When we finished our tour of the Ring of Kerry, our group decided to jaunt our way through the national park at Killarney. Not jogging. Jogging would have killed me. No, we rode a jaunting carriage pulled by a very hairy horse.
My friend the school teacher who arranged for my son Josh and I to be part of the tour said she hoped this went better than the gondola ride around Venice on one of her student tours a few years ago. The gondolier didn’t sing, didn’t talk about the sights they were passing and didn’t flirt with the women on the boat. What kind of an Italian was he? Our Irish carriage driver invited my friend to sit up front with him and included her in all his comments about the foliage, mountains, lakes and history of old Killarney. I think she came away liking Irish jaunting drivers better than Italian gondoliers.
The jaunting carriage tour began in downtown Killarney, turned a corner and entered the national park. In my first photo, you can see a touring carriage with Killarney cathedral in the background. I know the jaunting driver looks like me, but I couldn’t be taking pictures of one carriage if I were in another one. What this picture does prove is that I have a lot of Irish relatives in my past. By the way, the cathedral was very impressive. We could see it many miles away before our tour bus even got to the city limits. Many residents of Killarney don’t share the tourists’ appreciation, though. The Roman Catholic Church built the cathedral in the early part of the nineteenth century when Ireland was going through the Potato Famine. The church thought the big cathedral would give the residents inspiration. As I was told by more than one local, they would have preferred a good meal instead.
Our gregarious driver told us they had just had a late snow a few days before we arrived. In the distance we could see the mountaintops still covered in snow. He pointed out the little flower bulb sprouts were peeking through the ground and in a few weeks the entire park would be resplendent in color. Several trees had gone down during the storm and they were laying around wondering if they would be eventually cut and carried out or be left to rot and become wonderful mulch. It was still cold when our carriage horse tried its best to avoid the washed-out portions of the road. The sun shone and the wind had disappeared with the snow, so the weather was really quite pleasant, as long as you were dressed in at least three layers of clothes, wore a woolen cap and gloves. Ducks waddling alongside the road didn’t seem mind the crisp air. Neither did the Killarney natives who jogged past us. The second picture shows my elbow which was properly attired in a heavy coat.
At several points we saw crumbled stone ruins hiding among the trees and when we turned a bend in the road we saw an old castle glistening in the sun’s rays as it sat on an island of a long, wide lake.
“I’m sure you’re all wondering what happened to all these homes and castles,” our driver asked in his delightful accent. “Have you ever heard of a man by the name of Oliver Cromwell? He was the Englishman who was responsible for the beheading of Charles the First. He decided the English should come live in Ireland. The only problem with that was the land was already occupied by the Irish. His solution was to kill every Irishman in the country. His army rampaged throughout the island, killing the residents and burning and tearing down their homes. The Irish lords who lived in the castle on the island held out as long as they could but they eventually succumbed. Fortunately the English hated Cromwell as much as the Irish so he was beheaded, and Charles the Second was asked to take the throne.”
I knew the tour was coming to an end because in the distance I saw modern condominium communities on the outskirts of Killarney. You can’t get away from the modern world no matter where you go. That is not an entirely bad thing, however. When we returned to the tour station, we embarked, handed our entertaining guide a tip and found only a few steps away a toilet facility. We climbed onto our bus and on our way to our quaint Irish hotel we passed several outlet malls featuring the latest of everything at the lowest prices. The hotel itself was lovely but challenging. It was several years old, and the owners had added rooms and extra floors wherever it was convenient. My son Josh and I felt we needed a map to get to our beds.
But at least we didn’t have to sleep in a desolate castle destroyed by Oliver Cromwell.
There’s more to the Ring of Kerry than animals, although the animals were very cute.
Our tour guide began talking about a fellow which I understood to be Donald O’Conner who was the father of Ireland. We were going to stop at his birthday place so we could take pictures. Now I thought Donald O’Conner was a great song and dance man. His number in Singin’ in the Rain, Make ‘Em Laugh, was hilarious and when he went through that fake wall, I laughed. But the father of Ireland? Isn’t that taking great entertainment a step too far? It seemed I needed to clean out my ears. The tour guide said Donald O’Connell not O’Conner. O’Connell was born in the seventeenth century and was the first Irishman elected to the British Parliament. That was a big deal since Irishmen couldn’t even vote at the time. So when we stopped I had my son Josh take my photo with Donald’s statue which overlooked the ruins of the house where he was born. He may not have been able to make people laugh but he was able to begin the legal battle for his countrymen’s political rights.
