Musings of Navigating The Finite remainder of life from Porchville, with the hope of a glimpse of The Infinite

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Forgiveness. . . Earned or Given?

One of the many flaws in my character is my penchant for watching sappy, made for TV Christmas movies. Yes, I know they are poorly scripted, predictable, cheap to make, and cheap to watch, but never-the-less I like watching them, even the crappy ones that I have seen before.

Last night's selection was Undercover Christmas. It was very sappy, predictable, and cheap. It did have one great moment. Tyne Daly trying to repair the relationship between her FBI agent son and her judge and judgmental husband says something to the effect of "Forgiveness is not earned, it is given." There was more to the line than that but I can't remember beyond what I wrote above. Today I did a Google search in hopes of finding the quote. I didn't find the quote from the movie. I did find a number of quotes, one of which is the exact opposite:

“Forgiveness is not given; it is earned. And once earned, it cannot be withheld."

All the quotes that I looked at portrayed forgiveness in a number of different lights.

Forgive but don't forget.

You can't forgive if you don't forget.

Men never forgive but will forget...women will forgive but never forget. . . .

On and on it went with many contradictions.

So I ask two things of my faithful readers...both of you.

1) If you know the quote I am looking for please put it in a comment.

2) Tell me your thoughts on forgiveness. Is forgiveness earned or is it given?

EDIT 12-22-10 The movie was on again last night, so I watched it again with note book in hand. Good thing I like sappy Christmas movies. Here is a closer rendition to what was actually said:

“I don’t think that forgiveness is earned. It is given. The only way this will ever end is when one of you decides to forgive the other out of generosity. When you want that more than to be right.”

Friday, November 26, 2010

Black Friday

Today, seemingly—I don’t know the real percentage nor care, the majority of the population of the United States is involved in the fine art of saving money, or on the flip side of the coin, helping those fine citizens to save money. Ahhh, where else other than the United States can you save money by spending money! A casual look at the TV ads and one would be tempted to believe that the stores are paying you to shop. I gladly relinquish my role in this festival to others. You can have my parking spot, my place in the lines waiting for the doors to open at 3 AM, my share of the cornucopia to be had, and my share of the savings. I am simply not interested in saving money in this fashion.

Black Friday. I remember first hearing the term only a couple of years ago—could that be right? Thinking it to be indicative of something terrible like Black Monday, I asked my wife what is Black Friday and why are the ads on TV bubbling about it. Black Mondays—any of the 14 which Wikipedia lists—certainly would not engender the mood to spend money. My wife explained that the day after Thanksgiving is the busiest shopping day of the year, the opening day of the Christmas shopping season, the day that the store’s balance sheets will hopefully move into the Black.

I like Wikipedia's explanation better:
The day's name originated in Philadelphia, where it originally was used to describe the heavy and disruptive pedestrian and vehicle traffic which would occur on the day after Thanksgiving. Use of the term began by 1966 and began to see broader use outside Philadelphia around 1975. Later an alternative explanation began to be offered: that "Black Friday" indicates the period during which retailers are turning a profit, or "in the black."
Again according to Wikipedia our friends across the pond in the UK have their own and more interesting version for Black Friday:
Black Friday is the last Friday before Christmas.

In the United Kingdom, Black Friday is traditionally the most popular night for office Christmas parties. As a result it has gained a reputation as one of the busiest nights of the year for restaurants, public houses, and, as a result, the emergency services.
Heavy and disruptive pedestrian and vehicle traffic certainly is cause for the day to be considered “Black” to me, and ergo a day to be avoided. But even that pales to the mental image that pops into my head when I hear the term Black Friday. Always one to wallow in the darker side, when I hear the term Black Friday a visual memory from my youth pops into my head. I see the cross on the altar covered with a black veil during the Good Friday service at the Lutheran Church. Odd, we wouldn’t have the one Black Friday without the other.

