It’s Time

This is one of those days when I don’t have a clue about what to write. The words will come as I compose. My life was very different this week, and I wound up driving a lot of miles. The driving only woke me up to the fact that my body has changed since 2015 which is the last time I undertook a major drive of 1850 miles in one stretch. I’m not so sure I would be able to do that as well as I did back then. The last six years have been somewhat stressful on my system. Today, as I took my walk, I decided that I must undertake a vigorous training program to get into shape to take another driving trip. A few months ago, I posted my thoughts about taking one last trip around the United States by car before I hang up my driving gloves for good. Before my post was completed I decided that maybe that kind of effort has gone and left me behind. Driving around the perimeter of the USA and up and down a few times in between to cover all the points I would like to revisit added up to a bunch of miles that would take weeks, no months, to accomplish. It would be the ultimate “Burning Gas” post.

This week I kiddingly told my daughter that this kind of trip would be best taken in a sleeper van, camping along the way covering the warmer southern states in the winter months and then heading to the northern border for the summer and fall. Surprisingly, she agreed with me. Over the years, I have done this trip, mostly camping along the way, except I did it in two week stretches covering a period of twenty-five years. Ask my kids about it. A couple of them have never traveled since, and another took up discovering the world with her girlfriend. None of her trips were by car. She wised up and learned from the boring miles she spent in the back of the van as her father had to make the miles to a new destination. She learned that what took me days to cover by driving she could do in a few hours by airplane. The difference between us is that on my trips, I saw and savored every mile of the country in between destinations. She slept as she flew over the boring oceans between her destinations. I tell people that one has to experience the space of this country by driving across the Midwest. The vast flat plain between our home in Illinois and the Rocky mountains was always a bore that even I would have done differently if I could. I remember very vividly dreaming about how nice it would have been to drive our van and trailer onto a railroad flat-car and to navigate the plains by train. There actually were some services that provided such accommodations between the east coast cities and Florida, but I don’t think they exist anymore.

I stopped driving trips when I neared retirement. It was time for Barbara and me to take the easy way, we flew to dream destinations at home, in Europe, and the far east. That didn’t last very long because she became sick and died within months after I retired. To honor her memory, I took a solitary driving trip to our dreamed about winter residence. The driving alone part I vowed never to do again. During that trip I thought about all the long distance truckers who spend their lives driving their loads from a to z daily logging five to six hundred miles over and over again, living and sleeping in truck stops or the back of their tractors. I decided I could never have made a living as a truck driver.

After a couple of years of living alone I found a new partner who wouldn’t fly. So I took up driving again, and loved it. She turned out to be a very good travel buddy, never complaining about the hours, or the monotony of covering miles. We toured the western United States and Canada east to west over our ten years of good life together. We spent the last five years keeping each other company as she ever so slowly descended into the inner depths of her mind.

I have my first wife Barbara’s advice to me from her death bed embedded in my brain, “it’s time to get on with your life.”

Technology Is Beautiful, When It Works

One of my favorite sayings is “technology is wonderful when it works, when it quits working life suddenly becomes horrible. A couple of weeks ago I experienced a failure of the connection between my phone and my ears. We sent a man to the moon and recently landed an unmanned ship on Mars, but we are still unable to produce a hearing aid that works effectively. My aid is made by Siemens, a German company the size of General Electric. Their products are world renown for reliability. One of their most reliable products is jet engines. Yet, when it comes to the lowly hearing aid it lacks something. Probably because everything they make is the size of a locomotive and the hearing aid is the size of a pea. The hearing aid I currently used is a now called Signia. Siemens finally decided to break off the hearing aids from their parent company and to let it stand on its own. That is common is big business. Cut it loose and let if fly on its own.

Bluetooth technology is separate from Siemens, and most likely Siemens has a license agreement with Bluetooth to connect their hearing aids to the rest of the world and to my ears. It is Bluetooth that allows my phone to be piped into my ear. For a hearing impaired person that is a miracle. Listening to a phone conversation over a common phone or a device like the iPhone is not a pleasant experience. First, if I hold the phone too close to my ear I get a shrill feedback. Second, If I accidentally touch my cheek against the touch pad I readily disconnect myself in favor of some app on my phone. Third, phone companies today cut the amount of energy and effort it takes to transmit real sound over the airwaves. They conveniently cut frequencies that they deem unnecessary for people to hear a conversation. To a hearing impaired person these missing sounds contribute to their handicap. When I get the sound piped into my ear directly, it is a thousand times more effective. The same holds true for televisions and radios. With the Blue Tooth device sending the sound directly into my ear the experience is enjoyable. As opposed to listening to a program via tinny-television speakers into a tiny hearing aid microphone located behind my ear and then piped into my ear canal through a tiny hearing aid receiver. I love my Blue Tooth, except when it stopped working.

