Archive for the ‘Ramblings Off Topic’ category

meanwhile, in suburbia

May 5, 2015

We’ve lived in our current house for 28 years. And for 27 and a half years, we’ve had a picket fence enclosing our back yard. We hired a local company to build it. Originally it was intended to contain our little children and their toys. Then came dogs (and even a bunny). We stained it dark green so that it would blend into the grassy color of the open yards behind and around ours. This was, apparently, unheard of. Even scandalous. No one stained a wooden fence in these parts! Cedar fences are apparently supposed to bleach into a uniform gray (uniformity being a hallmark of suburbia, of course). Even the man who built our fence couldn’t believe it when we had him out years later to talk about repairs. (He did not get the job!)

To me, a gray wooden fence just looks uncared for, like an unmown lawn or peeling paint. I suppose it was the way I was raised. I can remember spending good parts of my St. Louis boyhood summers, when I wasn’t in Kentucky at my grandparents’ farm, staining the privacy fence of our backyard. I can remember going to my sister’s house for a party and her husband being unable to join us because he had to finish staining his fence. Tom Sawyer is famous for his fence staining acumen. And as I’ve driven around suburbia, I have spotted the occasional stained fence. I’m not alone.

In the nearly three decades of the fence’s life, I’ve replaced at least half of the pickets, many of the posts, and most of the rails. It is my own Ship of Theseus. The wood rots. Insects invade. Plants grow in and through. Mishaps with bats and balls. (One neighbor boy used our fence as his backstop for pitching practice, and he openly stated that his goal one summer was to knock off the top of each picket. Fortunately, he was a poor pitcher.)

But in all of that time, I’ve never encountered the danger to the fence’s integrity that has suddenly arrived this year.

As you probably know, we have two dogs: Flike and Queequeg. No one has told them they are dogs, so they don’t consider themselves to be such. And so they will bark at other dogs with disdain. Our neighbor (beyond on green picket fence) now has two dogs. (One her son left with her after he moved out, though he’s moved back in again. The other she got because she didn’t want the first dog to be lonely.) They do know they are dogs, and they recognize Flike and Queequeg as dogs despite their airs. These two neighbor dogs would love nothing more dearly than to play with our dogs.

In our yard.

And so they have. One of the dogs, Archie, has learned that he can grab the 27-and-a-half-year-old pickets in his jaws and wrench them free. All he needs to do is get one of them out and he and the other dog can slip into our yard and romp through the flower beds. Great fun.

Flike and Queequeg go nuts at this intrusion, and we are out there ushering the dogs back into their yard and slamming a few more nails into the pickets. A couple of years ago we had bought a hundred spare pickets to use as the occasional need arose. Now with Archie at work, the few I had left are rapidly being put to use.

My neighbor apologizes for this, but it is happening now almost daily. Eventually, (after I buy more pickets I guess) I’ll have that entire side of the fence replaced. Sturdy enuf to withstand Archie for a few years, I hope.

important day

March 19, 2015

Today is Philip Roth’s birthday. Please make the appropriate observances.

the coming month

March 4, 2015

My wife and I spent one evening last week hitting all of the local bookstores in town that were open, looking for a couple of books each, but I was specifically on the hunt for Steppenwolf (the novel by Herman Hesse, not the band most famous for “Born to be Wild”). I finally found it (as well as two other books, but that’s one of the delights of visiting libraries and bookstores) at the fourth store we visited. I brought it home and set it on my to-be-read shelf while I finished what I was reading at the time.

When I finally began reading Steppenwolf, I opened the cover, and a small note fell out. At first I thought it was someone engaging in the kind of guerilla marketing I do. The note turned out to be what you find in a fortune cookie.

Look to the coming month for a

solution to your problem

That coming month, March, is now upon me, and I’m eager to find out both what my solution and my problem are.

run along

January 28, 2015

trail

Note: This post is in my “let’s diversify this tired old blog” category.

At this time of the year, when shadows are long, there are occasional periods when the season loosens its iron grip and allows a series of warm, sunny days. And when that happens, I generally lace up and head out on the trail.

The community where I live has created a series of interconnected trails, mostly along streams that cut through the area, that walkers and bikers and skaters and skateboarders and runners can use. And they do.

We’ve had a string of warm days lately, and that’s meant that I’ve been turning away from the treadmill to run outside on the trail. In the photo above I am on the Indian Creek Trail, right at mile post 10, which is about two miles from my house. The ICT happens to run through my neighborhood, and the distance from my front door to the nearest access points is only .6 miles (downhill going that direction). I can go east or west from there and depending on my ambition, I may take the flatter route to the west or the hilly route to the east. (Since I’m observing Drynuary, I am not running to sports bars in either direction on this trail to meet my wife and rehydrate as I had before. And since I also expect February to return the iron grip of winter, I may not be out on the trails much then to run to the sports bars.)