I do have my own version of Black Friday. Despising crowds and shopping in general, I have never participated in the Black Friday festivities. Generally the day after Thanksgiving is a quiet day given to reflection and relaxation. Back when I used to keep an active journal, I would often write some post-Thanksgiving tome. I was doing so 15 years ago. It was an especially Black time for me. A month prior, my wife’s father had died and I was slated to be laid off from my job in January. So I was sitting in the same exact spot that I am sitting now staring into my computer screen and typing a rather dark entry into my journal regarding the grief for my father-in-law, the sadness that I felt for my wife and mother-in-law, and my fears for the future. If I could have extended my gaze through screen and the wall of my house I would have seen a young woman and her toddler daughter dying. From my front yard, I can see the exact spot where they died in a head-on collision about four and a half miles south east of my home.

I had no idea at the time. I didn't know about the accident until several years later when I saw two crosses on the road marking the spot. In one of those odd things that one pursues without knowing why, I searched the newspaper’s website and learned of the accident. The woman and child had died on the day after Thanksgiving at the same time of day that I was making my journal entry. From the obituary I learned the cemetery and found the woman’s and child’s graves. Going through some weird middle mid-life crises at the time with the reality of death, this woman and her child became an icon of the senselessness of death to me. As the story went, the child distracted the woman for instant and she crossed over the center line into the path of a large truck. A tragic and needless loss of life.

As I mentioned I was grappling with the reality of death at the time. For several years in the late 90s, I would on occasion kick around cemeteries, read the inscriptions on the head stones, stop and wonder about the person, their life and passions, what was important to them, how did they die…trying to make sense of this fleeting period of consciousness that we call life. Once while I was at the cemetery, the woman's husband came to visit the graves. I knew him from the family photo on the grave stone. I was about 50 yards away and feigned interest in a grave before me. He spent about 10 minutes. Near enough to watch him without being obtrusive, I could see that he was talking to his wife and child. He then said some prayers and left flowers and a small stuffed toy bear on the grave and departed. He was a handsome young man in his early 30s—much too young to be visiting a dead wife and daughter. I wept for him, although truth be known, I believe he was more at peace with the loss of his wife and daughter than I was. Or was he? He had been living real grief with an empty home for several years. I was living a self imposed vicarious grief for people that I did not know--a hobby by comparison. I went home to a live and loving wife and son.

I am not sure that I learned anything from my contemplations of death. It still seems senseless to me. I don’t fear it now like I did when I was very young. Nor did I particularly fear death when I spent my year or so of grieving for this woman and walking through cemeteries. I was trying to understand death. I tried to come to terms with the finiteness of our lives by walking among the dead. I don’t think I succeeded. I still don’t understand why we must die. Oh of course, we must die to make room for the next generation. That makes sense. But it is a cold fact—like World War II ended in 1945 or the largest state of the union is Alaska. It does not really tell me why we must die and, indeed, be so damned aware of the fact.

So, while the rest of America seeks the Black Friday bargains, I stare through my computer screen to a point in space and time four and half miles away and 15 years ago and wonder why did this woman and her child die?

Black Friday indeed!

EDIT 11-28-2010: Interesting commentary on Black Friday:

Washington Post, Guest Voices, "Black Friday is the high feast day of our thing-centered cult-ure" By Carson Weber

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Trust and Doubt and Bittersweet

I saw a bumper sticker this evening..."Trust those who seek the truth. Doubt those who find it." To which I would add that your level of doubt should be directly proportional to the enthusiasm in which one tries to convince you of their truth.

I am finding that my possibly last business trip is somewhat a bittersweet affair. I knew that I would miss the people, but I find that I keep looking about the lab, the facilities, even the product I am here to test and thinking "geez, I am never going to see this again." Some of it, the miserable or scary parts, I am not going to miss, but still I find an attachment to this place that is somewhat surprising.

I have worked at this place probably on the order of 25 times in the last 15 years. It is an interesting lab in a great location, right on the water on the Chesapeake Bay. One could not ask for a more scenic place to work.

