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Thursday, December 29, 2016

A New Keyboard for Christmas

Created using my Android tablet and tiny keyboard, hunched over looking out indirectly at the sun rising over the golf course in Leesurg, FL.

My tablet now has a keyboard that I got for Christmas. Much smaller, not so easy to type or even press the space key because the space bar is so much smaller. I will inevitably end up fat-fingering the keys. But I can also use voice to overcome some of these typing faux paus. It really is a great time to be alive, except that I am spending so much to time with devices rather than people I love. Or spending time with people through devices I love rather than spending time with them directly. So I guess we are victims of our own devices.

It is the end of another year. I should be setting goals to 2017 but I probably won't. I am by nature a laissez-faire kind of guy. Everything I learned about planning and organization I learned in the corporate world, an alternate universe where people work and do things that they do not do in their home lives. I am thankful for this alternate world; it has forced me to do things I would not have been able to do. But on a vacation week like this, I revert back to laissez-faire, unplanned days that begin with quiet reading and coffee and then veer off in any number of directions. (I am in Google Docs and it keeps auto-correcting me with words I do not want. I know better than to edit while I type but I am doing it anyway. I am not proud of myself right now.) This is the first day I have taken time to journal, so not only am I rusty but I am also using this new keyboard, so let's just get through this and next time I will aim for profundity and such. Sometimes just showing up is enough, like when you go to work after a three-day weekend or a week-long vacation. I am just showing up to journal my thoughts, so there, I am doing this, I can do this, getting something down on the screen, which I have not done in a while because I am too busy or too lazy or I would rather watch TV or scroll through pages of banal Facebook pages. Did you know that I removed Facebook from this device before we left on this trip last week? Yes, I did, and the quality of my life has not diminished in the least.

I noticed we didn't get many Christmas cards this year. It seems to be fewer each year. It made me a little sad. I think it is Facebook's fault. Facebook has taken over everything. I liked Facebook at first, but then they had to monetize it. In fact, everything on the Internet was free at first, and then they had to monetize it. And that ruins everything. You can't give someone something for free and expect them to all of a sudden want to start paying for it. Or looking at creepy ads.

I've now been journaling for about 20 minutes. I'm getting used to this little keyboard, but I am not positioned properly for ergonomics sitting in a wicker chair all hunched over typing. But now I know it works, and I feel like I am accomplishing something by typing on a little Bluetooth keyboard on a beautiful December day in Florida. And that raises one more thing I wanted to mention: Christmas in Florida. It was 85 degrees on Christmas Day. To me, that is not Christmas. That is the evil Solstice. I feel like I have been put in a time warp and emerged in June.  We exchanged gifts, and then the next day I am out in the hot sun playing Bocci ball and then swimming laps. Those things are great, but they are not Christmas-time activities. So I think I missed Christmas and got Solstice. I guess I will have to check the credit card bill in January and see if we really did miss Christmas or if it was just my imagination.

Wow, this was hard work!

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Passing of Time

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing.” Annie Dillard, The Writing Life
I have to admit something: I am obsessed by the passage of time. It is a constant presence in my life, as if I have some allergy that results in irritation or an itchiness that I must constantly attend to. I am constantly paying attention to the passage of time. I have no idea how this happened. Here's an example: I do not really want to be celebrated on my birthday like so many do. I prefer to take the day off from work and contemplate, not be rushed, sip the coffee slowly in the morning, sit by a stream for a little while, anything but be glad that I am another year older. The changing of seasons, say from summer to autumn, is also an emotional experience for me because I see it as a kind of dying, an ending to something that is now being lost. I wish I could see the new season as a new beginning, but I do not. I focus on the end. I mourn my way month-by-month through the cycles of life. I suppose this outlook on life may actually deepen the pleasures I experience because they are commingled with the pain of any experience's brevity.

I told my daughter the other day that I want to buy raw sugar in the brown packets because I love the way it tastes, but I then immediately said that if we did that, it would no longer be special when we get to have the sugar in a nice restaurant or on a cruise. It would become something normal, something always available. Maybe I love the raw sugar because my time with it is so limited, just as it is with seasons of the year, or certain people I've known, or even my own children. Children are born and you think you have them for a long time, only to find that "soon enough" their childhood and your youth is gone and though we should know better, we are still surprised by it when it actually happens. We have been in the same house now for 15 years, and even though moving out closer to where we work makes sense for a number of reasons, I want to stay put because staying in one place makes me feel as if I am marking time, preventing it from passing or at least slowing it down.