I’m told (but have not personally verified) that you can, if you make the correct turns at the correct points, cobble together a full 26 mile loop on these trails, ending where you started. Part of that would involve running along much of the Tomahawk Creek Trail as well as the Indian Creek Trail. I generally find my way to the TCT on Sunday mornings (alas, three miles from my house to the closest access). Then, purely coincidentally, I finish five miles further at a salad and sandwich shop where my wife is waiting for me. I want to keep her company, so I generally allow myself a salad and iced tea (unsweetened, of course).

2.2

The trails are well maintained. In recent years, some kind soul has started painting white stripes to mark each quarter mile. (When I’m looking for an excuse to take a break, I can tell myself I’ll run to the next quarter mile marker. And then when I get there, I usually push to go to the next one.) Parts get resurfaced so that, I’m guessing, the entire route either gets new asphalt or new sealer once a year passes. (I don’t mind the new asphalt, but the sealer can by slippery underfoot for a few weeks. It also covers the quarter mile markers.) In some cities that the trails pass through, they will even plow away the snow. (Not my community though. I don’t mind running on snow, but it soon enuf turns into ice, which ain’t no fun.)

The mile post you see above is on the Tomahawk Creek Trail. The mileage there — an odd 2.2 measurement — is the distance from there to the end of the trail, where it connects with the ICT. Alternatively, it can also be taken as the distance made since the beginning of the trail if you’re going thataway. I don’t know why they put a mile post at 2.2 miles, but there is also one on the Indian Creek Trail. In that case it measures the distance to (or from) the state line betwixt Missouri and Kansas. (There are organized runs of 2.2 miles. I don’t know the significance of that distance though.) The salad and sandwich shop happens to be about a half mile in on the Missouri side, just off the trail. It makes for a good Sunday long run, though I need to start grabbing longer distances.

non sequitur

January 20, 2015

I’ve been thinking for a while that I should broaden the scope of this blog to include bits of my life that are not about my (sputtering) writing efforts.

I have been posting accounts of the races I’ve run, and they seem to be appreciated. (Here’s a link to all of them.)

I’ve also started posting some things about this little guy:

bath time

(He’d just had his bath, and his hair was out of control.)

So in the spirit of diversification, let me share with you a non sequitur I experienced recently.

I was at a table with a man maybe ten years older than I. I’ve known him casually for a dozen years. He’s a nice enuf guy, but his orbit is far different from mine, so we don’t have much in common. This man is something like a business consultant. He travels the globe, telling companies large and small how to run their businesses. His advice is apparently much liked because he lives well and has many nice things. (Cars, homes, clothes)

This man was telling me the latest hiring advice he was giving his clients. He said that when an applicant came in for an interview, the first thing you should ask the person is what time it is. Likely he/she will either look at the watch on his/her wrist or pull his/her phone out of his/her pocket. And this man went on to say that if the applicant referred to a cell phone for the time, don’t hire the person!

Why is this?

Well, it seems there is a body of thought that says people who have watches on their wrists — and so in their faces much of the time — understand the passage of time better than those who must pull time out of pants pockets or purses. You can count on the former to BE ON TIME and the latter to have a lackadaisical attitude toward promptness.

He was absolutely serious about this assertion.

It has its appeal. It gives the interviewer an easy answer to a tough decision. And it has the scent of old-time work ethic-ness. Such easy answers, such sweeping generalizations are why advertising and religion work so well. They tell you what to buy, what to think, whom to hate, and so forth. You don’t have to think for yourself, at least about complex things like human interaction and morality.

Of course it’s bogus.

Before the advent of the cell phone, not everyone was absolutely prompt. I suspect the ratio of promptness to lateness was no different fifty years ago than it is today. (I don’t wear a watch, and I am chronically early.) Furthermore, many people I know with cell phones have them in their faces far more than they have their wrists in their faces. They have more ready access to the time than their counterparts.

And what would the hiring manager conclude if the applicant pulled a pocket watch out of a waistcoat pocket to check the time?

you’ll probably be seeing a lot of posts like this one now

January 15, 2015

Ken

Here is little Ken. He’s only three days old in this photo, but today he turned a full week old.

They grow up so fast!

announcing

January 9, 2015

the arrival of Kenneth Gunner Johnson in New York City on January 8, 2015. He weighed 7 pounds and 8 ounces. More news to come . . . I’m sure!


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