The ABC’s of things that give me pause.

This is not meant to be all-inclusive.  There were several topics associated with certain letters of the alphabet that while noteworthy,  didn’t make the cut, Procrastination being the last to fall.  For me this has been an exercise that has lasted for most of a week, an ambitious task for a beginning writer.  I used the alphabet as my outline as opposed to writing contemporaneously about the world.  It’s lengthy, at times southern, mostly introspective, but I hope humorous and practical.

 

A:  Algebra – The whole x-y/z = a x b+c thing has always escaped me.  Not because I don’t have a curious mind.  I just never understood why you have to mix the 26 letters of the alphabet with the 10 numbers of simple math and throw in the Greek Alphabet to boot.  I have a degree in accounting and for a time made a living from that.  I was in a fraternity in college and learned the Greek alphabet.  I’ve been in sales for almost thirty years and I understand the power of words.

B:  Biology – Two of the most serious cuts I’ve ever inflicted on my body occurred in Biology class in high school while dissecting frogs and earthworms.  I haven’t had a serious encounter with either of them since then and have read no reliable studies of research indicating that either of those species pose a threat to mankind.

C:  Cars – I’ve been selling cars since April of 2000 and they puzzle me still.  When I was young my Dad taught me how to change oil and lubricate the front end of the car.  At some point in time, suspension systems no longer had fittings for my Dad’s grease gun, they stopped using carburetors to get fuel into the engine and distributors disappeared.  This morning my 21-year-old Blazer wouldn’t crank.  I walked down to the corner independent shop and left the key and called a co-worker for a ride to work.

D:  Divorce – Having been a participant in more than one such proceeding, I’m familiar with the process and procedure of it all, but the emotion continues to escape me.  Two people decide that life together is no longer tenable and agree to call it a day.  That is usually the last thing that these two people agree on especially how much should be budgeted.  The emotion surrounding the property settlement far exceeds the cost of the things that are in contention, unless the settlement includes children.

E:  Elections – November 8, 2016 was the day that put this item squarely on my list.  I’m not overly educated, but after having been in sales for almost 30 years, well, I thought if I knew it, surely everyone else knew it, right?  Wrong.  I grew up in the age of Bar B Q’s, stump speeches and soaring rhetoric designed to appeal to our better angels.  Algebra came back to bite me in the but in 2016.  Those damn algorithms, Facebook and Twitter.  Crap, as Reba McEntire was known to say on her TV show.

F:  Fake News – (See also Alternative Facts discussed by others and E: above)

G: – Grizzard, Lewis – How could anyone so talented have been taken away so soon?  If you’re not from the South, you’ve probably never heard of Lewis.  If you haven’t, you should be jealous of those of us who have.  We all grew up with a friend like Waymon C. Wanamaker, great American.  Lewis brought Waymon to life through tales like “sitting up with the dead.”  PS:  Go to YouTube and search for “Last Confederate Soldier”

H:  High School – I had a pretty good time in high school masquerading as a cool guy when in truth, I was just a nerd.  My arrival in the 10th grade coincided with the end of voluntary desegregation in the fall of 1969.  A new school was built and the old white school moved and the old black school was closed.  The new school had the name and mascots of the old white school and that festered for the next three years.  There were struggles and even a couple of riots and then came compromise.  I’ve always wanted to find someone who was in charge back then and ask them a simple question – “who told you that we would be good lab rats?”  But those people are all gone now, and so is my youth.

I:  IQ Tests – This has been in the news today and our president says that he scores high and would like to challenge his Secretary of State to an IQ challenge.  His spokesperson says it was a joke.  MENSA has offered to administer any such challenge.  My Dad was a member of MENSA and he joined not to validate himself, but to continue learning.  Most people don’t talk about their IQ’s, whether they have one that is rated high or low.  You would think that based on his public persona, our president would find something else to talk about.  FOOTNOTE – Thursday was my birthday and one of my daughters brought me something unexpected.  In a zip lock bag, was my Dad’s last wallet.  It contained his MENSA membership card.