I recently heard a quote from Will Durant, who said that as we get older, life puts us under “general anesthesia.” I think I know exactly what he means. If you live long enough, you will feel a certain numbness toward life because of all that you've been through, even though you can't always explain what it all means.

The writer of Ecclesiastes, a book in the Bible, wrestled with life, apparently from the vantage point of nearing the end as the author looked back on what his life and the choices he made means. The profound statement in this book is when the author pointed out that “God has set eternity in our hearts.” Some people reject this innate longing for eternity and “live in the moment” (You can do a search for that phrase and find it is a current popular catchphrase), but Ecclesiastes correctly acknowledges the source of our yearning to break free from time's limitations seems to explain what I, and I think most people, are feeling. My sensitivity to time and its brevity is pointing me to something more than this life offers, particularly since I am likely two-thirds of the way toward the end of my journey. If this is all there is, then I am approaching the shore and had better be living in the moment because you reach a point where all that's left are moments.

Despite this longing for eternity, I still tend to focus on the loss of time in its many manifestations, like when I walk by the hourglass in our home that someone gave me years ago and I turn it over so that the sand runs down. I guess this is what I feel—the sand running down in the hourglass—every day of my life. Maybe this is how eternity in the heart looks, but I am not certain. But I do wonder how many more times I will get to turn the hourglass over. At this point, all I can say is . . . so far, so good.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

My Morning Routine

Like most people, I have a morning routine. If any of this routine is interrupted, my day is ruined. Here’s the routine: I get up when I get up. I do not use an alarm. If I go to bed early, I get up early. If I go to bed late, I get up a little later. This is very simple. If I’m driving to the Midwest and have to leave at 3 a.m., I use an alarm. Otherwise, I get up when I get up.

The next thing I do in the morning is go downstairs and start the coffee. When I make the coffee, I hate when I find the grinds from the day before in the metal filter . This is very disturbing to me and makes me angry, but my anger lasts only a moment. After I dump the grinds in the garbage and rinse out the filter, I am back on track. I can put the new coffee grinds in the filter, fill up the water to the 9-cup line for the three of us drinking coffee, turn on the coffee pot and away we go. By the way, I have never had a coffee pot with a timer that I can set to start up at a certain time so the coffee is ready when I get up. That would mess up my routine.

Next I go outside and get the newspapers. If I go outside and the newspapers have not been delivered, I say out loud, “No news is not good news.” If I had to walk through a spider web as I stepped outside in the morning, I sing to myself, “The Itsy Bitsy Spider is probably in my hair.” Walking through spider webs used to bother me because I was afraid of spiders, but I am not afraid of spiders any more. You cannot be afraid of spiders when you are the only male in the house with four other females.

After I bring in the newspapers, I come back in and go get my coffee. If the coffee is not finished brewing, I pour a cup anyway. I need my coffee! I add two teaspoons of sugar and a tablespoon of Coffee Mate powdered creamer to each cup. I think I may like the sugar and cream more than the coffee. Then I go sit in “my chair” next to the lamp and read the papers. I subscribe to two newspapers: The Bergen (County) Record and the Wall Street Journal. One is politically left-leaning and one is politically right leaning. I read the Sports in the left-leaning one first and then read the national and local news, scan the obituaries, and then read as much as I can of the right leaning one. When I finish that, I am usually down to the wire on time. Then I read a chapter from the Bible. I wish I were more spiritual and read the Bible first, but I don’t. But at least I do read it.

I don’t really like to talk to people much before all of this has happened. I think I am actually morning person, but not a talkative morning person. I am a thinking morning person. I need about an hour and fifteen minutes to get ready for a day. If I oversleep by an hour, I need about about an hour and fifteen minutes to get ready for a day. This is how I roll.

