Monday, November 20, 2017

 

The Story Is Where Author And Reader Meet

By: Donovan Baldwin

This morning, I posted a quote, on a social media site, from one of my favorite stories.

Got me to thinking.

As much as the quote meant to me, there are many people who just wouldn't "get it".

Not their fault.

They might not be familiar with the story, or, it just might not be of interest to them.

The second reason I cannot talk about, as only they could know why.

We get to who we are by winding pathways, and trying to re-trace and "correct" someone's past is a thankless, thoughtless, and intrusive, action.

However, not being familiar with the story can be changed by becoming familiar with it. Often, however, it is the meeting of two stories, the author's, and the reader's, that give value and meaning to a quote or excerpt.

Take this line from Robert Louis Stevenson's, "Treasure Island".

"Israel was Flint's gunner."

Spoken at one of the more dramatic moments of the story, and fraught (love that word) with meaning for the knowledgeable reader, It can be totally, in fact, less than, meaningless for those not "in the know".

In the story, Flint was an infamous pirate captain. Israel Hands was his master gunner, and now is a mutineer aiming a cannon at loyal crewmembers.

Even with that, the reader has to be ready to believe in pirates, mutiny on the high seas, and the search for lost treasure to appreciate the moment.

I was, as a boy, and, now, as a man, I guess, I still am.

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Sunday, November 19, 2017

 

You Cannot See All Of A Stick In The Mud

By: Donovan Baldwin

There are some who might think I'm a "stick in the mud", or set in my ways.

It's easy to think that about someone, especially an "old" someone, when they poo-poo something we find new or interesting.

What is also easy is to forget that an older person may have already tried that and decided they didn't like it, long before YOU discovered it, based on a lot of life experiences you might not have had yet.

Earlier this year, I visited Monterey, California, where I had been stationed twice at the Defense Language Institute, West Coast (1966 and 1983).

As I was looking in a souvenir shop on Old Fisherman's Wharf for a gift for the grandkids, I saw a bunch of small signs. They were the kind you can stick on the window of your car.

Supposedly funny sayings that might cause a laugh or a fight, depending on the mood of the other driver.

As I read some of them, I was doing the "old guy" thing, thinking, "I would never put that on my car..."

Then, I had a flashback...same store, 30+ years earlier. A younger me was laughing at similar, possibly the same signs and trying to convince my wife that I should buy one and stick it on the car. Thought it was funny back then.

We change.

I even once tried flavored coffee.

People who know me now won't believe that, but, I did.

Wild and crazy youth.

Now I know that Folger's instant is perfect for me and doesn't need woodchips or French vanilla, whatever that is, to make it better.

Hard to please? Not at all...as long as it's done my way.

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Monday, November 13, 2017

 

Taking A Swing At "Casey At The Bat"

By: Donovan Baldwin

There's an old, once well-known, poem about baseball, that I like, "Casey At The Bat", by Ernest Lawrence Thayer.

After recounting the efforts of the mighty batter for the Mudville baseball team, Casey, to get a hit and win the game, Casey fails.

The final lines of "Casey At The Bat", are, "...somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout, But there is no joy in Mudville—mighty Casey has struck out."

While the poem Is humorous, when I reread it recently, those lines reminded me of a life lesson.

No matter what I am experiencing; joy, fear, success, or failure, something else is happening to somebody else, somewhere else.

If I am dancing with joy, someone, somewhere is mourning the loss of loved one. If I am raging because of some real, or imagined, failure, or injustice, someone, somewhere, is announcing some exhilarating success and praising friends, family, the government, or simply fate, for causing such joy.

We should not ignore our pleasures, or pains, simply because some other someone, somewhere, is experiencing the opposite. It's not a "balancing" of the Universe.

But, occasionally, I believe, it's good to remember that it's not all just about us, and, that what happens today does not define us, or them, forever.

Casey was a hometown hero in Mudville.

One day, at one time, he failed his neighbors, but, he was not a failure forever...I hope. The poet doesn't say.

Read the poem below:

CASEY AT THE BAT
BY ERNEST LAWRENCE THAYER


It looked extremely rocky for the Mudville nine that day:
The score stood four to six with just an inning left to play;
And so, when Cooney died at first, and Burrows did the same,
A pallor wreathed the features of the patrons of the game.

