At some point after that, Braniff issued a press release that this painted plane was the single most viewed work of art in history.
I think the numbers included anyone and everyone who ever looked up and said, “The plane, The plane” whether they knew what they were seeing or not or even if they were aware of the plane was painted by Calder.
I mean fly it over New York City and you can count 8,000,000 views.
I think Braniff accounted for their paying customers the same way which is why you don’t hear about Braniff anymore.
But Mr. Lincoln tops the list over total views of any artistic likeness, counting all the times that likeness has been reproduced and viewed.
I looked at the penny for a second or two.
It was dated 2021.
It hit me that this was the first time I had seen a 2021 penny.
Maybe even the first time, that I remembered anyway, that I have seen a penny with a date in the 2020’s.
Is it really 2021?
How DID that happen?
When did that happen?
In 2020 there was a feeling that the month of March lasted about 12 weeks.
I feel like 2021 never really took place.
Wasn’t out of the house often.
Rarely had situations where I bought or paid for something other than gas or a meal.
And never ever did I use paper money.
As for coins.
You don’t see change much anymore and so much has changed.
And I do feel changed somehow.
Or at least disconnected from the time before Covid.
I also don’t much like to look at pennies.
It was the writer, Jim Harrison, who once wrote that you aren’t old as long as keep finding pennies that are older than you in your pocket.
I used to carry a 1959 penny just for insurance.
But I can’t find it.
I haven’t thought about it years.
And now that it is on my mind, I am going find a 1959 penny.
After all, since moving to Hilton Head, where the median age is 59, I became middle aged all over again.
PS – According to what you can learn online, when Braniff went bankrupt, the Calder planes were sold at auction and the paint was sand blasted off. One website where they keep track of such things, says that the specific Boeing 727 that had been painted Red White and Blue was used as a prop in the movie Bad Boys and the last time anyone sees that specific (without the Calder Art) plane is at the end of the movie when it is blown up.
real night of the soul it’s always three o’clock on a dark morning
It was F. Scott Fitsgerald who penned the lines:
“ … and in a real dark night of the soul it is always three o’clock in the morning, day after day. At that hour the tendency is to refuse to face things as long as possible by retiring into an infantile dream – but one is continually startled out of this by various contacts with the world.“
“It’s real and it’s strong. We’re tired of being cooped up, tired of being careful, tired of being scared.“
This same webpage says, “This is a real challenge. There are no easy solutions.“
The other morning on one of the TV news programs, the morning anchor interviewed a bunch of seven year old’s.
“What do you miss the most of the pre-covid days?”, she asked.
She was met with a lot blank stares.
For seven year old’s, this was normal.
That thought hit me in the real night of my soul.
Then I started to think about what I missed.
I was shocked when I realized that pre-covid was so far away.
My thoughts about pre-days seemed to be in the same folder as memories of growing up, summer times long ago and books I haven’t read in years.
I thought of something Alistair Cooke wrote about the American West.
Writing about the ghost town of Bodie, California, Mr. Cooke said, “[Founded in 1876] For four years the place was roaring with life and death: one killing a day, fifty-six saloons and gambling joints, twelve thousand people brimming with sap and mischief and vice. By 1883 it was mostly abandoned, and in 1932 a fire browned it off. Today, it is a graveyard up among the rolling cumulus clouds. It is as forgotten and forlorn as the Plains of Troy.“
Pre covid days, forgotten and forlorn as the Plains of Troy.
Maybe its best as, pre covid days, forgotten and forlorn.
3 o’clock on a dark morning.
At that hour the tendency is to refuse to face things as long as possible.
a symbol, a tool of history people find very attractive
Growing up, in my house there was a complete or near complete set of the Random House Landmark books.
If we missed any the library at my elementary school and the local branch library had the rest.
The Voyages of Christopher Columbus, The Landing of the Pilgrims, Pocahontas and Captain John Smith, Paul Revere and the Minute Men, Our Independence and the Constitution.
According to Wikipedia, Landmark Books children’s book series published by Random House from 1950 to 1970, featured stories of significant people and events.
Wikipedia states, “David Spear, writing in the American Historical Association’s news magazine, says that the series “lured an entire generation of young readers” to the history discipline, “including many of today’s professional historians.”
