I seem to have lost my enthusiasm for this and can't get it back. I can't fathom that my opinions about life in general are so important that it's worth blogging about them. My life's story might be more interesting, but if you don't understand the culture of this great Bible Belt where I live and was raised, much of that will not make sense or will be greatly misunderstood by those who have mostly a satirical understanding. There is a cathartic effect from writing down my memories and my deeper fears and fantasies and thoughts about the way I wish things were or could be. But that is mostly true for me rather than for you the reader. Groping The Elephant has been a run ride but I think it's at an end.
Thursday, June 13, 2013
School's out, school's out
teachers let the monkeys out,
one went east, one went west,
one went up the teacher's dress
When I was a child in elementary school (but never later in junior high or high school), we would begin the recitation of that little ditty in the last week or so of school. And we usually chanted it as we rushed out the school doors on the last day.
I was assured that in a previous generation those last two lines were
no more classes, no more books,
no more teacher’s dirty looks
no more teacher’s dirty looks
I don't know what the kids do now, if anything, in eager anticipation as the school year dwindles. But whatever, school is now out and the neighborhood is a bit more noisy during the days and the night noise seems to last longer these days. And that's okay with me - so long as it doesn't get too ridiculous.
Now I think back to my youthful days. I even remember that wave of sentimentality that always washed over me as I looked back over the school year that was ending. There were usually many memorable incidents (usually at least a couple or more that I figured into).
In grade school I usually got more than a little attached to my teacher. All my primary school teachers were women and served as something of assistant mothers to us. Those were good years. Our teachers taught values, set good examples, and took a sincere interest in their 30 or 32 charges.
Summer was wonderful when I was a kid. I remember days of staying up late, until the television went off the air (which back in that day, where I lived, was usually by 1:30 or 2:00 a.m.). Then I would sleep in until I woke up on my own, which was usually around 9:00 a.m. After arising and eating, I would head outside to spend the day playing with my friends. This pattern was consistent until into August, when I would start watching the calendar and counting the weeks before school started again - which in my day was right after Labor Day. The school year begins earlier now, but kids these days (at least around here) get more "breaks" throughout the year.
None of my teachers or those in the schools I attended ever had sex with their students. We had fights every year (I had a few in my day), but they were mostly ridiculous affairs and fought the old-fashioned way with fists and feet. The thing is, most of us boys carried pen knives with us but I don't recall one ever being used as a weapon in a dispute. No one smuggled guns into the school. The "drug problem" in my school days was confined to junior high and high school and amounted to a small handful of the troubled students, who hung out at lunch around the bleachers and smoked pot. Discipline was real and effective. There were suspensions - but they were rare. Teachers were respected (at least to their faces), and none of us wanted to have to take home the dreaded note to our parents.
There was one incident I recall when a mentally disturbed student struck one of the male teachers in the chest (this occurred when I was in junior high school). He was expelled for that incident, and afterwards set out on a life of crime and eventually wound up in prison. I don't know what happened after that. I'm just saying that in my day teachers were largely respected and somewhat feared.
There was the traditional bullying, to be sure. But kids weren't taking their own lives on a wide scale in my day. The only suicide I recall was a friend of mine from high school. And in fact that occurred when she became pregnant and was forced to drop out of school, facing much mental abuse from her very religious parents. She escaped by placing a pistol to her skull and squeezing the trigger - a tragedy that is never far from my mind as I was quite fond of that girl.
Of course things weren't perfect, even I sound as if I'm suggesting that. I'm old enough to remember having a Bible teacher come once a week to give us these bland non-controversial Bible lessons (using colored chalk to illustrate them on our chalk boards!). There just weren't that many children of other religions in my schools. I don't agree with that type of thing now, but as child it was all I knew. Also, the Gideons came once a year and passed out their New Testaments. There was never any hubbub over that, but it wasn't a part of my junior high and high school experiences.