As for the coffee, I like strong coffee. My favorite coffee is any strong coffee that is on sale. If I have paid full price for coffee at the grocery store, it doesn’t taste as good. If I have gotten the coffee on sale and I had a coupon, it tastes even better than if it is just on sale.

I have been doing some variation of this morning routine since I was in the 5th grade. My Mom did not give me coffee in my bottle, but I know a woman who did give her daughter coffee in a bottle and she turned out alright. And I think I turned out alright too.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Watching Storms

Something I miss by living in New Jersey is the opportunity to watch a storm blow through. Right now as I write this on Labor Day weekend, I am in Leesburg, Florida (near Orlando), sitting beside a screened in patio and pool at my father-in-law’s house. I am protected from the rain by an overhang. The rear of the house overlooks a cow pasture. Hues of dark and light gray clouds bulging with water are moving across the sky just above the pasture. The crackle of lightning and the subsequent thunder in the distance remind me once again about nature’s power as the wind hisses through the trees and drops of rain, at times heavy and at times light, make disappearing circles in the pool. There is a raw beauty I love in a storm.

I am mostly unaware that I do not often get to watch storms. When I am in Florida, a rain or storm blows through nearly every afternoon, sometimes just taunting us with a threatening sky that does not deliver any rain, and at other times a downpour descends from the heavens. Living in the metropolitan New York City area means the houses are so close together that we just don’t get a good look across an open field to see a storm bear down on us when they do come to our area. I miss being able to do that, to run outside of a house and look out at an approaching storm. Maybe living among farmers for much of my life who needed rain to make a living gives one a different perspective on storms. People around where I live now just seem to see the weather as a nuisance, and expect someone to take care of this nuisance.

I’ve never really been personally affected by a storm. Maybe if I had I would feel differently about getting to watch something that is potentially so devastating. But if I am asleep at night and I hear lightning pierce through the sky nearby and follow that by the counting of seconds until the sound of thunder to determine how many miles away it is (the universal method I think I learned from the movie, Poltergeist), I am very much afraid, particularly if I can’t get out a full one-thousand one. Sometimes it sounds like the lightning actually is striking a home in my neighborhood, as the houses tend to be tall, unlike the Midwestern ranch homes so prevalent there. I tell myself that our house has been here since 1910, and if it has lasted over 100 years, what are the chances? Sometimes my heart feels like it is beating so hard during storms that I think I might be having a heart attack, and I vow to myself to eat less red meats and more salads in a moment of despair.

I know I said I had not been personally affected by a storm, but actually I have. Just not a literal one. My mother died as a result of a freak accident, so I know what it is like to have someone you love struck by lightning so to speak. One of the men who used to work as a laborer in my grandfather’s masonry business--I used to work for my grandfather during my high school summer years--told me one day about his daughter being killed when she was standing next to a tree that was struck by lightning. She was just a teenager at the time. He had always seemed fairly normal to me as I was around him on the job, but I also thought he carried a tinge of sadness if you watched him closely enough. If you ever get hit by a storm like that, unfortunately you do not get to watch it blow in and prepare for its arrival. It just comes on so suddenly without any warning. And then on the other side, you never actually get over it. For all of the talk about “closure,” the elusive word we always want to experience when something bad happens to us, it just doesn’t come. I have found that you simply learn to carry it around with you, just like the masonry laborer did. Just like I still do. Sometimes this burden of non-closure is a little heavier than at other times. For me, it is especially profound during the latter part of September, which is when my Mom’s freak accident occurred four days after my birthday, which now serves as the prelude to “the day.” But sometimes as the years have gone on, I have not paid attention to the dates and I get through without giving it much thought, a circumstance that causes me great guilt.

I don’t think the tinge of sadness I have described in the masonry laborer was as obvious to me then as it is now while I am writing this. I am recognizing its source now, years later, as the same sadness I carry around, the fate of the few of us who are on the wrong side of statistical improbability. “You have a better chance of getting struck by lightning than you do of _______.” Yes, you do, but sometime blank happens, the unluckiest kind of luck.

