Its untaught grace and simplicity are a child's but the wisdom and the pathos of it are of all the ages that have come and gone since the race of man has lived and longed and hoped and feared and doubted.

True that.  Amen.

Mark Twain Quote: "Then Miss Watson she took me in the closet and prayed, but nothing came of it.  She told me to pray every day, and whatever I asked for I would get it.  But it warn't so.  I tried it.  Once I got a fish-line, but no hooks.  It wern't any good to me without hooks."  (Huckleberry Finn)