Sign me up for that.
Understand that a lot of history in these books was, for lack of better word, sanitized (?) or maybe, politically correct FOR 1950.
The book on Custer’s Last Stand for example presents a fairly unfair image of the Native American cause.
It also ends with the General Custer and his brother Tom as the last two men standing and that they are killed together and fall into each others arms.
As Director Raoul Walsh said of his movie, ‘They Died with Their Boots On,’ on the same topic, “It wasn’t the way it happened. But it was the way it should have happened.”
(That being said who cannot be stirred in the early scenes of the movie that takes place during Custer’s Civil War career, leading the Michigan Calvary Brigade at the Battle of Gettysburg with Errol Flynn yelling, “Ride You Woverines!”)
Those books stayed with me in my brain and some are on my bookshelf today.
One that I read several time was Captain Cortés Conquers Mexico by William Weber Johnson.
One modern review states, “Without posing the question of the rights or wrongs of the Spanish conquistadores, Mr. Johnson has presented the figure of Cortes, conqueror of Mexico, in as favorable a light as possible.”
I’ll go along with that.
I will say on my own behalf that I kept yelling at the Aztec’s to just send everybody and attack, you got them outnumbered 200 to 1.
You can just smother them.
Reading and re-reading the account of La Noche Triste I liked how the Aztecs chased Cortes out of Tenochtitlan even when I knew Cortes was coming back.
I remember that the author pointed out again and again that the conquistadores all carried swords made of the FINEST TOLEDO STEEL.
The author referred to these swords like they were wonder weapons.
The article states, “The conquest is a singular event in Mexican history, seen both as a moment of national trauma and the founding act of the nation – and it remains deeply controversial.”
It remains deeply controversial.
I believe that was Mr. Al Gore’s movie.
Social History or the history of how people lived in their day to day lives making a living as swordsmiths versus narrative history, the history of the great road scrapper that made and remade the world every day or the history of how those swords were used.
I guess we can be happy that the craft needed to create a sword to the high standards of 500 years is kept alive.
The sword, we can recognize, as a symbol, a tool of history.
A tool that people find very attractive.
But tool that a played a key role in a deeply controversial conquest.
Two sides, maybe more to every story.
Maybe someday people will go to the Smithsonian and in the window marked 2020s there will be some face masks.
The text with the masks could read, “In the Covid Era Decade of 2020, these masks were embraced as a way to protect yourself and others from Covid and at the same time rejected as an expression of Government intrusion and over reach of authority.”
I doubt that any artisan will be making masks the way they were made in 2020.
And I am sure that a mask will be a symbol and it will always be a symbol.
I am sure it will be a tool of history that no one will find very attractive.
PS – AL Gore DID NOT invent the internet NOR did he say that. He did say that “I took the initiative in creating the internet.” Which is true so far as he was on the committee that funded early efforts of a PUBLIC INTERNET and in the big picture I got no problem with what he said so far as everyone who voted yes on the committee for funding can say the same thing. That being said saying what he said shows the fundamental lack of understanding between the internet and the world wide web.
When the first 6 or seven computers were created, scientists realized that people were up and awake at Harvard when they were asleep out on Berkeley and if the computer could be connected or ‘net worked’ or on an inter net, folks out east could use the computers out west. So the INTERNET (Hardware, computers, cables and such) has been around since day one pretty much. Back in the day when I worked at the Grand Rapids Public Library almost every library collection in the world could be connected through our terminals. When the GRPL local database went down I would tell patron’s that I could tell them what was on the shelf at the Sorbonne in Paris, I just couldn’t tell them what was on that shelf over there. I have to add that when we connected those terminals to other libraries the message PHONE RINGING would display on my screen. I loved connecting to libraries all over the world thinking there is a phone ringing in a basement in Berlin right now. If the connection was not accepted it would time out and stop. One night I was trying to connect to Oxford and the connection would not shut down. Not knowing what to do at the end of the night I turned off the terminal and weeks. It was weeks before I stopped worrying that I was going to be given a bill for a 24 hour long long distance phone call. It has to be pointed out this goofy interest and waste of time is a direct line connection to that job I have now.
