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The Falling Leaf

In the gentle breeze a single oak leaf drifted down from the sky as my dog watched. Her intention of course was to eat the leaf before it hit the ground. And so she did. What an idyllic scene. Norman Rockwell would have loved the whole atmosphere.

One leaf. From an oak tree. How serene!

Taking the time to watch over the next couple of weeks, I will be treated to this sight millions of times. Does anyone know how many leaves the average oak tree has? Not me. And I’m not about to think about it. Some of those leaves fall in the forest. And some fall into my grassy yard. The latter have to be moved. That is, blown, raked or mulched. That’s my job.

I certainly won’t be lacking things to do over the next few weeks. One leaf is lovely. As is one oak tree. So I am abundantly fortunate to live on three acres with dozens of trees. Each one contributing a full compliment of spring, summer and fall leaves to the pile I anticipate.

Not all of my trees are oaks. There are also sweet gums, which also drop their spiny gumballs to the ground. There are maples, sassafras, crepe myrtle, dogwood, and a few evergreens.

Leaves that fall into the woods I can simply enjoy the sight of, allowing them to finish out their life cycle as nature intended. Unless they blow into the yard. There they would join the legions of leaves waiting for me to move them. The grass could use one more haircut with the lawnmower, which will mulch the leaves and grass and return it all to the soil. My leaf blower can huff and puff and push them down the hill into the ravine where the creek flows. And the mulcher can suck them up and grind them into mincemeat. If I’m really feeling vigorous, I will break out the old rake.

Most of the leaves will fall soon. And some will wait until the spring when new growth will force them off of the trees. The outdoors around me is filled with wonders. And I embrace them all.

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?


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The Desk That Didn’t Sell

Well, it wasn’t a desk at all. That was the whole issue. It’s a beautiful piece of solid walnut furniture. A fabulous looking mid century modern desk. Flat top, tapered legs, several drawers and really cool hardware. But it’s actually a sewing machine cabinet. Without the sewing machine.

I have it in my antique store. Can’t remember where I found it, or how much I paid for it, but when I saw it I knew I loved it and could sell it in the store.

It’s been sitting there, waiting patiently for a new home, for nearly a year now. So you can imagine how excited I was when the sales clerk called me to tell me that someone was interested, but wanted a better price. What could I do for them?

Under the circumstances I might normally slash the price. Half off! Give the damn thing away! But I knew it was still a very nice piece and was worth more than I was asking for it. Nonetheless, customers in antique stores always like to feel like they are negotiating themselves a great deal, and I’m happy to help with that perception. I told the clerk to give them 25 per cent off. Nice piece. Good for them.

As I reviewed the daily sales I noticed that the “desk” was not listed as sold. Hmmm I thought. Had they wanted me to give them the desk for free? What kind of people were these? The next morning I rode up to the store.

There sat the desk. Unsold.   But every item that had been displayed on it was removed, and scattered randomly throughout the store. What in the world?!!!

Approaching the sales counter, the clerk smiled at me and laughed. She said they had agreed to take the desk at the offered price, but changed their mind when they realized that it was a sewing machine cabinet. The clerk thought it was still a nice piece of furniture that could be used as a desk and didn’t understand the big deal. Obviously the customer didn’t see it that way. And didn’t read the clearly marked tag.

What fascinates me however is not the customer’s change of heart, or their desire to get exactly what they wanted. No, it’s the idea that they removed every item from on top of the piece, set each and every one down somewhere else, and then walked out and left it that way. They must of thought the sales staff had noting better to do than clean up their mess. I know, it’s retail and that’s how customers are.

On other occasions I’ve noticed that people will pick things up and put them down somewhere completely different. Could they have forgotten while they stood there admiring the object, where they had found it?

And why do they bring me their trash? I find stuff all over the store. And yes, we do have a trashcan at the desk. Candy wrappers , soda cans, coffee cups. All left among the antiques. Like I’m not going to notice. More stuff for my staff to clean up. I know, it’s retail and that’s how customers are.

This morning as I scoured the scene, I noticed a grape on the floor. We don’t sell food in the antique store. And we don’t have a lunch counter. The grape came from outside. And one of my treasured retail customers left it for me on the floor.

I spent an hour or so replacing all of the objects which had been on the desk, cleaning up the grape, and tidying up in general. And I can’t wait to see what I find next time.

That’s part of my story, what’s yours?

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Is infinity a quantum physics concept? Something that rocket scientists sit around discussing as they peer into their telescopes and the heavens? Or is it just an idea that is really hard for most of us to wrap our heads around? It’s a big place.