J:  Journey – If you understand this one, you’re in better shape than me.  Life has been an interesting combinations of twists and turns and just when I think I know where I’m supposed to be, down the rabbit hole I go.  But I guess that is life for most of us.  A few of us are disciplined enough to choose a profession and stick with it, then there are the rest of us.  As Joe Walsh says in his song, “Life’s been good to me so far”.  But some days it’s as if Lewis Carroll is in charge, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will do!”  I have no regrets about anything I’ve done, I’ve outlived those.  I don’t know where I’m going at this stage of my life, “I’m just looking for clues at the scene of the crime.”

K:  Kryptonite – OK, we all that this a term that  was invented to show that even Superman was vulnerable.  We all perceive ourselves to be invulnerable at times, but that feeling is usually fleeting.  Depending on the situation, something, just one little thing, tears down our defenses and renders us helpless.  At various times in my life Kryptonite has been a shape shifting obstacle.  At times, it has been emotions, feelings and uncontrolled passions.  Examples have been:  Being a custodial parent of two young girls (i.e. don’t mess with my family);  this lottery ticket is going to change my life;  my attraction to  curvy members of the opposite sex.  We all have kryptonite in our lives.  Please don’t judge me, I wouldn’t judge you.

L:  Life – OK, so this has been a three-letter link.  Journey, Life and Kryptonite.  I’m not that different from you.  I’m not exactly where I thought I’d be, based on my thoughts when I was 18, 21, 25 or even 30 or 40.  Actually, none of those thoughts ever came into being.  The reality has been better than the plan.  With youth, there is idealism.  With age there is reality.  Looking back, I’ve decided that life is a compromise between those two.  At this point, I don’t feel as though I have settled for anything less than I deserved.

M:  Marriage – This one is very personal for me.  I’ve been married more than once, the total number isn’t important, but it’s less than  Mickey Rooney and Elizabeth Taylor.  Marriage is defined, depending on the reference source, as an “intimate or close union”.  Well , I had those.  Now I live alone.  My last marriage resulted in a close friendship that may last a lifetime.  My marriage that resulted in my two beautiful daughters, and there will never be a friendship.  She lives with that and I do as well.

N:  November – I don’t think there has ever been a November like 2016.  Forty years ago, I wasn’t too sure about Jimmy Carter, but in the end, that turned out OK.  He was a good man, with a good heart and he came into office during a time of great turbulence.  Circumstances overwhelmed him in the aftermath of Watergate and he was back in Georgia after 4 years.  November of 2016 was an outright shock to a lot of people, me included.  Watching the returns that night, I realized that what I thought to be a close race, was a close race going in the opposite direction.  I have voted for the loser before.  That day, I voted for the loser, but strangely, the loser won.

O:  Oh, say can you see? – I just really don’t get the turmoil surrounding the kneeling by football players during the National Anthem.  I used to go to NASCAR races.  When the Star Spangled Banner was played, people were looking through their binoculars trying to see their favorite driver in the pits, talking to each other and some actually took off their caps, placed them on their chest and at least tried to sing along.  I never heard anyone tell anyone else to put down the binoculars or anything even bordering on controversial.  I haven’t been to a football game, college or professional, since before I stopped going to NASCAR races.  If I were to go, I would stand during the National Anthem.  My Dad was a Marine, he loved America and I would stand in his honor.  What anyone else does is none of my business. I have a full life and am thankful that I do.