The World Wide Web came around in the 1990 and its the content that LIVES on the internet.
“… it was the caring about little things — the faith in ordinary life;
the simplicity that made you break up a bit of bread into a paper bag, walk down to the beach, and throw it to the gulls.
It was this respect for triviality which he had never been allowed to possess; whether it was bread for the seagulls or love,
whatever it was he would go back and find it“
Written by John le Carré in The Spy Who Came in From the Cold: A George Smiley Novel. Penguin Books (Kindle Edition).
I should point out that the word triviality, from trivial from trivia does not have to mean small or meaningless even though the Online Merriam Webster states, “unimportant matters : trivial facts or details”.
I was taught that the word trivia is a Latin word, the plural of trivium.
The related Latin trivialis, meant “common or ordinary.”
But the literal meaning of the Latin trivium is “a place where three roads meet.”
Some sources then state that as three roads came together, there was lots of odd little bits of knowledge or trivia exchanged between people on the roads.
Thus crossroads came to be known as distinctly public, or common places where inconsequential or trivial things were said and done.
I was taught the ‘place where three roads meet’ were NOT real roads, but the three paths of study of grammar, rhetoric, and logic.
If you take in everything covered by grammar, rhetoric, and logic, you will have lots of odd little facts.
All this really for nothing really because all I want to say is that I like is what le Carré may have been going for with the line respect for triviality.
I love that.
A respect for triviality.
Faith in ordinary life.
At this time in the world, these two concepts may be more important than the city shining on a hill.
More important and harder to get.
Whatever these are, where ever these are, faith, respect, ordinary, triviality, I going to go find them.
breath sweet-smelling air contentedly smoked evening cigar
At some point in my Mother’s remarkable life she decided to expand her horizons and join the book of the month club.
The books she received over the years were packed up moved from house to house until the time when I showed up.
I liked to read.
I realized that when I was reading I was anywhere and everywhere in the world.
And where ever that was it wasn’t were I was which for me, and for those around me, was a good thing.
I suffer from bibliophobia.
The fear of being stuck without something to read.
My bibliophobia drove to discover and examine my Mom’s book of the month club books and that was how I discovered Clarence Day.
At some point in time, the Book of the Month Club sent my Mom a copy of Life with Mother which contained all four Clarence Day short story collection.
I picked up and read his collected short stories in the book ‘Life with Mother’ at some time most boys were reading Boys Life.
Let me tell that God and My Father was NOT a book I should have read at that age.
But from that book I have lots of fond thoughts and I distinctly remember the short story, “Father Wakes up a Village.”
The story details how Clarence Day Junior’s father, Clarence Day Senior, came home from work to discover there was no ice in the house to chill his evening wine or ice water.
Clarence Day, Senior made his way to the local ice house and the local ice box distributor and, in his own way, he rectified the situation.
It was the last paragraphs that really struck me with romance.
Father’s soul was at peace. He dined well, and he had his coffee and cognac served to him on the piazza. The storm was over by then. Father snuffed a deep breath of the sweet-smelling air and smoked his evening cigar.
“Clarence,” he said, “King Solomon had the right idea about these things. ‘Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do,’ Solomon said, ‘do thy damnedest.'”
I heard Father saying contentedly on the piazza, “I like plenty of ice.”
It may have been at this point in my young life I fell for cigars.
Truly, does anything else sound so civilized as “Father snuffed a deep breath of the sweet-smelling air and smoked his evening cigar.“
At some point in my later life I began smoking cigars.
I was most likely also influenced by the life of General Grant but another time for that.
One time I ordered a box and had it delivered to me when I still lived at home.
I watched the mail and the day they arrived I made sure I grabbed the box as soon as I could so I could hide it.
That night after dinner as we sat around the table, my Dad says, “Go get me a cigar.”
My Mom didn’t say anything.
I got up and came back with my box of cigars and handed it to my Dad.
He looked over the cigars and selected and called for a match.
My Mom says, “Bob!” and kind of looked at him across the table.
But my Dad just say there with a cigar so I got the matches.
My Dad lit the cigar with the motions of Winston Churchill and sat back blowing thick clouds of smoke over the table.
We were all speechless.