My trusty Bluetooth pendant has hung around my neck for three plus years without any disruption in service. Each night I plug it into a charger and in the morning I rehang it on my body. The necklace is really an antenna it uses to transmit signals. If I take the necklace off I no longer get sound piped directly into my ears. I made an appointment with my audiologist to have it fixed.

Siemens Easy Tech Pendant for Bluetooth

In the past year I have had a couple of problems with my hearing aids and have had to take them in for service. Because of COVID I could not enter the building. I called when I arrived and they came out to my car to learn what the complaint was. This time, I called thinking the routine is the same. It changed. They now allowed me to enter and I was able to sit opposite the technician and explain my problem. I asked him where Dr. Laura was. He said she no longer works for us. I know she would have been able to resolve the problem much quicker but she wasn’t there any more. Mike as he is called honestly told me he has never seen a device such as mine. After all it is three years old and technology changes rapidly. He found a number on the device and called it. Luckily, the other end knew of this model and told him it is repairable for a fortune. Visions of spending a fortune to have this device repaired and then my hearing aids crash. This is the third set I have owned and each has failed at three years and a few months. Regardless, it is only money so I went for the repair. Hopefully, the aids will last long enough to make it worthwhile.

Technology is beautiful when it works, but when it doesn’t I want to stomp on it.

White Picket Fence

Ever since I was a kid I have dreamed of living on a street in a small town in a white clapboard house surrounded by a white picket fence. It was probably an image I got from watching a wholesome movie like Its A Great Life, or some Mickey Rooney film. The idyllic setting appealed to me and still does. The house I grew up in was not in a small town, but in a small neighborhood in a very big city. We did not have a large enough yard for a picket fence to wrap around the front yard. We did have a picket fence separating us from the neighbors on either side. What ever it was that image has returned regularly throughout my lifetime.

Over the years I have lived in many places. Going away to college counts for many of them. After college and marriage I settled into a small village near the big city, but again the yard was not large enough to sport a white picket fence. House number two was in a tiny town out in the country and away from the big city, but that yard was too large for a picket fence and besides the homeowners association had rules stipulating no fences at all. It didn’t fit my ideal but I loved living there nonetheless. My final house is again in a neighborhood, but it is now part of the little town that house number two was in except the town is no longer small and idyllic.

One summer, I took my kids to see Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia. I love that place. I could see myself living there in Colonial times. It conveys an image of a life during peacetime when people had only to concentrate on feeding and clothing their families. Most who lived in Williamsburg raised their own food, or bartered their talents for food. Each resident had a small cottage with a yard large enough to sustain themselves and to keep animals too. Some of those families were rich enough to afford a horse to pull a small wagon. They had everything, but none of it came from China, and most of it was homemade by them or their neighbors. The fences they had were necessary to separate the animals from the vegetables. Animals love fresh vegetables and keeping them side by side is risky for the city farmer.

Why is all this coming to haunt me? As I age, I long for a simple life in a very small community where everyone knows everyone, and the homes have white picket fences. Reading the book Tom Sawyer might have cemented that picture in my mind. Reading about how Tom duped his buddies into painting the white picket fence for him was one of my favorite chapters. Last week I searched the internet for towns in Illinois with small populations. There are many, but most are long distances away from my family. I seem to like towns with about two thousand people. They seem to fit my dream. The houses are mostly small, and old. The yards are large, meaning a lot of maintenance is required. None of them have picket fences probably because of the added cost and because picket fences require regular maintenance. Will I ever realize my dream? Probably not, but it is fun thinking about living in a situation where it would be a lot of fun if I were forty years old and not eighty. Why, I could raise chickens and keep a large organic vegetable garden. Think of all the energy I would expend pulling weeds and killing vegetable eating bugs and butterflies.

A few years ago, I wrote my autobiography and one of the chapters was titled “City Farm.” I described the way my Mom kept a garden that covered every square inch of the available yard. She had chickens, raised vegetables, fruit, and also a myriad of flowers at the same time. The lady never sat still. While she was doing all that garden stuff I was able to get lost on the block and play with my buddies. Ahh for the good old days.

Now it is wine time!

I Am One of These

Special Group / Born Between 1930 – 1946. Today, they range in ages from 75 to 90.  Are you or do you know someone “still here”? 

Classy Chassis

  Some interesting Facts for you. 

  You are the smallest group ofchildren, born since the early 1900s. 

