Friday, March 23, 2007

But The Luggage Tag Says ~ Early Morning Thoughts

When I started thinking about excess baggage cluttering up life, I realized that 1) there is a difference between baggage and luggage, and that 2) I want to keep the luggage and get rid of the baggage. Luggage is what makes us - well - us. Personally, it's what is at the core of my being. The centrality of who I am. Sometimes it may get a little clouded or even dented - but it's still there. and just like those beautiful expensive pieces of luggage - I want to keep it around me. Baggage, on the other had, is all the "stuff" that we drag around causing excess weight, heartache and other problems. Excess baggage can get in the way of living, loving and just being around other people.

The other night I mentioned an actress/teacher that I personally know. She spends quite a bit of time traveling speaking to conferences and meetings. However, for quite awhile when she first started traveling, it was joked that her luggage was going to more exotic places then she was. When she would arrive at her correct destination - the luggage would be off on a vacation of its own, sometimes not to return for quite some time. Finally, it was discovered that she had not been removing the old luggage tags when she started a new trip. There were pieces from various trips still attached to the suitcases much as barnacles attach to a ship. And therein was part of the problem. Those incomplete tags were sometimes seen as the correct tag - and off the luggage would go to an entirely different destination.

I've discovered that if I want my luggage (not my baggage) to be with me, I've got to deal with the tags and make sure that we (my luggage and I) are going on this journey of life together. And there are several "old" baggage/luggage tags I'm going to have to get rid of. (And I must make sure that baggage isn't trying to pass itself off as luggage either.)

1) the old baggage/luggage tags of false expectations (that lovely rosy colored tag with just a hint of brightness that can lead to real chaos)
It was the Law of the Sea, they said. Civilization ends at the waterline. Beyond that, we all enter the food chain, and not always right at the top.
--Hunter Thompson
Disappointments often stem from unrealistic expectations. Take Christmas for example. When I was growing up a Christmas list was always expected. I would carefully write out what I wanted and then would dream for days about what I just KNEW I was going to get. Alas, the reality never seemed to match the list. Now, adults might not have a Christmas list as such, but how many have the assumption that everyone can, should and will enjoy a wonderful holiday season and gifts and good behaviors will abound.

When I traveled to India, I was not going there to teach I was in a sense running away. (I'll write more on that another time). I traveled to New York, and then took Pan Am 002 (Pan Am 001 went west) and flew to India...a place I had never been. My expectations were very high. I knew all about India - from Rudyard Kipling, of course. I knew that the New Delhi airport was going to continually hacked out of the jungle by natives with the help of elephants, everything was going to be made from rosewood and the air would be pungent with saffron, sandalwood and laced with the scent of roses. (to say nothing of all the Rikki-Tikki-Tavi's that would be there being sweet and friendly) Now there was a set of serious false expectations. 1) We landed in what I thought was a desert, 2) the buildings looked as if they were about to fall down or crumble at any time and 3) there was definitely a pungent smell at the airport - nothing like the smell of jet fuel and burning oil at four o'clock in the morning after a 30+ hour flight.

Sometimes relationships fare no better. Somehow believing that no matter what: everything was going to be made from rosewood and the air would be pungent with saffron, sandalwood and laced with the scent of roses. And when I discover that the rose has thorns, or that the air is NOT laced with roses but other scents ...

So now begins the process (ongoing process that is) of looking at what is a false expectation and what I'm going to do about it. Give up on expectations? Never in this lifetime. I know people who have basically no expectations - and you know what? They are never disappointed, but they don't have much enjoyment out of life and living either.

Some people have adopted the part of the song (I believe it was by the Rolling Stones) that says: "You can't always get what you want". I like to remind people that the next lines "But if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need."
--more to come

--final picture by dilekt

Early Morning Thoughts ~

I had just finished up the Stella Awards (previous post) and had started in on "The Little Engine That Could(n't) for tonight - when there was an incident in the apartment complex where I am currently living. I'm not sure how serious it is as this point, but to let you know - it was scary (and yes, I was), and the police are here in the complex...talking to everyone who's awake anyway.

So, with all that - I'll make it up tomorrow night, when the dust has settled. (and I'll try let you know what happened later...or tomorrow)

****2:06 AM ****
All has settled - what happened was not directed at or in the complex evidently. There was nothing serious as a result - no one injured, etc. To have what sounds like gunshots close by - well, that's a little unsettling.

In the meantime ~ here's an image of the sun from a brand new satellite which will be spending quite a bit of time studying our sun.

The Stella Awards (And Some Are Stellar!)~

We've all heard or gotten an email about the guy who injured himself while using his lawn mower as a hedge clipper, and then won $500,000 in a lawsuit against the lawn mower company?

Or, how about the woman who threw a soft drink at her boyfriend, slipped on the wet floor, and then won $100,000 in a lawsuit against the restaurant?

These are only two of the common examples of lawsuit abuses that are fueling the call for "litigation reform." They are also completely untrue — part of a growing collection of legal mythologies that are appearing widely in the national media. I'm not sure why people would make-up stories when the real ones are much better.

You know my fondness for awards - and the Stella Awards is among my favorites. (The Stella Awards were inspired by Stella Liebeck. In 1992, Stella, then 79, spilled a cup of McDonald's coffee onto her lap, burning herself -- the "rest of her story" here...with a LOT of information I didn't know - for instance she wasn't driving!!)