When we didn’t think anything could top this, my Dad started blowing smoke rings.
My mind truly exploded.
You can’t learn to blow smoke rings by reading a book.
My Dad sat back.
He held the cigar to one side and said, “I don’t smoke cigars.”
There was a pause.
“But if I did, I would smoke cigars like this.”
As I remember it, my Dad finished the cigar and life went on.
I took my box of cigars back to my room.
I wasn’t told to throw them away.
I wasn’t told to not smoke them.
But I was told, without words, don’t be a dummy, dummy.
If asked today I will say I don’t smoke.
I don’t smoke but I enjoy a cigar from time to time.
Tonight I sat out on the two bit balcony of our apartment in South Carolina.
A storm was coming with all the wonder and fun of thunder and lightning.
I snuffed a deep breath of the sweet-smelling air and smoked my evening cigar.
It was satisfactory.
It seemed so civilized in a messed uncivilized world.
A little bit of escape without leaving anywhere or anything.
working life at home adventure into the fridge hot dogs for dinner
I had hot dogs for dinner the other night.
I like to think I am a pretty good cook and can pull off a good meal anytime anywhere but the other night I just didn’t feel like it.
The wife was out and the boys weren’t interested.
I looked in the fridge to see what sandwich I could pull together.
With covid and working from home it will hit me that I haven’t been out this room for hours, maybe days or even weeks.
I need to move.
I need to do something.
I need adventure.
So I look inside the fridge.
It is the big adventure for the day.
A package of hot dogs caught my eye.
I heated up three in a pan of water.
The adventure for the day got that much better.
I cannot eat hot dogs without thinking of my days at Crestview Elementary School in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Specifically I cannot eat hot dogs with thinking of my friend John and Crestview Elementary School.
I cannot eat hot dogs without the image of my friend John walking down the the main hallway of Crestview Elementary with a hot dog, just a hot dog mind you, no bun, in each hand.
I wonder what type of machine it would take to eliminate that image from my mind.
Maybe my first sign of alzenheimers will be if I eat a hot dog and don’t think of John.
I see John in my mind when ever I eat a hot dog, either at the ball park, at the beach, and at the local gas station with its rollers of hot dogs of indeterminate age being offered to the public.
(Okay so I don’t eat gas station food, but when I look at those rollers, I think of John.)
The elementary school I attended when I was kid was designed, built and run on a daily basis without a lunchroom.
Non of the schools in Grand Rapids were.
They were neighborhood schools.
Schools built in a neighborhood.
Where students WALKED to school.
And where students were expected to WALK home for lunch.
Once a month we GOT to have lunch at school.
For us, eating lunch at school was a priveledge.
It was a party.
Well, it was a party from our point of view.
We never asked out teachers what they thought.
But I am sure that they loved it.
It was a hot dog lunch!
These hot dog lunches were once a month.
We all lined up and we were walked down the hall to the kitchen window were we were given a hot dog (or two if we had ordered two), a bag of potato chips, a tub of vanilla ice cream and a bottle of orange drink.
It was all so FREAKIN COOL!!!!
The ice cream came with a wooden … well … slat in the shape of flat spoon.
I could never use one without thinking I was going to get a splinter in my tongue.
The orange drink came in a bottle.
A glass bottle.
A glass bottle with a cardboard plug.
It wasn’t pop and it wasn’t kool aid.
It was orange.
It was a drink.
It was orange drink.
And that brings us to my friend John.
John didn’t eat much
John didn’t like food.
John didn’t weigh a lot either.
Neither did I for that matter.
As a testament to this, a few years later we were all at Riverside Junior High School.
I happened to be in art class one day and on that day we were drawing hallways.
In other words, the teacher got us out of the classroom and out her hair but giving us drawing boards, paper and rulers and said, go draw the hallways.
Me and a few other guys walked off as far as we could get and sat down in the empty hallway outside the gym.
We were all drawing away when the gym door opened and out came the Gym Teacher.
Just say that word out loud will you?
Tell the truth you wanted to use the bathroom right?
The Gym Teacher, whom it was rumored had been kicked out of the Marines for being too tough, looked up and down the hall way and then looked right at me.
“Hoffman,” he said, “what do you weigh?”