I have lived long enough to see the people in the family I grew up with go the way of all the earth. Normally, you get to watch the storm clouds gather in the distance and slowly move toward you. Sometimes they move just to the east or west and you are spared. But sometimes they come right at you. I guess when you watch a storm, you are actually watching life. The dark clouds in the distance pointing to those who were once young and strong starting to show signs of aging, weakness, sickness, and the slow decline. Finally, even though you may have gotten used to the storms passing by one way or the other every time, eventually one comes right at you.

We are all watching storms.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Chris Rainey Nominated by Himself to Receive Lifetime Achievement Award from MVTHS Sports Hall of Fame in 2017

Chris Rainey (MVTHS Class of 1982) has been nominated by himself to become a member of the MVTHS Sports Hall of Fame for outstanding lifetime achievement in athletics. Chris was a three-sport athlete in football, basketball, and baseball, despite having a writer’s body, contemplative outlook on life, running the 40-yard dash in 5.7 seconds, and only being able to throw a football 45-yards with a modest wind at his back. Despite all of these limitations, he burst onto the football scene in the fall of 1979 during his sophomore year, being promoted to varsity after starting quarterback Chris Berner retired following the opening game of the year to pursue other interests. Rainey led the Rams to a 4-1 record during his five starts that season and completed over 50% of his passes, despite not enough being old enough to have a driver’s license or even shave yet. He was also starting third baseman for the legendary 1982 Rams baseball team, which won the South Seven Conference that year but lost in the Sectional playoffs to Murphysboro.

Career Highlights

Chris holds the U.S. record for the quarterback sneak with a 99-yard touchdown during his freshman year, a play also noted because it took over three minutes off the clock as Chris zig-zagged down the field. Although injury kept him out of the starting lineup for most of his final two seasons of football, he became known for being able to come off the bench and lead the team to victories after the starting quarterback would injure himself during warm-ups. Remarkably, Chris is also the only Rams quarterback to throw a 50-yard plus touchdown on his final play ever in a Rams uniform, throwing a trademark “Rocking Rico rainbow” high arcing pass to Ben Doggan, who made the leaping catch and ran down the field for a touchdown in a Rams rout of Bethalto in the 1981 finale in Rainey’s only pass of the game. When Chris spoke with himself recently to discuss his nomination, he mentioned an incident that concluded the 1980 football season that also shaped his life:
“I remember I was starting the final game of the 1980 season, also against Bethalto, because Steve was injured again, and I went out for the opening coin toss. The First Lady of the U.S., Rosalynn Carter, was there. We lost the coin toss, and the game, and I didn’t play well. I think I was 7-20 passing for 60 yards or something. It was at that time that I decided to become a Republican.”
Asked what else he remembers of his days as a Mount Vernon Ram, Chris said:
“I have to say, I remember the meals at Opal’s Smorgasbord with my teammates. Whether it was a football or basketball game that evening, there we were, eating fried chicken and mashed potatoes. I remember that I would ask other teams’ players what they were eating in their pregame meals, and the would usually say something like “Big Macs” or “meat loaf,” so the fact that our coaches were wise enough to have us eating (fried) chicken must have given us a big advantage over other teams. Nutrition wasn’t even really emphasized that much then, so our coaches were certainly visionary and forward thinking with respect to nutrition.”

Lifetime Achievement: Post High School Team Sports

After high school, Chris continued to exceed expectations and excel in various athletic arenas, running a 15:25 5K on the track in Florissant, MO in 1983 and a 34:58 10K that same year. He played quarterback for the Okinawa Camp Courtney Raiders USMC flag football team in 1984, although chronic knee problems and a desire to stay home and listen to the new Purple Rain soundtrack on his new Japanese stereo forced him to retire during that season. In 1986, he was starting pitcher for the Old Union Baptist Church softball team, pitching the team to a 5-4 record despite having the pressure of his father-in-law, the county’s chief sheriff’s deputy, as catcher. This was just another among several ways Chris displayed mental toughness in life and sports. In 1992, he made a basketball comeback after realizing that with a three-point line now in play he could use his “Rockin’ Rico rainbow” three-point shot that he had developed. He closed out that season with a 24-point effort on 8-11 shots from downtown in a playoff loss for his men’s church league team in Springfield, Missouri. In 1994, after moving to Northern New Jersey, he played shortstop on the Greenhouse high-rise condominium softball team, even though he merely lived in an apartment, and played well despite being given the number 3.14 (Pi), which meant he always had a target (or at least a mathematical expectation) on his back. Finally, Chris, at the age of 44, led his side to victory in the Englewood Assembly of God touch football classic in 2008, completing 12-20 passes for over 200 yards and pulling down one interception from his free safety position, a game notable because he received a cheap shot from fellow church member yet did not miss a play.