A straggling few got up to go, leaving there the rest
With that hope that springs eternal within the human breast;
For they thought if only Casey could get one whack, at that
They'd put up even money, with Casey at the bat.

But Flynn preceded Casey, and so likewise did Blake,
But the former was a pudding, and the latter was a fake;
So on that stricken multitude a death-like silence sat,
For there seemed but little chance of Casey's getting to the bat.

But Flynn let drive a single to the wonderment of all,
And the much-despisèd Blaikie tore the cover off the ball;
And when the dust had lifted, and they saw what had occurred,
There was Blaikie safe on second and Flynn a-hugging third!

Then from the gladdened multitude went up a joyous yell,
It bounded from the mountain-top, and rattled in the dell,
It struck upon the hillside, and rebounded on the flat;
For Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat.

There was ease in Casey's manner as he stepped into his place,
There was pride in Casey's bearing, and a smile on Casey's face;
And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt 'twas Casey at the bat.

Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt,
Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt;
Then, while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
Defiance glanced in Casey's eye, a sneer curled Casey's lip.

And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,
And Casey stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there;
Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped:
"That ain't my style," said Casey. "Strike one," the umpire said.

From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,
Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore;
"Kill him! Kill the umpire!" shouted some one in the stand.
And it's likely they'd have killed him had not Casey raised his hand.

With a smile of Christian charity great Casey's visage shone;
He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the game go on;
He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the spheroid flew,
But Casey still ignored it; and the umpire said, "Strike two."

"Fraud!" cried the maddened thousands, and the echo answered, "Fraud!"
But the scornful look from Casey, and the audience was awed;
They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,
And they knew that Casey wouldn't let that ball go by again.

The sneer is gone from Casey's lip, his teeth are clenched with hate;
He pounds with cruel violence his bat upon the plate;
And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,
And now the air is shattered by the force of Casey's blow.

Oh, somewhere in this favoured land the sun is shining bright,
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in Mudville—mighty Casey has struck out.

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Saturday, November 11, 2017

 

Poem: Once They Were Young

I originally posted this somewhere else a while back, but, thought I'd re-post it here, today, Veteran's Day, 2017.

I had to go to the Veteran's Administration Outpatient Clinic in Fort Worth, Texas, recently and was surrounded by old people (don't look in the mirror), and was reminded that they too were once much younger.

BTW: Absolutely NO disrespect to all our sisters, young and old who have also served. Just a preponderance of guys with whom I identified.

ONCE THEY TOO WERE YOUNG
By: Donovan Baldwin


Once they too were young.
They tried it all back then,
And did not walk with canes
Or squint to see
Dim words upon a page,
Or cup their hands
Behind their ears
To hear the soft voice
Which called their name...
Next to see the doc.

Once, they were the young
And salty lads,
Scoffing at half blind
And deaf old men
Shuffling with their canes,
Ogling young women
While remembering
When they had tried it all...

As the old men kept
The secret passed
Once to them
By still older men...

"Scoff now while you can,
My son,
For I am you grown old."

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"I Don't Do Nothin' Like I Used To..."

By: Donovan Baldwin

The late John W. Bubbles (John William Sublett 1902 - 1986) was doing a soft shoe routine on the Ed Sullivan Show, one night. He was in his 60's. He was joking as he danced, and, at one point said something like: They say I don't dance like I used to.

He laughed and said, "I don't do NOTHING like I used to."

Being in my 70's now, I get it, Sir.

Actually, I found that as years of my life passed, I didn't do things the same.

As I aged, I realized that how I did things, how I thought about things, how I reacted to things, changed. Not all at once, and not in every way, but, they did change...or, I did.

As we add experiences, and acquire the free, often painful, education that life provides, our perception of the world, of people, of events, changes.

For some of us, these changes, and there will be many, may be subtle. For someone else some may be intense, and, also, as life sometimes is, painful.

We may not recognize, or acknowledge, all the changes, but, they are happening.

Trying to remain "the same" year after year, decade after decade, is one of the most painful things we can do, and, can become more painful than simply accepting, and adapting to, change.