I find myself walking about in the lab and looking at various artifacts of the place and feeling a sadness. I am sure that I'll get over it, but it was a bit surprising.

You can read all of my retirement related posts at:

Saturday, November 13, 2010

John Jerome

Blogging can take one in some different directions. I posted a couple chapters from a book that I tried to write, never finished, and never did anything with. Looking at those old chapters reminded me of one of the books that I had read 20 years ago that had inspired me to write, Stonework by John Jerome. It has been a long time since I read the book and I can't remember much of it, but it was an accounting of rebuilding old stone walls on his farm in New England, perhaps a Zen and the Art of Wall Building (minus the Greek philosophy BS). The labor of the wall was a framework around which Jerome built the remainder of the book which had little to do with walls and much to do with broad observations of life, the natural world, and a philosophy for making a better life through simplicity. Stonework was one of those books that inspired course corrections in the navigation of my life. If nothing else, it inspired within me a deep desire to write.

Looking at my old chapters, prompted me to have a look on Amazon for Jerome's books. I found immediately On Turning Sixty-Five, Notes From The Field. Although I have several years until I arrive at that age, my recent decision to retire from work and approaching the magic age of 62 seemed close enough. Since I made the choice to retire, which is about 89.33% finalized, I have been in something of a mental tizzy. I have not been able to sit and read a book or even finish a magazine article. My head seems a swirling mass of worries and concerns. Jerome had provided direction in my life once before, the midlife crises part of my life, perhaps he could do it again as I step across the threshold of the merely middle aged to the elderly.

I am not aging with grace. I despise what I have seen of old age from my parents and my entry into it is not promising. So I thought Jerome's book just may be the ticket. I have read the first few chapters and the magic of Jerome is definitely apparent. He has a clarity of thought and calls a spade a spade or a god damned shovel as the situation demands. Minor profanities pepper his writing as they do mine, we talk each other's language, although Jerome is far more grounded in reality and does not share my dreamy romantic bullshit.

So I have been enjoying Jerome's book, and this morning I decided to see if he has a web page or blog. I was shocked to find out that he had died of lung cancer in 2002, two years after On Turning Sixty-Five was published. I was not expecting that. John Jerome was into fitness, healthy living, and a healthy attitude. Although I have only read one of his books and a few chapters of a second, I felt that I lost a personal friend...eight years ago. Last night I read Jerome discussing his brother's death from cancer, and this morning I discover two years later he succumbed to it himself.

I, in some fashion, feel that emotion which Paul Olum said of Richard can he be dead? I seek solace from a man's words only to find out that he died two years after writing them. He was not supposed to have died. I was supposed to find a website and read some bit of stoney wisdom, not an obituary. There are times when I feel that death cheats us and John Jerome is such a loss.

To better understand John Jerome read the obituaries, especially Bruce McCall's touching piece here:

In Memory Of John Jerome

Jerome's Books At Amazon:


On Turning Sixty-Five

His other books can be found on Amazon's John Jerome page:

John Jerome At Amazon

Image Credit:

Random House, On Turning Sixty-Five

Edit 11-14-10: I found this quote from A Writer's Trade, a book Jerome published in the mid 90s about the craft of writing.
After hearing someone on the radio mention that every word is a metaphor Jerome writes:

[page 215] Not a terribly original observation, but it struck home: here we are with this capacity for language, the tool with which we've built this incredible civilization. And yet the capacity for language itself specifically freezes us at the symbolic level, permanently divorced from the experience of the real world. We are incurably afloat in a sea of words, of symbolic representation, and can't cut through to the thing itself. It is the Word that makes us so powerful, and that prevents us from seeing the actuality that the Word represents.
The above quote is from:

A Reader's Journal, By Bobby Matherne

You can read all of my retirement related posts at:

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

In Praise of Nordic Walking Poles

I have had my Nordic Walking Poles for week now and have not used them until tonight. Fantastic! My knees and back are shot, complete and total junk, and while I can get around, walking certainly is no pleasure.

