Tag Archives: long-ago

One down, one to go

Certain songs take me very powerfully to times in the past, and I’ve had opportunity to experience this a number of times in the last few weeks. Usually, the song itself has nothing whatever to do with the incidents that it reminds me of, but merely binds to that incident in my mind by virtue of having been being played at the time.

I can feel no sense of measure
No illusion as we take
Refuge in young man’s pleasure
Breaking down the dreams we make

The entirety of the album 90125, but most particularly “Leave it”, take me back to 1988 or thereabouts. Well, actually, not 1988, but the Pliocene Era. That’s right, the era which went from roughly 5 million to 2 million years ago. Because 90125 was the sound track when I was reading Julian May’s books “The Saga of Pliocene Exile”. It was a trilogy, although more recently he’s added a fourth book.

I laid on my bed for hours at a time, reading these books, while 90125 played again and again. Hey, there was precious little to do, and my music collection was rather limited. It was pretty much either that, Led Zeppelin, or Rush.

And so, now, whenever I hear the opening notes of “Leave It”, I am drawn to thoughts of The Many Coloured Land, and the tourists being drawn through the portal to the prehistoric time, unexpectedly inhabited by aliens with golden torcs.

If they ever make a movie of these books, they’ve *got* to use 90125 as the sound track.

New tunes and old thoughts

I’ve been listening to “How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb” from U2 pretty much since it was released. As usually happens with a new album, it seems very strange at first, then slowly grows on me. And along the way I start picking up on the lyrics and picking out the various songs that I like and those that I don’t.

This album, strangely, reminds me more of “War” and “October” than it does of more recent stuff, although it is certainly a more mature sound, and less of the raw unpolished energy that was in “War”.

When I’ve not yet read the lyrics, little snips jump out at me, making me wonder about the rest. I hear the phrase “The girl with crimson nails has Jesus around her neck,” and that then becomes:

They know that they can’t dance
At least they know
I can’t stand the beats
I’m asking for the cheque
The girl with crimson nails
Has Jesus around her neck
Swinging to the music
Swinging to the music
oh oh oh

(From Vertigo)

Looking back to college and beyond, I remember a lot of girls with crimson nails and Jesus around their neck. It’s the sort of verbal picture that immediately makes a lot of sense to me, but which would be rather complicated to explain.

U2 always reminds me of a particularly embarassing incident in 10th grade. Sitting on the bus, next to a girl that, if the truth be told, I had a crush on. She’s listening to some music. I ask what it is. She give me the headphones, and I listen to a little bit of Joshua Tree. And, in the inevitable lull in general conversation, I exclaim loudly, “I *love* U2!” This is followed by dead silence, and the girl blushes deeply and doesn’t speak to me for a week.

Speaking of having Jesus around your neck, I had an interesting experience this week. I went to a “Christian” bookstore, in search of a liturgical calendar. For those of you who do not have a Christian background, or who have a Christian background that was, shall we say, light on the historical aspects of the faith, a liturgical calendar is a calendar which lists the seasons and feasts of the church, including the saints’ days from the various Christian traditions. If you didn’t know that, you’re excused. You probably have good reasons. However, the boostore staff is not excused. When I asked for a liturgical calendar, or a calendar of the church year, they didn’t know what I meant. The owner/manager said that he had never heard of such a thing, and then led me over to leather-bound planner books for pastors, complete with inspirational saying from prominent authors and politicians. When I more carefully explained what I was looking for, and having received the wrinkled-nose-we-don’t-talk-about-that look when I mentioned “Saints”, I was assured that they didn’t carry anything like *that*.

Wandering around the store afterwards, I was wholely unable to find anything particularly Christian about the store. Sure, they had Bibles. I gotta give them that. They also had inspirational books by Chuck Norris, and seemed to be pushing a lot of Bushy republican political books. Oh, yeah, and a bunch of Precious-Moments-y cherubic figurines. Most of the stuff there was wholesome values trashy novels (yes, there are “Christian” romance novels, God help us) and materials for entertaining sunday school classes. Apart from the Bible, I didn’t see any printed volume published prior to the Kennedy administration. Last time I checked, Christianity is a religion of tradition and history, and of prolific writers, and it seems very odd a Christian bookstore would be devoid of any of these writings. Christian writings from the last 50 years form little more than the foam on the cappucino. Or, I suppose Martin Luther would say, the foam on the beer. 😉 Unfortunately, I’m reasonably sure that the folks running that particular store would not catch that allusion.

