Free Association Friday #1: Just Some Things on My Mind
It is 45° F (about 7° C) outside, and it’s beautifully clear. My water heater failed two days ago, and one of our local plumbing outfits will be out to replace it sometime today. In the past two weeks, we have had two bathroom sinks require repair (my wife now calls me Joe Plumber); we had a carousel fail in our kitchen cabinet; our screen door suffered wind damage (I fixed that, too, now she just calls me Joe); and last evening our kitchen garbage disposal went on the fritz. As my daughter says on occasion, “Adulting sucks.” Indeed. Fingers crossed that we won’t have to do any more of it than planned today.
That said, I am in the mood to free associate this morning, and so I will turn this into Free Association Friday:
I watched CBS coverage of John Lewis’ funeral this week. We have not come as far as we could have and should have when it comes to equality in this country. Like the Republic itself, this is a work in progress, but I want to see us make more progress. Perhaps there are some similar troubles elsewhere in the world, but for my part I think we here in the US can and should do better. I lived in Montgomery, Alabama in the mid-70s. I was bussed to a school across town in order to force integration/desegregation. I was in junior high. Those were formative years for me. Time, age, knowledge, and education have enlightened my recollection of those days as just ‘another in the life’ of a military brat and turned it into an understanding of how extraordinary those events were in the life of our Republic. We young junior high and high school kids did not fully grasp the political and social enormity of those days. Instead, we were living the life in front of us, making the best of every moment. Perspectives probably focused on whether Johnny or Susie liked so-and-so and whether or not Calvin and I would be in the starting lineup when our George Washington Carver Wolverine basketball team played against our cross-town rivals the following week. I never knew how bad the racism was down there in and among all that until I went back and lived there again in the late-90s and things hadn’t really changed all that much. Indeed, the only thing that had really changed was my understanding of how the world works and how I would like to see it work.
I also heard it somewhere this week, and I’ll just say that I really want to believe that Abe Lincoln once said it: “I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.” I hope it’s true that he did. What a great mindset. I can think of a large handful of people to whom this applies.
Too many people have already died from Covid-19. Especially in a civilized, developed country like ours. I wear a mask every time I go into a public space. When I ride my bike, I do not mask up, but I also ride alone and I stay far away from other people. I was maybe not happy, but at least relieved, to hear that the Big Sky football conference postponed their 2020 season yesterday. They will attempt it in the spring semester of 2021. The news was welcome because the hometown Idaho Vandals had nine positive virus tests since the early part of July, and there are at least 59 NCAA teams across the country who’ve had players post positive test results. I mean, I know it sucks to lose money and all, but it sucks worse to lose lives needlessly. Or change lives forever needlessly. At the end of the day, I think the decision was a wise one. Many, many young players around here were relieved to hear the news.
In 1983, I drove from South Dakota to Washington, D.C. to pick up my sister and bring her home after she separated from her husband and while she was waiting for her divorce to be finalized. Her mouth had been wired shut, she had to eat from a feeding tube. Her husband beat her up. When I told my girlfriend of the time I was going to DC, she made me promise to get a picture of the ruby slippers at the Smithsonian Museum. I was almost 22 years old that summer, and when I left home I had a full tank of gas, probably didn’t have any sunglasses but I did drive at night. I drove through Chicago on Interstate 90 along the way and I had an Amoco credit card for gas. Hit it! I don’t remember if the Blues Brothers came before or after that trip, but often times when I remember the trip I remember the movie, too. And Jake and Elwood. Gotta love those guys.
I can remember sleeping in my car in a rest stop in Pennsylvania on that trip. I didn’t feel unsafe doing it, either. I am not certain I’d do that now. No, let’s say that differently: I’m certain I’d not do that now. Anyway, I’ve digressed a bit. Back on track here: I rolled into DC and found myself driving down Martin Luther King boulevard, windows down (no AirCon in the yellow 1978 Subaru 5-speed I was driving), arm hanging out the driver’s side window. This must have looked like a signal of sorts because when I came to a stop sign, I was approached by folks young and old, seemingly coming out of the woodwork.
“Want a nickel bag? Need a dime bag? Hey man, I got some ‘ludes and some red ones, here, too.”
“I’m good, thanks.” Rolled up my window and moved on.
Next stop sign I come to, a guy approaches the car and he’s got a laundry bag over his shoulder.
“Hey man, wanna buy some flood lights?”
“You know, flood lights.” He opened his bag and pulled out two flood lights that looked like they’d just been removed from the top of a Jeep. You know, flood lights.
“Um…nope. I’m good.” And drove off rapidly.
Washington, DC in 1983 was a place you could very easily find debauchery if you wanted to. At one point on my adventure cruising through the heart of DC, I was less than two blocks away from Constitution Avenue and there were naked ladies dancing in street-facing front windows of several establishments along the way. There were signs with lots of Xs on them everywhere you looked.