I want to talk about the little town of Sneem again. You know, the one with the mountain goat and the statue of the world champion wrestler. It has a waterfall too. The teen-agers from our group were going down these steep steps to cross the jagged rocks to the edge of the falls. They were laughing and having fun. And I thought to myself, “Why can’t I have the same kind of fun as these teen-agers?” Then I remembered, “Oh. Yeah. I’m 70 years old and have a bum knee.” The other side of my brain reminded me that I wasn’t going to be in Sneem, Ireland, again anytime soon so if I wanted to climb over the rocks to the waterfall I better do it now. When my son saw he wasn’t going to be able to talk me out of this foolishness he decided he’d better come with me to pick up the body when I slipped and fell. Once I got down to the rocks I realized there was more than climbing involved in standing at the falls. There was also jumping from rock to rock. In addition, even though it felt rather warm out that day, the water puddled up between the rocks was frozen. My son took my picture, then told me I needed to get back to the bus before I broke my neck.
I did get a few pictures of Josh, one of them at the Ladies’ View. This place got its name because when Queen Victoria and her entourage came on a sightseeing tour of Ireland this long valley of lakes and streams, her ladies in waiting liked this view the best. They had good taste in scenery. The main reason I included this picture was because of my son. Every time I wanted to photograph him I had to tell him to take off his sunglasses, smile and don’t hold his hands either in front of him or behind him. Just let them hang there. He’s a Florida corrections officer and that pose is the one he takes most often at work.
“I don’t want a picture of Officer Cowling. I want a picture of my son.”
Officer Cowling is a very good state employee. He keeps order at the prison. He is trained in self-defense. I have a better bodyguard than many celebrities. I like Officer Cowling. I trust Officer Cowling. But I love my son Josh Cowling and I want pictures of him.
The weather on our trip was more than we could have asked for. I had several layers of clothing on—everything from my longjohns to heavy boots and coat, scarf and woolen cap because the temperatures were going to be between the 30s and 50s. And Ireland in March is rainy, very rainy. I had an umbrella and rain poncho in my backpack just in case. But not a drop of rain. We became totally aware of how lucky with the weather at lunch on the Ring of Kerry. This restaurant sat on a cliff side overlooking a bay dotted with little islands and outcroppings. The bus driver said if we had come a day earlier we would have seen nothing but fog.
Josh and I grabbed a table next to the long window overlooking the view. Most of the students gathered together along the other wall to giggle and chat. But one boy sat at the next table to us against the window and stared out at the view the entire time. It struck me that he got it. He knew what this trip was all about. I have nothing against giggling and chatting. Some of the best times I have had in my life have been giggling and chatting. But we can giggle and chat anywhere. When you’re on the Irish coast on a clear day in March, you look out the window. When you’re in Sneem, you climb on the rocks. When you’re in the valleys of Ireland, you relax and smile. This kind of stuff doesn’t happen often.
Our next stop on the Ring of Kerry was Sneem, an Irish village whose only claim to fame was that the world wrestling champion from 1942 to 1947 was a local boy, so they put a statue of him up on the town square. To put this in perspective, I was born in 1947 so the town of Sneem has been in a dry spell for a long time. The most interesting thing on the town square was on the other side where this man with a long gray beard had his pet mountain goat lounging around, and, of course, his cap was on the ground available to receive tips. He told me he had found his buddy abandoned in the mountains a few years ago, and had trained him to let anybody pet him. I thought this was wonderful. I hadn’t got close enough to pet the baby lambs by the statue of Mary but I got to pet the goat that was kinda close to the statue of the wrestler. I told my son Josh to pull out his camera.
“Yeah,” the Irish gentleman piped up, “get a picture of three old goats.”
I was still laughing as the picture was taken. Also, I decided this was a good way to supplement your retirement fund. Find some adorable animal, set up where a lot of tourists pass by and put your hat on the group for tips. The trick in this is that once you break a five-euro note, you get your change in one-euro coins and the smaller stuff. Most Americans think that all coins represent less than a euro, so when you are tossing what you think is the equivalent of 25 or 50 cents you’re actually tossing away two or three dollars. As a storyteller who puts his hat on the ground, I can tell you that makes a big difference.
