Sharing with you things that are on my mind...Maybe yours too. Come back to Wrights Lane for a visit anytime!

30 August, 2011

THANKS TO HAROLD, MOM'S BROOM WAS DEFLECTED

In am happy to announce that both my books, "Wrights Lane...Come On In" and "Dresden Life Remembered" are currently being converted to Ebook digital form by the publisher.  More about the release date in a couple of weeks.  Meantime, I thought that I would reproduce a couple of the stories from Dresden Life Remembered that are yet to be posted on my "Dresden:  Father & Son Turn Back the Clock" web site.
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(Extract from Dresden Life Remembered)
The Wright family, as far as I know, were always respectable, law-abiding citizens.  As a young lad about to step out into the world to seek fame and fortune, I certainly had no intention of blemishing that fine record.   An incident when I was about 16 years of age, however, still has me feeling like a borderline criminal -- thanks to my mother of all people.

On one fateful evening I had attended a movie, stopped for a customary milkshake at Swainstson's Grill and engaged in some small town banter with a few friends on the main street corner when I realized that it was getting rather late.  I don't remember ever having an official curfew, I just always knew that it behoved me to be home somewhere between 10 and 10:30 on movie nights or suffer the wrath of my mother who could be quite excitable and reactionary at times, to put it mildly.
CONST. HAROLD HEDDEN

Having lost all track of time, and before I knew it, the town post office Big Ben was striking 11 o'clock.  "I'd better get going." I said to my friends as I broke away from the group.

I was only a couple of minutes into my walk home  (opposite the Green residence and across the street from Doc Ruttle's, as I recall) when the town police cruiser slowly glided up and stopped beside me.  "Are you on your way home, Dick?" came a voice from the darkened vehicle at the curb.  Recognizing the form of Police Constable Harold Hedden, I responded in the affirmative.

"That's good," answered Harold, "because your mother just called and wanted us to pick you up."

Almost as an afterthought when pulling away, he applied the brakes and shouted back:  "Better get a move on and good luck when you get home."  I knew what he meant.

As I cautiously approached our property on Sydenham Street, I could see the shadow of a figure hovering just inside the front door.  Having been there and experienced that on several occasions in the past, I pushed the door open and took a quick step backward.  A corn broom came crashing down in front of me, breaking into three pieces as it hit the floor with great force.  I made a hasty entry unscathed, leaving my mother with half a broom stick still in her hand and screaming:  "Now, see what you made me do!"

Just some of the things that a boy has to endure when his mother is trying to raise her only child as best she can, and on her own, under less-than-desirable conditions in the 1950s.

I always thought kindly of good old Harold for his discretion that night and for giving me advance warning of the potential bodily harm awaiting me when I got home.  

The police motto:  "To serve and to protect," has special meaning for me to this day.

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POSTSCRIPT:  After the infamous staying-out-late, broom-breaking incident, neither my mother nor I ever discussed the matter again.  Although I bought her a brand-spanking-new Fuller broom for her birthday to replace the old "taped-up" one.  Needless to say that went over like a lead balloon, much like the time my dad gave her an electric orange juice squeezer for Christmas, which she promptly returned to the store from which it came.  I honestly do not know what ever happened to the broom that I gave her, but it no doubt suffered the same fate as the electric orange juice squeezer.


27 August, 2011

DON'T PUT OFF ENJOYING LIFE, DO IT NOW!

Last in a three-part series

"This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.  -- George Bernard Shaw 
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My late wife Anne became a strong proponent of the power of positive thinking in the late stages of her very courageous struggle with cancer.  Several months before she passed away, she requested a copy the book "You Can't Afford the Luxury of a Negative Thought" by John Roger and Peter McWilliams.

I'm not sure if she ever got to read any part of the 622-page publication after receiving it.

When working on the previous post several days ago and looking for inspiration, my hand casually fell on the book which had remained undisturbed on a shelf for at least 10 years.  Upon opening it to the forward, I was surprised to find that the binding had yet to be broken.  It was a surreal moment that I cannot quite put into words. 

I spent the remainder of the evening with the highly-acclaimed book and countless hours since.  One very brief chapter in particular caught my attention, "Live Your Life Now".  In only eight paragraphs, the subject of procrastination -- putting off things that you've always wanted to do -- resonated with me.  That is what I have rather awkwardly tried to get at in several posts recently.

We all put off unpleasant activites, but we also put off enjoyable ones too.  We dole out pleasure, contentment and happiness as though they were somehow rationed.  The supply of these things is limitless, yet we seem to do the rationing ourselves, ie. "I'll do it when I have more time" or "I'll do it when I have more money" or "I'll do it when I'm a little older".  If we look, there are always perfect reasons why we shouldn't enjoy life or why we should postpone doing things that we have always wanted to do.