These notable accomplishments makes Chris a very strong candidate for the MVTHS HOF, at least in his opinion.

Lifetime Achievement: Individual Sports

Chris has also excelled in individual sports over the past 30 years following high school, gaining only one pound since graduating from high school (every year, that is). After not being able to do one chin-up in 6th, 7th, or 8th grade during the Presidential fitness tests and yet being unaffected emotionally by these failures because of his gift of high self-esteem, Chris today continues to do 25-30 chin-ups two-three days per week, finding “bars” wherever he goes in his travels, and always takes the stairs instead of riding in an elevator or escalator. He also has uncanny hand/eye coordination, revealed in a sixteen-year streak of catching any item that falls out of a cabinet without warning before it lands on a counter or floor. Spatulas, peanut butter jars, applesauce, aspirin bottles, etc.--his family has been repeatedly amazed at his ability to catch things that are falling before they reach the floor. In addition, in what has become something of an annual strongman competition, Chris carries three window air conditions from the basement to the second floor in the spring and installs them, and then uninstalls and returns them to the basement in the fall every year, an extraordinary display of power, endurance, and mental toughness.


We the members of the Chris Rainey for MVTHS HOF Lifetime Achievement award believe it is obvious to see that Chris is not an athlete who has gone through the normal cycle of high achievement in high school followed by a precipitous drop-off in performance after high school.  Chris was a below average athlete who performed in above average ways both in high school and continues to achieve athletically in both team and individual sports even today as a slightly overweight, middle-aged man. Therefore, we nominate Chris Rainey for a MVTHS HOF Lifetime Achievement award in 2017.

(Chris Rainey is the chairman of the Chris Rainey for MVTHS HOF Lifetime Achievement committee.)

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Chris Rainey to Read at Leonia Middle School Book Fair on March 9, 7:00pm

Tomorrow, I am honored to be the guest at a special family-friendly event, sponsored by the LMS Home & School Scholastic Book Fair. I will read and discuss some of my work, and LMS teacher Eric Gugick will interview me about my writing life.

Before or after the author chat, take a minute to check out the book fair, too. There will be merchandise for all and a raffle for the kids with 10 winners! Refreshments will be served.

Wednesday, March 9, 7:00pm
Leonia Middle School

Book Fair doors open at 6:30; event begins at 7:00.

I promise not to wear the shirt I'm wearing at this reading.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Jealous Devices

Somewhere in the past year I lost the will to write, the discipline to sit alone and let words roll down onto a lined, white steno pad page. This is not entirely true and I have had a few exceptions to this trend, but in general this thing—writing—that has brought me such joy and therapeutic pleasure has diminished. Maybe my “dark night of the soul” that lead me to write so profusely has concluded and I no longer need it. Maybe the aging process is creeping over into writing, and just as so many things diminish as the sun starts to set on our lives, maybe my writing is diminishing as well.

During the past year I got an electronic tablet and the truth is that I now fritter so much more time away checking Twitter, Facebook, Amazon, and the Internet that used to be devoted to other things like writing. So yes, I'd say Nicholas Carr was right: Google is making me stupid, another creative analog native neutered by the digital age. Despite the self-hatred and loathing that comes after I've sat and stared into the blue glow for an hour or two, not unlike Plato's shadowy cave, I seem unable to stop myself. I write on steno pads to fight the power of the digital device, to tell the tablet it doesn't own me. When I use the wire-bound steno pad, Facebook and Twitter are not a click away, tempting me to abandon the creative process and go passive. Gmail does not hijack my train of thought, making me anxious because their might be, although extremely unlikely, an important email in the midst of all of those solicitations and offers that for some reason now unbeknownst to me now I actually signed up for, probably because it was much easier just to click the “I agree” check box than to actually read a legal disclaimer.