I left work in time to go to a small park nearby. While walking through the parking lot at work I was thinking to myself, this is crazy, my knees are killing me, what the hell do I want to go walking for? I had spent most of the day on my feet on the concrete shop floor. The trip to the car after work was painful. Well I decided to go and try it. What the hell, if my knees and back hurt I could always quit. I drove home got the poles and my walking spikes and headed off to the park.

One small step for mankind, one huge step for a couch potato! I walked! I enjoyed it. I walked fast. I am not using the poles right, but I ACTUALLY WALKED WITH LITTLE PAIN IN MY KNEES AND BACK! It was fantastic! This is the first time that I have enjoyed walking in a long long time!

The sky was deep colbalt blue in the deepening twilight and there was a sliver of a very young moon out. The air was clear and pleasantly cool. I crunched through the fall leaves along a wide rushing creek. It was fantastic, like being young again...almost.

I started sweating! My decrepit knees were moving well enough, that I was getting an aerobic workout! It does not take much at this point, and I have to watch not to over do it until I get conditioned, but this is first time in a very long time where I had to slow down for my heart and lung capacity. Usually I can't walk fast enough due to pain to worry about my heart and lungs. The poles are just wonderful. I climbed about 50 feet up a very steep hill. Did great going up. Coming down was a little shaky at first until I figured how to take small steps and keep the poles positioned in front of me. I would have not attempted this steep hill with out the poles.

I am not sure how far I walked, but I was out for an hour and moving the whole time! I did have to slow down, but again it was for heart not the the knees. Sitting here writing this, I notice my arms are a bit stiff, but knees and back are no worse than if I had stayed at home. I am tired, pleasantly I went out and did something useful. It is a great feeling.

Sure some of this is the novelty of it, but pain is pain, and I walked today with those poles in a fashion that I have not for quite some time. It was like being let out of a prison!

I had never heard of Nordic Walking Poles until the Old Baguette mentioned them in her blog. Thank you, my dear for introducing me to something that just may turn my life around.

It was certainly good to get outside and take a relatively painlessly walk again. The poles are like having four wheel drive. Again thank you Old Baguette!

EDIT 11-26-10 Old Baguette, it seems as though some one likes our blog entries:

Nordic Walking USA

An unidentified male from Pittsburgh.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


About 4 years ago I was on one of my many business trips to Augusta, Georgia. I was working a 12 hour shift at night and had taken up walking along the tow path for the old Augusta Canal after work in the cool early morning hours for exercise. This had been a renewal effort after a long run of ever increasing inactivity. I was starting to feel good again. While I couldn’t maintain my old speeds of better than 4 mph, I was comfortably doing 3 ½ mph and gradually improving. The Augusta Canal is a wonderful place to walk. It is flat, well maintained, and the upper part is wooded. So it offers shade and a beautiful walk. I enjoyed my morning walks and the exercise was making me feel younger, a little more vibrant, a little less like the old man that I was evolving into.

The Augusta Canal was built in 1845 to provide a water transportation path around the rapids on the Savannah River and to provide water power for mills in the city. During the Civil War the Confederacy built a large gun powder works along the canal. The canal was expanded in 1875 to provide more water for the various mills. Eventually in the 20th century, the mills closed and the need for the canal diminished. Georgia created the Augusta Canal Authority in the mid-1980s to develop recreational usage and preserve the historical aspects of the canal and in 1996 Congress designated the canal as a National Heritage Area. You can read more about the Canal and its history at the Augusta Canal website.

The Augusta Canal website has a map which you can see here:


One curiosity with this map is that is has no compass rose. Which way is north? Up is not north on this map. You need to rotate the map about 60 degrees clockwise to get north facing up. When properly oriented I-20 will run south west to north east instead of south to north as the map shows now.