In life we have either reasons or results.  If we don't have what we want, we usually have a long list of reasons for why we don't have them.

Roger and McWilliams answer to that is to focus attention on all the positive things taking place in ones' life.  "If you can't find something positive about your environment, look again -- with fresh eyes.  Try another point of view.  Be creative.  What good are you taking for granted? 

"If you can't find anything, hold your breath.  Within a few minutes, you will really appreciate breathing."

If you are not enjoying life as much as you could or should, don't put it off until later...You are already in your "laters".  Start now before it is too late!

I think that is what Anne would say.

26 August, 2011

LET'S BE REALISTIC ABOUT BALANCING OUR POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE WAYS OF THINKING

I have written rather extensively about positive thinking because of its importance to the well-being of each and every one of us.  The opposite of positive thinking is, of course, negative thinking -- possibly the primary self-inflicted disease of our time.  Negative thinking tends to drag us down mentally, emotionally and physically.  It literally makes us sick.

Our positive thoughts (joy, happiness, fulfillment, achievement, worthiness) create positive results (enthusiasm, calm, well-being, ease, energy, love).  Negative thoughts on the other hand (judgment, unworthiness, mistrust, resentment, fear) produce negative results (tension, anxiety, alienation, anger, fatigue).

It goes without saying that without our thoughts, things simply would not happen in our lives.  Where we are in our lives at this very minute, is the result of a lifetime of thinking, both positive and negative.   While I have had bouts of negative thinking in my lifetime, I consider myself to be generally positive by nature.

Unlike pregnancy where you either are or you are not, I have cause to wonder however if it is possible to be a little bit negative.  Are realists and rationalists just a little bit negative in their thinking?  And in this regard, can negativity be a matter of personal perception; in other words, in the mind and eyes of the beholder?  Allow me to explain those rather convoluted questions as perhaps only I can pose them.

My wife Rosanne is impulsive by mature and has been known to embrace ideas with great enthusiasm, which more often than not I encourage and support.  There are times, however, when it seems to me that her enthusiasm has blinded her from reality, prompting me to suggest: "Rosanne, think about your health.  You are not physically able to do that...", or "Remember, that will cost money which we do not have..." or, "Come on now, what would we do with that if we had it?"

Rosanne's response is always the same:  "Why are you so negative?  You always want to knock me down when I am happy about something!"  At that point any attempt to explain myself falls on deaf ears and I am left feeling badly about having hurt her feelings.  Maybe in not patronizing her with false hope, I could be accused of negativity.  In her mind, she is convinced that I can be positive one minute and negative the next  -- but she loves me nonetheless.

If I really wanted to push the issue, I am sure that I could also convince Rosanne that I only react in her best interests, but down deep I think she really does understand.  Most assuredly, I do not want to make "negativity" an issue in our lives and I am committed to being a little more sensitive when it comes to playing the role of devil's advocate with my wife.

So what is my point?

To me, both positive and negative are equally important as they comprise the whole. Just like every coin has two sides, there is day and night, there is life and death, there is joy and pain, there is beauty and ugliness – all of these things are complimentary to each other. This is what we call "reality". Reality cannot be changed. A lie changes, but truth always remains the same.

Have you ever realized the joy of seeing things as they are in their whole or totality, instead of looking at only one side? No question about the existence of a positive-negative balancing act, but there is so much joy in adopting a realistic approach in life – just accepting the way things are with grace and love. 

Of that, I am positive.

24 August, 2011

TAKE IT EASY, BE HAPPY!

I take liberties. but someone once said something to the effect Don't take life too seriously...You will never get out of it alive anyway.

Singer Bobby McFerrin also made popular the song "Don't worry, be happy" and for some personalities that may be easier said than done.  It is a good philosophy, nonetheless, and an attitude worthy of adoption.

Trust me, I have learned the hard way that I should make every effort to be easier on myself, on everyone and everything in my life.  As much as possible, and believe me it is a struggle at times, I try to suspend judgment on the way things should be, to my way of thinking.  In so doing, I find myself more at ease.  It helps too to take time to do things that relaxes us -- walking (the dog), going fishing, playing some golf, doing aerobics, visiting friends, meditating, reading, writing, painting...you know what I mean.  Personally, I take advantage of my ability to doze off to sleep at the drop of a hat and whatever I happen to leave undone at the time will certainly get done later, when I get around to it.  That, I guess, is one of the advantages of being retired with no one to answer to, other than the better half.  Naps are the greatest!

Some people think that happiness just happens, and, yes, to a degree that is true.  But happiness has a better chance of happening in situations we generally find enjoyable.