The 2006 True Stella Awards

Issued 31 January 2007

(Click here to confirm these are legitimate.)

#5: Marcy Meckler. While shopping at a mall, Meckler stepped outside and was "attacked" by a squirrel that lived among the trees and bushes. And "while frantically attempting to escape from the squirrel and detach it from her leg, [Meckler] fell and suffered severe injuries," her resulting lawsuit says. That's the mall's fault, the lawsuit claims, demanding in excess of $50,000, based on the mall's "failure to warn" her that squirrels live outside.

#4: Ron and Kristie Simmons. The couple's 4-year-old son, Justin, was killed in a tragic lawnmower accident in a licensed daycare facility, and the death was clearly the result of negligence by the daycare providers. The providers were clearly deserving of being sued, yet when the Simmons's discovered the daycare only had $100,000 in insurance, they dropped the case against them and instead sued the manufacturer of the 16-year-old lawn mower because the mower didn't have a safety device that 1) had not been invented at the time of the mower's manufacture, and 2) no safety agency had even suggested needed to be invented. A sympathetic jury still awarded the family $2 million.

#3: Robert Clymer. An FBI agent working a high-profile case in Las Vegas, Clymer allegedly created a disturbance, lost the magazine from his pistol, then crashed his pickup truck in a drunken stupor -- his blood-alcohol level was 0.306 percent, more than three times the legal limit for driving in Nevada. He pled guilty to drunk driving because, his lawyer explained, "With public officials, we expect them to own up to their mistakes and correct them." Yet Clymer had the gall to sue the manufacturer of his pickup truck, and the dealer he bought it from, because he "somehow lost consciousness" and the truck "somehow produced a heavy smoke that filled the passenger cab." Yep: the drunk-driving accident wasn't his fault, but the truck's fault. Just the kind of guy you want carrying a gun in the name of the law.

#2: The specialty search engine says Google should be forced to include the KinderStart site in its listings, reveal how its "Page Rank" system works, and pay them lots of money because they're a competitor. They claim by not being ranked higher in Google, Google is somehow infringing KinderStart's Constitutional right to free speech. Even if by some stretch they were a competitor of Google, why in the world would they think it's Google's responsibility to help them succeed? And if
Google's "review" of their site is negative, wouldn't a government court order forcing them to change it infringe on Google's Constitutional right to free speech?

And the winner of the 2006 True Stella Award:

Allen Ray Heckard. Even though Heckard is 3 inches shorter, 25 pounds lighter, and 8 years older than former basketball star Michael Jordan, the Portland, Oregon, man says he looks a lot like Jordan, and is often confused for him -- and thus he deserves $52 million "for defamation and permanent injury" -- plus $364 million in "punitive damage for emotional pain and suffering", plus the SAME amount from Nike co-founder Phil Knight, for a grand total of $832 million. He dropped the suit after Nike's lawyers chatted with him, where they presumably explained how they'd counter-sue if he pressed on.

©2007 by Randy Cassingham, Reprinted with permission.

As An Added Bonus:
other urban legal myths:

• Kathleen Robertson of Austin received $780,000 from a jury after she tripped over her own son in a furniture store.

• Carl Truman, a 19-year-old in Los Angeles, was awarded more than $74,000 when his hand was run over by a neighbor. The neighbor did not see Truman, who was in the process of stealing his hubcaps.

• Terrence Dickson of Bristol, Pa., was given a $500,000 award after he was inadvertently trapped in the garage of a house that he was burglarizing.

• A Mr. Grazinski won more than $1,750,000 and a new Winnebago after he put his new motor home on cruise control at 70 mph and then went into the back to fix himself some coffee — only to crash on the highway.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Little Engine That Could(n't) ~ Early Morning Thoughts

If you ride city buses as often as I do, you begin to notice people who ride the same buses at the same times. Sometimes, these end up as travel friends - acknowledgment of the other person, polite short conversations. Sometimes they can lead to better friendships/acquaintances. You also begin to note people who ride the bus carrying their problems or unusual lives with them. Sometimes there are even nicknames that bus drivers and regular riders have for these folks. Today was a day when two incidents made me stop and think.

The first was a rider I had never seen before. He obviously suffered from something that made him want to make order out of anything that was disordered. The first thing he started doing when he got on the bus was moving the header advertisement signs along the ceiling of the bus to put them into even spaces - aligned with the warning signs and aligned with each other. This should have taken his entire trip, but there was some spare time left over and he sat next to me. I smiled and said hello, and he returned the greeting. His hands kept fidgeting and finally he asked me if he could adjust the zippers on my duffel bag I always carry when I’m running errands. I smiled and handed him the bag. As quickly as he could - he made them all the same and in order. He gave me a piece of gum and we shared a short delightful conversation. It was then his stop. As he got off the bus, my first thought was “thank heavens he didn’t see the inside of my brain.”

The next was those of us who ride a particular bus affectionately call the “chair lady.” She is a harmless rider that gets on the bus usually with a folding beach chair, and a very argumentative, but yet personable imaginary friend. They do have sometimes fascinating conversations. I’m always sorry that I can only hear one side - but usually I can imagine the other side of the conversation. Today was different. She got on the bus without her chair, but a tremendous amount of baggage. All the bus driver could do was shake his head as she made her way onto the bus with several pieces of luggage and a box - and her friend. She was not riding far, but was quite irritated with her friend for having her haul all this “stuff” around, when she had other things she needed to be doing. She finally arrived at her stop and we had a reverse of when she got on -- not much of delay and interestingly enough, no one got irritated.

