What is happening?

I try, and for the most part succeed, in writing things here that will not upset the casual reader. I had a topic picked out to write about that would offend nobody. But I can’t post it now. There are elephants in the room, in this country, that needs to be addressed.

We are in the middle of a pandemic. Here in Indiana the governor has decided that things are improving, so he is allowing businesses to open up slowly. This is despite the fact that cases and deaths continue to increase. I admit that I have taken advantage of some of the loosening. Cindy and I went to a partially reopened restaurant on our wedding anniversary, and I shopped in a partially reopened bookstore. I don’t believe I did anything to spread the virus, but I suppose time will tell. Other parts of the country that are reopening quicker are experiencing increased cases and deaths. It feels like we are sacrificing lives for the sake of commerce. I’m waiting to hear an explanation of the economic benefits derived from unneeded deaths. I am sure it will be a fascinating discussion.

But that is not the only terrible thing that is happening in this country. On May 25th, George Floyd, a man of color, was cruelly murdered by a police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA. He was aided and abetted by three other police officers. As of this writing, only one of these men has been arrested, though all four have been fired. I am sure you have seen the pictures, if not the video, of Mr. Floyd lying handcuffed on the ground, on his stomach, as the police officer knelt on Mr. Floyd’s neck until minutes after Mr. Floyd stopped breathing. 

In the aftermath of the killing, there have been demonstrations, peaceful and otherwise. The demonstrations have taken place not only in Minneapolis, but all over the country and all over the world. Mr. Floyd is the symbol for the unrest, but, of course, his was only the most recent death. People are also remembering the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Michael Brown and so many others. To many others.

Prejudice, racism, and bigotry are all present around the world, including the U.S.A. We just seem to be more in denial and more tolerant of it. Witness our President and the party he leads. If you are like me, you know many people who believe they are not prejudiced, racist, or bigoted. And yet their actions and their words belie their protestations. 

I have been surprised at some of the people I know who are arguing that we never hear about black people killing white people. Really? Do you never watch or read the news? I have heard it argued that police kill more white people than black people. That is true, by a few hundred. But what they don’t follow up with is that white people outnumber blacks by around 6 to 1. So per capita, black are killed at a much greater rate than whites. Are white police representational of the entire country, or are they, as a group, more prejudiced, racist, and bigoted? I don’t know. I am just an observer.

Finally I am more worried now for our country than since Richard Nixon was our President. Donald Trump has all of Nixon’s faults along with his own failings. At least Nixon was intelligent, could speak in complete sentences, and had the decency to resign when he was caught out. I fear where we are as a country, and where we are headed.

Maybe I will return to bland posts after this.

30 years and counting

May 27, 1990

Today marks our 30th wedding anniversary. It doesn’t feel that long ago. There are days when I feel as young as I look in this photo from that day; but not very often. Cindy has aged better than I have.

We won’t be having a big party to celebrate. What we will do is pretty much what we have been doing throughout the time since the pandemic came to the U.S. The news will be watched in the morning and then we’ll work around the house in the early afternoon. But then we will break out of that mold and exchange anniversary presents, followed by going to dinner at a favorite restaurant (newly reopened with 50% occupancy, etc.). We shall wear our masks until it is appropriate to remove them, thank you. From there it will be homeward bound, where a movie, probably, will be watched. And then. to bed. You may think it doesn’t sound very exciting. But it can be satisfying. 

In the morning we will arise and start our next 30 years together. I cannot think of anyone with whom I would rather spend those days. 

Happy Anniversary, Cindy! My love for you is as deep as ever.

N-N-1: The Quarantine Edition

I woke up this morning to find a message from my friend Anju raving about how the most recent N-N-1 was so good. After reading it, I have to enthusiastically agree.

The View from a Drawbridge

For several years now, I’ve participated in a delightful photography/creative writing experiment that was created by two of my favorite bloggers, Anju, who writes This Labyrinth I Roam, and Norm, who writes Classical Gasbag. They thought it would be interesting to see what people all over the world were doing/seeing/experiencing at the same point in time. As Norm explains it, in N-N-1 the first N stands for the number of participants, the second for the number of photos (they should be the same), and the 1 stands for one time.

The subject I chose for this N-N-1 was Quarantine. Our worlds have been turned upside down by COVID-19. What are you and/or your family and/or your community doing to cope during these strange times?

I received a variety of wonderful submissions, showing that we each have different ways of living, which is as it should be, and in…

View original post 1,367 more words

Call for Participants: N-N-1: The Quarantine Edition

It is happening again! Please consider joining us. Some of you want to. I know you do. If you prefer, just send your entry to me at houseman@comcast.net. I’ll keep your identity secret if you wish.

The View from a Drawbridge

For several years now, I’ve participated in a delightful photography/creative writing experiment that was created by two of my favorite bloggers, Anju, who writes This Labyrinth I Roam, and Norm, who writes Classical Gasbag. They thought it would be interesting to see what people all over the world were doing/seeing/experiencing at the same point in time. As Norm explains it, in N-N-1 the first N stands for the number of participants, the second for the number of photos (they should be the same), and the 1 stands for one time.