I think that we all should be more conscious of the things that bring us "ease" and ultimately "happiness" -- acceptance, patience, giving, grace, effortlessness, simplicity, acquiescing, permitting and forgiving.   We would do well to expand on those words, going so far as to make a list to review in our minds on a regular basis, lest we forget.  It's all about fostering the right attitude.

Tomorrow I plan to expand on this train of thought by adding to this post my impressions of "negativity" and how it affects our lives.  Betcha can't wait?



22 August, 2011

CHATHAM-KENT BOYS LEAD WINDSOR SELECTS TO CANADIAN JR. BASEBALL CHAMPIONSHIP

Dresden's Justin Cook slid safely into  home plate to give Windsor Selects an early lead in Sunday's Baseball Canada Junior Championship game.
http://youtu.be/XJiuhPyy6JY

Over the past couple of years we have been following the progress of three talented Chatham-Kent baseball players in U.S. college play and with the Windsor Selects in national junior competition during the summer break.  This past weekend they reached the pinnacle of junior baseball supremacy in Canada.  *Click on the YouTube video link above to see the boys in action and as they were interviewed following the Canadian championship final game.

Larry Balkwill of Chatham, and Dresden twin brothers Justin Cook and Matt Cook captured a Baseball Canada Junior Championship Sunday afternoon in Windsor as members of the Windsor Selects.  The Selects went 6-0 in the tournament including a 5-2 win over Mississauga in the Gold Medal game. Balkwill hit an outstanding .471 in the tournament with 3 RBI’s, including a 2-for-4 performance in the gold medal game.

Justin Cook showed off his skills at the plate in the gold medal game collecting 2 RBI’s. Justin had 4 RBI’s in the tournament and finished with a .313 average. Brother Matt Cook also had a hit and an RBI for the Selects in the gold medal game. Matt pitched the semi-final game of the tournament striking out eight batters and allowing only two hits in a 2-1 win over St. Thomas Tom Cats and was named  the tournament's all-star right-handed pitcher for his effort.  Justin also pitched and won a game in the 10-team championship tournament.

Balkwill was named the tournament's all-star defensive catcher.

I bet I know two sets of very proud parents who made the trip down 401 Highway for that championship game on Sunday.

The three Chatham-Kent athletes are about to head south to begin their NCAA seasons with their respective college baseball teams.  We wish them well.

20 August, 2011

IN LIFE AND DEATH, OUR NAME IS THE VERY ESSENCE OF WHO AND WHAT WE ARE

My first assignment as a cub newspaper reporter was to write obituaries.  It was not the most stimulating task in the newsroom, but a necessary one nonetheless.  Obituaries were considered to be the rite of passage for any reporter hoping to advance to bigger, more challenging assignments.

Details for obituary write ups and customary death notices would be submitted by funeral home directors on a special form and it would be my job to convert the information to news copy for publication in the news columns and classified advertising section of the current day's paper.

Copy deadline was 11:30 a.m. and the funeral homes were required to deliver the information to the news desk by no later than 11:00 a.m.  Same day publication was crucial to the funeral homes  because of the need to get visitation times out to the public in advance of the funeral service itself.  I was never comfortable when up against a fast-approaching deadline because it meant that I would often be required to rush my copy and confine it to the more-often-than-not meagre details handwritten in the blank spaces of the forms provided by the funeral home.

It did not take me long to understand that obituary copy should be more than just a name, time of death and funeral service details.  Obituaries, if handled correctly, represent some one's life, someone who only a matter of days before lived, breathed, functioned, loved and was loved; someone who made contributions to life in any number of ways and someone whose achievements were their legacy. Wherever possible, I took it upon myself to solicit additional facts and missing information  about the deceased -- occupation, community service, special interests, affiliations -- to add to the customary list of survivors.  In all seriousness, I felt that it was the last thing that I could do for them.

One of the other things that my newspaper experience taught me, was respect for names.  People and their names are what community newspaper should be all about -- the more the better.  People love to see their names in print, likewise their relatives and friends.  People also deserve to see their names spelled correctly and it behooves publishers to insist on that being the case.

I make frequent contributions to a Dresden Virtual History Group forum on Facebook and I commented the other day on the significance of names and why I include so many of them in my nostalgic writings about my old hometown.  We all relate to names, familiar ones in particular.  They prompt memories and allow us to escape, for a few brief moments at least, to another time and another place, to old relationships.  We remember people by their names.  When we forget a name,
recall of the person is blurred.  Remember a name and everything about the person comes into focus.

The one defining characteristic we all share, the one unique and profound element of each and everyone of us is the name we are given. From the reason to why we were given such a name to the historical lineage and significance of what a name has come to represent, our name (beyond it’s objective purpose) encompasses what and who each one of us is. It’s essence is at the very heart of our existence.