But those two incidents coupled with a discussion with D&D the other night, really got me to thinking. How much of me has to “make things right” and how much “baggage" am I carrying around that I really don’t need and don’t want to carry?

Then today I found this fascinating story:

IN 1845, the ill-fated Franklin Expedition sailed from England to find a passage across the Arctic Ocean.

The crew loaded their two sailing ships with a lot of things they didn’t need: a library with over 1000 volumes, fine china, crystal goblets and sterling silverware for each officer with his initials engraved on the handles. Evidently, each ship took only a 12-day supply of coal for the steam engines.

They became trapped in the frozen plains of ice. Eventually Lord Franklin died. The men decided to trek to safety in small groups, but none of them survived.

Consider this part of the tale: Two officers pulled a large sled more than 65 miles across the ice. When rescuers found their bodies, they discovered that the sled was filled with table silver.

It can be said they contributed to their own demise by carrying what they didn’t need.***

But, am I doing the same? What kind of baggage am I hauling around that I don’t really need or want? As a dear friend put it one time, “I couldn’t get my engine up the hill - but then I found out that I had so many unnecessary box-cars behind me that I couldn’t even see the caboose and the train was going nowhere.”
--more on this tomorrow

***I am very aware that the mental problems and many of the deaths were caused by lead poisoning and food poisoning. However, as with any such incident, one part of it can show something else in life.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Perhaps At Area 51? ~ A Small Thought

March 18th on Face The Nation Bob Scheiffer offered the following observation. While I don't always agree with him, this one was worth a second look:

I have a travel advisory for visitors from outer space.

If you've been following the news lately, you can be excused for believing that government service is harder on human memory than Alzheimer's.

As the recent trial of Scooter Libby showed, White House work left him unable to remember anything.

But his problem was nothing compared to the epidemic of memory loss at the Justice Department, where federal prosecutors got fired. The Attorney General couldn't remember talking to his own staff about the reasons why, where as lower officials couldn't remember whose idea it was. And nobody at the White House could remember anything except they didn't do it.

Among the prosecutors who got fired was one who sent a Republican congressman to jail on corruption charges, another who did not push corruption charges against Democrats fast enough – at least not fast enough to please the Republican senator who complained.

Pressuring federal prosecutors to play political games is serious business. The president says he's not happy about it, and the attorney general says mistakes were made. Well, of course they were. But confirming the obvious is not enough. From the top down, the word must go out this will not be tolerated, and those responsible must be held accountable.

Even an alien from outer space can see that or smell it, because this one stinks to high heaven.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Fly Into Or Mountain Out Of ~ Early Morning Thoughts

This amazing short story packed such an incredible sense of meaning and levels of thought into so few words, that I found myself going back over it again and again.

I wanted to make sure what I was "getting" from it was the author's intent. But, as is the beauty with writing - what I sense may not be what someone else senses. What I carry away from it, may not be at all what someone else puts away from it.

Note: The Russian expression "turning a fly into an elephant"
corresponds with the English "making a mountain out of a molehill."


A divine hand passed over a fly. "You shall be an elephant" resounded. Before there was time for a second hand to jerk once, then twice on the face of a clock, the inevitable came to pass: the fly's little heels rested on the earth through the soles of an elephant while his short, black, thread-like sucker curled inside the enormous grey trunk as it rolled up. But the very nature of this miracle was a sort of non-affectation, an amateurism, a vexing kind of "not right": if a psychologist were to snoop his eyeglasses under the thick skin of this newly elephantized existence, he would at once observe that the fly soul didn't reach all the way out to fill it.

To sum it up: this elephant with the soul of a fly is the Flylephant.


Insects are, generally speaking, accustomed to what is called "metamorphosis." But in the case in question, after he examined his new body of one hundred poods, the fly tested it out with much horror and confusion. It was much like the fairy tale that depicts a poor man who, having fallen asleep in his cramped closet, tumbles out—at the will of a fairy—into a spacious, peaceful, wealthy, yet deserted palace. Sick to death of wandering about in his new body, and eventually losing himself in the plethora of questions with which he tormented himself, the soul of the fly made up his mind as such:

"If you just keep sighing, you'll never get anywhere. Elephants have better lives than our fly brothers. Well then, I will live like this... Oh, but why the devil am I an elephant?!"

So it began.


When he examined the surroundings with his large elephant eyes, the insect noticed something: a creaking, dilapidated little cottage with one bright window stood in view.

"I will crawl just once upon the glass."

He crawled. Crack! The window was in smithereens, the cottage in splinters.

The Flylephant could do nothing but furrow his ears. What a parable my life has become, he thought.

This happened exactly at springtime. A good fairy went about: her little heels didn't even press the grass down to the earth as her delicate fingers unabashedly unfolded petals out of the buds so that the flowers would bloom. The sticky leaves of the birches became as green as could be.

"What a pleasant birch," thought the sentimental Flylephant, and happily flapped his paws; the slender sapling in question swayed, began to groan, and, after whispering something slowly with its pale leaves, expired.

"Not right—not right—not right—not right," beat the Flyelephant's frightened heart. And, in response to the heart, a pair of tiny membranous wings enmeshed with golden threads of sunlight began to flutter in the spring sky of blue—wings that Flylephant, still barely comprehending his miracle, loved passionately and tenderly.