My canal walks had two different starting points. Driving out Evans To Locks Road, I could park at the head gates (area marked #1 on the map and inset) on the northwest end that feeds the canal from the Savannah River and walk south east to the 2 mile marker and return for a four mile walk. Or I could park at the ball field at Eisenhower Park (area marked #2 on the map and inset) and walk north west to the 2 mile marker for a 3 mile walk or go to the 1 ½ mile marker for a four mile walk.

The particular walk that I am relating was on a Saturday morning. Due to a problem with our test, I had been late leaving work and the day was starting to heat up already. Being late and with the heat, I decided to just walk the 3 miles so I parked at Eisenhower Park and walked north west from the water company to the 2 mile marker, just a little beyond Interstate 20. Being a Saturday the path had far more walkers than usual. As I approached the 2 mile marker, three young women were coming from the opposite direction doing that speed walking stuff, where one walks like an ostrich and punches with their fists reminiscent of the drive rods on a steam locomotive. It is a geeky looking walk but extremely demanding. The women were in their mid 20s. They obviously enjoyed each other’s company and were, how shall I put this, a bit irritating with their bravado. They were a bit too loud and exuded a yuppie arrogance that I found grating. Reaching the 2 mile marker they cheered and started to punch the air vertically above their heads like some damned NFL player that just carried the ball into the end zone. They then turned around and began walking back to the head gates.

I was about 50 yards away from the 2 mile marker when they performed this little display of young female hubris, and I thought to myself “the old man is going to pass up this pack of arrogant young female punks!” I will pour on the coal, pass them up and turn around at the 1 ½ mile marker and return for a four mile walk. Well that was the plan.

So I speed up. I am walking faster than what is comfortable but I have 50 yards to make up. I am starting to breath hard but I am not maxed out. All I have to do is close in that 50 yards and pass them. Hmmm. I am having trouble catching up. So I pour on a little more coal. Now I am uncomfortable. The heat is bothering me and I am breathing real hard. Damn, I think they are slowly pulling away. I seem to have more than 50 yards to make up. Awww, this is bullshit! Damn it. I was walking faster than them when they were in diapers. OK so now I pull out all the stops. I am walking as fast as I can. I can’t run, my back and knees will not tolerate the pounding from even a short run. Besides I am a walker, and damned good walker at that, and I want to pass these arrogant women walking, not running. So I formulate a new plan. I will pass them hopefully appearing to be calm and stop and take picture and let them get by and return to my normal pace. Damn! I still can’t catch them. The 1 ½ mile marker appears. They are still pulling away from me. Damn it, you old fool, try harder. I try but there is no reserve.

The women disappear around a curve up head. I round the curve a minute later and they are gone. They must be around the next curve. They can’t leave the path, they have the Savannah River on their right and the canal on the left. I walk past the 1 mile marker. I am still going as fast as I can, but I know that I am slowing down. I am breathing as hard as I can and there is something of a wheeze in my breath. It is getting hotter, and I am drenched with sweat. OK, time for a new plan. They will probably slow down in the last half mile for a cool down. I’ll zoom past them, then stop for a picture, let them go by and then collapse on one of the benches that are located in the first half mile. I go wheezing past the ½ mile marker. Still no sight of them. Damn it to hell and back. I keep going as hard as I can but now even if I caught up with them, my sweat drenched wheezing victory would be a parody of my original intentions. I round another bend to a fairly long straight view of the head gates and the zero mile marker. They are gone, probably in their air conditioned cars half way home to a shower and a cool refreshing drink.

I slow my pace and walk to the head gates. I have long since sweated out my slurp of pre walk Gator Aid. It is getting damned hot, I had worked 13 hours through the night, and drove almost and hour each way to get to and from work. My knees hurt like hell, but not as bad as my back. I am thirsty, extremely thirsty, and my car is 3.5 miles down the canal and probably another quarter mile to the parking lot. You simple minded old bastard, what in the hell is wrong with you?