We all have good, honorable names with long histories.  Our fathers gave them to us.  Protect them.  Respect them.  Be proud of them, o ye sons and daughters.

Names do not die with the person.  They live on in the hearts and minds of those who remember them.

And, oh yes...In the obituary column archives of our newspapers too.
 

17 August, 2011

IT'S A WELL-WORN CLICHE BUT TIMES HAVE CHANGED, JUST ASK THIS OLD BALL PLAYER

ITEM UPDATE:  Major league baseball announced signing of top draft picks following the Monday, Aug 15, deadline for this season.  The total of the 32 first-round bonuses was an unbelievable $94.5 million (U.S.), an average of $2.95 million per player.  Equally astonishing was the fact that Tyler Beebe, the 21st pick overall and one of the top high school pitchers in the U.S., turned down a $2.5 million offer from the Toronto Blue Jays (his family was asking for $3.5 million).  The 18-year-old has announced his intentions to attend Vanderbilt University instead of turning pro and is obviously gambling that he will be worth much more to a big league team after he graduates.
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NO BONUS BABY
...but happy with $60 a week
to play baseball.
St. Thomas Times-Journal
photo, May 15, 1956
News that several top-calibre teenage baseball players have turned down $2 million signing bonuses out of the major league baseball draft this past week, really has me scratching my head.  I can't help but think also about the uncertain futures of two of my grandchildren who are college students and two others who soon will be.  Something is surely out of whack here somewhere.

It is particularly difficult for a kid of the 1940s and '50s to rationalize just how much things have changed over the past six decades.  Personally, it is mind-blowing.  Back in the 1950s I was little better than average as an athlete and below average as a student.  I honestly do not know how I would "make the grade" in today's specialized, technical marketplace.

In the spring of 1956 I was offered a take-it-or-leave-it contract to play professional baseball in the United States.  I had just turned 18 years of age, was extremely wet behind the ears and had stars in my eyes.  After short stops in Florida (Cocoa) and Tennessee (Chattanooga), I ended up on the roster of a Class "D" team in Donalsonville, Georgia, as a pitcher.  My $60.00 a week contract was more money than I had ever made before and a far cry from the $22.00 weekly that I was making in a clothing store back home in Dresden.  I was soon to learn, however, that there was no security in minor pro baseball in those days.  The revolving gate was rarely at rest.

Due to the emergence of what would become a life-time chronic back problem, I was eventually given an outright release from the Donalsonville team and told to stay in shape and to keep in touch for next year.  Sadly, next year would never come.  My departing pay cheque did not completely cover the cost of a bus trip home and I had to use money my mother had wired me a few days earlier to purchase the ticket.

Back home in Dresden, a high school dropout and jobless, I was not ready to give up on my baseball dream.  After a few days of mom's good home cooking and my knapsack full of freshly laundered clothing, I boarded a bus in Chatham destined for St. Thomas where I had been informed the semi-pro "Elgins" were signing players for the upcoming Senior Intercounty Baseball League season.

The bus dropped me off in St. Thomas at the old London and Port Stanley Railway station.  I had never been in the city before but I had noticed the Grand Central Hotel on the way in and felt that would be as good a place as any to check in.  My first night's lodging cost a break-the-bank $35.00 which put a big dint in the $60.00 and change that I had in my wallet.

I dropped my belongings off in the rather sparse hotel room and headed back out to Talbot Street to get a better lay of the land.  I stopped the first person I saw and asked for directions to the ball park.  "Are you here to try out for the Elgins?" asked the middle-aged man in a coarse voice.  He introduced himself as Gerry Drynan, a CNR engineer, and explained that he was a member of the baseball team's executive.

He went on to say that there would not be anyone at the ball park at that time of day (shortly after noon), but that he would take me across the street and introduce me to another member of the executive, Bill Mattis, a bowling lanes operator.  Bill, in turn, offered to set up a meeting for me with Tommy White, the then playing-manager of the Elgins, and very kindly accompanied me on foot further east on Talbot Street to Tommy White's Sport Shop.

Tommy, a cigar-smoking tobacco-chewing jolly sort of guy in his early 40s, immediately made me feel welcome and invited me to a team practice that evening at Pinafore Park.  "I'll pick you up at 6 o'clock,"  he offered with a slap on my back.

Practices with the Elgins went well over the course of the next week and out of necessity I left the Grand Central after that first night and moved to the Empire Hotel for a more moderate rate of $15.00 a night.  I had just enough money left to buy a loaf of bread, Cheese Whiz and a quart of milk, still uncertain as to my status with the baseball club.  Finally, on my sixth day and with my food stash depleted, I signed a contract with the team for an amazing $60 a week.  In addition, thanks to Len Barnes, another member of the team's executive, a full-time job was arranged for me with Jack Fraser Stores which payed me another $45.00 a week.