Then spring became suddenly more springy, and suddenly the sun began to shine as bright as two suns, and his trunk, dried with tears, reached out to the wings of his girlfriend. Not only his trunk, but all of Flylephant reached out, trying to find the caresses of his former love; he pressed himself against her with body and soul. There was a moment of joy... Then, shuddering, pitiful and frightened, his eyes round in horror, Flylephant stood over a small black blot, staring at a pair of wings sticking out of the blot. The wings twitched—once, again—and then became motionless. Someone's scary roar rumbled in the ears of the elephantized being. The soul of this being began to thrash about inside its giant body, trying to break through the thick grey skin.

"This is enough! I must go back, to myself, to my old, dark fly crevice."


What happened next? Next wasn't very interesting. After searching the earth, foraging the entire planet, from one speck of dust to the next, Flylephant found, finally, his comfortable, narrow, winding crevice, half buried in the sand: a dilapidated little fly house.

He tried to crawl inside, but it was not to be. The crevice calls, calls with a winding, delicate little voice, but it doesn't let him in.

And this is why, to this very day, the tragic Flylephant lingers over his cozy old crevice. There is no path for him: neither a straight, wide open space, nor a winding crevice.
--translated by Andrea Gregovich

Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky was born in 1887 and died in 1950. His first story was published in 1918, and he became quite well known for a number of years. He, unfortunately, died in obscurity with much of his work lost.

--landscape Alain Briot

Monday, March 19, 2007

Groucho Marx Makes His Mark ~

On the website Chilling Effects, I found this fascinating piece of history -- film history to be exact.

Abstract: While preparing to film a movie entitled A Night in Casablanca, the Marx brothers received a letter from Warner Bros. threatening legal action if they did not change the film’s title. Warner Bros. deemed the film’s title too similar to their own Casablanca, released almost five years earlier in 1942, with Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. In response Groucho Marx dispatched the following letter to the studio’s legal department:

Dear Warner Brothers,

Apparently there is more than one way of conquering a city and holding it as your own. For example, up to the time that we contemplated making this picture, I had no idea that the city of Casablanca belonged exclusively to Warner Brothers. However, it was only a few days after our announcement appeared that we received your long, ominous legal document warning us not to use the name Casablanca.

It seems that in 1471, Ferdinand Balboa Warner, your great-great-grandfather, while looking for a shortcut to the city of Burbank, had stumbled on the shores of Africa and, raising his alpenstock (which he later turned in for a hundred shares of common), named it Casablanca.

I just don’t understand your attitude. Even if you plan on releasing your picture, I am sure that the average movie fan could learn in time to distinguish between Ingrid Bergman and Harpo. I don’t know whether I could, but I certainly would like to try.

You claim that you own Casablanca and that no one else can use that name without permission. What about “Warner Brothers”? Do you own that too? You probably have the right to use the name Warner, but what about the name Brothers? Professionally, we were brothers long before you were. We were touring the sticks as the Marx Brothers when Vitaphone was still a gleam in the inventor’s eye, and even before there had been other brothers—the Smith Brothers; the Brothers Karamazov; Dan Brothers, an outfielder with Detroit; and “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” (This was originally “Brothers, Can You Spare a Dime?” but this was spreading a dime pretty thin, so they threw out one brother, gave all the money to the other one, and whittled it down to “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?”)

Now Jack, how about you? Do you maintain that yours is an original name? Well it’s not. It was used long before you were born. Offhand, I can think of two Jacks—Jack of “Jack and the Beanstalk,” and Jack the Ripper, who cut quite a figure in his day.

As for you, Harry, you probably sign your checks sure in the belief that you are the first Harry of all time and that all other Harrys are impostors. I can think of two Harrys that preceded you. There was Lighthouse Harry of Revolutionary fame and a Harry Appelbaum who lived on the corner of 93rd Street and Lexington Avenue. Unfortunately, Appelbaum wasn’t too well-known. The last I heard of him, he was selling neckties at Weber and Heilbroner.

Now about the Burbank studio. I believe this is what you brothers call your place. Old man Burbank is gone. Perhaps you remember him. He was a great man in a garden. His wife often said Luther had ten green thumbs. What a witty woman she must have been! Burbank was the wizard who crossed all those fruits and vegetables until he had the poor plants in such confused and jittery condition that they could never decide whether to enter the dining room on the meat platter or the dessert dish.

This is pure conjecture, of course, but who knows—perhaps Burbank’s survivors aren’t too happy with the fact that a plant that grinds out pictures on a quota settled in their town, appropriated Burbank’s name and uses it as a front for their films. It is even possible that the Burbank family is prouder of the potato produced by the old man than they are of the fact that your studio emerged “Casablanca” or even “Gold Diggers of 1931.”

This all seems to add up to a pretty bitter tirade, but I assure you it’s not meant to. I love Warners. Some of my best friends are Warner Brothers. It is even possible that I am doing you an injustice and that you, yourselves, know nothing about this dog-in-the-Wanger attitude. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to discover that the heads of your legal department are unaware of this absurd dispute, for I am acquainted with many of them and they are fine fellows with curly black hair, double-breasted suits and a love of their fellow man that out-Saroyans Saroyan.