I walk back at an abysmally slow pace. I was defeated by three women that didn’t even know that we were in a race. They were 50 yards away from me when they turned around, they had no idea that I was chasing them in some macho bit of old man foolishness. They never looked back and saw me. They were not even trying. They were just taking their Saturday morning walk and enjoying themselves in a spirited manner. In my defeat I start the usual excuses. Hell, they are half your age. They are obviously fit. You did OK for a 57 year old guy. They are almost young enough to be your grand daughters. Can you think of anyone else your age that would have blasted 3.5 miles in this heat?

By the time I got to my car I was limping from the pain in my knees and back. Limping, hell, I was hobbling. Seven miles was overdoing it. I collapsed in the car, with the air conditioning on full blast, and drank a bottle of pee warm Gator Aid which was not helped by the yellow shade of the sort of lemon-lime flavor.

So why did I chase these women? I had no intention of saying anything, staring, or making any kind of trouble. All I wanted to do was pass them, and pass them as though it were effortless. Their minor display of bravado had irritated me, yes, but it was not worth this. When it was obvious that I was not going to catch them, why did I persist? At the two mile marker, I was sure that I could catch up to them and pass them. I was always a fast walker. Few people could keep up with me if I decided to pour on the coal. But that was based on old data. I didn’t start walking until my mid 30’s, after my MS attacks. Prior to that I had lived a life of what I called the 4 Cs. Excessive cigars, computers, coffee, and chairs. When I was the same age as those women, I would not have been fool enough to try to chase them, nor would I have been on a walking path in the first place. I knew I was out of shape then. Yet for some reason, I believed that a 57 year old man with multiple sclerosis, bad knees, a bad back, somewhat overweight, was going to pass them up and show them a thing or two. Why?

Some of it was generational. They were half my age. Some of it was social, they were rowdy and loud (not really, but in my in mind). Some of it is class. Even though I work as an engineer, I am decidedly blue collar. As I chased them, I imagined these women to be college educated professionals, probably making more 4 years out of college than I make after 30 years. I imagined them getting in their Mercedes—Volvo—Lexus and returning to their McMansions to shower and then meeting again somewhere to have some hoity toity lunch served with an expensive wine, while they discussed the grandly important aspects of their lives a little too loudly. I then imagined the obligatory trip to the mall to buy another pair of shoes whose price would exceed the cost of my wife’s and my entire wardrobe…not that a typical person would call our collection of rags a wardrobe. I then imagined them parting their ways to go have expensive dinners with their Robert Pattinson / Brad Pitt look alike professional husbands and then spending the evening at some swank club thunking more money into a bar bill than I spend on groceries for a month. I thought of them to be young, privileged, arrogant, yuppies born with a gold spoon in their mouth. I imagined myself blasting past their youth, their wealth, their privilege, and their hubris in some sort of grand personal triumph—a private triumph for I would never say anything to them but still a triumph. Chalk one up for old, pot bellied, bald, no fancy college, blue collar guys.

But why did I really do it? Let’s get down to brass tacks. Why did I make a fool of myself—granted only to myself—no one else had a clue why I was huffing and puffing down that tow path. Testosterone! I was feeling my oats a bit that morning. I thought because I was improving my walking that I was invincible. So there is brass tack number 1. Brass tack number 2? I am ashamed of old tack number 2. It is indeed old…as old as our reptilian brains that sits under the seat of our cerebral cortex. They were women. Women who were being a bit mildly cocky (yes, an intentional use of words) and I wanted to bring them down a peg or two. Had they been three young guys I probably would not have noticed because young guys act like that under the best of circumstances, nor would I have been the least bit tempted to chase them and put them in their place. So yep, it was sexist, and thus the source of my shame.