Further down the road we pulled into a sheep dog training farm. As soon as we climbed out of the tour bus, a border collie came around the corner of the front gate, looked at us and went back inside to get reinforcements. Before we knew it a team of border collies were racing out to make sure we knew where we were going. First they herded us into a barn where the students, once again, got to hold baby lambs. Of course, I didn’t. But at least I got my goat. Next, the dogs herded us out to a reviewing standing over a craggy valley. Once they were sure we were all in place, the border collies retreated and let the humans—who thought they were in charge of the place—take over. The humans opened a gate and a flock of sheep went willy nilly down the hillside and around a gathering of rocks. Next they released a three-year-old border collie for his daily training of finding the sheep, herding them back up the hill and into a stockade. Actually, it didn’t quite go that way. Another collie, named Lucy and about thirteen years old, came out to watch the youngin’ do his job from the top of the hill. By the time he finally got them close to the stockade, Lucy took over and got them through the gate. I don’t think she had the energy to go all the way out to round them up. In the picture Lucy had already taken over. I really liked Lucy. She wasn’t going to be retired that easily. In fact, I think I loved Lucy.
As I had previously said, the Ring of Kerry was the land of animals, even the really expensive kind. On our last encounter with animals on the ring, we stopped at the National Stud Farm, where the best horses in the world meet for romance (well, maybe not romance but I’m trying to be nice here). More thoroughbreds are mated—or as the professionals say, covered—here than anywhere else except maybe Kentucky. The stables for the studs look like a four-star hotel. We peered at one in particular who was considered a star. It seems he didn’t win very many races in his prime but he has sired many horses who have won big time. As the farm guide explained all this to us, I happened to notice a very well dressed couple being given a private tour. I think they were being courted to bring their filly there for a nice honeymoon. A few moments later a handsome stud was led from his stall and around the corner for an encounter. Frankly I felt like a reporter for the National Enquirer for watching this event. Have we no shame? Can’t guy and gal horses get together without everyone watching? We walked over to a quadrangle of stalls where expectant mares were kept comfortable until their time to foal. As we went by we saw one filly, who looked like she was about to pop, being led onto a trailer to take her to the delivery barn. I didn’t think she appreciated having an audience either.
An odd feature to the farm was an extensive Japanese garden. The original owner of the farm—who believed in checking the astrological charts of the horses before breeding began—brought a professional garden designer from Japan in about 1920. When asked why, the man said, “Why not? I’m rich. I can afford it. I like Japanese gardens.” (Actually, those aren’t his exact words, but you get the idea.) With all due respect, I think his garden was more than something pretty to look at the end of the day. I think he was trying to impress the rich people so that they would pay the “cover charges”—so to speak. I think he was telling them that everything on his stud farm was first class and expensive, and that included the gardens.
No one should decide on the second day of a nine-day tour of Ireland, Wales and England what their favorite location was, but I did it anyway. Nothing beat the Ring of Kerry near Killarney, Ireland. The ring is an all-day excursion around the perimeter of one of the jagged peninsulas on the west coast of Ireland. The first stop was at the Kerry Bog Village, a restoration of 17th/18th century homes where residents cut blocks of peat out of bogs and dried them to use to heat their houses. Our tour guide said her favorite childhood memory was visiting her grandmother who still burned peat in the fireplace to heat the house. After smelling it, I thought grandma needed to clean the house more often. (Okay, that wasn’t fair. You should have smelled my grandmother’s place out on the plains of Texas. You won’t believe what she used to heat it.)
But the best part of the village was the enclosure where they kept the Irish wolfhounds. You know, they are the size of little ponies and are best to guard all the other livestock who lived there. When I first walked up they were up on their hind feet, staring you in the eye and accepting all the pats and scratches behind the ears they could get. By the time I got my son over to take pictures on his phone, it seems the hounds decided it was break time and they went to the far side of their pen for a mid-morning nap. No amount of cooing, kissy sounds, whistles and sweet entreaties could convince them to come back. No way. Next round of cuddling at the fence began at noon—or whenever—and fans and groupies could come back then. My son got a picture of them on break any way.
We had not been on the road again for anytime at all when some of the teen-aged girls in the back started going “aww”.
“There’s a dog on the back of a donkey!”