I have a hunch that his attempt to prevent us from using the title is the brainchild of some ferret-faced shyster, serving a brief apprenticeship in your legal department. I know the type well—hot out of law school, hungry for success, and too ambitious to follow the natural laws of promotion. This bar sinister probably needled your attorneys, most of whom are fine fellows with curly black hair, double-breasted suits, etc., into attempting to enjoin us. Well, he won’t get away with it! We’ll fight him to the highest court! No pasty-faced legal adventurer is going to cause bad blood between the Warners and the Marxes. We are all brothers under the skin, and we’ll remain friends till the last reel of “A Night in Casablanca” goes tumbling over the spool.


Groucho Marx

Unamused, Warner Bros. requested that the Marx Brothers at least outline the premise of their film. Groucho responded with an utterly ridiculous storyline, and, sure enough, received another stern letter requesting clarification. He obliged and went on to describe a plot even more preposterous than the first, claiming that he, Groucho, would be playing “Bordello, the sweetheart of Humphrey Bogart.” No doubt exasperated, Warner Bros. did not respond. A Night in Casablanca was released in 1946.

--from the website Chilling Effects which deals with freedoms

The Happy Prince (Conclusion)

This is the last part of the story ~

The Happy Prince

All the next day he sat on the Prince's shoulder and told him stories of what he had seen in strange lands. He told him of the red ibises, who stand in long rows on the banks of the Nile and catch gold fish in their beaks; of the Sphinx, who is as old as the world itself, and lives in the desert, and knows everything; of the great green snake that sleeps in a palm-tree and has twenty priests to feed it with honey-cakes; and of the pygmies, who sail over a big lake on large flat leaves and are always at war with the butterflies.

"Dear little Swallow," said the Prince, "you tell me of marvelous things, but more marvelous than anything is the suffering of men and of women. There is no mystery so great as misery. Fly over my city, little Swallow, and tell me what you see there."

So the swallow flew over the great city and saw the rich making merry in their beautiful houses, while the beggars were sitting at the gates. He flew into dark lanes and saw the white faces of starving children looking out listlessly at the black streets. Under the archway of a bridge, two little boys were lying in one another's arms to try and keep themselves warm. "How hungry we are!" they said. "You must not lie here," shouted the watchman, and they wandered out into the rain.

Then he flew back and told the Prince what he had seen.

"I am covered with fine gold," said the Prince, "you must take it off, leaf by leaf, and give it to my poor; the living always think that gold can make them happy."

Leaf after leaf of the fine gold the Swallow picked off, till the Happy Prince looked quite dull and grey. Leaf after leaf of the fine gold he brought to the poor, and the children's faces grew rosier, and they laughed and played games in the street. "We have bread now!" they cried.

Then the snow came, and after the snow came the frost. The streets looked as if they were made of silver, they were so bright and glistening; long icicles like crystal daggers hung down from the eaves of the houses, everybody went about in furs; and the little boys wore scarlet caps and skated on the ice.

The poor little swallow grew colder and colder, but he would not leave the Prince, he loved him too well. He picked up crumbs outside the baker's door when the baker was not looking, and tried to keep himself warm by flapping his wings.

But at last he knew that he was going to die. He had just strength to fly up to the Prince's shoulder once more. "Good-bye, dear Prince!" he murmured, "will you let me kiss your hand?"

"I am glad that you are going to Egypt at last, little Swallow," said the Prince, "you have stayed too long here; but you must kiss me on the lips, for I love you."

"It is not to Egypt that I am going," said the swallow. "I am going to the house of death. Death is the brother of sleep, is he not?"

And he kissed the Happy Prince on the lips and fell down dead at his feet.

At that moment a curious crack sounded inside the statue, as if something had broken. The fact is that the leaden heart had snapped right in two. It certainly was a dreadfully hard frost.

Early the next morning the mayor was walking in the square below in company with the town councilors. As they passed the column, he looked up at the statue: "Dear me! how shabby the Happy Prince looks!" he said.

"How shabby indeed!" cried the town councilors, who always agreed with the mayor, and they went up to look at it.

"The ruby has fallen out of his sword, his eyes are gone, and he is golden no longer," said the mayor; "in fact, he is little better than a beggar!"

"Little better than a beggar," said the town councilors.

"And here is actually a dead bird at his feet!" continued the mayor. "We must really issue a proclamation that birds are not allowed to die here." And the town clerk made a note of the suggestion.

So they pulled down the statue of the Happy Prince. They melted the statue in a furnace, and the mayor held a meeting of the corporation to decide what was to be done with the metal. "We must have another statue, of course," he said, "and it shall be a statue of myself."

"Of myself," said each of the town councilors, and they quarreled. When I last heard of them, they were quarreling still.

"What a strange thing!" said the overseer of the workmen at the foundry. "This broken lead heart will not melt in the furnace. We must throw it away." So they threw it on a dust-heap where the dead swallow was also lying.

"Bring me the two most precious things in the city," said God to one of His Angels; and the Angel brought Him the leaden heart and the dead bird.

"You have rightly chosen," said God, "for in my garden of Paradise this little bird shall sing for evermore, and in my city of gold the Happy Prince shall praise me."
--Oscar Wilde
(slightly and (hopefully) gently edited)

Meme Or Not To Meme (conclusion) ~ Early Morning Thoughts

On the 16th I posted a meme involving five statements only one of which was true. I asked for guesses as to which one it was. I'll explain the wrong statements, and tell the story of the true one.