I pride myself in not being sexist. I believe in equal opportunity, equal pay, equal everything. I will admit that if I was unconscious in burning building I would prefer a burly man to carry me down the ladder, but if I needed brain surgery I think I would look for woman surgeon…better hand control, no macho I can hack harder than the other guy wiping out hunks of memories or functional skills. Yes I think women should be allowed to be fighter pilots if that is what they want, but I pray that they are not shot down over enemy territory. A little sexism busting through? Regrettably yes, but generally men POWs will not be brutally raped by their captors, and while the notion of body bags are horrific to me, the thought of our nation’s daughters returning in such is just totally unacceptable to me. OK, so all is not equal in my mind.

Don’t get me wrong. Testosterone has its place. It gives life a little spice, it makes your mind a bit sharper, you feel better, you feel a little sexy. All good things but as the second part of my story will reveal testosterone has it’s down side.

Back in the idling rental car with the air conditioning blasting at Eisenhower Park, I finished a second pee warm bottle of yellow Gator Aid and finally got collected enough to drive back to my motel. I had to shower and eat yet, and be back at work in 6 and half hours. So across from Augusta National Golf Course (of the Masters fame) I made a right on to Washington Road, a 6 lane monstrosity of traffic lights, businesses, strip malls, and restaurants. I got caught at the first traffic light, the first car in the slow lane.

Dodge Magnum--Even the same color.
The rental car company gave me a Dodge Magnum. An odd looking station wagon sharing the same platform as a Chrysler 300. The thing looked like a coffin from the back. Some of these Magnums had the famed Chrysler Hemi V-8 sporting up to 425 horse power—an incredible waste of power for a road vehicle (yes I am showing my age). Several times at gas stations, someone would ask me how I liked my Magnum and was it fast? I would then explain that it was a rental and the tiny V-6 in it was slower than my mini-van.

So here I am, an old guy, who just had my ass whipped by three women that didn’t even know that they whipped my ass, sitting first car at a red light in the slow lane, with a car that could be misinterpreted to be a muscle car when in fact it was a glorified sissy. A BMW pulls up next to me in the fast lane, young guy in his late 20’s. He starts revving up his engine. Waaaaaaaazzzzzzzziiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinnnnnnggggghhhhhhh!

He must of floored it, because seldom have I heard an engine wound so tight. He keeps looking over at me and senselessly revving an engine on a car that was probably worth more than my entire estate. I am watching him out of the corner of my eye. Thirty years ago I may have been enough of a horse’s ass to take him on, but not in this sickly Magnum—not even back then. The term asymmetrical conflict comes to mind. The light turns green and he smokes the tires and makes it to the next red light before I have even got up to 20 mph. I drift into the light and he starts his idiotic revving again, looking over at me, as though I am going to take him on in a drag race with this glorified slug. I ignore him, the light turns green and he smokes the tires again but seemingly more in frustration this time. I intentionally pokey along and allow a few cars to get ahead of me for the next light. I remember of thinking, what an idiot…wanting to drag race on a busy road like this. How dangerous!

How dangerous indeed, but let’s analyze relative danger. Here is a young guy with good reflexes carrying on in a supremely well designed automobile. Dangerous yes, but was it as dangerous as the stunt I had just pulled on the canal tow path. A 57 year old man, somewhat overweight, two weeks into an exercise program after years of inactivity walking at a maximum rate for two miles in the heat. Was that any less dangerous? Hell no, it was decidedly far more dangerous although limited to only a danger to myself. True I wasn’t going to wipe anyone else out with my antics, but would my untimely passing not effect my family? I was an ass, a far bigger ass than this young guy because I should know better.

So there it is the dark side of testosterone. The stuff that drives aggressive and hyper-competitive behaviors. The hormone of stupid stunts, hemi engines, bar fights, 160 mph BMWs, and heart attacks and strokes in older men. How many lives has it cost over the eons?