I'm old enough to remember the last days of the effort to desegregate our school system (I was in junior high school when the busing experiment was being carried out). In Chattanooga, Tennessee, where I grew up, we didn't come into full compliance with the order to desegregate our schools until 1968!
Not having children of my own and not being involved with others who have young children, what I know about school now is what I read about in the papers and see on the news. That certainly makes me thankful that I'm not a kid in school!
I hope the kids use their summer break from school wisely.
Tuesday, June 11, 2013
How I hated those dreaded birds and the bees talks my mom would have with me when I was young. They never failed to make my cheeks blush and it was just something I didn't enjoy discussing with my mom. Besides, unbeknownst to her, when I got old enough to truly be seriously curious about such things I availed myself of our family library, which was well stocked with medical books (my mom's mother had been a nurse as a young woman). Then by the time I entered my teenage years my friends and I had already gotten our hands on some girlie magazines, which furthered my anatomy lessons (if you know what I mean).
But I was lucky compared to my mom. Mom's mother - despite the fact that she had been a nurse - was quite the puritan when it came to such things as sex. In fact, she even had trouble discussing sex with my mom even after Mom had married my father. So Mom's sex education lacked much to be desired.
Well do I remember her telling me that when she was a girl her mother had warned her that there was a spot on her body that a man could touch and cause her to do anything he wanted. Wow! That was more of a warning than a true effort to enlighten her, surely. My mother told me that she imagined that somewhere there must have been something akin to a switch on her body, although she never could find it. But for a fact my mom told me that she wasn't allowed to sleep in the same bed with her brothers and wasn't allowed to sit on her father's lap after she turned three years old.
Finally it was her brothers who became concerned that maybe she would become sexually active and maybe get pregnant for lack of a true understanding of human sexuality. So they got books from the library and tried to help Mom understand things better (this was shortly after she entered puberty). Even at that she was only sixteen when she married my dad (who was seven years her senior and had been in the war and so was quite experienced).
I'll tell you, Dad never found that spot that could control a woman. Nor have I (LOL!). My dad was married three times (twice to my mom) and divorced three times. He died alone as far as female companionship was concerned, in a nursing home. He and my mom did have some sweet visits, but by that time their health (especially his) was in decline and there was no place for a relationship to go.
It seems to me that kids know quite a bit more about sex than I did at the same age, despite my extensive self-education. I see the young girls in my neighborhood taking cell phone pictures of their breasts as they walk home from school, I'm sure to send to their male friends. I see them outside practicing the raunchiest dance moves. Sex is everywhere these days.
When I was a youngster you really had to work to be exposed. I can still recall with some embarrassment being at the pharmacy where I regularly bought my comic books, just browsing at the magazines. After looking around - I thought fairly carefully - I slowly sneaked some peeks at the girlie books - only to have the pharmacist (who was the owner) come out of nowhere and lean over my shoulder and tell me that I needed to get out of the men's section. Boy, was I red-faced! And the closest thing to sex on television was when they were showing old Tarzan movies and every once in a while I would get a glance at Jane's butt cheeks. (Although I have to say that Dawn Wells as Mary Ann on Gilligan's Island in her short shorts is also fondly remembered as a cheap thrill!) But things are so different now, and I'm not convinced all the openness and sex-in-your-face 24/7 has improved things.
I'm not a prude or anything, but I think an over emphasis on sex cheapens relationships in many ways. And if there were something close to a sexual remote control it's probably that "switch" on a guy's body that with the appropriate touch will render him almost incapable of saying no. Heck, you can hardly force me to do anything, but you can love me into almost anything (almost, I said!).
But I'm old enough (and have slowed enough) to realize that as fun as sex is, you have to do something after you clean up and get dressed. And for that I really like someone who is good company, is intelligent, fun, and knows at least some of the same history as I do.