With my first advance from the baseball club, I ordered a T-bone steak dinner at Gettis Restaurant and when it was placed in front of me by waitress Vivian Kerhoulis I could not eat any of it because my stomach had shrunk so much from my starvation diet of the past week.  From that point on, however, I never again left food on my plate.

Those first five months of 1956 were eventful for me to say the least, complete with highs and lows,  maybe some predestination, but the beginning of my education in the real world -- the school of hard knocks, you might say.

But boy, a kid from the small town of Dresden getting paid to play a game that he loved, with a full-time job to boot?  A first girl friend, a first car (1948 Plymouth coupe) and a wonderful boarding house were to follow.  No question about it, I had arrived!  Or so I thought.

Today, I'd probably have trouble getting a job digging ditches.  Come to think about it, people don't dig ditches today -- machines do, driven by specially licensed operators making at least $40.00 an hour.

"Times have changed," you say?  Tell me about it.

15 August, 2011

ABOUT DECISIONS, RESOLVE AND COMPROMISES

I have been a coward on the rare occasion, taking the most expeditious easy way out of certain situations.  You know, "what will be best for me?" or "what will be best for other parties?  Surely I am not alone in that admission.

The "easy way out" can be prompted by one's natural predisposition for self-preservation while, on the other hand, the interests and feelings of others might be the overriding consideration.  Resolution can, and does, take many forms and in the end if we are lucky we can gain solace from knowing that "all is well that ends well".  Again, if we are lucky.

My contention is that "the end" of which I speak is not always reached without ill-advised influences, sacrifices, compromises, enduring uncertainty and self-questioning.

"Easy outs" can simply mean walking away from uncomfortable issues, failing to accept a fair share of responsibility, soft-pedalling of problem areas, a general dismissal of root causes and stubborn resistance to recognition of any common ground.  Much easier to settle for personal appeasement and justification enabling us to get on with life, hopefully leaving the whole mess behind.

So caught up are we in "self" and "others" when facing challenging issues in life, that we tend to overlook honest to goodness consideration of the right mindset with which to assess and rationalize facts of a given matter.  We simply do not reach down deep enough within ourselves when engaging in the crucial decision-making process.  From the womb we have been conditioned to conformity. By that, I mean the idea that our purpose in life is to make things easier for our parents, our family, our teachers, our friends.  Eventually we learn to work our own interests into the equation as well and that only further complicates matters for us.

From the word "go" we are told not to rock the ship, make no fuss and to not question decisions made beyond our control and behest.  Is it any wonder then that we look for "easy outs" when we later face difficult challenges as adults in a very complex world?   I know that I open myself up to the possibility of criticism, but generally in our formative years we are conditioned to think that it is good for us to accept whatever life throws our way, no matter how sub-standard.  To this day our  youngsters are expected to be suppressible and accepting.

As with many subjects dealt with in Wrights Lane, my thinking in all of this is admittedly simplistic  but I cannot help but be just a little upset.

At no time, at least in my experience, are we ever told that when faced with awkward situations and difficult decisions, it just might be better to make ourselves briefly unpopular than to become permanently compromised.  Like tough love, tough solutions are not always immediately understood, nor appreciated.  Also, nowhere is it written that we have to accept certain situations and that we are necessarily compelled to make life "easier" with the courses of action we decide to take.

There are those too who fall back on the "will of God" in such instances, but to me that is another all-too-convenient easy way out.  What is wrong with individual backbone and common sense?  Why place the onus on God?  After all, He gave us minds and a biblical blueprint to utilize in dealing with difficult and challenging earthly issues.

There are times when idealism, out of necessity, should give way to unbridled reality -- and uncompromised, guilt-free thinking that takes into consideration what is truly conducive to satisfactory resolution of the challenging issues we face in life.   Circumstances and the ramifications of issues are what should be considered first and foremost and not necessarily the feelings and prejudices of ourselves and others.

It is a shame when you have to admit to being a compromised, "easy out" coward like me.  And to think that I was never that popular anyway.  There have been situations in the past where I could have risked being unpopular for the sake of what would have been best for all concerned in the long run.  If only I had gone deeper within for answers and ignored misguided and often misconstrued influences, as well-intended as they may have been at one time.

Suffice to say, the easy way out does not always equate to the wisest way out.  Excuses, likewise, do little to enhance our position.

Ah me.  We get too soon old and too late smart(?)!

