Friday, October 30, 2009

Remember When $50 Was A Lot Of Money?

Oh, wait: $50 still IS a lot of money! At least, around here it is. It's not, y'know, make-or-break money by any means…but, it's an amount that would really drive me crazy to lose.

And, that's the thing: someone DID lose it. A single bill. Neatly folded, lying under some leaves on our western sidewalk. I actually mowed over it: I realized it was money just as I pushed the mower forward. Expecting to find mulched tatters of a one or a five, I was happy to see that the bill had simply been spit out whole…then astonished to see a "zero" after the expected "five." Shit! Who carries a $50 bill around any more, and then on top of it…LOSES IT?!? Wow. And the way it was folded was just like I'd fold a $1, you know? In half, then in half again, and then drop it in my pants pocket while I looked around for something I could actually buy with it. Probably in vain, right? But, here's this fifty, looking like someone just "Whoops!" dropped it out of his front jeans pocket.

I looked around for Alan Funt…then lamely realized that Alan Funt probably hasn't done Candid Camera for three decades. But still, I looked around for someone scouring the sidewalk for his lost bill, but there was no one. Now I had to decide: what do I do with this thing? It's not the hugest amount of money I've ever found: I once saw bills floofing around in a breeze by the side of the road. I stopped, got out of the car, and collected everything I could find: over $200! On my way back from the errand I was on, I saw a dad & teenager by the side of the road, clearly looking for the money. I pulled over and asked what was up, and the dad said the kid had left his wallet on the roof of his car, and it blew away with several hundred dollars' worth of graduation money in it. Oof. Naturally I handed over everything I'd found, to the astonished thanks of the two of them. 'Cause, that's what you do, right? You give BACK found money in large quantities.

But this fifty, this was a bigger problem. First: only one bill. Second: no one obviously looking around for it. Third: a troubling amount. Hey, I'm the first guy in line to find a ten or a twenty and pocket that bitch. Hell, I'll do it if I see it fall from the grubby hand of the 10-year old in front of me! Well, yeah, probably not, but you get the drift, right? But fifty bucks…sheesh. I kept envisioning various scenarios that could have led to the bill being dropped on the sidewalk: a kid with football fundraising money? A band student with the downpayment for a winter-break trip? Hell, even if it's someone's pot money, it's still a lot of dough, right? I mean…I have no idea how much good pot $50 will buy, but I'm guessing it's a whole Ziploc bag of "St. Johns Windowbox!" So, I wanted to get the bill back to its rightful owner…only, HOW!? Do you put up signs? "Found, item of some value, call to identify?" Sheesh.

Tess & I talked about it, and lacking any better ideas, we'll use it to buy on-sale toys for donation to our local Toys for Tots collection this holiday season. Or, now that I have a worthless, dead iPod on my hands, maybe it'll be a downpayment on a new one. But probably the toys. Ho-ho-ho.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Scatological Thursday Maker

Last night at the dinner table, this conversation ensued:

Roz: "I'm gonna fart!"

(leans way over on right cheek):


Roz: "I farted!"

Me: (*giggling helplessly*)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Putting Summer Away

Well, the work over the last few days has centered around getting things ready for winter. It's always agreeable work for me, an opportunity to spend some time outside in the waning (hopefully) nice days of autumn. It's bending and stretching and carrying and storing, the kind of thing that doesn't seem so bad when you're doing it, but later in the day you're going "Shit, I'm sore!"

Like Cheryl Wheeler, I'm always a little sad to see summer go; 'course, it's been gone for long & long anyway, what with cooler weather (including frosts) and the hecticness that goes with kick-starting the school year. But increasingly sad reminders of the faded summer lurked: the grill still squatted in its corner of the deck, and the picnic table & benches still waited on the porch, maybe hoping for one last good cookout before being squirreled away for the winter. Alas, not so; I think the last barbeque day was way back in August, certainly before school started, and even IF we get a nice day in the next week or so, I'm low on Liquid Smoke and the thrill is gone for this year.

So the benches are stacked, the grill is rolled up next to the house. I cut down the shabby stalks of our volunteer sunflowers by the porch steps, whose brilliant late-blooming yellows filled sunny days with giddy happiness, drawing tumbly bumblebees by the dozen to buzz lazily and harmlessly among the giant blooms. Rozzle's crab-shaped sandbox, site of many happy summer outings (and more than a few scoldings, as Roz's favorite thing to do with the sand seems to be to throw it over her head) is staked & tied down, anticipating harsh winds that threaten to blow its protective cover across town. I harvested & froze the last of the rhubarb, now waiting in the inky blackness of the freezer for a Yule festival baking extravaganza. The withered greens of the frost-bitten pumpkin and tomato vines have been hacked away, with me stealing a last taste of reddish goodness as I spied a few remaining fruits cowering under protective mint leaves. (The mint, ever in competition with the tomatoes, grew ferociously this year, and now stands proudly alone in their shared plot, still green, still begging for a julep that will never come.)