The subject for this N-N-1 will be Quarantine. Our worlds have been turned upside down by COVID-19. What are you and/or your family and/or your community doing to cope during these strange times?

So your assignment (should you choose to accept it) is:

  1. Contact me using the form below, and then I’ll send you my e-mail.

  2. Mark your…

View original post 163 more words

It’s (almost) all about me

Wall Art #18

This another of the pictures I took a few weeks ago. At some point I want to return to that area of town and get some more pictures. Perhaps I can get another of this wall without the shadow.

***

I hope you are doing well. Some are, but many aren’t. Cindy and I are doing alright.

I never thought I would be saying this, but I am happy that we are pretty much on a fixed income. So many people are out of work due to the various stay at home orders around the country, but we still get our Social Security and pension checks (actually direct deposits into the bank) right on time. And while Cindy’s business has been forced to stop, they are trying to move it to an online format. And she is teaching community college classes through Zoom. So, financially, we are doing fine.

I do most of the grocery shopping, which is nothing new, but I always wear a face mask and only go to the store about twice a month. Cindy and I pretty much split the trips we make to the drugstore. I still go to see my podiatrist on a regular basis. Don’t want any more pesky infections in my feet. 

Trips to the podiatrist can be “interesting.” The walls between the examination rooms are thin, and you can often hear snippets of conversations between the doctor and other patients. For instance, last month I heard, “Wow! See, there isn’t a lot of blood.” Comforting words. In the room on the other side I heard a patient say something about “thinning the herd.” I sincerely hope he was talking about his livestock. When I went earlier this week, one of the doctor’s assistants told me that she believed the Coronavirus was the Chinese government waging biological war on the rest of the world. When she asked me what I thought, I said “Huh. I think Mother Nature is getting even.” She left the room without another word.

I’ll end this post without going on a (long) rant about the politicians out there who think that letting older, and other at-risk people die (thinning the herd, so to speak) is alright. I can only say, as a septugenarian with a preexisting condition, “You are no longer beneath my contempt.”

Upon spending an inordinate amount of time inside

Wall art #17

I took this picture in pre-hunker down times. I want to go back to this area of town because there are a number of murals. Unfortunately I was in a bit of a rush that day, and only had time to snap a couple of pictures.

***

Let’s face it, most of us who are of sound mind are spending more time at home, inside. When the weather is nice we go out into our yards, or take walks (maintaining proper social distancing), or just sit on our porches or decks. I can’t speak for you, but Cindy and I spend most of the gloomy days in the house. She usually binge watches home improvement shows on TV, while I am spending more time reading and listening to music. Most evenings are spent watching British mystery movies.

For some inexplicable (to me) reason I find myself listening to songs that I haven’t listened to in a number of years. In some instances they are considered One Hit Wonders. I’m pretty sure that a lot of the people who purportedly read this blog are too young to have heard some of the songs unless their grandparents played them. I mean, how many of you have heard Art & Dotty Todd’s version of Chanson D’Amour, or Danny O’Keefe’s Good Time Charley’s Got The Blues, let alone Art Pepper playing Patricia

I have also started posting links to music (almost) daily on my moribund Twitter account. While I believe that all of the songs are worthy of being listened to at any time, most seem to speak to me as being appropriate for the times we are in. Some of the songs that I chose to put forward are The Pozo Seco Singers’ Keep On Keepin’ On, Bill Evans’ You Must Believe In Spring, and especially John Prine’s Bruised Orange (Chain Of Sorrow).

If you are interested in listening to any of the songs I’ve mentioned in this post, they can be found on YouTube. If you are interested enough, you can find my daily song selection on Twitter at @NormHouseman.

Stay safe.

2020 Reading non-challenge

Read Chart 1

I enjoyed my non-challenge so much last year that I decided to do it again. Rather than trying to read books of specific genres, I’m just reading what interests me at the moment, mainly from my to-be-read bookcase. 

Now for the disappointing news. At this time last year I had already read 22 books; while this year I have only finished 10. I can give you reasons why there are so few. Many of my waking hours were spent following Presidential politics, which turned to almost non-stop coverage of COVID-19 updates. Plus, I had a few false starts, starting books that looked interesting, but couldn’t hold my attention. I may go back to them later in the year. 

Since I am a retiree and am hunkering-down-in-place, I’m finding more time to read, so I hope to get a few more books under my belt read. But who knows. Yard work will soon be calling.

The Colors of Spring, an N-N-1 experience.

This picture and words came from Natalie at Wild Rivers Run South .

A very small section of Grandma & Grandpa’s library

Grandma and Grandpa have a wonderful library.

I think they have every book they ever bought,

And some of my aunts’ and uncles’ as well.

It is an added benefit of living with them.

 

I can read what they read when they were my age.

Literature, science, biography, mysteries and more.

I see what influences they have had up ‘til today.

I know why they are like they are with me.