12 August, 2011

LET'S ALL BE THE BEST WE CAN BE

"Sometimes in life we know that we are not the best player in the game, but if we try our hardest and are the best that we can be, there is a very good chance that we will emerge victorious because 'best players' have been known to level the playing field by being complacent."  -- The Old Coach


I always told kids that I coached in sports to not be intimidated by players who they think are better than them, rather "put all of your energy into being the best player that you can be."  The same thing applies to all aspects of life, because there will always be someone who is "better than you", but that need not stop us from the enjoyment of full application and ultimate satisfaction in having done our level best.

For me there might well be a case here for "preacher heal thyself" because I fear that I have not always "tried my level best".  Oh, I am sure that I have tried, but in retrospect I have to wonder if I fully applied myself to certain tasks and goals.  If I only had it to do over again...

Perhaps some readers of this post will also question the extent to which they have "tried their level best" in the past as opposed to just going though the paces and settling for come what may.

So this weekend, I am donning the old coach's cap and suggesting that we find the wisdom to base our decisions on inspiration rather than fear, and on imagination rather than conformity.

It is time for us to truly be the best we can be, physically and emotionally, in all that we do.  With that as our guiding principle, how can we possibly go wrong.

May we all be "the best" winners this weekend...and for ever more!

11 August, 2011

REMEMBERING THE 1950s BOBBY SOCKS ERA

BOBBY SOCKS:  The word "Bobby" comes from bob, meaning cut short, as in bobtail and bobby pins used in bobbed hair.  Since the socks described by the term were cut much shorter than the earlier knee-high socks worn by girls, they were called "bobby socks". 
NOTE:  To set the mood for this item, click
http://youtu.be/9EY4TT2bLRM to hear Frankie Avalon's 1950 hit song, "Bobby Sox to Stockings"
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Just as I had hoped in a post last week, the unusual word "mulligan" has finally been wiped from my mind only to be replaced in the last 12 hours by the words "bobby socks".

"Why in the world are you thinking about bobby socks now, of all things?" you might justifiably ask.  Well the answer is: I really can't explain it other than the fact that I am an old sentimental fool who has a soft spot for everything bobby socks, including the socks themselves, the girls who wore them and the era in which they were worn.  It may have been something I saw on television that prompted this latest word(s) obsession.

"Bobby soxer" is a 1940s sociological coinage denoting the over zealous (usually teenage girls) fans of singer Frank Sinatra, the first singing teen idol.  By the 1950s, fashionable adolescent girls wore poodle skirts and rolled down their socks to the ankle. More often than not, the footwear of choice was the popular black and white saddle oxford of the period.  In high schools, the gymnasium often was used as a dance floor: however, since street shoes and street detritus might damage the polished wood floors, the students were required to remove their shoes and dance in their bobby socks, thus the phrase 'sock hop' was born.

Bobby socks, saddle shoes and let's not forget penny loafers, were also synonymous with flared skirts and lots of petticoats, cat-eye glasses, drive-in movies, drive-in restaurants, milk shakes and root beer floats, cherry cokes, juke boxes, and rock n' roll music.  The late 1940s and early to mid 1950s was a very exciting decade and still is for that matter, especially for nostalgia buffs.  It was a time of happiness for those of us who lived through it and lots of plain old-fashioned clean fun.

By the late 1950s young women's hair styles changed dramatically from basic pin-up curls and ponytails to big back-combed bouffant, beehives and the French pleat, none of which appealed much to me.  Give me curls or poneytails any day.

Young men suddenly became very fashion conscious in the bobby socks era too.  With the short-lived zoot suit doing a fast fade, more conservative drape trousers became a must for every young man about town.  Normal dress pants were taken in at the cuff, gradually tapering off at the knee.  Regular pant bottoms with cuffs were in the 19-20 inch range, but when draped could be as little and as drastic as 13 inches.  My mother insisted that a 15-inch drape was sufficient for her son.

Pink accessories were all the rage for men at the time too -- pink shirts, ties and sweaters worn with charcoal grey pants and suits.  Duck tail hair styles, slicked back at the sides with far-too-much Brill Cream and Vitalis, also gained popularity during the period.

In time, the pink and charcoal fad gave way to Ivy League stripe, button-down fashions.  Today, I do not think that there is a particular fashion, unless you call baseball caps, T-shirts, faded blue jeans and dirty white running shoes a fashion.

The music of the 1950s very definitely influenced the time period and flourished as a result of the previous decade. The 50s saw the emergence and rise of what would come to be known as Rock ‘n Roll, but it  also witnessed the popularity of Country and Western music in a variety of forms. Musicians like Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Hank Williams helped to redefine the entertainment industry with the types of music that they created following the devastating effects of World War Two.    

No discussion of 1950s would be complete, however, without talking about the King of Rock and Roll – Elvis Presley. He is the epitome of the 1950s musical revolution. His rockabilly style followed in the tradition of Carl Perkins, but he had a great deal of success with every form of music he attempted, including country, gospel, and R and B.  Elvis, of course was followed by The Beatles -- and the rest is history as we know it.