To an old lady

In highschool, I won the poetry competition. I recited a poem called “To an old lady asleep at a poetry reading”, by James Kirkup. I remember that I said the whole poem to an increasingly embarassed woman in the front row.

Snore on in your front row seat
Let not my voice disturb the wordless heaven your eyes have found
Here in the hard hall,
With its naked lights,
The nightmare setting of all sleepless nights
In which my words and spirit are bound.

When I was speaking with one of the judges after the competition, he discovered that I was an American, and was, I believe, quite horrified. I had laid on the British accent thick, and he didn’t realize that it wasn’t genuine. And it used to come very naturally to me.

Well, at my Christmas Carol reading on Saturday, I had to work really hard at it, and, even then, there were several times when I realized that I had almost entirely let it slip. And while I expect that most of my audience didn’t notice any but the most eggregious times, I guess it just shows that when you don’t speak a language for a while, you lose it.

Let not that tiresome vulture – your wakeful neighbour
Disturb you with her nudging gloom
She is one of those restless seekers-after-culture
Who, at question time, will shout for it
While I desire only the chilly sanctuary of the Chairman’s guest room

Ah, poor dear, she’s wakened you
You stare, perplexed a moment,
From under your hat’s provincial flowers

You must not mind, dear
As shame comes hunting your
Yes, dear, this is Hell, and this is me confronting you.

I should probably get a copy of Patrick Stewart’s reading of A Christmas Carol before the next time I attempt to do this. I watched his movie rendition on Sunday. I probably should have watched that before, too. His interpretation of things seems to be very true to the spirit of the book.

Apologies to Mr Kirkup. I’m probably remembering wrong, but I can’t find a copy of the poem anywhere. Anyone who knows what volume I can find the poem in, I’d be much obliged if you could provide that information.

Have you heard about Haiti?

This morning I woke long before my usual Saturday time, and ventured forth into the tundra. I almost crawled back into bed when I saw that it was 28 degrees (F) outside. But, I perservered, and headed out to Keeneland for the “Have You Heard About Haiti” 5K run, organized by the Episcopal Dioscese of Lexington.

The race started at 9, and I had a pretty good start, followed by a realization that I had started to fast, and there was no way I could maintain that pace for more than a half mile. If that.

After about a mile, I thought I was going to die.Terrible cramps. It was getting hard to believe that I used to win these things almost every weekend. Of course, that was almost 20 years ago.

There was a boy there, about 10 or 11, who passed me pretty early on. I used to be that kid. And there was a girl there about the same age. When I used to be that boy, that girl used to be named Michelle Jernigan. She was at every race I ever ran, and she always finished ahead of me. It got to the point where my goal for those races was to beat Michelle, since I already figured I was going to win my own category. I don’t think I ever did beat her. I wonder if she got old and out of shape like me.

So, I finally finished, a mere 6 minutes slower than my worst time *ever*. (27:57, for the record.) It took me at least 10 minutes just sitting in the car before I could breathe normally without feeling like I was going to yarf all over the place. I walked around a little, ate a banana in teensy bites, and had some water to drink.

Since it was a walk as well as a run, it took about another 30 minutes for everyone to come in. And I was starting to get pretty cold, so I had just decided to go ahead and leave when the awards started. It came as a complete surprise to discover that all the other men my age have also allowed themselves to get old and out of shape. I placed second in my age group (the “old and bitter” age group).

Who knows, maybe I could actually get back into decent shape, get my mile back under 7 minutes, and win myself a trophy or two. Or … not.