The tour bus driver was a real pro. He knew when people starting oohing over animals on the side of the road he made an unscheduled stop. All the cynical, blasé teens tumbled out of the bus to pet the dog and donkey, who looked bored but used to getting attention from tourists. Even us old people thought they were cute. We got out of the bus and took pictures. A gentleman about my age—meaning he was old, really old—sat on the side with a contented smile and his cap on the ground filled with coins. Several people, of all ages, said the same thing coming back to their seats.
“We can go home now. Once we’ve see the dog on the donkey we’ve seen it all.”
They spoke too soon. The next scheduled stop was only a few miles down the road, a statue of the Virgin Mary on a promontory overlooking an inlet of waves crashing against giant boulders. Scores of birds covered juts of land and islands sunning themselves. This particular statue of Mary was not known for having tears in her eyes, but for actually being observed to move. None of this, however, meant a thing to the people on our bus. As soon as we pulled into the parking lot someone screamed out.
“There’s baby lambs!”
Sure enough, on the outside of the wrought iron fence guarding the statue of the Virgin Mary, was another old man with three or four tiny lambs, not more than a week or two old, scampering around, crawling up into laps and licking as many faces as they could. The only problem was that I didn’t think everyone was going to get to hold a lamb before we were called back to the bus. Being the oldest person there, I resisted knocking children out of the way so I could hold a baby lamb—even though, I must point out in journalistic accuracy, I have never gotten to hold a baby lamb ever in my life. To show I held no misgivings about the turn of events, I did throw a coin in the old man’s hat.
(Author’s note: For the record, I did take a picture of the Virgin Mary statue but decided instead to publish the picture of the lambs. Admit it: you didn’t really want to see a statue of the Virgin Mary. You wanted to see the baby lambs.)
Two years have passed, and I yet have shed a tear over the death of my wife Janet. The other night I watched the Oscars and looked over to her side of the sofa and said aloud what I know what she would have commented on each and every dress. I wrote a play as a benefit for the local free clinic because as a probation officer Janet told her people to go there for help. I still wear my wedding ring. But not a single tear.
Thinking back over my life I realize that I have cried very few times out of grief. In fact, the only time I remember was after the funeral of my mother when I was fourteen years old. My crazy brother (no, he really was—in and out of mental hospitals all his adult life) had been very kind and comforting that day, no hysterical fits, no outlandish behavior intended to embarrass me in front of people). I said to him, “I love you,” and broke into tears. Maybe that wasn’t in grief as much as relief that he had stayed sane for an entire day.
Most of the times I cried were out of frustration and anger. People watching this thought I cried because I had my feelings hurt. That wasn’t it. I was mad and wanted to attack the bastard but I knew he was bigger than me. All he had to do is push me down and laugh at me because I wasn’t able to fight back. I could have hit him from behind but then people would think I was as crazy as my brother.
Certain movies had a way of making me tear up, mostly those with happy endings. The worst time was when my teen-aged son and I went to “Field of Dreams.” When the lead character’s father walked through the corn and they started playing catch, I broke down. I never played catch with my father. Of course I embarrassed my son. We had to sit there until the audience cleared out and I had composed myself.
I hated my job at a certain newspaper in the 1970s so much that I cried in the boss’s office. Once again I think it was frustration. Another time I cried when a prominent city’s community theater said it was seriously considering one of my plays. So that was out of happiness. I didn’t cry when they eventually returned it. I was used to rejection by that point.
Most of the time I have been able to choke back the tears. The trick is to keep my damn mouth shut. The less I talk the less likely I am to cry. As the years go by I have been more successful in controlling it, but mostly I’ve convinced myself I’ve experienced everything so emotions have become somewhat of a bore.
One time I choked up still confuses me. It was at the end of my college senior year. I went to the movies alone and ran into one of my former roommates. He was a loud flag-waving bigot. He was very specific about how every other race was inferior to white people, especially to white people of the United States. By the time I met up with him that last week in the movie theater, he seemed to have mellowed out on his political views or at least learned to keep them to himself. When we stood outside the theater after the movie we shook hands.
I was about to say, “Well, see you later,” when it struck me there wasn’t going to be a later. I hadn’t even given a second thought to all the people I had said good-bye to for the last time, but this choked me up. What the hell. I didn’t even like him.
I almost cried over this jerk, but I can’t even work up some tears for my wife of forty-four years. Maybe it’s because I know she’s still inside me and will never leave, so why cry over that?
Every time I hear an ambulance go by I think, “There goes another person who saw “Jesus Christ Superstar.”