 

And they talk to me about life today,

With all of the problems in the world,

And how they see things. They say,

“It is Spring today. We can renew our hope.”

I love them so much.

Lauren, in Valencia, sent this to us. My hope is that she will start her own blog, or at least continue to participate.

Laurencian Tales -Lockdown in Valencia.

My frying pan now lives on my balcony, and brings me hope.  Just over one week ago, on the 13th of March 2020, Spain declared a state of ‘Lockdown’ in response to the Coronavirus epidemic.  Overnight, an entire nation was asked and obliged by law to change their lives, to stay indoors or “quedarse en casa”, for the greater good.  The streets are now deserted, shutters are down, and the city has been put to sleep.  Not even a walk in the park is allowed. Going to the supermarket (the one thing we are allowed to do) feels like a dangerous and depressing mission that you should avoid.  Our lives are now “en casa”, and I appreciate more than ever the freedom we had before. 

But every day at 8pm (and sometimes more often), there’s a powerful symbol of hope.  The whole city, and country, head out onto their balconies to applaud the inspirational health workers, who are devoting everything they have to fight this epidemic.  We clap, cheer, sing, play music and bang our pans together in admiration and appreciation.  Banging these pans has become a form of communication, unity and of supporting one and other through this difficult time.  And every day when I hear that sound, I know I am not alone.  We are in isolation, but we are together. And despite being under Lockdown, from my balcony this week I have witnessed the Valencian spirit blossom and shine in a way that I never imagined.  

My dear friend cupitonians sent me this beautiful picture from England. She can be found at This Labyrinth I Roam.

River Aire, Leeds. Even with social distancing limits, I found this view right near my new house.

The first day of Spring was meant to be the symbolic start to a new phase of my life, especially after the stress of the last few years, and the write-off that was 2019. But it seems the universe has other plans for us. As well as teaching us to celebrate the little things, it’s a reminder to stop waiting on a magical time when everything is perfect so you can finally go after what you really want. Pandemic or not, the skies are still blue, and the rivers still run wild. Trees that imagined their lives were over are suddenly budding with the promise of new life. Life is a cycle. No matter how hard it gets, there’s comfort in its predictability. And so, we live to fight another day!

And finally there is my contribution:

Spring is here!

Like the other participants, I took my photo on March 19th, which was the first day of Spring (also known as the vernal equinox) in the northern hemisphere. And so I went out looking for a sign that Spring had sprung. Oh, I could have taken a picture of the daffodils and tulips that had popped up through the earth in our front yard, but I think that I have done that before. Instead, I went out into the country, alone, ensconced in my auto, searching for the first sign of greenery.You can look at the picture above to see how that turned out. It was a dreary day. Sorry this photo isn’t more upbeat.

 

N-N-1 call out Spring 2020

Sherlock? Is that you?

I wasn’t looking for Sherlock Holmes when I went to the library the other day, but…

***

About a week ago I noticed that our daffodils had poked through the soil to gather some sunlight. It was a sure sign that Spring is almost here. In honor of that event, I feel that it is time to have another N-N-1 collaborative event. For those who don’t know what N-N-1 is, let me attempt a brief explanation.

N-N-1 is an event where a group of people from various parts of the world take a picture at a specific time, write briefly about the picture, and share their photos and words in one post on one blog. This time around we will be taking a picture on the March 19th, the vernal equinox. Of course, if you live or find yourself in the southern hemisphere on that day, it will be the autumnal equinox. 

Everybody is welcome to join in. If you or any of your friends or family would like to take part, just take your picture, write briefly about the picture (prose or poetry), and send it to me at houseman@comcast.net no later than March 22nd. I’ll compile everything and post it on this blog, Classical Gasbag. If you have a blog, include a link to it so that I can add it to my text.

If you have any questions you can send me an email and I’ll do my best to answer them. Feel free to post this call out so that others are aware. Thanks!

My 2019 Reading non-Challenge Final Update

I quite liked this year of reading without specific goals as to type of content. While I drought periods of reading this year, I was still able to read 65 books. Below are the final fifteen that I read this year. You’ll probably notice the typo in the title of number 64. It should read Song of Blood & Stone.

51 through 65

If you are interested in the entire list, you can find the first 25 here and the second 25 here.

Included in my complete list are two excellent works of non-fiction, The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels by Jon Meacham, and Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World by Anand Giridharadas. There are a few graphic novels and many spy thrillers. I also re-read the first two novels of Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandrian Quartet, Justine and Balthazar. I plan on reading the final two this year. There were only a few books that I was disappointed in. They have already been donated to our county library.

If you read my first post (see the link above) you remember that I called this a non-challenge because in past years I limited myself to specific categories of books and had trouble meeting the challenge. This year I read what appealed to me when I felt like it.  As a result I read about three times the number I read last year; enjoying the experience more and clearing room on my TBR bookcase. I plan on doing the same this year.

Oh, and among the books I read in 2019 were enough to meet the challenge if I had gone ahead with it.

If I had challenged myself

Happy reading in 2020!