1. I spent part of my college life working at a sea park.
I spent part of my college life as a dancer (not theatrical - I'll tell that story sometime), theater organist, and a few other occupations. There was no sea park near, so that was not an option.

3. My musical instrument of choice in high school was the accordion, earning me extra money (and pick-ups) at parties.
I suffered through piano lessons for a number of years, and then discovered the Hammond Organ and fell in love with the instrument. I did take classical training on pipe organ, but that didn't work out all that well. I did earn extra money in high school playing for clubs and such. As this posting attests, I also worked with theater organs ...

4. I am terrified of thunder and lightning.
Not at all, as the pictures of storms and lightning in the blog will attest.

5. I was once an extra in a major motion picture.
This was was a slight trick. I was never an extra in a motion picture (although I did try for "Tin Cup" when it was filmed), however - those who can remember the television show "Route 66" I appeared in one episode. In short, I carried a suitcase across the Minneapolis train station in the background (w a y in the background).

2. Thanks to my youngest son, I spent a night in jail.

And here's the story. It was the 80's, we (wife, three kids, dog, cat and canary) had moved to Texas with no idea where we were going to live, what it was going to be like and such. All I had was a job with an airline. Eventually we found ourselves truly living IN Texas. within a couple of years, we bought a house, and settled in. Unfortunately, after a number of years - the marriage came to an end and she moved back. I stayed in the house with the kids (all but one of whom had graduated from high school - and he was to graduate that spring) and was working two jobs...which in itself is an interesting story.

I was driving at the time a yellow Fiat that worked quite well for what was needed as far as being somewhat reliable, paid for and reasonable on gas. However, it still could exceed the speed limit - and I got a ticket. Because of work, I rescheduled my court date, and put the ticket on the top of the refrigerator. Unknown to anyone in the household my youngest got three speeding tickets with his Toyota. He didn't want anyone to know about them.

I forgot about the ticket, and - as courts do - was sent a couple of reminders of the fact AND at least one reminder that I was doomed if I didn't get it taken care of. I never saw the letters as the speedster was removing any letter that looked as if it was something from a court.

There's a wonderful pub-like place here called "The Black Lab" and I had gone out for a late dinner with a couple of friends. The pub's specialty is shepard's pie, and thank goodness that was ALL I had indulged in.

Anyone who has ever driven a Fiat (aka: Fix It Again Tony) knows that each car will develop it's own little "tics" or idiosyncrasies. Mine was no exception. The car had a back tail light that loved to fall into the trunk with no notice whatsoever.

I'm driving home (cue theme music from "Jaws" here) and get pulled over on one of the busiest streets. I have all my papers, and the officer told me my tail light was out. I said that's not a problem, let me get out of the car and put it back. I was informed that I was to turn my flashers on, and wait in the car. And so, I waited and waited and waited. I had come to the realization that this was not a good wait, and looked in the rear view mirror. There are now three (yes, folks three) cars with flashing lights behind me. I realized then that this was either going to be a festive parade of four, or I was in trouble. Then it hit me - the ticket. By now, my stomach had fallen through the floorboard of the car and my heart was about to break ribs from pounding.

Policeman Number One came to tell me to get out of the car carefully and stand with my hands on the hood. He is supported by a contingent of other officers standing looking exceedingly serious. I'm looking exceedingly panicked. I was informed there was a warrant out for my arrest and that's what they intended to do. I'm questioned about weapons (I'm wondering if pens count), dangerous drugs and what I've consumed that evening. The fact that it was only shepard's pie and coffee did not go over well with the officers.

As a friend of mine would say: "Moving right along!" The rights were done, the cuffs applied and I'm being poked into the back seat of Policeman Number One's car. The others, having decided that I was not a major threat to anyone, headed back to their cars and went their separate ways. I'm now headed to jail. Now, my only idea of jail was from movies and some TV shows. I kept trying to get the images of "Cool Hand Luke" out of my mind, but it wasn't working too well.

We arrive, and I'm photographed and booked and placed in some kind of cell with a lot of other people. Evidently it was a blue light special (the booking clerk's words to me) as far as the population of the jail is concerned. Finally a place with a phone. Now, all calls from the jail have to be collect and cost at that time about $5 a call. I think they call it a revenue stream for the jail. I finally get a hold of my daughter, who being the bright young thing that she is - decided (after she stopped laughing) that it was payback time. "Dad," she said all sweetness and light, "Do you remember what you told us if we ever were arrested at night? About having to wait until the morning?"

Resisting the urge to add a far more serious crime to my "rap sheet," I finally convinced her to come and get me out. Which in a large jail system, with a large jail population is easier said than done. I ended up sleeping in the cafeteria with a lot of people, had a video trial and was fined. No problem, the kids are coming to get me out. No problem except for the jail. I was told that I would be taken to where I could work out a payment plan for my fine and get out. I thought that was a good arrangement as that would make it easier for my Daughter and her Boy Friend to come get me.

In order to "make the payment plan" I needed to get on a bus, which I did. After about fifteen minutes, I now discover that I am on my way to the prison farm. Not to work out a payment plan, but to work off the fine owed. At this point, I'm numb and quite ready to drop off the face of the earth - but there's no where to drop off of, let alone to.

At this point in the story, Daughter and her Boy Friend have arrived at the jail only to find out that no one is quite sure where I am. Finally, a bail bondsman seemed to have some kind of inside track - or at least knew how the system worked and my new place of residence had been located.