This odd mental phenomenon goes back to 1971 when I was the area editor for the Kingsport, Tn., Times-News. A bunch of part-time reporters and I were responsible for filling up a page about news from the surrounding counties everyday. Some days that could be quite a chore.
Back then the politicians had a habit of deciding to hold a meeting an hour earlier than announced so that when the reporter showed up they said, “Sorry, you missed it.”
One time I had a school superintendent on the phone asking him why a certain mountain school was being closed. He stammered a moment and then the phone went dead. The guy just didn’t want to talk to me about why the school was being closed. It was tough reporting the news back then.
However, I did get a call from a proud parent in a nearby town that her son had the lead in a touring company of “Jesus Christ, Superstar” which was going to perform at the Kingsport high school gymnasium. This was right after the record album had come out but before the Broadway production. Basically it was a concert version with performers on risers and stools. I told the editor and he immediately assigned the story to the entertainment editor. I never got to write about anything interesting.
Somehow, however, I became the person in charge of getting free tickets for everyone in the newsroom. Since the story ran front page, that was easy enough to do.
Even though it was bare bones, the production was great. A good time was had by all. The gymnasium was packed. When the movie came out, I felt it was a pale comparison to what I saw in Kingsport.
A few weeks later the religion editor—for a small town newspaper, this operation had a lot of editors—wrote a story about one of the local ministers who took the town to task for taking “Jesus Christ Superstar” to heart. For one thing, one of the young male leads had his picture taken in a close hug with June Lockhart and it was in the National Inquirer. Older woman takes young lover. That sort of thing.
Of course, that was nothing compared to the vitriol against the musical itself. Rock music and the gospel? Never! The idea that Mary Magdalene was Jesus’ girlfriend. Outrageous! Who knows what he would have thought about the “DaVinci Code” and its assertion that Jesus and Mary were married. Herod portrayed as a homosexual? The list of infamies went on and on.
He concluded with the statement, “Every time I hear an ambulance, I think there goes another person who saw ‘Jesus Christ, Superstar.’”
Over the years my wife and I had a good laugh over it, repeating that assertion whenever we heard an ambulance siren. In the last few years, we saw the road show production starring Ted Neely, who had the title role in the movie back in 1976. For an old man he looked pretty good in a loin cloth, except it went all the way up to his rib cage. If he kept doing this show much longer, his loin cloth would be up to his arm pits.
Nevertheless, I might even go back to see him in it again. The music is the music of my youth and brings back fun memories. And when I’m walking into the theater, I know I will see other old, paunchy gray haired people, some of them pushing walkers, with big smiles on their faces.
Maybe that guy was right. Considering the popularity of the musical and the age of the generation that made it popular, the person in the ambulance passing by probably has seen “Jesus Christ Superstar.”
Half a century ago when I was a little boy in a rural Texas town, I heard that people who danced were going to hell.
Decent people didn’t dance, smoke, drink or vote Republican.
And if they did, they had the good manners not to let anyone know.
Once I mentioned to a church lady on a Sunday morning that I had bought a cupcake from the high school student council. I didn’t really want it but the two girls selling the tray of cupcakes were really cute and kinda flirted with me so I gave up a couple of quarters and enjoyed the cupcake.
“That was supporting dancing!” the woman declared. “Which is the same as supporting the devil!”
When I asked why she said the only thing high school student councils do was organize dances so when I bought that cupcake for fifty cents I was supporting dancing.
Well, that took the sweet memory off that cupcake.
Once I had the audacity to ask the preacher why dancing was sinful since it wasn’t one of the Ten Commandments nor one of the abominations listed in Chronicles Chapter 12. The next Sunday night he preached an entire sermon about how the Bible didn’t specifically say dancing was a sin, it did record that every time some one danced, something bad happened to people.
When the Israelites got bored waiting for Moses to come down from Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments they danced around and they got smote down and good. When David danced naked in front of the Ark of the Covenant as it came into Jerusalem, he was denied the privilege of building the Temple. When Salome danced in front of King Herod, John the Baptist lost his head.
Well, I think all the fornicating before, during and after the dancing was what got the Israelites in trouble with God and not specifically the dancing. Also, David put Bathsheba’s husband on the front lines of battle to kill him off so he could marry her. That probably kept David from building the Temple more than the dancing. Finally, King Herod was just plain crazy. He didn’t need a dancing girl to give him an excuse to kill anyone.