I still do not own a smart phone, but the electronic tablet has already accelerated the natural complacency that sets in when one becomes a man of a certain age. I fear if I get a smart phone, I will become like everyone else: tame, passive, oblivious to the world around them, fixated on the little digital device while interesting people and sunsets and glorious nature pass by without notice. When I show people my flip-styled cell phone, they always make me feel as if I am missing something, that somehow the real world is passing me by. I don't think it is. Maybe I' m crazy, but I don't need to know everything at the moment it happens. I don't want to be accessible 24x7. I don't need an answer to every question I have at the moment I think of it. I don't need to see the current status of every friend I've ever known. It's all too much for me to bear. I am just one guy who likes to sit and look out of the window on a rainy day, or step outside at the morning daybreak, breathe in the morning air while I pick up the newspaper, just as I have been doing for forty years. A smart phone would make me feel as if I am always falling behind and need to gaze at the little god in my hand. A smart phone is a jealous lover who demands your attention. And it looks like to me like she gets attention from her lovers, and when that happens, everyone else gets much less.

Please don't tell my tablet you heard me talking about a smart phone!

Monday, September 22, 2014

My Personal Top 10 Most Influential Readings

I recently sat down and quickly came up with the ten books (and one article) that has affected me personally over my life (and that I can actually remember something about). Here they are. I think they reflect the arc of my life. 

The list is in alphabetical order by author last name.
  • Carr, Nicholas. "Is Google Making Us Stupid?: What the Internet is doing to our brains." The Atlantic Monthly (July-Aug 2008.
  • Collins, Jim. Good to Great.
  • Dostoevsky, Fyodor. The Brothers Karamazov.
  • Friedman, Thomas. The Lexus and the Olive Tree.
  • Gladwell, Malcolm. Blink.
  • Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology.
  • Kingsolver, Barbara. The Poisonwood Bible.
  • Kushner, Lawrence. Jewish Spirituality: A Brief Introduction for Christians.
  • Lewis, C.S. The Screwtape Letters.
  • Mintzberg, Henry. Managers Not MBAs.
  • The NIV Study Bible.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Monotony of Commuting

I have spent most of the past twelve years commuting at least one hour a day: 30 minutes to work, and usually 40 minutes to return home. I have tried a number of things to avoid monotony, such as taking as many different routes as possible. I may be the only person in the world who uses a GPS to commute home from work because I try new routes and end up in unfamiliar places. To make the most of the commuting time, I have tried a number of things. I have listened to the Bible and prayed, although it seems a little irreverent to interrupt the prayer yelling at someone who has cut me off. I have listened to Christian radio, which means I have heard the song "I Could Only Imagine" over 5,000 times. I have listened to pop radio. I have listened to the music of my youth to somehow re-energize portions of the brain and keep my mind sharp. Sometimes, I switch back and forth between Christian and pop radio, alternating between joy and guilt. I have listened to talk radio and sports radio. I have tried listening to the classic books on radio such as Les Miserables, but I cannot keep the characters or place names straight because the authors all use the original French pronunciations. I have listened to business books such as Good to Great to enhance my career, but seem to be able to only remember only one thing from the books, but I can't even think of that one thing right now. I have listened to sermons by Tim Keller. (I do not listen to my own sermons.) I have listened to books on my Kindle most recently, and am getting used to it, although I don't care for the electronic voice. I do oddly enjoy listening to the footnotes though, almost as much as the text of the book. I have practiced accents, even yesterday imitating the World Cup announcers on ESPN in the Netherlands-Argentina match. I also do a pretty good Vladimir Putin, although it is mostly him talking about the Brooklyn Nets, which I assume is his favorite basketball team.

With all of this commuting, you would think I would drive a nice car. I don't. To me, driving a nice car is boring. I drive a 2002 Mercury Sable. In the past few years, I have broken down a few times times and had to be towed. I find that more interesting than knowing with certainty that you will actually get to work. I have had to park in the parking garage at our office by backing in so I can get a jump start if I need one. For the past year, the a/c in my car didn't work, and the driver's side window didn't work. So during the summer, I would roll down the three windows to keep from overheating. The wind would blow through the car to create new hair styles each day, often something like the lead singer in a Flock of Seagulls from the 1980s. I could change my hair style based on how fast I drove to work. This is very interesting if you ask me, although now my a/c is working again and I don't have to wet my hair down when I get to work.