I have now been checked into the farm, changed into the delightful, well-fitting and exceptionally stylish jump-suit (which according to signs could not be unzipped more than three inches at anytime and would only be washed once a week). I'd found which bed was mine and was deciding what invented back-story I could tell when people asked what I was in for.

Finally, the escape had arrived and I was released into the custody of my Daughter and her Boy Friend. The details of which have been sealed by family order.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Happy Prince (chapter 2) ~ Nightime Thoughts

Here is the second of three parts of the story I started reprinting ~

The Happy Prince ~

When day broke, he flew down to the river and had a bath. "To-night I go to Egypt," said the swallow, and he was in high spirits at the prospect. He visited all the public monuments and sat a long time on top of the church steeple.

When the moon rose, he flew back to the Happy Prince. "Have you any commissions for Egypt?" he cried; "I am just starting."

"Swallow, Swallow, little Swallow," said the Prince, "will you not stay with me one night longer?"

"I am waited for in Egypt," answered the swallow. "To-morrow my friends will fly up to the Second Cataract. The river-horse couches there among the bulrushes, and on a great granite throne sits the god Memnon. All night long he watches the stars, and when the morning star shines, he utters one cry of joy, and then he is silent. At noon the yellow lions come down to the water's edge to drink. They have eyes like green beryls, and their roar is louder than the roar of the cataract."

"Swallow, Swallow, little Swallow," said the Prince, "far away across the city I see a young man in a garret. He is leaning over a desk covered with papers, and in a tumbler by his side there is a bunch of withered violets. He is trying to finish a play for the director of the theater, but he is too cold to write any more. There is no fire in the grate, and hunger has made him faint."

"I will wait with you one night longer," said the swallow, who really had a good heart. "Shall I take him another ruby?"

"Alas! I have no ruby now," said the Prince; "my eyes are all that I have left. They are made of rare sapphires, which were brought out of India a thousand years ago. Pluck out one of them and take it to him. He will sell it to the jeweler, and buy food and firewood, and finish his play."

"Dear Prince," said the swallow, "I cannot do that"; and he began to weep.

"Swallow, Swallow, little Swallow," said the Prince, "do as I command you."

So the swallow plucked out the Prince's eye and flew away to the student's garret. It was easy enough to get in, as there was a hole in the roof. Through this he darted, and came into the room. The young man had his head buried in his hands, so he did not hear the flutter of the bird's wings, and when he looked up, he found the beautiful sapphire lying on the withered violets.

"I am beginning to be appreciated," he cried; "this is from some great admirer. Now I can finish my play," and he looked quite happy.

The next day the swallow flew down to the harbor. He sat on the mast of a large vessel and watched the sailors hauling big chests out of the hold with ropes. "I am going to Egypt!" cried the swallow, but nobody minded, and when the moon rose, he flew back to the Happy Prince.

"I am come to bid you good-bye," he cried.

"Swallow, Swallow, little Swallow," said the Prince, "will you not stay with me one night longer?"

"It is winter," answered the swallow, "and the chill snow will soon be here. In Egypt the sun is warm on the green palm-trees, and the crocodiles lie in the mud and look lazily about them. I will never forget you, and next spring I will bring you back two beautiful jewels in place of those you have given away. The ruby shall be redder than a red rose, and the sapphire shall be as blue as the great sea."

"In the square below," said the Happy Prince, "there stands a little match-girl. She has let her matches fall in the gutter, and they are all spoiled. Her father will beat her if she does not bring home some money, and she is crying. She has no shoes or stockings, and her little head is bare. Pluck out my other eye, and give it to her, and her father will not beat her."

"I will stay with you one night longer," said the swallow, "but I cannot pluck out your eye. You would be quite blind then."

"Swallow, Swallow, little Swallow," said the Prince, "do as I command you."

So he plucked out the Prince's other eye and darted down with it. He swooped past the match-girl and slipped the jewel into the palm of her hand. "What a lovely bit of glass," cried the little girl; and she ran home, laughing.

Then the swallow came back to the Prince. "You are blind now," he said, "so I will stay with you always."

"No, little Swallow," said the poor Prince, "you must go away to Egypt."

"I will stay with you always," said the swallow, and he slept at the Prince's feet.
--Oscar Wilde
(slightly and (hopefully) gently edited)

Just A Slight Change ~

I have made a change in the look of PB & J ~ for the better I hope. There are still some slight "arrangements" (read: changing template code and adding missing elements!) that have to be done, but so far - everything seems to be working as it should. This will take time over the next couple of days.
In the meantime, I hope you like the new look!

The Happy Prince - (Chapter One) ` Early Morning Thoughts

When I was growing up, the cabinet record player was an important part of the house, and got quite a bit of use. It was where I was introduced to some great singers (Marlene Dietrich was NOT allowed until much later) and orchestras. It is not of those that I have the strongest memories however, it was the stories. I have some memories that, even after all these years, are as strong as when I first heard them. I was trying to find some information about St. Patrick today when I ran across this story. As I started reading it - I admit - my eyes welled up and I was instantly transported back to the first time I heard this tale. For those who want to know, it was recorded by Bing Crosby and Orson Welles - released on Decca records and you can look up the date yourself! (Of course, I was only one year old when it was released!)

Did these hearing stories such as these over and over have anything to do with my love of reading and theater? I have no doubt. What are some of your earliest memories like this?