I once has a conversatioin with a customer service representative regarding some issue I was hgavinf, and a s well trained CSR, the person on the other end of the hone line tried to end our conversation by asking if I had any other question.   Of course I have lots of questions, and I asked two: where is the end of the universe? And what is on the other side? After an awkward silence, I heard a very faintly whispered “thank you sir.” Click.

For me, infinity isn’t just a concept. It’s a tangible place.

No, I don’t travel at the speed of light. Nor do I have access to a wormhole to take me to the edge of the universe. I have what some would call a man cave.

This isn’t like any man cave you have ever seen before though. On the door is a sign, written in Chinese, that says “Captain Matt’s Magical World of Infinite Fantasy.” For short, I call it Infinity. I love Buzz Lightyear you see. And his motto is “to Infinity…and beyond!!!” When I go to my man cave, I say I’m going to infinity.

There is no television. No recliner. No sports memorabilia. It’s filled with the stuff that defines me. Stuff I’ve collected over the years and like to have around me. And the entrance is guarded by two very small, but fierce, Chinese dragons.

I have a mid century swivel rocker. And a rattan chair like Morticia Addams had. And a really cool mid century barber’s chair – so sleek. And it swivels and goes up and down! These chairs surround a large white marble tulip table my mother bought in 1968. And of course there is a bar made of an old mid century record player cabinet.

That’s the seating area. There is also a work area. My office. Here resides a mid century desk, and its chair. There is an old school stereo system with turntable. And old records to play on it.

Here and there you will find book shelves and display shelves filled with the books I enjoy. And the things that remind me of something from my past. Modern sculpture. Asian art. Colored glass items. Movie memorabilia. Ship models. Jars of marbles, because it’s obvious that I’ve lost mine. There are native American artifacts. Nautical treasures. And some fabulous mid century lights – including a red spaghetti lamp. Even a few things that glow in the dark! And of course, Buzz Lightyear.

There is also a workshop area. It’s filled with projects that need to be worked on. And several storage areas. You might guess that these are filled with items awaiting a better place for display or use. And you would be right.

I don’t allow people into infinity. I’m afraid it would blow their mind. But if you ever did get a chance to go inside, you would have a much better understanding of me. And that I really haven’t lost my marbles.

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?

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The Rental Car

Having a rental car is much like driving a new car. It is, in fact, almost brand new with only 30,000 miles on it. And it has some nice modern features. It’s fast, but don’t tell the rental company I had it over the speed limit. And it handles like a sports car. I want to believe I’m driving a Porsche.

But it’s not like having my truck. Which is in the repair shop. My tuck is full sized. And it has a very strong six cylinder engine. That just so happens to get reasonable gas mileage. And I can fill it up with a lot of stuff. My stuff. Handy stuff. The truck also sits up a tad higher, and so do I when I’m in it. So I can see the world around me. Most of the time.

I would never buy a used vehicle that has a history as a member of a fleet, or as a rental car. People like me, and some much worse, have a tendency to not treat them very well. They drive them fast. And don’t pay attention when they open doors, thus banging them into things. And if the coffee spills on the seat or floor, oh well, someone else will clean it up.   I’m not saying that renters drive the car through mud bogs every day, but the rental is not the same as your own.

That said, I have to admit that I have been very careful with this car. My truck is in the shop because I had a minor collision in it. So, I am being especially aware of the distance between me and the car in front. And of brake lights and stopping distances. I do not want to damage this car, and I am a tad timid about driving at all.

When I get my truck back, I believe that I will continue to be cognizant of my surroundings. And brake lights. And stopping distances.

Having the rental is fun, but mostly very convenient. But I’m looking forward to having my truck back. And filling it up with my stuff.

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?

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Light Switches

In the beginning, there was darkness. And in the night sky flashed a light that came to earth as fire. Early humans captured the fire, conquered it, and put it to work for them. This was the dawn of civilization.

With curious experimentation and investigation, trial and error, and dumb luck, humans found that they could make many things burn. And they created torches, candles, oil lamps, kerosene lamps and gas lights to light the night.

With another flash in the sky came the discovery of electricity. and a revolution began. Eventually the incandescent light bulb was created. The electrification of the world began. There were wires hanging everywhere and often a single bare bulb dangled at the end to light a room. With time, the wires were put into the walls and ceilings of buildings, or covered with conduit. Multiple bulbs served a single room. New types, sizes and shapes of bulbs were developed and the light moved outdoors.

Humans had turned night to day.

For every light, there has to be a switch. That thing that you flip to send the electricity from its source to the bulb. The thing that makes the connection to turn the light on. My father is an electrical engineer and he can tell you all about how the technical details work, but from me all you get is flip the switch and it works.

When I look at the walls in my home I see single switches, dual switches, triple switches and even quad switches. In other places I have seen rows and rows of switches all working something. With all these switches, I sometimes have a hard time figuring our what each one operates.