Anyway, I kept all those thoughts to myself while I was growing up. Besides, I had this terrible suspicion that if I did try to dance I wouldn’t be very good at it. I had two left feet.
Fortunately, I married Janet who two right feet. We just had fun on the dance floor and didn’t care if anyone noticed. The nice thing about people who like to dance is that they’re having too much fun to judge anyone else’s abilities. I kept telling Janet that we needed to get a video from the public library about easy ball room dancing steps but we never got around to it.
As old people we occasionally went to events that feature orchestras that played the Big Band sound. All around us were people who had rhythm in their feet and smiles on their faces as they danced to jazz, doo wop, Latin and especially Frank Sinatra. For three hours the world went away and everyone went happy. I don’t go dancing anymore because Janet died of cancer and I lost my two right feet. I don’t know if that is a sin but it is a crying shame.
As for that church lady, I have a sneaking suspicion that she didn’t know what she was talking about.
When we moved to Florida about 20 years ago, my family and I exposed ourselves to family dinner conversation dominated by my wife’s Uncle Sydney.
My mother-in-law retired to Florida a couple of years earlier to be near her relatives and suffered a heart attack, which is why we transplanted our children and ourselves here to be closer for the next medical emergency. This meant when we all gathered to sup together, for whatever reason, we had to brace for Uncle Sydney’s “Actually…”
This happened when one of us made a statement, any innocuous statement, and Uncle Sydney would correct us with “Actually, that isn’t so.” And off he went uninterrupted because my mother-in-law thought it was impolite to interrupt her brother’s exercises of enlightenment. At one meal, someone mentioned how much they enjoyed a certain current song.
“Actually,” Uncle Sydney began, “no good music has been written since the 1940s.”
I believed Uncle Sydney was full of gas, but had the good sense not to say so in front of the family. Both my mother-in-law and Uncle Sydney have long since passed on, but recently I learned something from the internet that might actually explain why there hasn’t been any good music since he was a young man.
Several websites have been discussing recently the theory that all musical instruments, as dictated by the British Standards Institute, changed the official tuning pitch of music from 432Hz to 440Hz at the request of the corporate entity of the American Rockefeller family and—grab your hats, folks—Adolph Hitler.
The great classical composers wrote in 432, and Stradivarius developed his violin to resonate at 432. Tones of 432 are beautiful, warm and relaxing. Tones of 440 create anxiety, anger and aggression. One supposes a capitalist institution could more easily convince a disgruntled buying public into adopting new spending patterns. One could also see how Hitler’s inflammatory oratory could incite an already dissatisfied public to support a war against its own citizenry as well as the world in general.
After the war, the British Standards Institute continued its support for 440Hz by voting to keep it, the last vote coming as late as the 1970s. This could explain why the generation which grew up listening to music to the 432Hz frequency found the new rock ‘n’ roll sound attuned to 440Hz to be awful noise. Come to think of it, hasn’t the general public been generally ticked off the last 60 years? Don’t political movements begin because, as the man said in the 1976 movie “Network”, “We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore?”
Granted, all this can sound a bit paranoid, and there are no conclusive scientific studies to confirm the connection between the dissonance of music’s 440Hz and the general malaise that hangs over the world. Dr. Leonard Horowitz wrote in his investigation of this phenomenon that the effect of 440Hz goes beyond mere mood but to harming physical and mental health to the point of subduing spirituality and creativity.
To be fair, the British Standards Institute cannot legally dictate what frequency is used to tune musical instruments. If you own a violin or piano, you can tune it to anything you want. You can calibrate your tuning fork anyway you want. But in general the music establishment around the world uses 440Hz.
A good measure of how the general public has reacted to this bit of information can be found in the comments section following the internet article. One person wrote, “These articles are too superficial to be taken seriously.” Another writer wrote than from his own experimentation with 432Hz, he found it to be more soothing and harmonious, urging people to contact radio stations to go back to the original frequency.
Am I personally ready to jump on a 432Hz bandwagon? Do I want to believe there’s an international conspiracy to manipulate our emotions? Am I willing to accept the fact that Uncle Sydney wasn’t just full of gas?
Here’s to the people who smile.
To those who are genetically predisposed to cancer, whose mindless, ravenous cells might already be multiplying through the people’s bodies causing discomfort and feelings that there is something not quite right but they don’t know what it is. Instead of complaining of not feeling good, they put on a smile and make someone else’s day brighter.