P:  Pedicures – When, and if, I wake up in the morning, my feet and toes and for that matter the rest of me will be 63 years old.  And for 62 years I have done my own clipping of fingernails and toenails.  When I worked in a drug store as a teenager, we sold “Trim” nail clippers to our customers.  Today, I am the proud owner of a pair of “Sure Grip” clippers with the stamp “Korea” on them.  I have a pair of nail clippers in my computer bag that I bought in 2000 that have a pink lever with a yellow palm tree on them.  Both do the same thing.  I don’t understand why men go to nail salons to get a pedicure by women wearing masks talking to each other in Vietnamese.  Yes, my toes aren’t as straight as they used to be, but my feet smell a lot better than they did when I was a teenager.  I’m not insecure, but I just feel better knowing that I’m not talking about how funny my feet look in a language that I don’t understand.  Tomorrow morning, I won’t need to use my Korean made “Sure Grip” or my pink palm tree clippers on my birthday, but they’re there if I need them.

Q:  Quitting – I’ve always had trouble with this one.  I refer you back to the letter D – Divorce.  Maybe it’s my DNA.  I’ve always had a sense of accomplishment, when I complete a task, I assume everything is stable and it’s time to move to the next objective.  Then things come unraveled.  I usually look back and ask “what the hell happened?”  By then it’s too late.  I was taught a basic principle – “you don’t quit on anybody, especially family!”  It’s that old-fashioned thinking – “Your word is your bond, period.”  Maybe I should go back to the letter “M” and instead of Marriage, the topic should have been “Maintaining”, or maybe not.  I haven’t been accused of being a quitter in a long time.  I’m not sure that these words cover the topic, but at least it’s open for discussion, if you care to join in.

R:  Regrets – In Frank Sinatra’s anthem to the greatest generation “My Way” the second verse starts with the following words:  “Regrets, I’ve had a few, But then again, too few to mention.  I did what I had to do,  And saw it through without exemption”  My personal regrets, maybe your’s too, center around the words that came out of my mouth that I didn’t mean for public consumption.  I’ve been in sales and negotiations for more than 35 years.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve literally seen the words that came out my mouth that should have never been spoken, personally and professionally.  Once they come out, there is NO taking them back.  I’ve been selling cars for almost 19 years and I can remember the customers and the words that killed deals.  Once the words are out, they’re out.

S:  Scrabble – Scrabble the board game is probably where most of us were introduced to outright lying and cheating..  I’ve always thought that board games were the ultimate challenge of intellect, or so I thought.  The game came with printed rules that told you what you could and could not do, period.  Every game of Scrabble I’ve ever played ultimately broke down into an argument of whether the tiles on your tray were really a word or not.  Maybe if we made candidates for public office play Scrabble on ESPN a week before Election Day, we wouldn’t be in the mess we’re in.

T:  Trigonometry – This one will be short for obvious reasons.  I don’t know what it is, didn’t even bother to Google it.  Somewhere somebody knows what it means and contributes to society.  At my age, I have to assume that these are responsible people in charge of something that betters my life and let it go at that.  If you have an explanation for trigonometry, I welcome your comments.  Seriously.

U:  Umbrellas – Something that we all use, right?  But when they break, they are absolutely useless.  The more you spend on one, the more likely it is to fail you when you need it the most.  Someone please tell me what you do with a dripping wet umbrella when you come back inside?  Do you put it in the umbrella stand that none of us own?  Do you shake the rainwater off of it incessantly before going inside?  Do you leave it outside?  Here again, I welcome your comments.

V:  Visitation – Losing a loved one is tough on a family no matter the circumstances.  In the South the family of the departed usually has to make three trips to the funeral home over the course of two or three days.  The first trip is the decision-making trip or if the deceased had planned ahead, the confirmation process.  The last trip of course is the funeral itself.  The second trip, in the south at least, is where the family of the loved one is confronted with pain of loss.  Over and over and over.  The more beloved the departed the more grievous visitation becomes.  The more beloved and well-known , the longer the line of well wishers, the more painful the process.  Each person in line tries to provide words of comfort and share special memories.  When my Dad passed away he had been employed by one company for almost 40 years and been a leader in his church for over 30 years.  It was the most stressful thing that I’ve ever endured in my life up to that point and since then as well.  I vote for the elimination of the second trip to the funeral home.  But I live in the South and I doubt that will ever completely disappear.

