Back in the ’50s, it was quite common to see bent willow furniture sitting on people’s porches and patios. A childhood friend had two chairs on their porch and I always loved sitting in them. They were handmade by an older man who lived in a small shack along a nearby creek. The creek and surrounding wetlands gave him all the raw materials he needed.
He would build single chairs as well as couches and side tables. The fellow didn’t have a car or truck so he pushed a large two-wheeled cart loaded with his furniture up and down the village streets peddling his wares. On days he didn’t have furniture to sell he would push his cart around town hauling away people’s scrap metals and newspapers.
I believe the only piece of willow furniture we ever had was a small child’s rocking chair that one of our daughters used for her children.
Several years ago I was driving through the Florida Panhandle and came upon a large pickup truck with a cab-over rack. The vehicle was heavily loaded with beautiful bent willow furniture. I don’t know where they were from or where they were going but I sure wish I’d chased them down and brought a couple of chairs home.
It’s been a long time since I gave the subject any thought but today I came across a video of a young man in Kentucky who’s keeping the craft alive. If I wasn’t so damned old now I’d look the guy up and place an order. I’ll post the video below and hopefully, this will bring back some pleasant memories for you.
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Recently I pulled into the drive-thru at McDonald’s and in front of me was a car with two teenage boys. They weren’t paying attention and keeping up with the line. So, expecting a flock of angry birds I honked my horn. It woke them and from then on they mostly paid attention.
What I noticed, when their heads weren’t bobbing to something I wouldn’t recognize as music, was that both were either smoking cigarettes or vaping. I could fault them for that but at their age, I was on my way to becoming totally nicotine addicted and working my way towards two or more packs a day. The brief experience made me reflect back on my own experiences.
I guess that I began smoking around age twelve, if not younger. That would have been 1954 and I continued smoking until 1982 at age forty when I attended a smoking cessation class and six weeks later snuffed out my devil weed. So, I smoked 28 years and have been smoke-free for 36 years.
In 1954 a pack of cigarettes in New York was .23 cents and I was smoking one or two a day. By 1960, the year I graduated from high school the price was .26 cents and I was consuming a pack a day. In 1982 cigarettes were .82 cents a pack and I was smoking three packs a day and if I went bar hopping on Friday night it would be another two packs for a total of five.
I’m old enough to remember when Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos ruled the Philippines until the people finally rose up and ran them out. Of all they stole from the nation’s treasury the attention focused on Imelda’s love of shoes and the 2,700 pairs of high-end shoes found in her closet.
Imelda and her shoes
Jim & Tammy Faye before the fall
Jim and Tammy Bakker were another couple whose fall from grace made the news in the 1980s. Their ill-gotten wealth came from bilking the vulnerable through their evangelical television programs. When the hammer fell it wasn’t just a closet full of shoes the investigators found. It was millions in collectible cars, jewels, furs, homes, planes, luxury air-conditioned houses for their pets, and high-end mascara for Tammy’s eyes.
I recently posted a Facebook criticism of the Trump administration’s zero tolerance policy and how it was separating children from their parents as leverage to force congress into building his fecking wall.
As of this writing the number of incarcerated immigrant children is approaching 3,000 and whatever federal agencies have a hand in this none seem to prepared to handle the numbers, offer appropriate housing, medical care, psychological counseling, or have any system to prevent parents from losing track of their children
This zero toleration policy and the separation of so many innocent children is almost without parallel in American History. It is the creation of extreme political ideology and supported by xenophobia and the inherent racism of too many Americans. To justify the separating of parents and children the administration has even resorted to inaccurately citing cherry picked passages from the Bible.
I continue to be amazed that so many Trump voters remain supportive of him. If you as an American wanted someone in office that would undermine America’s basic and important institutions, someone who thinks the Constitution doesn’t apply to him, someone who wants to continue widening the gap between the rich and what little remains of the middle-class, someone who insist on rewarding our enemies while pissing off our age-old allies, someone whose ignorance of foreign affairs that America is no longer seen as a leader, someone who lies to you an average of nine times each day, someone who has emboldened racial, ethnic, and religious bigotry in America, someone who seems dead set on tearing down so many of the social and environment gains this nation has made, or somebody who reigns over a nation whose children will likely never earn more than their parents, then Trump is your guy.
I recently read a scathing article on Trump written by the noted economist, Jeffery Sachs. Sachs pretty much said what I just said but he did it much better than me and with a great deal more knowledge and experience. You need to read Sachs’ words and you’ll find them at this link.
By the spring of 1969 I had two more classes to take to fulfill my requirements. I needed to take public speaking and a literature elective. Public speaking was required of all students seeking a career in teaching. I was so fearful of it I put it off till the very end. Turned out I feared for not, I loved it.
The literature class I decided on was Science Fiction Literature. Both classes were summer classes and I quickly learned that Catholic nuns went to school in the summer and they were serious about getting all the As. The other lesson was that literature teachers who are serious fans of Sci-Fi also take summer classes.