There were maybe 157 questions I was prepared to answer at that time but my weight was not one of them.
At that time time I weighed the same I did in 6th grade, two years earlier, but was 6 inches taller.
Those jokes about running around in shower so the water might hit me weren’t jokes.
The Gym Teacher looks at me, an evil smile on his face, and says, “Get in here, I got some skinny kid needs someone to wrestle.”
If I had been told to walk across a room of hungry, angry rattlesnakes it would have been better than this.
God’s gift to kids to make sure they understood the law of the jungle.
The law that said skinny little kids with glasses were doomed.
Since moving to the South Carolina coast I enjoy swimming in the ocean even though the locals say if you go in the water, you become part of the food chain.
Hey, I have been on the lower links of that chain all my life.
The Gym Teacher at Riverside Junior High spent an entire month on wrestling.
At the end of the month, you had to wrestle a minimum of two times for your grade that marking period.
The only way to wrestle more than two times was to win and that was something that never ever ever occurred to me.
Three years of Junior High meant that in my life I would have to wrestle six times.
I figured I could do that.
I figured this out in 7th grade knowing I had two more years to go.
Like having the flu, it couldn’t be avoided just lived through.
But I could do that six times.
Now fate was NOT throwing me under the bus.
Fate WAS the bus.
And I was in the way.
The Gym Teacher looked at me until I stood up.
I said I had to draw the hallway.
The Gym Teacher said the hallway would be there when I got back.
He knew this wouldn’t take long.
I looked at him.
He looked at me.
I felt like a French aristocrat being led to the guillotine,
All you can do is get it over with.
I walked through the doors and into the gym.
The gym class, all in gym clothes, looked at me as if I was the funniest thing that ever happened.
Years later, I agree with that.
It was pretty funny.
The Gym Teacher needed a skinny kid and found me.
I can still see that gym
That marvelous amazing expanse of polished hard wood.
The huge American flag that seemed to be on loan from Fort McHenry.
I could not look at that flag without seeing the red stripes that represented the blood shed so that little skinny kids like me could be free.
Free to go to gym class and wrestle.
And there, in the center of mat, waiting for HIS fate, was my friend John.
John didn’t like hot dog buns.
John didn’t like ketchup or mustard.
When John got his hot dogs they were just hot dogs.
Naked hot dogs.
Wrapped in the waxy paper that you had in lunch rooms.
John carried them vertically, straight up.
I can see it as clear in my mind as clear as the view out the window.
It was like John had the handle bars of a harley locked in his grip as he went down the hall.
John carried those hot dogs, one in each hand, back to classroom.
John’s Mom was one of the ladies who prepared the hot dog lunch which is most likely why John got away with two naked hot dogs.
This also may have been the reason John’s Mom was always part of the group of Mom’s that made the hot dogs.
To make sure John got his naked hot dogs.
Then we ate at our desks.
I remember how for the first time for many of us we saw how other people ate.
Sure we ate in restaurants but who watched how people ate when you were at a restaurant.
At hot dog lunches I watched.
I watched how other people put some ketchup on their waxed paper and dipped their hot dog in it.
I watched how some people used just ketchup and some people used just mustard and some, like me, used both but some, unlike me, mixed the ketchup and mustard haphazardly on the hot dog instead of making two distinct lines.
Then there the people who ate all their hot dog and then ate all their chips instead of alternating bite of hot dog and then a few chips and then another bite of hot dog and then some more chips.
I was sure this is what people meant when they talked about a balanced diet.
And then there were crazy people.
I watched as these people crunched their bag of chips into chips and then, to my horror, stirred the chips into their ice cream.
To me, in the 60’s, this was one step to main lining heroin.
Who would do such a thing.
I very much remember years later on a date, my date got a shake and fries and once the food was on the table, started dipping her fries in the shake.
I must have freaking out flashed back to Crestview and the chips and ice cream or something because all my date could say, seeing the look on my face, was “What? What? What?:
We didn’t go out again.
Another thing that comes to mind is that at home we often discussed the finer points of Hot Dog Cuisine.
While we differed on almost everything, there was universal agreement that the hot dogs at Crestview Elementary School hot dog lunches were the best.