My little story is somewhat entertaining. I enjoy telling it because I do have something of a self deprecating nature. I also like telling it because it contains an elemental truth about men that I am not particularly proud of, but come far to better understand with this particular incident. Men will do stupid things around women. I wasn’t trying to show off or flirt with these women, I was only trying to defeat them—even if only in my own mind. There was nothing to be gained in this victory. Most of my dislike for the behavior of these women was based on about 30 seconds of silliness—a mock victory at reaching the two mile marker that had nothing to do with me, but which I took to be feminine arrogance. Then in the heat and fatigue during my stupid attempt to bring them down a peg or two, I imagined elaborate scenarios about them that had no basis of facts. I simply allowed myself to go out of control.

The failed attempt at passing the women was something of a mile post for me. It was the event that announced loud and clear that I had entered a new and different phase in my life--perhaps an asymmetrical phase. When you are very young, a child, there are many things that you can not do, but you have every reason to expect that at some point in your life, you will learn or grow into that ability. You are looking at the world with the optimism of hope for a better future. The damned asymmetry comes from the fact that in the twilight years, you lose abilities that you had and there is no reason to expect that you will ever get them back, only the pessimism of the firm understanding that things will get worse. I thought it would be a piece cake passing these women, when in fact it turned out to be an extremely asymmetrical conflict. I was in a losing struggle for my younger self, and they, completely unaware of my distress, were out for a pleasant walk.

Oh incidentally, all the brouhaha about the map not being orientated properly to north…that is testosterone as well.

EDIT 8/21/14:  Are you curious about how testosterone functions in the body?   Here is a cool  website the will explain the hormone, how it works, and some of the problems of low testosterone levels:

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Music of "Meet Joe Black"

Over the weekend my wife and I watched Meet Joe Black starring Anthony Hopkins, Brad Pitt, and Claire Florlani. The 1998 movie is somewhat of a remake of Death Takes a Holiday. As movies go it is touching. Death incarnated in a borrowed body (Brad Pitt) falls in love with Susan Parrish (Claire Florlani) while trying to learn a few things about success and ethics from Susan's father, Bill Parrish (Anthony Hopkins) who is his next intended victim. I enjoyed the movie. It has a few moral lessons and Anthony Hopkins is always fascinating. Claire Florlani is not hard to look at and gives a good performance, and I even warmed up Brad Pitt. But the thing I really enjoyed about the movie was the music. So I ordered the sound track off of it tonight (along with my nordic walking poles--thank you Old Baguette...I think these will get me off my can and get moving again).

I love the music even more with out the distraction of the movie. Thomas Newman's sweeping orchestral work is simply phenomenal. His use of the deeper strings (cellos and bass viol) puts me in mind of Sir Georg Solti and the Chicago Symphony. I have been listening to this CD endlessly this evening and I must confess to several bouts of tears.

I would like to share some of this music with you. Here is Whisper Of a Thrill on You Tube.

Whisper Of A Thrill

I hope you enjoy the ethereal quality of this piece as much as I do. The quiet clarinet rises into a rather large sweep of strings that suddenly turns into a powerful mystical tinkling and then returns to the soft clarinet, as the tears stream down my face...a romantic fool? Perhaps, or maybe a fool who through the poignant beauty of this music got an ever so tiny glimpse through the veil.

Searching You Tube for "Meet Joe Black" will yield a nice selection of music from the movie as well as some of Newman's other works. I especially liked one titled Cathedral.

Below is the trailer for Meet Joe Black

Watch The Trailer

Here is an article from Wikipedia, Meet Joe Black.

Amazon, CD and DVD

The soundtrack Amazon, CD of Meet Joe Black, The Original Soundtrack

Note, in some of the comments on Amazon there are complaints that not all of the music from the movies was included on the CD.

The movie is a better deal, but if I could only buy one I would get the soundtrack which I may listen to everyday for the rest of my life. Oh that is not a invitation Joe!

The movie Amazon, DVD of the Movie, Meet Joe Black

Image Credit:

Wikipedia, Movie Poster, Meet Joe Black