Jerome Graille is a French cigar box guitarist and if you have any doubts about the range of music that can come from a simple box, a stick, and four wires, check out this video. You can also find more of Graille’s work at his website. You might consider supporting him by becoming a patron.
Originally published on December 7, 2011. Republished here in honor of the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
70 years ago today a young man from Greenfield, OH survived and suffered from a tragedy that would forever mark his life and end the lives of so many of his friends ans shipmates. James Louis Wise, Seaman First Class, of Greenfield, was serving aboard the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii when the air forces of the Japanese Empire began their early Sunday morning bomb runs on the just arising soldiers and sailors of America’s military establishment in the Pacific. It would mark the beginning of America’s entry into the Second World War and a personal war Wise would deal with the rest of his life.
No one of my generation doesn’t know the significance of December 7, 1941. I hope such is true of today’s generation. Have a discussion with your kids today.
Today I had lunch with two of my closest high school friends. All three of us are seventy-four years old, in pretty good health, and can mentally hold our own. The main differences between today and back then is we are all more gnarly and we move slower. Anyway, when we were saying goodbye one of us suggested we have lunch again, “before one of us dies!” For whatever reason the following story I wrote in 2004 came to mind so I decided to republish it. Enjoy!
A Few Thoughts On Heaven and Hell
Published June, 2004
As of this month, I am officially an old person. I recently turned age 62, filed for Social Security and within days should receive my first Social Security check. So, now that I’m old I’ve decided to spend a little time thinking about heaven and hell: since that’s what old people seem to do a lot.
We all know about the heaven and hell of the Bible but there are lots of others, especially hells, of a more worldly nature. For example, General William Tecumseh Sherman once uttered something about war being hell while General George Patton felt that war glorified the best in humanity.
A meme is a, “humorous image, video, piece of text, etc. that is copied (often with variations) and spread rapidly by Internet users,” that in today’s Internet world is almost impossible to avoid.
Memes are what substitutes for independent thought and the ability to openly express one’s thoughts. Memes are those never-ending pictures that show up on social media and frequently inaccurately express some political statement or make a false historical claim.
If you have twenty-five Facebook friends at least one of them does little other than post memes on their account page. They almost never write or express anything that came from their own thoughts and creativity.
Al Gore and Mark Zuckerberg gave us all the means to communicate with each other but failed to give us the communicative ability to do so. Recognizing that, Richard Dawkins gave us the meme. Dawkins was an evolutionary biologists and probably realized many of humankind had evolved as far as they were going to go and needed a lift. Thus the meme.
There’s been no shortage of opinions expressed lately about Greenfield’s cheerleaders and their Trail of Tears banner. The majority, in my eye, seems to be supportive of the girls but somewhat critical of how they didn’t know about the historical episode or weren’t aware that their actions would be seen as hurtful.
Well, it so happens that this mess up took place right in the middle of a major confrontation between various government agents and our Native American population over the use of tribal lands. It’s also true that of the two teams playing in this year’s version of the World Series, one is named the Cleveland Indians and their mascot is a huge, bright red, buck toothed and happy, Indian named Chief Wahoo.
A year ago I found myself unfriending a former teaching colleague over his political beliefs. There was zero anything moderate about his views and after several years of trying to get him to back it down some I finally decided I was wasting my time and told him to get back on the U-Boat he rode ashore on and return to his native land.
One thing that wrongly rubbed my ego was his insistence that my degree in history, political science, and almost thirty years of teaching experience didn’t trump his often unfounded opinion. I would have never challenged his input regarding a music question but was seldom given credit for my specialty.
That happens a lot to those in my profession. We teach everyone that they have an opinion but they often never hear the second part of the lesson, that your opinion is worthless if not based on provable evidence.
In the past several days I have had several friends and relatives who have finally exited the closet and revealed what the world already expected, that they were voting for Trump.
True to form neither would provide any reasons. In one case the person strongly suggested the decision had to do with “Crooked Hillary.” I asked the person to specifically list any instances where Hillary had been charged with a crime, given a trial, found guilty, and sentenced. This is almost always the case. Trump supporters speak in talking points and if those approved points don’t provide any real answer, they just remain silent. They have been persuaded to accept a premise and never worry about the need to justify their decision.
All political parties have their Kool-Aid drinkers, those die hards who willingly ignore all the evidence against their beliefs and take one for the team.
I remember in the Johnson-Goldwater election in 1964 meeting an old Greenfield butcher who spent his day telling everyone he met that Barry Goldwater was mentally deranged and had spent time institutionalized. The claim originated with a totally unscientific poll a magazine had taken of psychologist and became accepted wisdom. After the election Goldwater sued and won.
So the question arises, how do you know if you’re one of the Kool-Aid drinkers, that you would drink the cyanide laced beverage for the sake of your tribe? The answer was just made very easy. If when you look at the photo of Michelle Obama embracing George W. Bush and don’t see a high degree of tolerance and civility, you would reach for the paper cup.