The car has a stereo, but the volume control has some quirk where sometimes turning the knob left decreases the sound volume, and sometimes turning the knob the same way increases the volume. (I'm not making this up.) I have turned songs that I hate up to full volume, and also turned songs that I love completely off because of this feature. Sometimes it is frustrating, but having a passenger experience this is very interesting. I've also experienced one other phenomena in commuting that I think is a little unusual: car dancing. That's right. Sometimes, on the way home, I will hear a certain song and the old moves come back right there in the car. Since I do have some dignity, I only dance in the car from the chest down so that no one can actually tell I'm going at it. If I was in stop and go traffic and you were next to me in the other lane, you would never notice that I'm actually dancing away to "Disco Inferno" because it's all done below the surface. I can moon walk, do the bump with the arm rest, and any other number of moves incognito. And even though my car is old, it is a luxury car with leather seats. So if I have put Armor All on the leather seats recently, it's ". . . slide, slide, slippity-slide, just forget about your troubles and your 9 to 5" and, if the traffic conditions are acceptable, I might disappear briefly while I drop down for a break dancing spin move before I resurface, hands back on the wheel in the 10-2 position. Car dancing is another thing that has helped break the monotony of commuting for me. What have you done to break the monotony of commuting?

Monday, March 10, 2014

My Olympic Moment

A recent Saturday morning, Marcia and I had not even gotten out of bed and we had started a conversation about the Winter Olympics, which has sentimental value to us because our first baby's morning sickness period occurred during the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville. And for some reason, during that conversation, I started rattling off the location of every Winter Olympics since 1980. I was a little uncertain about the order of Albertville ('92) and Lillehammer('94), but I later checked and found out I was correct. Even after nearly 30 years of marriage, this seemed to impress Marcia. I told her this was my gift, that I was Google before there was Google. I was the person who could produce reams of useless information just off the top of my head. For those of us with the gift, the smart phone—that disruptive technology—has all but displaced the Google-minded us. I'm now wondering why I was born in such a time as this.

I'm also noticing that as I push age 50, I sometimes cannot conjure up a fact like I used to be able to do. But overall, I can still make lots of connections that seem to be a little out of the ordinary. For example, the first time I heard Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" on the radio, I immediately thought to myself, "That's sounds like Marvin Gaye's "Got to Give It Up," a record I had listened to over and over again when I was in Junior High in about 1978. I later read that there was a copyright infringement lawsuit suggesting "Blurred" borrowed from "Got to Give It Up." Of course it did. And now that there is Pandora and iTunes radio, I can go back and listen to the same songs I did when I was in elementary school and see if it somehow keeps the brain connections intact, or creates new ones. Just last week, I selected a radio station play for "LTD," Jeffrey Osborne's original group, and I felt as if I were right back in my room in 1975 when the song "Love Ballad" played. It was as if a door in my brain opened that had not been opened for many years. I have a feeling I may be doing some sort of neurotherapy on myself, but of course I'm just some guy with no training making excuses for himself to go back and listen to "Play That Funky Music, White Boy" for therapeutic reasons. It's almost ridiculous.

A few days after my Olympic moment, I was at work and went downstairs for a coffee break. I had my steno pad and Kindle, ready to take a few minutes to read, write, and relax a little with a cup of coffee. I paid the cashier for a medium coffee and walked to the atrium to find a seat, leaving my coffee at the cashier's counter. I realized this when I pulled out the chair to sit down. This was after I had walked all the way downstairs to the cafeteria from the third floor only to arrive at the cafeteria and realize I had forgotten to get money out of my wallet. So I had to walk all of the way back upstairs to get two dollars. So not long after my Olympic memory moment, a day of extreme mental ineptitude arrived, the glory now departed while I wonder if all of the Tab, Fresca, and Diet Coke--anything that causes cancer in laboratory animals--that I've been drinking over the years is finally doing me in. Until I figure that out though, I think I'll go put on "Boogie Oogie Oogie" and see if I can connect some old memories in my brain.