I can look out the window and see the almost neon glow of the maples down the block, and I anticipate the coming of winter with a newfound sense of subtle desire. Come, snows! Come, cold! I am put away and ready for ye! Post-dinner walks to Cindy's for ice cream are replaced with Swiss Miss by the television, as I indoctrinate Roslyn with one tired old seasonal special after another: Peanuts and Garfield, Sesame Street and the Muppets and Emmett Otter, Opus and Bill and more marijuana-induced claymation than Rankin & Bass can shake a stick at. I've lighted my Yankee candles (Fall Festival, Spiced Pumpkin, and the ever-nostalgic Home Sweet Home), I've grown my ever-whitening beard in…I'm ready. Bring it.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

SCI and the Upward Spiral

Whew! I just got back from a whirlwind weekend in Dubuque, attending my regional conference for Society of Composers, Int'l. Good drive, good time. I flew the last time I went, leaving Grand Rapids to puddle-jump over to Chi-town, then another short up-&-down to the cornfield that serves as the Dubuque airport. I spent as much time going through security, waiting on the plane, and transferring at airports as I would have on the road, so I decided to simply drive this time. I didn't have to rent a car, and I could take all the shit that I wanted. Anyway! I presented a paper while there ("Metaphor and Allegory in Song Lyric Construction"), and I heard TONS of great new music. It's so enervating to be in a crowd of people like that: all there for the same purpose, to share their newly-created works. There's no hassling, no infighting, to real sense of competition…something I rather like about composers, by the way. That lack of competitiveness. That's not to suggest that we DON'T compete (in composition contests, primarily), but overall I sense that composers lack the gene that makes performers so uptight about auditions & such. There just isn't a lot of cattiness amongst us. We're all very supportive of each other, with positive things to say about our collective creations, and at the end of the day we (speaking for all of us, I guess) all walk away with a sense of accomplishment. I know that I personally spoke with half-a-dozen or so composers whose music I really enjoyed, exchanging business cards and asking if I might acquire their works for additional performances. It's a real feel-good environment.

Which brings me to the upward spiral portion of our program. 'Cause, y'know, I'm sick to death of negativity. I read the news yesterday (oh, boy) about how we're all getting more & more divided, with more lashing out at others whose ideas don't mesh perfectly with our own. The author of the article suggested that, upon a time not so long ago, most of us wanted objectivity in our news reporting. These days, with 24-hour news the "norm," objectivity is out the window and what "sells" is that thing that panders to what we already believe. The Conservatism of FoxNews, the Liberalism of MSNBC, and Rush Limbaugh and Arianna Huffington and Glenn Beck and Chris Matthews…we've become a society of enraged talking heads (shouting heads?) with no chance for any sort of meeting-of-the-minds. Most of the time, we seem to be mindLESS, soldiering on, rank-&-file, adhering to whatever belief system is fed to us by those we already agree with.

*sighs* I'm just real tired of it. Trolling anonymously around various blogs, I happened upon a commenter who suggested that the middle of the road was a hell of a good place to "get run over." That really sums up what I view as the current social mindset, maybe not what we as individuals believe always, but the collective mob mentality that serves as our Culture right now: keep Left or keep Right, and anyone in the middle is like a possum in the headlights of traffic speeding recklessly from BOTH directions. But…isn't the middle where MOST of us live, MOST of the time? I'm no Ted Kennedy…but I'm no Ann Coulter either. I'm not Anne Murray…but I'm also not Opeth. See? Middle of the road. Doesn't mean I'm a fence-sitter…I have definite ideas, opinions, you know how it goes. But I'm fairly moderate, and really, aren't most of us? I can't give hard numbers - probably no one can, it's impossible to study - but I just get this sense that almost all of us are live-&-let-live middle-of-the-roaders. Heck, that's who gets the most attention in big elections, ain't it? "Middle America." Nobody goes up and preaches to the hard-core Libertarians in New Hampshire…what's the point? Same goes for easy-livin' potheads in sunny California. They're the extreme, and preachin' to the extreme only gets you so far.

Gah. *scratches head irritatedly* What I'm getting at is this: I'm tired of feeling like there's nothing but negativity and aggression in the world…in MY world. I don't need to be "Mr. Happy All The Time," and I also don't want to deny my own emotions…that way lies madness, no? What I want, instead, is to believe that I can drive out the demons of negativity and hostility…exorcise them, if you will. ("The power of Christ compels you!!!") I'm done trolling hate-fueled blogs, and I'm done cursing the slow motherfucker in the passing lane…these things are unimportant to my life. I'll focus on what IS important - family, friends, the sunny damn day out my window right now - and maybe that glow of positivity will radiate outward, a sort of goofy, New-Agey pay-it-forward of good will. A virtuous circle, instead of the vicious one that threatens to surround us all.