It was left to my brother Tim to decide that all you had to do to make a really good hot dog was boil about 1,000 hot dogs together at the same time.
Simple yet difficult.
It is amazing to me how much an easy way out of dinner can create so much to think about.
PS – so you are all wondering what happened in Gym Class.
To this day I cannot figure out how, but John won both matches.
I cannot remember for sure if I got pinned but I think I was.
For the record, and I have to include my sophomore year of gym class at Creston High School where we also had to wrestle for a grade, was 10 matches and 10 losses.
Four years of gym class plus the 2 matches from the hallway.
A perfect record.
That is how I remember it.
A perfect record and if no one asks any questions that’s how it stays.
One funny thing is that we went back to the art class and the guys I was with told the art teacher what happened.
She was so mad, she went down and balled out the Gym Teacher.
I didn’t see it but I heard that the Gym Teacher was so stunned that he was speechless.
I liked that art teacher a lot after that.
As an aside she had always been nice to me since she had held up a picture of a ‘collage’ and asked what was the focus point.
Most everyone in class yelled out that farmer and his wife.
I yelled ‘American Gothic.’
Also that Gym Teacher always said that if you gave your best, you would never get less than a C in his class.
By the last year of Junior High, when I was another 4 inches taller and still weighed the same, my wrestling matches set records for how short they were.
I have a distinct memory of laying on the mat and yelling PIN PIN PIN and GET ON ME YOU DORK to the guy who supposed to pin me.
I still got a C.
I think by that time, when it came to me, even the Gym Teacher was ready for the easy way out.
“The mental health benefits of this trip were much greater than any vacation I’ve ever taken, as it gave me great hope that, at some point, we’ll fully return to the ease of normal life. It was healing to have this experience with the person that I love and, thanks to science, I’d do it all again.“
I grew up in West Michigan and late in life my job moved me to Atlanta.
While there, my wife and I discovered the city of Savannah and the “low country” or “Gullah-Geechee Corridor” that runs along the east coast from North Carolina to Florida.
Much to my surprise after another job change and we find ourselves living here.
There is much to enjoy and we enjoy it very much.
I now wear a Savannah Banana’s Baseball cap.
It was fun to come across this article about our adopted location.
It was fun to read about things we are accustomed to through the words of someone who was seeing these things for the first time.
But it was awful, truly awful to read and think about the awful impact of this awful virus.
People like to use the term, Game Changer.
Covid is the GAME CHANGER of this age.
Will its impact ever be understood?
Will it impact ever be overcome?
I love that last line.
” … great hope that, at some point, we’ll fully return to the ease of normal life. “
low down mind messin and steadily depressin’ covid nineteen blues
Based on Jim Croce’s Workin’ at the Car Wash Blues.
According to Wikipedia, “Workin’ at the Car Wash Blues” is a 1974 single written and recorded by Jim Croce. It was the third single released from his album I Got a Name. It reached a peak of #32 in July 1974 on the Billboard Hot 100. It is Croce’s last Top 40 hit to date. It was also the fourth single released (including Christmas-themed release “It Doesn’t Have To Be That Way”) after Jim Croce’s passing in September 1973.
Croce explained he came up with the idea for the song while in the military at Fort Jackson running telephone cables on poles and thinking he should be doing something else.
Fort Jackson is about 40 miles from where I am right.
Covid Ninetime Blue is what I am right now.
Not exactly anything to complain about.
I am not sick.
I do have a great job.
I work from home.
I work from home at my desk.
My desk is between my bed and a window.
I sleep 8 hours.
I work 8 hours.
I spend 16 hours a day in an area about the size of my car.
best lack conviction, while passionate intensity the worst are full of
Adapted from The Second Coming by William Butler Yeats.
Surely some revelation must be at hand.
Mr. Yeats wrote this back in 1919 just after World War 1.
The world recovered from that war and the Spanish Flu.
Turning and turning in the widening gyre The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the center cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand; Surely the Second Coming is at hand. The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi Troubles my sight: somewhere in the sands of the desert A shape with lion body and the head of a man, A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun, Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds. The darkness drops again; but now I know That twenty centuries of stony sleep Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle, And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Bethleem to be born?