Sometimes it is necessary, useful, or, simply, the right thing to do, but, whether we fight or follow, life wants us to move and grow, and teach.

It's frustrating trying to help others learn what we learned the hard way, before they have to learn it the way we did.

But, get used to it. After all, we didn't believe our teachers either.

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Wednesday, November 08, 2017

 

Just Doing What Comes Natural

By: Donovan Baldwin

I have always been interested in health, exercise, and fitness.

In fact, over the years I have written and published several articles on those subjects.

Even so, I try NOT to be a "health nut".

Not to say that's a bad thing, it's just my personal desire and interest to balance who I am, and what I do, with the realities of the world, and my own beliefs and desires.

I believe in "natural food", keeping in mind that "natural" is not a magic word.

Rattlesnake venom is natural, as is gravity acting on an avalanche above a busy ski slope.

However, within the constraints of my reality, caregiver for two people, I try to avoid unnecessary, and "unnatural" ingredients in my food. I usually cook my own meat, fix raw or steamed vegetables, eat things such as bell peppers, thanks to a certain someone who cares about my health, and other raw vegetables and fruits.

I'm not perfect, but, I try.

Because of my personal obligations, and their affect on time and energy, prepared foods still appear in my diet sometimes.

Still, I look for solutions.

The other day, with this in mind, I checked a "Paleo" meal in the frozen food section of my local Walmart. Lots of pretty veggies and meat visible through the wrapping.

Then, I read the ingredients...after the meat and veggies, it read like a chemist's shopping list.

Often, we try to do the "right thing", but, there are hidden pitfalls we don't always recognize.

Don't believe me?

Try to give up sugar.

Read labels. You'll see what I mean.

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Tuesday, November 07, 2017

 

A Redneck Who Likes Greek Art And Mozart?

By: Donovan Baldwin

I've done a lot of stuff in my 72 years upon this sometimes unsteady Earth.

I was raised in the era of John Wayne and imbued with the macho, "real men don't cry", principles of the time. I've spent 21 years of my life in the military and did other rough, not-so-beautiful things such as construction and truck driving.

Somehow, I also managed to develop a love for words, literature, philosophy (some of it), and poetry.

I became enamored of Greek statues, Renaissance art, classical music, boot-stompin' Country-Western, and folk ballads.

It's sometimes difficult to reconcile all these personalities within myself, and, sometimes, people meeting me, seeing just one facet, assume that's who I am. Sometimes, they're surprised to find out that this roughneck, redneck, prefers to listen to Mozart.

I ate C Rations and MRE's in the army. I can eat beans out of a can by a fire with the guys, or I can (usually) select the proper fork at the Governor's dinner (if he or she ever invites me). 

Having been around, I don't think this is unique to me.

People are often unbelievably complex.

Assuming that we know and understand the person we've just met, based on a few moments of contact is absurd.

It took years of experience, education, failure, success, pain, and pleasure to make that person in front of you into who they are.

We are not going to "learn" them in minutes.

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Monday, November 06, 2017

 

A Treat For Ruby, The 50-Lb. Puppy

By: Donovan Baldwin

I recently bought a treat for Ruby, our 50 lb. (23 Kg.) puppy.

It was a bone.

I'm a retired soldier and ex-accountant, not an expert on prehistoric flora and fauna, but based on size it either came from a Tyrannosaurus Rex, Mastodon, or other creature from the Mesozoic or Cenozoic Era.

Ruby, for all her size and rough-puppy play, has a tender mouth and is hesitant with new things. Your fingers are safe when giving her treats. She nibbles like a "lay-dee".

When she first put this huge dog bone in her mouth, she kept dropping it because it was so heavy. In fact, she can't even hold her head up when it's in her mouth, but, she loves it.

She's learned to carry it around proudly, but, like a huge cigar, one end in her mouth.

When she wants to play, she runs up to me and "throws" whatever toy is in her mouth at me.

In the case of this bone, "throwing" is a bit overstated, and the act is more the equivalent of "dropping", usually on my toes.

Due to this unfortunate habit of hers, and, the weight of the bone, I've decided that, when making future purchases of toys or treats for Ruby, I'm going to take my shoes off in the store and drop the toys or treats on my toes.

Whatever hurts the least is what she's getting.

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