The last several days I’ve been tying the new kikoi my brother and sis-in-law brought me from Kenya. I really enjoy tying them. It’s somehow relaxing. And it always reminds me of tying my kikoi in my O-levels.

The O-level exams ran for two weeks, and it turned out that the weekend in between was the only time that we could go down to Mombasa. So, I took a week of exams, then we hopped on the Good Ol’ EAR&H and went down to Mombasa. It was wonderful – one of the best vacations that I can remember. Walking up and down the beach, haggling with the vendors, and *wonderful* food.

One of the things I bought on that trip – probably traded a tshirt for it, or something like that – was an orange kikoi which I still have. Kikois usually come with the ends unraveled, and the first thing you have to do is to tie off the ends into little bunches so that the thing doesn’t come all the way undone.

We left Mombasa on the train on Sunday night, and headed back up to Nairobi. During the night, there was some kind of trouble, and we sat still on the tracks for several hours, not arriving in Nairobi until just a short time before my first exam. We called ahead to the school, and got approval for me to come to my exam in what I was wearing, since there wasn’t time for me to go home and change into my uniform.

So, I arrived for my math O-level wearing shorts, a dirty t-shirt, and my new kikoi, while everyone else was in their crisp clean uniforms. Of course, that got me the delighted stares of my peers. 😉

Then, to make things worse (for them, not for me) I *totally* aced the exam, and finished it in about half the allotted time. However, I wasn’t permitted to leave until the time as over, so I just had to sit there. I sat for about an hour, tying off the ends of my new kikoi, while my peers glared at me from their desks. When they let us out, I had finished tying, and went home to change into my school uniform.

Sarah has asked if she can have my old kikoi now that I have a new one. I think I’ll probably hang onto it for a while. Good memories. But she’s welcome to share. 🙂

Ms. Pac-Man

Oh, yeah, forgot to mention. Somehow, Sarah persuaded me to buy Ms. Pac-Man at RadioShack.

“Somehow”. Yeah, right. I used to spend hours playing Ms. Pac Man at the FSU Student Union arcade. There was a Ms. Pac Man machine in there that was a little flakey, and if you kicked it just right in just the right place, it gave you free games. The Centipede game was the same way.

Now I can play Ms. Pac Man and Galaga and Pole Position for hours at a time, but without the arcade manager catching me and chasing me out with threats of violence.


More about turntables

ok, the reason that I was looking for a turntable is that I am attempting to convert a HUGE stack of LPs to MP3 and/or CD. The turntable that I have quit working well. More specifically, it plays records great, but when I plug into the audio out port, I get nasty buzzing. So, more accurately, the turntable works fine, but the amp portion is icky.

So, rather than spending buncha bucks on an entirely new stereo system, I decided to just get some wires, and patch into where the speakers come out. This is actually working really well, and I’m getting good quality sound.

I’m currently “ripping” my tape of Van Halen 1984.

I remember the first time I heard “Jump.” I was in a pickup truck, in Florida. It was 1984. I was going home with my best friend (I can’t even remember his name. Isn’t that pathetic?) for a sleepover. His uber-cool big brother was driving, and he popped in the brand new tape from Van Halen, cranked it up, and played Jump. Pretty cool stuff.

So, with the new/old technology in place, I can resume my lengthy project.

Feeling older than dirt

I’m sitting on a bench in front of the library at Asbury College. I’m on the wireless network. Back in my day, there *certainly* wasn’t any wireless networking. Of course, the library wasn’t there, either.

<DrBacchus> Note to self: Hanging out on a college campus makes one feel old as dirt.
<DrBacchus> Was I ever this young?
<crschmidt> Yes.
<DrBacchus> ’tis hard to remember
<crschmidt> To you, going to college makes you feel old. To me, going to work makes me feel young.
<crschmidt> (The average person where I work is 11 years older than me)
<DrBacchus> I vaguely remember that sensation, too
<crschmidt> That’s what I get for dropping out of college and getting employed
<DrBacchus> Now my work is populated by young whippersnappers who don’t know what USSR stood for.
<crschmidt> heh
<crschmidt> United Soviet SuckeRs!
<DrBacchus> see?
<crschmidt> (united soviet socialist republic? wow, i am one of those whippersnappers. sorry.)
<DrBacchus> Just makes me nostalgic for when things were so much simpler and I thought they were complicated.
<DrBacchus> Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, actually, but it was just an example.
* crschmidt nods.
<DrBacchus> *sigh*
<DrBacchus> Of course, in my day, there wasn’t wireless networking to the park benches in front of the library, I can tell you that much.