I’ve only lived in my current home for ten months so I’m still sort of experimenting with what the switches work. There are switches indoors that turn on lights outdoors. There are switches upstairs that turn on lights downstairs, and vice versa. And some lights have a switch here, and another there.   Some of the switches turn on lights I can’t see from the switch so they appear to do nothing.

So the other day, out of curiosity, I turned on all the switches. I noted the indoor lights, and then walked around the outside of the house to see what was on. I went back inside and flipped a few switches on and off and walked around the outside again and I think I have it pretty well figured out now. Except that some lights never came on regardless of switch flipping. Those must be burned out.

During the nineteen years I lived in my last house, I never did figure out all the switches. There was a triple switch at the bottom of the staircase . The switch in the middle didn’t seem to do anything. It was either there for feng shui purposes, or it was intended for later use if there was some upgrade in the house. I just don’t know.

Short of labeling every switch in the house, I’m going to have to rely on my trusty memory to figure out what each switch does. If nothing else, I can just flip them on and off until I get the light I want. Or invent something new.

That’s part of my story, what’s yours?

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The red lights were coming fast and furious. In the Navy we called it “CBDR.” Constant bearing, decreasing range. Meaning, it’s coming right at you! And that is exactly what was happening. Except that technically, I was headed straight for it!

And then came the bang. Those red lights it turns out were the brake lights of a mini van on the road in front of me. Where it came from I don’t know. There was a tractor trailer in front of me, but it turned. Then there were the red lights. It was nearing me too fast and the distance was too short for me to stop in time. I slammed on the brakes. They locked up, the truck slid and well, the bang. The front end of my truck into the rear end of the mini van. Oh, and then the poof! Airbag, almost as an afterthought. Damn!

My first thoughts were, oooh, this is gonna hurt! And, uh, oh, my surgically enhanced spine is gonna snap in two and I’ll be dead. But neither of those things happened. The seat belt caught me. Then the damn airbag.

Before you criticize me for defaming my airbag, let me assure you that I fully appreciate the importance of airbags. In this case, however, I feel as if its deployment was unnecessary. And, you dear reader, will see in just a few moments what real consternation the airbag caused me.

Realizing what had happened, and that I was alive and the truck would move, I pulled onto the side of the road and up alongside the minivan I had hit. With my window rolled down I hollered out to the other driver to find out if she was ok. She asked the same of me and she too moved off the road.

We were both a little shaken. We exchanged information regarding insurance coverage and such details, and I called the police. The driver of the other vehicle was amazingly calm, and very concerned about me. You’d think that she had hit me, not the other way around.

The police came and the officer marveled at how with so little apparent damage to my truck, the airbag had deployed. Then he gathered up our driver’s licenses and insurance documents and asked us for the details. Pretty simple, red lights, bang. My fault. After satisfying himself that neither of us was a wanted criminal, he asked if everyone was ok.

Both of us had some aches and pains so he called an ambulance to check us out. My aches and pains were the ones I usually have so I wasn’t worried about that. I was concerned about the other lady.

While a female EMT checked out the lady driving the minivan, the other EMT told the police officer and I all sorts of stories about wrecks with airbags. He and the officer agreed on one thing- a popped airbag usually means a totaled car. This talk of totaling my truck was bothering me. Greatly. Other than the airbag hanging out of my steering wheel no one would ever know I’d been in an accident. No real visible damage. Other than the junk you might expect to find on an eleven year old truck.

So, the lady checked out ok and was released. The ambulance left and the officer said I was free to go. He blocked the traffic for me to pull out onto the busy road, and then followed me for a couple of miles until he reached the boundary of his jurisdiction. Not a great way to spend some time on a Thursday afternoon.

Calling my insurance company I was once again regaled with tales of burst airbags. And totaled vehicles. I want to keep my truck I kept saying. Oh no the adjuster kept saying. Airbags are expensive, we will just total the truck and give you pennies on the dollar for it. I understand about depreciation, but a functional truck has value far exceeding any blue books notions!   I postponed calling the repair shop.

After a few days of worry and thinking, I told myself that I had been planning to trade the truck in for a newer vehicle anyway. Just not right now. And why should I keep a junky truck if the insurance company was going to partially fund a new one? DUH! Because I have to fund the rest of it!

Five days later, I decided I would see what happened and would either get the truck repaired, or junk it and get a newer one. I cleaned everything out of it. I ran it through a car wash. If it’s gong to be junked, it might as well look good going out. And maybe the adjuster would appraise it a little higher.

The guy at the repair shop oohed and aaahed over the truck. Except for the airbag. He too marveled at how it could have deployed in such a minor accident. Then he told me it would only cost $2700.00 to fix it. OMG! I thought. I’d looked it up on the computer and I got the impression the truck was only worth about $4000.00 in good condition. It’s gonna be totaled.