To those with clinical depression for whom each day is a battle against negative thoughts and bad memories from years ago which pop up for no particularly reason except to ruin a day. Instead of dwelling on the heavy malaise in their minds, they put on a smile and make everyone else’s day lighter.
To those who find themselves in an economic hole they didn’t dig them but nevertheless must climb out of by themselves. Instead of bemoaning their lack of money, they put on a smile because they have plenty of the joys of life that money cannot buy.
I have a Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep disorder which means I never go into the deepest levels of restorative sleep. Yes, I take pills for that, but even they cannot handle an overload of fatigue. In the last few months I was blessed with lots of activities which made me happy but also depleted my reserve of energy to the point my nightmares became more frightening and more exhausting.
Last night I was locked in a mortal confrontation with a nameless, faceless intruder who, I assumed, wanted to kill me. I caught hold of his hairy forearm and believed that as long as I held on to it he could not harm me. Luckily I awoke and found no assailant. I had my hands around my five-pound, 15-year-old Chihuahua who suffers from advanced arthritis.
At first I was afraid I had hurt her in some way. She went to the edge of the bed and wanted down to do her business on a doggy pad. When she was finished she came back, I picked her up and she snuggled next to me and went back to sleep. I had not hurt her. I had not scared her. I had not done myself any good with the nightmare, but when morning came I dragged myself out of bed.
I was still alive and had things to do. I had not killed my dog for which I am grateful. And when I run my errands later today I shall smile. Tonight I will probably have to endure another bad dream. If I am careful to rest properly the dreams will abate and I will have the energy to do happy things again soon.
So when you see someone smiling for no apparent reason, don’t think them a simpleton who doesn’t know what a cockeyed world we live. They know. Don’t judge them insincere and dismiss the smile as fake. A fake smile is worth a thousand sincere scowls.
You don’t know what they struggle with every day to survive and still manage a smile because they know that’s what the world needs to see.
So here’s to the people who smile. We need more of them right now.
This New Year’s I’m making more of a revelation that a resolution.
For Christmas I played Scrooge in a production of my play What in the Dickens Happened to Scrooge? At the end of Act One I pass out center stage. During dress rehearsal, at the beginning of Act Two, I entered in darkness to take my place of collapse. Unfortunately, I forgot there were some stairs right in front of me so I took a tumble over them and crawled to my spot just as the lights went up. The only person who saw me fall was an actress right behind me waiting for her entrance. The rest of the play went on without a hitch. Even the director didn’t know I had fallen.
I was so proud of myself for being a trouper, afterwards I pulled up my trousers to show blood dripping down a swollen scrape on my shin to anyone who would look. The actress told how she saw me fall, roll and crawl but she didn’t realize how bad it was. One actor offered to bandage it and take me to the emergency room.
“No, no,” I said. “It hardly even hurts now. I’m glad I was able to make it through the show.”
I got so many “oohs” and “Are you sure you’re all rights” that I was on an endorphin rush all the way home. Then in the privacy of home I realized that if I had really been that much of a “the show must go on” type of guy, at the end of the rehearsal I would have gone straight to the dressing room, taken off my makeup, changed clothes and gone out front to give my fellow cast members a hearty “good job!” then limped to the car without saying a word about my leg.
It was at that moment the revelation came to me that I was nothing but an attention hog. (There’s another word that sounds like hog that might be more accurate but, this is Facebook and one must be polite at all times, mustn’t one?)
On one hand I could tell myself, “Of course, I’m an attention hog. I’m an actor. I’m a storyteller. I’ll sit under my tent all day in hopes of telling a story to a handful of passersby who might stop for a moment. I post stories on my blog in anticipation of getting a thumbs up or even a little heart.”
On the other hand, this teaches me to control my impulse to interrupt when people tell me about their lives. I want them to know how a similar incident happened to me, thereby turning the spotlight on myself. (By the way, I really do love staring straight into a spotlight.) And, believe me, every time I’m in a group when someone talks, I want to talk too. I think it’s genetic. Davy Crockett was my great-great-great grandfather, and he was known for telling tall tales.
Anyway, the best conversationalist is the person who can look into the eyes of a person telling their story, smile, nod and not say a damn thing.
I don’t know if I could keep a resolution to shut up, but at least I realize I should shut up. That ought to count for something.