Friday, December 08, 2017

 

What Whiskey City, Texas, Taught Me

By Donovan Baldwin

Mankind will bend over until its collective spine breaks to do something it's not "supposed" to be doing.

In 1968, the U.S. Army transferred me to Texas. It was hard to believe such a historically hard-drinking, cowboy state could have laws against selling hard liquor. More surprising, was the fact that, near many Texas towns, could be found "Whiskey City".

This was a collective term for a shopping center, outside the town's legal jurisdiction, where booze could be bought.

I learned of this, when I got stationed at Goodfellow Air Force Base, in San Angelo, Texas, in 1967.

Of course, soldiers, and airmen stationed at the base could buy anything on base. However, non-military citizens could not buy hard liquor in town.

One day, a friend of mine took me into the desert surrounding the town. We turned down a nondescript road, and, after a mile or two, we came around a bend, literally in the middle of nowhere, and there was a modern, multi-unit, strip mall selling only booze.

People didn't want hard liquor in their town,.

So, they banned it. Some of them, and others, still wanted booze, just not in town, so they built a special place to sell it, and buy it.

What's the saying?

"Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive...", ourselves?

Saturday, December 02, 2017

 

Are We Going Mad?

By: Donovan Baldwin

I think many of us, perhaps more than you and I might imagine, wonder at times if we are going mad.

I've had times in my life when I thought that.

I've heard people describe clinical mental conditions, and thought to myself, "They're describing what happened to me!"

A couple of problems with understanding our own madness, of course, is, if you've never been crazy, clinically crazy, how can you know if you are or not?

If you go off someone else's description, how can you know that you are feeling the real thing, or even the same thing?

I "go crazy" in the emergency room of the hospital when they ask me to rate my pain on a scale of 1 - 10.

My 5 may be somebody else's 7 or 3.

A problem with self-diagnosing "crazy" or "madness", or, pain level, for that matter, is that, one person's "crazy" may be another person's "normal". 

Still, even when we cannot quite be sure if we are "going crazy" or experiencing genuine "madness", if we are at that point where we are beginning to wonder, seriously wonder, then we are in a situation that needs to be treated as if it is real.

Someone in their own experience of madness can do, say, believe things that they would not under "normal" conditions and reactions. We can portray madness, especially merely perceived madness, as funny.

But, to the person experiencing it, it's very real.

I know.

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Tuesday, November 28, 2017

 

With Freedom Comes Obligations

By: Donovan Baldwin

I believe in freedom, but also that with freedom comes obligation.

For example, I like being free to walk down the street, but, I feel obliged to NOT walk through my neighbor's flower bed, or pick the vegetables they have planted and worked to grow.

I feel that demanding freedom as a natural right, means that I believe that everyone else has the same right.

Granting that, I feel that they too should recognize and honor obligations.

Unfortunately, because of so many factors in us humans; differences in upbringing, culture, religion, other beliefs, etc., we don't always recognize the same freedoms, and, even when we do, not always the same obligations.

This is easier in a relatively small tribe.

Boss made the rules and enforced them with fear. Maybe a shaman, or elder, acted as spiritual head, reinforcing rules, teaching common values. All members of that small tribe believed and acted the same, Or faced the same consequences. But, even then, there could be a "glitch in the Matrix".

Someone would steal, kill, rape, molest; and, the tribe, usually through chief, or shaman, or council took action, often swift, violent, and lethal.

Diversity is wonderful, but, as freedom creates obligations, diversity creates other considerations, too.

So, we have laws and agree to abide by them. Abiding by proper laws gives us freedom, to a degree. Life's never perfect, and freedom is never entirely free.

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Thursday, November 23, 2017

 

Sharing A Picture Of Me

By: Donovan Baldwin

When we meet people on social media, it can be difficult to actually, and honestly, know and understand them.

The few words and thoughts that show up here, and other places online, are not only few, but chosen.

That's why, sometimes, I like to reference things I have done or experienced.

That gives a more complete picture of "me" to you. Sure, like many of us, I like to talk about myself, but, I enjoy sharing who I am with all of you readers...well, most, anyway.

That's also why I sometimes write about playing with the dog, having a cold, hanging curtains, or having a flat tire.

I have noticed that many of my readers often add little snippets of "you".

Not just your thoughts or responses, but, something you have done or experienced yourself. I like that. Makes my online "contact" more of a person.

An added note is that I am retired, not hiring for anything, so, many people eventually figure out that they can be themselves with me and not have to put on some professional veneer.

Of course, since my timeline or feed, on many social media sites, is pretty much accessible by anybody who wants to look, I would suggest keeping the really weird stuff private.

C'mon. Fess up. You've got a little "weird" in ya. Wouldn't be reading my stuff if you didn't...and still have to walk the dog, hang curtains, wash the car, etc.

"Normal" stuff.

Keeps us real.

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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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