I also decided not to put pictures with the story and invite you to let your mind give the images that accompany the tale.

The Happy Prince ~

HIGH above the city, on a tall column, stood the statue of the Happy Prince. He was gilded all over with thin leaves of fine gold, for eyes he had two bright sapphires, and a large red ruby glowed on his sword-hilt.

He was very much admired indeed. "He is as beautiful as a weathercock," remarked one of the town councilors who wished to gain a reputation for having artistic tastes; "only not quite so useful," he added, fearing lest people should think him unpractical, which he really was not.

"Why can't you be like the Happy Prince?" asked a sensible mother of her little boy who was crying for the moon. "The Happy Prince never dreams of crying for anything."

"I am glad there is some one in the world who is quite happy," muttered a disappointed man as he gazed at the wonderful statue.

"He looks just like an angel," said the charity children as they came out of the cathedral in their bright scarlet cloaks and their clean white pinafores.

"How do you know?" said the Mathematical Master, "you have never seen one."

"Ah! but we have, in our dreams," answered the children; and the Mathematical Master frowned and looked very severe, for he did not approve of children dreaming.

One night there flew over the city a little swallow. His friends had gone away to Egypt six weeks before, but he had stayed behind. After they had gone he felt lonely.

All day long he flew, and at night-time he arrived at the city. "Where shall I put up?" he said; "I hope the town has made preparations."

Then he saw the statue on the tall column. "I will put up there," he cried; "it is a fine position with plenty of fresh air." So he alighted just between the feet of the Happy Prince.

"I have a golden bedroom," he said softly to himself as he looked round, and he prepared to go to sleep; but just as he was putting his head under his wing, a large drop of water fell on him. "What a curious thing!" he cried. "There is not a single cloud in the sky, the stars are quite clear and bright, and yet it is raining."

Then another drop fell.

"What is the use of a statue if it cannot keep the rain off?" he said; "I must look for a good chimney-pot," and he determined to fly away.

But before he had opened his wings, a third drop fell, and he looked up and saw -- ah! what did he see?

The eyes of the Happy Prince were filled with tears, and tears were running down his golden cheeks. His face was so beautiful in the moonlight that the little swallow was filled with pity.

"Who are you?" he said.

"I am the Happy Prince."

"Why are you weeping then?" asked the swallow; "you have quite drenched me."

"When I was alive and had a human heart," answered the statue, "I did not know what tears were, for I lived in a palace , where sorrow was not allowed to enter. Round the garden ran a very lofty wall, but I never cared to ask what lay beyond it, everything about me was so beautiful. My courtiers called me the Happy Prince, and happy indeed I was, if pleasure be happiness. So I lived, and so I died. And now that I am dead they have set me up here so high that I can see all the ugliness and all the misery of my city, and though my heart is made of lead, yet I cannot choose but weep."

"What, is he not solid gold?" said the swallow to himself. He was too polite to make any personal remarks out loud.

"Far away," continued the statue in a low musical voice, "far away in a little street, there is a poor house. One of the windows is open, and through it I can see a woman seated at a table. Her face is thin and worn, and she has coarse red hands, all pricked by the needle, for she is a seamstress. She is embroidering passion-flowers on a satin gown for the loveliest of the Queen's maids-of-honor to wear at the next Court-ball. In a bed in the corner of the room, her little boy is lying ill. He has a fever, and is asking for oranges. His mother has nothing to give him but river water, so he is crying. Swallow, Swallow, little Swallow, will you not bring her the ruby out of my sword-hilt? My feet are fastened to this pedestal and I cannot move."

"I am waited for in Egypt," said the Swallow. "My friends are flying up and down the Nile and talking to the large lotus-flowers. Soon they will go to sleep in the tomb of the great King.

"Swallow, Swallow, little Swallow," said the Prince, "will you not stay with me for one night and be my messenger? The boy is so thirsty, and the mother so sad."

"I don't think I like boys," answered the swallow. "Last summer, when I was staying on the river, there were boys who were always throwing stones at me."

But the Happy Prince looked so sad that the little swallow was sorry. "It is very cold here," he said; "but I will stay with you for one night and be your messenger."

"Thank you, little Swallow," said the Prince.

So the swallow picked out the great ruby from the Prince's sword and flew away with it in his beak over the roofs of the town.

He passed by the cathedral tower, where the white marble angels were sculptured. He passed by the palace and heard the sound of dancing. A beautiful girl came out on the balcony with her lover. "How wonderful the stars are," he said to her, "and how wonderful is the power of love!" "I hope my dress will be ready in time for the next Court-ball," she answered; "but the seamstresses are so lazy."

He passed over the river and saw the lanterns hanging to the masts of the ships. At last he came to the poor house and looked in. The boy was tossing feverishly on his bed, and the mother had fallen asleep, she was so tired. In he hopped, and laid the great ruby on the table beside the woman's thimble. Then he flew gently round the bed, fanning the boy's forehead with his wings. "How cool I feel," said the boy, "I must be getting better"; and he sank into a delicious slumber.

Then the swallow flew back to the Happy Prince and told him what he had done. "It is curious," he remarked, "but I feel quite warm now, although it is so cold."

"That is because you have done a good action," said the Prince. And the little swallow began to think, and then he fell asleep. Thinking always made him sleepy.
--Oscar Wilde
(slightly and (hopefully) gently edited)