With enough questions and hemming and hawing, I was able to get the repair shop to tell me that the truck, by insurance company standards, was worth a lot more than I thought. And that the cost of the repair was no where near the threshold that they use for deciding to repair or total. So I was going to have my truck fixed. After all. Damn! I had gotten used to the idea that I might get a new vehicle! And was actually looking forward to that new car smell…

The only smell I was going to get was rental car smell. Always smells like Pine Sol to me. After several sleepless nights worrying about how I was going to have to fight the repair shop and het insurance company to keep the truck they wanted to total, I was relieved to find out it would be repaired. And disappointed not to be getting a new one. So I left the truck, got in the rental car and now I’m waiting to see what

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From A Distance

From a distance the world looks blue and green, there is harmony, we all have enough and you look like my friend. From a distance. When you take in the big picture it’s easy to see this. A soft blur. The devil is in the details though. And looking closer often reveals something totally different, even though in many cases it shouldn’t.

The words come from a song aptly titled “From A Distance” which was written by Julie Gold and first recorded by Nancy Griffith. It has also been covered by Kathy Mattea, Donna Summer, The Byrds, Richard Clayderman, Fairport Convention, Riva Taylor, John Barrowman, and in a Norwegian language version by Ingebjorg Harman Bratland. Of course the most famous version is probably the one done by the Divine Miss M herself- Bette Midler. All of this attention speaks to the song’s broad based appeal. That is, the appeal of it’s ideals.

I was reminded of this song on a recent trip to Cuba and the simultaneous, but unrelated, reaction of Donald Trump to relations between the United States and Cuba. From the distance of Mar A Lago, Cuba looks like it is thriving. Bigly. Thriving so much that it needs to be stopped dead in its tracks as Mr. Trump suggested in his statement that the improvement of relations between Cuba and the United States begun under the Obama Administration would have the brakes slammed on it. I got in and out just in time.

My political views are not often a topic of my posts. In fact, this may be the first time I’ve revealed them, but reading between the lines of other posts may have given my kind readers a hint. There is a great deal of meanness in the world, and the anti-Cuba stance is fueled by a lot of mean people who harbor a nearly sixty year old grudge and politicians courting their vote.  Mean people suck.

I’ve been to Cuba.  And seen it up close. In detail. Donald Trump hasn’t.  From a distance it looks like a tropical paradise with beautiful colonial architecture, a grand European flair, and of course those fabulous 1950s American classic automobiles. From a distance…

Up close you will find that after fifty years of neglect, those beautiful colonial buildings are crumbling with decay. Beautiful facades, hollow inside. And the cars, up close they sometimes look like they may not make it around the corner. They sound even worse. Cubans are not legally allowed to own an American car newer than a 1959 model. Getting parts for these vehicles is pretty hard, and you will find all variety of foreign parts under the hood.

Color abounds. Bright yellows and blues, soft greens and pinks. It’s paint. On buildings and cars. And in many cases it looks like the paint is what holds the thing together.

The people can’t be painted, but they seem to be hanging together ok. Everyone I met was very nice, and curious about America. They did not speak of Castro, or Trump, but images of the Revolution and it’s heroes are everywhere.

There is great poverty, with old women begging on the streets, in the back alleys away from the tourist centers. People sitting in doorways doing nothing but watching, waiting for something.   Rotting garbage, and it’s stench, in open containers in the streets. It’s definitely a third world country, but there is great promise there.

There are people working in shops, on public works projects, in restaurants, bars, offices, farming, shipping, banks, museums, as police and every other line of work. Internet service sucks, but there are computer repair shops. The people are resilient and looking forward to improved relations.

The majority of Cubans today were not alive at the time of the Revolution. They were born into the Cuban predicament.  The didn’t create it. But they are the ones being punished. A trade embargo with Cuba hurts the people, not the government . And hurting the people is not helping anyone.  I don’t know if the President is worried that a middle aged, well educated, well off, white male like myself would rush to emigrate to Cuba, or that a person such as myself would go there and see the needs that exist and demand action.  I know he loves “stupid people” because he said so.  But the rest of us he can’t control so easily.

From a distance Cuba may look like a threat to America, but in the details, they need some help. Not American developers or capitalists to take over and make money, but humanitarian aid. The Cuban people can decide for themselves what they want the future of their country to be. This isn’t 1898, although some of the technology there suggests otherwise. Instate free trade, let the markets decide. Power to the people.  My opinion… And I’d like to see this post go viral, and for people around the world, people with a soul, to stand up and make the Earth great again…

And that’s part of my story. What’s yours?

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