I managed to make my way through that area, finding for the passing through that I somehow felt much less naïve than I’d been just a scant few hours before. I don’t think I ever got over my amazement, though, that all of this was happening just two blocks over from the street where the White House was located. Surreal. Still and all, next thing you know, I was at the Smithsonian without much trouble.
I found my way to the Wizard of Oz ruby red slippers display without much trouble, too. There was, however, some trouble in River City: the museum section containing the ruby slippers was closed. There were two gold-topped stanchions there with a fat red velvet rope hanging between them and a sign that read, “Display closed.”
I panicked for a moment, worried I wasn’t going to be able to keep my word to my girlfriend. But then I did what any red-blooded young man would do in that situation: I looked around the joint, cut my eyes from side to side, went deftly under the rope and directly to the display stand. It said, “No pictures allowed.” Damn, this really wasn’t my day.
Well, once again, I did what anyone else in my shoes would have done, I think. Actually, I did what I felt like I had to do, given the mission I was on: I snapped a couple of Kodak pictures anyway. I had one of those disposable cameras, I believe, but even if it wasn’t a disposable (I honestly just don’t remember), it had an automatic flash on it, so every time I took a picture the camera flashed. I gulped every time it did, but still took several shots from several different angles for good measure, then scooted on out of there. Believe it or not, I did not spend any more time at the Smithsonian than it took me to enter, find the red slippers and ignore the signs so I could fulfill my girlfriend’s wish. Mission accomplished. Well…sort of.
Weeks later, when I got the developed pictures back, every single shot of the ruby slippers from the Wizard of Oz had a reflection of a big bright flash in the glass display case, which completely blocked out any view of the slippers themselves. There was one shot where you could tell that there were red shoes in the case…but nothing so definitive that anyone would believe you if you told them it was an actual picture of the shoes worn by Dorothy / Judy in the classic film. <Sigh>
We made it back to South Dakota from DC, too, obviously. I remember driving through Chicago during rush hour traffic with a screaming, poopy-diapered baby in the back and one very upset two-year old who was really only upset because his baby sister was not happy. Where can you stop in rush hour traffic in Chicago on the interstate? Nowhere. So you don’t. We pushed on and found a spot closer to Wisconsin. Then, as we drove through Wisconsin in the rain late that evening, we went under a bridge along the way and there were six or eight racoons in the roadway scattering in different directions. The best, safest course of action in the pouring, puddling rain was straight on through, sadly. I found pink mist and animal hairs on my bumper when we finally stopped some hours later.
Eleanor Rigby by The Beatles
I wanted to talk more today about riding in the cool 60° evening air last night while I was wearing Walmart gym shorts; a WSU Cougs t-shirt I got for free when I helped during freshman move-in back in 2011; Hanes socks and Blundstones boots. I could have stayed out all night long riding up and down the block. It was cool, serene, peaceful, mind-clearing. Truthfully, all I thought about was the Stones, The Outfield, Bob Dylan, Joan Jett and the Black Hearts, the Beatles. The jar by the door had a face in it. Think about lyrics like that and where they might have come from.
I once had a line pop into my head when I was in college dinking around on my guitar in my dorm room one evening: “I found the brick that was missing from Mrs. Robinson’s windowsill.”
That line popped in and never left. There’s a bit of a riff that goes with it, too, but there is nothing else, absolutely nothing else. A few notes, one line of lyrics, nothing else. I told my mom about it once, and she said that’s how hit songs are born. This one will never be a hit song or anything else, though, because it will never be finished. Indeed, what I’m about to end this with below is probably the umpteenth version of something I’ve written to go with it, and I concocted this one early this morning at about 0430. This was after I’d already started another version of it some number of days or weeks ago, chasing a completely different tack: how bricks used to be made and laid in the old days. I’m not happy with any of these versions now, but I’m putting this one out there because it took so much of my time away from me this morning.
And so it goes.
Ok, enough of Free Association Friday. I didn’t even get to Mr. Victor, or watching the Montgomery Rebels play baseball. I also went to a Blue-Gray football game with my dad one time. And Mr. Cochran invented Woolite, and Mr. Carpenter threw an eraser at my head (I deserved it), and Mrs. Moe and our football coach and our biology teacher and lots and lots and lots of other things that come to mind when you really free associate.
Let’s end this here, and add to it a hope that you one and all have a very good weekend. Be well and be safe, wherever you are on this big blue marble.
The Missing Brick
I found the brick that was missing
From Mrs. Robinson’s windowsill
I’ve no idea know how it got there
I sometimes wonder if I ever will
It was in the sand in the box
Where the young kids used to play
But that was long ago, 13 years
Three months, and some number of days
I keep the brick in my home
Locked up in a chest of drawers
In an old Roi-Tan Trumps box
I don’t really look at it much anymore
But I think a lot about the children
And the way they used to run
Around and round the neighborhood
Everything they did was fun
Who put the brick in the sandbox?
I suppose I wonder still
But I’ve really no idea how it got there
And I am certain I never will
© 2020 greg cain