W:  Washington, DC – I’ve never been there and probably won’t ever go there.  I had a chance to go, but immaturity kept me at home.  The time-honored tradition of eighth graders making the spring pilgrimage to the nation’s capital after having studied US History and government escaped me.  My grades were good enough, but my conduct in class disqualified me.  I stayed behind with a skeleton crew of offenders and we washed windows and other mundane chores as punishment.  Washington is a city that has alternatively fascinated me but more recently has repulsed me.  Elected officials once served to find compromise in this great country, now they seem only to go to advance narrow positions.  It seems as though the behavior now being exhibited in Washington would be better suited for college debate class.

X:  The letter X and, while we’re at it, the letter Z  – With apologies to the letter Y, these two letters seem intertwined in their usage in 21st century language.  Besides, this gives the letter Y prime positioning in concluding this rambling effort.  Actually, the intertwining of these two letters didn’t start in this century, but they did get a huge boost in 1958 with the introduction of the Xerox 914.  This was the first commercially available copier available and began to replace everything from typewriters and carbon paper to offset printing presses and college exams printed in hideous blue ink.  You can see why I have linked these two letters together, Xerox begins and ends with the letter X, but sounds as though it should begin with the letter Z, while it should more likely end in the letters KS.  So, would it be nearly so commonly referred to if it had been called ZEROKS?  Probably not.

Y:  Youth – As I end this, nothing seems more fitting for the final discussion as youth.  In sales and I guess writing as well, we always ask the basic questions.  Who, What, Why Where, When and of course How?  Youth drives everything on our planet, whether we are considering the future of our children, will a new car accommodate the needs of my children, what foods do we prepare in our homes.

Who defines youth?  The face I shave most mornings is the same face I’ve been shaving for 50 years.  I’m restless when business is slow the same as I was in elementary school when it seemed as though the bell would never ring for recess.

What is youth?  Is it when you’re excited to see the first fireflies, or lightning bugs as we call them in the South, of the summer.  Or is it that same feeling now related to events like knowing your Social Security deposit is in your bank account?

Why do we lose our youth?  Youth is a state of mind, not of body.  When I was young, my Dad had several close friends in the neighborhood and one of them was always playing practical jokes at the expense of the group.  None of them were harmful, some were simple suggestions indicating advantage of one over another, but there were a couple of quite elaborate ones.  One I remember involved and old fire engine siren under one guy’s house that went off in the middle of the night.  All of the crawl space and basement doors had new locks on them, so this one went on for quite a while.  These guys were in their late 40’s.

Where do spend our youth?  This one answer depends on whether you concede that youth actually ends at some point.  If you are of this group, then the neighborhood(s) you grew up in or the summer vacations you spent with your parents.  If you’re like me, I haven’t grown up yet mentally.  Emotionally and physically, yes.  But, as I wrote above about my Dad and his friends, I still enjoy workplace humor but now, its much more cerebral and subtle.  But trust me, it’s every bit as enjoyable.

When does youth end?  For some, it never really gets started and for others it never ends.  Death of a parent, divorce and the break-up of a family, addiction or economic circumstances can steal away the smiles, happiness  and innocence of youth.  When youth is taken away by forces beyond your control the only thing that can help is family, if there is any.  If you aren’t that fortunate, then adulthood, in one form or another stares you in the face and is no more welcome than a pair of shoes that are a size too small.

How do we extend our youth?  Depending on your psyche, belief system or faith you have different answers.  I’m a curious optimist, though more disciplined now.  I’ve always been someone who was willing to turn the rock over just to see what was under it.  I’m not one of those that quote sayings like “You can’t cheat Father Time” or “Your days are already written in the Book of Life”.  That type of outlook to me, focuses on a finite point and that just isn’t me.  I have self-diagnosed, not clinically,  ADD and I guess that keeps my outlook bright and youthful.  Besides, If I’m not here tomorrow, I probably won’t realize it.

 

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