Now that I think about it, I've probably ruined a good share of friendships with females by going for the sex. And it ruined it for them too, because I almost invariably got to feeling that I was being controlled. Take this as you will, but I have never been in a relationship that didn't start out well sexually, only for that aspect of the relationship to dwindle later. Too often I would find myself attempting to "be good" in order to be "rewarded." That is something I resented. So I'm back to being a good friend. I don't now and never have frequented prostitutes, but I think I'm at a point in my life that I understand that business a little better. It probably ought to be legalized everywhere and regulated and brought out of the shadows, if we are so big on being open about sexuality. I guess that can serve a real purpose.
My mother's father had been a preacher in his younger days (he later fell quite away from all that). But my mom tells me that he was one of those who interpreted the Adam and Eve story allegorically, referring to human sexuality as being the forbidden fruit. Eve flipped Adam's switch and he ate the forbidden fruit against his better judgment. Been there, done that!
From the safe distance from which I view things now, I think it is all a sick and silly game. Then there are those long lonely nights....
Friday, June 7, 2013
Just a while ago I passed the little shopping center where the supermarket (roar!) that I buy groceries is located. It was also the spot of the hair salon where I have been getting my hair cut for the past year or two. Last week I had to follow my hair dresser (yet again) to a new location. But today I noticed that the owner of the old place had made good on his promise to close.
The shop sat empty and I couldn't help but remember the many times I was in there for haircuts and small talk. It was a combined hair salon and tanning facility. The owner had an old shaggy little dog that was quite friendly. Next to the last time I was there the owner was entertaining some of kids of his patrons by leading his old mutt through some tricks. Very entertaining, I must say.
And now all that is gone.
Just up the road and on my way home there is an abandoned restaurant - one of those fading family run establishments - that closed three years ago after 54 years of serving this area. The sign thanking their loyal customers is out front still and the building has not been sold or leased and turned into anything else. The owner died last year.
For many of those loyal customers it must have been like a death in the family. I had eaten there once that I can remember. I wasn't one of the regulars. It was a bit steep in price for me. But once it closed, I swear, I got a hankering for their meat loaf again! I wasn't a regular but I was it was there if I ever decided to stop in again.
On my drive to work there is a long stretch of country road that is fast growing up and becoming part of the city. I enjoyed that particular drive because slightly off from the road there were the ruins of a few old houses that had sat crumbling for a long time (at least for as long as I've been here, nearly twenty years). They are gone now. Leveled by developers putting in fancy overpriced condominiums. I miss the ruins. Guess I'm not that much for progress.
I used to drive by and wonder about the families that once lived in those abandoned houses. If the walls could speak they could no doubt tell of family holidays filled with laughter and good food. Perhaps those bedroom walls could spill tells of loving intimacy. I hope that was the case. I tend to think along those lines rather than of fights and dysfunctions.
But if walls could speak those walls couldn't because they no longer exist. And for my money, the ruins held more charm than those fancy, smancy gated communities that are going up.
One of the things about getting older is that those cherished places of your youth disappear one by one, until one day you look around and find yourself in another world altogether.
The two houses I grew up are still standing in their respective neighborhoods. But they've been remodeled so many times they only vaguely resemble the places I remember. And the neighborhoods have also degraded over the decades.
But I haven't been able to resist the urge to take a drive by and look and reminisce. I thought about taking some pictures, but that could get you shot at in those neighborhoods! (I may still do it one day ... early one sunny day!)
Now in fairness, the community I live in now is fairly new. When I first moved in I was surrounded by woods. Now I am surrounded by other folks like myself. The woods have been pushed farther and farther back. I wasn't around here much when it was more or less all woods. I'm sure some folks saw this place being cleared off and though much the same as I do about the places above.
But all this is as inevitable as gray hairs and increasing wrinkles. It's all a part of living and staying around a while. But it doesn't change that certain hollow feeling I get inside when I notice my past slowly fading away. For that matter, every gray hair and wrinkle I get is a reminder that I need to drink even more deeply from the well of life and savor ever greater each fleeting bite of my slice of life.
Not sad, just introspective.