    You are the last generation, climbing out of the depression, who can remember the winds of war and the impact of a world at war which rattled the structure of our daily lives for years. 

    You are the last to remember ration books for everything from gasto sugar to shoes to stoves.

     You saved tin foil and poured fat into tin cans. 

  You saw cars up on blocks because tires weren’t available.

   You can remember milk being delivered to your house early in themorning and placed in the “milk box” on the porch.

   You are the last to see the gold stars in the front windows ofgrieving neighbors whose sons died in the War.

    You saw the ‘boys’ home from the war, build their little houses.

   You are the last generation who spent childhood without television;instead, you imagined what you heard on the radio. 

  With no TV until the 50’s, you spent your childhood “playing outside”. 

  There was no little league.

  There was no city playground for kids.

       The lack of television in your early years meant, that you had little real understanding of what the world was like.

     On Saturday afternoons, the movies gave you newsreels sandwiched in between westerns and cartoons.

     Telephones were one to a house, often shared (party lines) andhung on the wall in the kitchen (no cares about privacy). 

    Computers were called calculators; they were hand cranked.

     Typewriters were driven by pounding fingers, throwing the carriageand changing the ribbon.

     INTERNET’ and ‘GOOGLE’ were words that did not exist. 

      Newspapers and magazines were written for adults and the news was broadcast on your radio in the evening.

  As you grew up, the country was exploding with growth. 

    The Government gave returning Veterans the means to get an education and spurred colleges to grow.

  Loans fanned a housing boom.

Pent up demand coupled with new instalment payment plans opened manyfactories for work.

     New highways would bring jobs and mobility.

SUV’s Chevrolet Suburban Generations

  The Veterans joined civic clubs and became active in politics.

     The radio network expanded from 3 stations to thousands. 

    Your parents were suddenly free from the confines of the depression and the war, and they threw themselves into exploring opportunities they had never imagined.

    You weren’t neglected, but you weren’t today’s all-consumingfamily focus.

  They were glad you played by yourselves until the street lights came on.

They were busy discovering the post war world.

     You entered a world of overflowing plenty and opportunity; a worldwhere you were welcomed, enjoyed yourselves and felt secure in your future though depression poverty was deeply remembered.

   Polio was still a crippler.

   You came of age in the 50s and 60s.

  You are the last generation to experience an interlude when there were no threats to our homeland.

The second world war was over and the cold war, terrorism, global warming, and perpetual economic insecurity had yet to haunt life with unease.

     Only your generation can remember both a time of great war, and a time when our world was secure and full of bright promise and plenty.

You grew up at the best possible time, a time when the world wasgetting better…

   You are “The Last Ones.”  More than 99 % of you are either retired or deceased, and you feel privileged to have “lived in the best of times!”

Sock Sort One

What a day this has been! The sun is shining making us feel warm even though the temperature is at 26 degrees Fahrenheit. The snow from the roofs is melting and forming giant icicles. Any of these pointed ice spears would kill anyone it fell on. Today was planned to count and sort socks. My Lions Club is conducting a community wide sock collection for the purpose of giving those in need some fresh new socks. Our idea is that if your feet are warm, the rest of you will be warm too. For whatever reason, this project is resonating with the public. Probably because it is simple and COVID-19 has affected so many of our neighbors. The Frankfort Lions Club goal is to provide every man, woman, and child registered with our local food pantry with a six pack of socks.

Ten super excited Lions gathered for this event at our local Community Center. We were masked and spread apart as wide as was possible and within thirty minutes we counted 672 pairs of socks, tied them into bundles of six, and bagged them for transport to the Food Pantry on Monday morning. Since our food pantry is sheltered in the Township building and the Township is government they don’t work weekends so hold your hunger for Monday thru Friday.

Our count was six hundred and seventy-two pairs of socks in 112 bundles of six, or 36.7% of our goal. Next week Lions will energize the purchasing component of the project and spend sponsor donated funds to buy what the public didn’t give. By the end of February, our public school partners will end their drives and provide us with a mountain of socks to spread around the community through the shelters.

All in all, this has been a successful project. A highlight will be our Lions produced video to publicize the event. What else but a sock puppet show to do the job. I promise to post our video once it becomes final.

Part two of this day had me delivering two pieces of art-work to Frankfort Arts Association Member Exhibition at Tall Grass Arts Association in Park Forest, IL. The show is “Emerging Perspectives,” and it is my debut as an artist. I feel that all the hours I have spent on making Intarsia pieces deserves some recognition, or at least some exposure. The next step will be to sell something, but I have a problem with that, i.e. I can’t bear the idea of letting my babies go. Maybe that is why we are called “starving artists.”

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