Ah yes, bobby socks and the 1950s.  Sock hops, juke boxes, drive-ins.  Lots of wholesome fun and good times.  Gone but not forgotten.  There will never be another era like it.  Girls will never be the same either...At least in this oldtimer's estimation.

07 August, 2011

WOE IS THE WRITER WHOSE LAWN MOWING INSPIRATION GOES WITH THE WIND

I write some of the greatest stories and blog posts ever when I'm mowing my back yard.  No distractions, just me and the hypnotic rattle of the gas-powered motor as it chews its way through the odd collection of grass, all-too-healthy clover and ever-present common plantain and dandelions. 

Maybe it is the smell of fresh-cut grass, blue skies overhead, warm temperatures and my steady walking pace that combine to stir up these marvelous creative juices.  Only trouble is, the juices cease to flow and my mind becomes a complete blank the moment I stop cutting.  Try as I may, I can never fully recover the inspiration that came so naturally and freely while trudging along behind the lawn mower in a mesmerized state just minutes before.

As much as I hate to admit to a developing short-term memory problem, I have to concede to the possibility.  Under normal conditions when I come up with ideas or thoughts for stories, I immediately drop whatever else I might be doing, fire up the computer and bang off a few quick notes that will help me regain the train of thought at a later time.  This routine works fairly well for me, but I do pay a price when Rosanne chastises me for abandoning dinner preparation at times or sees my computer monitor light flashing in the middle of the night.  I am also not beyond pulling the car over to the side of the road to jot down a few thoughts when we are already late for a doctor's appointment. 

Happily, my long-term memory seems to be as good as it ever was; although some people in my old hometown of Dresden may wish otherwise when I keep coming up with nostalgic tidbits from my early childhood.  I fear that I rubbed a few of those folks the wrong way last year when I publicly sought an apology from the white community for discrimination against Blacks in the late 1800s to mid 1900s.  Boy, think of the spew of indignation and shock if I ever took it upon myself to write about the Peyton Placeish dirty little secrets of that same period in good old Dresden.  Not to worry though, a tell-all historian in the true sense, I am not.

Funny how on one hand I am struggling with short-term memory retention while on the other I suggest that I selectively suppress certain rather revealing memories that are the product of the very active and hush-hush rumor mill of past generations.  Somewhat of a dichotomy, I must admit.  And that's as much of a tease as I will ever offer on the subject.

Anyway, more to the topic, I am determined to find a way to capture those lost moments of creative energy while mowing the lawn.  Maybe I can tie a tape recorder around my neck and orally dictate key points of inspiration as they come gushing forth over the loud hum of the mower. Better hurry too because the lawn cutting season does not last all that long.

One thing for sure, the readers of Wrights Lane will be the first to know when I have found a solution to this problem -- I'll suddenly begin to produce some of those "greatest stories and posts ever" that I have alluded to.

Putting pressure on myself like that seems to stimulate what is left of my abilities of short-term recall.

Come to think of it, I forgot that I left a pot boiling on the stove more than a half hour ago.  Rosanne must have dozed off, otherwise I would have heard about it before now.  Gotta run!



04 August, 2011

EVERYONE DESERVES A MULLIGAN, OR TWO

You know how it is when you get a certain song or musical refrain on your mind.  Like a broken record it keeps playing over and over again.  For me, it is the same with certain words or phrases that stick in my mind to the degree that they eventually haunt me.

Over the course of the past week for instance, the word "mulligan" has been strangely indelible in my mind and it keeps surfacing as if containing subliminal meaning.  The mulligan I'm talking about here is not the Irish sir name "Mulligan", rather it is the game of golf version of the word "mulligan".  A mulligan in a friendly game of golf is awarded to a player who hits a bad shot, or duffs the ball, generally off the tee.  By consent of others in the foursome, the player is allowed to take the shot over again without penalty on the scorecard.  There are many stories on the origin of the term, dating back to the 1940s, all lacking a definitive explanation.  It can be assumed, however, that a duffer by the name of Mulligan was originally involved, either as a taker or provider of forgiveness for a bad shot.

I can trace all this back to a recent email exchange with a young(er) friend of mine who was filling me in on marital problems he was having.  He explained that things had been extremely rough for a while, but that he decided to foster a reconciliation with his wife and they were in the process of "working things out" for the benefit of three teenage children.

Without asking about the circumstances and who was at fault, I congratulated him for finding it within himself to turn the other cheek and "do the right thing".  We mutually agreed that many couples today give up on marriage too quickly and that it is usually the kids that suffer the most.  I was of the opinion that everyone makes mistakes and that it is always in the best interest of the parties involved to agree to forgive and forget and to give their relationship a second chance.  Kind of like a marital mulligan, I thought...An opportunity to take another shot at marriage and this time to stay out of the rough.