(Apologies to crschmidt.)

Seeing all these kids making the decisions (and mistakes) that will mould the rest of their lives, one is tempted to grab a few and shake them. It’s amazing to me how seldom I really saw past the borders of the college. And how many things that seemed so important then seem so trivial now. And, certainly, vice versa.

The smells of Africa

A comment made on my posting about Don’t let’s go to the dogs tonight got me thinking about smells. The commenter notes that Fuller always talks about the smells of a place. This didn’t really strike me, but the comment reminded me of the smells of Africa. The smell of the Nairobi City Market: the fish mongers, the wonderful dust/sweat/wood smell of the wooden carvings, the smell of the flower vendors and the fruit vendors. The smell of Biashara street, with the spice stores.

And the smell of Dagoretti.

Dagoretti is a little town that you go through if you catch the bus going the wrong direction at the Rhino Park Road bus stop. The bus still gets you to the same place, but instead of going through Karen, it goes through Dagoretti.

Dagoretti is the place where the herders bring their cattle to be butchered. You can smell it a couple miles away – the thick stench of rotting carcasses that almost gets stuck in your throat. As you drive into Dagoretti and past the abattoirs, you see skulls and vultures. Wooden pens, perhaps 2 or 3 meters on each side, and stretching up about the same height, stand in front of and beside each abattoir, all along the side of the road. Each one is filled with skulls, in various stages of decomposition. Vultures cluster thickly around each, picking at those skulls that still have enough on them to be worth it.

As the bus toils through Dagoretti, you struggle to hold your breath for the 6 or 7 minutes when the stench is the strongest, and, when that fails, you try desperately to think of something else so that you don’t start gagging.

As the bus finally pulls out of Dagoretti, you deeply inhale the dust and diesel coming up from the road, in an effort to purge your nose and lungs, but the smell will linger in your clothes all day.

Of course, if you happen to get there on slaughter day, the smell is entirely different, and the trip much slower. The streets are clogged with thousands of dusty, skinny, bawling brahmans. (Although I assure you they don’t look anywhere near as good as the ones at that link!) Usually young boys will be driving them, smacking them with little sticks and yelling at them to move along. Then the smell is one of dust and manure and excitement. The cows stumble along unprotestingly, and you can almost imagine that, in their emaciated state, the slaughterhouse is looking like a pretty good thing for them.

My brother and his wife are in Kenya this week, and I’m *ssooooooo* jealous.

Reading group

In college I was an RA (Resident Assistant). That means, roughly, that I was supposed to keep the children … um … men from destroying the dorm, killing one another, or operating illegal businesses out of their rooms. At least, that’s how I understood my tasks.

(Typical conversation: “Room check! Ok, you still have a room.”)

One of the rooms on my hall contained two freshmen who were intent on annoying everyone else to the point of distraction, keeping the noise level at or above the pain threshhold anytime that someone might possibly want to sleep, give the hall the aromatic features of a petting zoo, and carpet their room entirely in banana stickers. Names are withheld to protect the guilty.

So, fast-forward 14 years.

Last night, one of these fine gentlemen called me and invited me to attend a reading group, which will be reading books on the topic of social justice, featuring the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, among others. I was honored that he would think of inviting me to the gathering of upstanding young men who will be attending. And although I like telling college stories about this guy, he’s a great young man, and, as long as I’m complementing him, he’s got a beautiful wife and daughter, too.

Oh, and, for the record, the other guy is operating a mission organization that works with street kids in Kathmandu and Calcutta, among other places. So he turned out ok too. Although he’s still a little weird. 😉