I hope that by posting this item now I can finally get mulligans off my mind.  As I conclude the text, however, I cannot help but think of how much better the world would be if we were all prepared to offer more mulligans in our relationships, marital or otherwise.

There is no question that differences substantially add to our handicap.  We also make our share of mistakes and ill-advised decisions that cause us to stray off the fairway, but that's not to say that we should be exempt from a "second shot" or two as we play out this game of life.

Sometimes too, it is best not to keep score at all.  Mulligans are just between golfing partners -- or husbands and wives.

And, oh yes...That subliminal meaning I was talking about earlier:  "To err is human, to forgive is devine."  I finally got it!

03 August, 2011

AWAKENINGS AND NEW BEGINNINGS

When you stop to think about it, waking up in the morning is a wonderful thing.  We all do it, if we are lucky.  It certainly beats the alternative anyway.

While I love my bed and generally go to sleep the moment my head hits the pillow, I find myself increasingly gratified to wake up in a new day.  Such was not always the case for me.

Maybe because I do not have a particular schedule to meet and am free of the demands of a job awaiting me, I now linger between the covers a little longer after waking up each morning.  In my first five to ten minutes of consciousness, I have discovered a peculiarly receptive and impressionable state.  All relations with the material world have for a time been shut off and, excluding the possibility of a bad dream or two, the mind is in a freer and more natural state.  This is no doubt why many times the highest and truest impressions come to one in the early morning hours, before the activities of the day and their attendant distractions have exerted an influence.  We  all probably do our clearest thinking in our first few waking minutes of the day, if only we had the ability to bottle it.

But you know, we can take advantage of this valuable quiet time when our mind is a clean slate, to direct thoughts productively along the highest and most desirable paths, thereby setting the pace for the day.  We can be thankful that each morning is a new beginning and we have it entirely in our own hands to make the best of it.  There is nothing in this connection that can be conceived of that cannot be realized somehow, somewhere, sometime.  Yesterday becomes just that -- yesterday.  And tomorrow is...well, tomorrow.

It is sufficient for us to know, however, that the way we live our today determines our tomorrow.  The secret rests in how we utilize those first few minutes each day before getting up on the right side of the bed -- and beginning again, fresh and awake to the potential that lies within and without.

Hello skies all burnished brightly;
   Here in the spent earth all reborn;
Here are the tired limbs springing lightly
   To face the sun and to share the morn
   In the chrism of dew and cool of the dawn.

Every day is a fresh beginning,
   Listen, my soul, to the glad refrain,
And, spite of old sorrow and older sinning,
   And puzzles forcasted, and possible pain,
   Take heart with the day and begin again.

  

01 August, 2011

THE INTUITION THAT LIVES WITHIN US

"What's this reach from within stuff that you talk about, you silly goose?  Explain yourself a little better my friend!"

That question may be quite in order after reading my holiday weekend post, below.

I should explain, unlike a lot of bloggers, I do not push causes and I do not pretend to have all the answers.  Most of the time when I write it is like I am talking to myself.  I share insecurities, experiences and seek rational solutions through communication with you, my small and intimate audience.  I pass on seriously-considered food for thought in the hope that it may influence, or impact, the life of someone else.

When I advocated reaching from within in the previous item, I was talking about digging down to a inner spiritual sense called "intuition".  Some may call it the voice of the soul; some may call it the voice of God; some may call it a sixth sense.  In the degree that we open ourselves to this (divine) inflow, does this voice of intuition speak clearly to us.  In the degree that we recognize, listen to, and obey our intuition, does it speak even more clearly until such time as it is unerring in its guidance.

My conviction is that, so far as physical life is concerned, all life is from without.  There is an immutable law which says:  "As within, so without; cause, effect."  In other words, the thought forces -- the various mental states and emotions -- all have direct effects upon the physical body and our ultimate actions; i.e. if we want to be of a strong, healthy body, we first have to be of a strong, healthy mind that is stimulated by the cumulative influences of kindliness, love, benevolence and good-will. 

So when I suggested taking time to "reach from within" on the weekend, I meant forgetting the baggage of everyday life and relying on inner intuition to tell us how to concentrate on the things that are really important to us, and the actions we must take as a means toward fullness of life, bodily health and vigor.  We all have it within us.  We just have to reach down for it and heed the inner voice we hear!

"Within yourself lies the cause of whatever enters into your life.  To come into the full realization of your awakened interior powers, is to be able to condition your life in exact accord with what you would have it."  -- Words written by Ralph Waldo Trine, 1890.