Tag Archives: Life Lessons
“I hear babies cry, I watch them grow.
You know they’re gonna learn,
a whole lot more than I’ll ever know.
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.
Yes, I think to myself, what a wonderful world.”
(“What a Wonderful World” – Louis Armstrong – Thiele/Weiss – 1968)
Last night, I went to sleep watching images, from thousands of miles away, of a man hugging his young sons and wife after having been rescued from 70 days trapped in a rocky tomb. This morning, similar images flashed across the screen, as men that were thought dead emerged from the Earth, back to the loving arms of their families and their country, and the world united in joy at their safe return to this wonderful world.
This wonderful world – to read through pages of blogs on numerous websites, both left and right, you would think that life in this world is about to collapse in ruin, the blame assigned, of course, to the other side.
There is no doubt that this world of ours has issues to address, from economic stagnation to war, famine and a lack of human rights. There is no doubt, also, that this world has faced far worse in the recent past, genocide and world war, depression and the displacement of millions throughout the world.
In my little world, there are issues to address, just as there is in the world at large. There is never enough money, of course, our health could always be a bit better and the tank still needs to be filled if I want to drive. That is life, but there are still the smiles of my grandchildren and the love of my dog and cats to smooth the road. There are hugs to share with my children and my friends and the wonder of the natural world that I love to capture in photographs.
The looks on the faces of the rescued miners, their families and the rescue teams tell all that this is truly a wonderful world – a world that we inhabit with some that share our views and some that are vehemently opposed to us. The Chilean people and their international neighbors managed to set aside differences to united to save the lives of 33 brave and determined friends.
Perhaps, we can learn a desperately needed lesson from the events on the desolate landscape of the Atacama Desert, regardless of our perceived view, we still live in a wonderful world.
William Stephenson Clark
“Playing the mind guerrilla.
Chanting the mantra,
Peace on earth
We all been playing those mind games forever.”
(“Mind Games” – 1973 – John Lennon – from the album of the same name.)
Seems these days, everyone is all about playing games. Little kids, bigger kids, adults, Hell even senior citizens are playing games. From Play Station to Wii to your phone; you can never be more than a minute or two from your favorite game. It is truly amazing to consider the amount of time and money that Americans spend to play games. And like every other technologically driven pursuit, there is always the newest, biggest, fastest device, console or game to lust after. Your PS3 is obsolete before you can get the box home to set up your new toy.
So, what came first, the Gamer Society or the mindset that produced that society?
The Gamer Society is not an American phenomenon – my son regularly plays “Call of Duty” against Australian, Dutch and German opponents, to name a few countries – along with players from all over North America. So what do we make of this worldwide pastime that takes relatively normal people with varied interests and turns them into obsessed game junkies?
I suppose that I could be called an old, behind-the-times, SOB due to my disdain for gaming. The last game I played regularly was one of the pinball machines down at the Pool Hall when I was in High School. For me, I see gaming as the intellectual equivalent of cotton candy – all sugar and no substance.
Behind the intellectual wasteland that is gaming, however, there is perhaps a darker issue – a collective divorce from the realities of the world we inhabit. The issues of daily life and the complexities of global challenges are easily escaped through an activity that demands all your attention – attention that could be directed more productively.
Does this all come down to mind games – games that we play on ourselves? Losing one’s self in a world of make-believe, faux competitiveness and faceless opponents rather than challenging ourselves to better ourselves and the world around us.
Mind games – have we fooled ourselves into thinking that the world will just go away and leave us alone if we can just get to the next level on our favorite game?
William Stephenson Clark
Predicting the future is easy, as long as you don’t plan on living long enough to determine the accuracy of your venture through the glass. Nostradamus was famed for his prophecies, but actually, his predictions were so vague that they could be interpreted in any way one might choose. Accurate predictions of the future are much more difficult when measured against actual events.
Despite the odds, pun intended, many people try to predict the future, months, decades and even centuries into the future. A few weeks ago, the sportswriters of America tried to forecast the winner of the Super Bowl, to be played in Dallas in February, 2011. Needless to say, most will be wrong, especially those that try to forecast the final score, not just the game winner. I can do that, too.
Patriots 27, Packers 17.
Easy, right? I will probably be wrong, however, the Pats are likely to score more points than that.
Forecasting the future of America a century from now is much more difficult. Unfortunately, some of the predictions made today will have an impact on life in the US 100 years from now. To properly address the problems of the future requires an accurate assessment of life decades or even centuries from now. The approaching mid-term elections most certainly will affect life for our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
America is still a young country, growing into a mature nation while experiencing social and economic changes on a vast scale. What will American look like in 2110?
Well, since I won’t be around to see her then, these are a few of my predictions:
White people in America will be a distinct minority, but racial tensions will be far less apparent than they are today.
To the largest extent, all people will be treated equally, gay and straight, young and old, people of all races, colors and creeds.
The disparity between the rich and poor will be far narrower than today.
Religion’s role in society will be greatly reduced as people express greater faith in science.
The world’s countries will all participate in a true global economy.
Social programs in the US will be stronger and far fewer citizens will fall through the cracks.
The pejorative term “socialist” will cease to exist, as most countries will employ a version of socialism as an economic engine.
Those are a few of my predictions – what are yours?
William Stephenson Clark
Well some one masquerading as Will Clark, busted in on Pop Blog and wrote a column that appeared last Friday entitled “Women are cats, men are dogs.” That got a few folks, mostly of the feline persuasion worked up. Yes, your pets do blog, also, usually while you are sleeping.
But let’s face it, there are two different standards for men and women. A man, while being a bit on the less than buff side, with sagging jowls and grey hair, can still be considered “sexy.” For that matter, he can be on the wrong side of the “ugly meter” and still be considered mildly “sexy.”
(Dang, if I were any uglier, they’d put me in a Zoo, but I do all right.)
Women, on the other hand, have to meet “standards.” God-forbid that a woman, especially a public figure, have a muffin top or a wide behind.
But let’s reverse the roles. What if Brad Pitt or the Old Spice Guy were the MINIMUM standard for men, and women could get by looking and acting like Betty White.
Now, I love Betty White, but she isn’t exactly my ideal fantasy for a woman. There are no restraining orders keeping me from ringing up Betty. What if Rosie O’Donnell was considered to be a “hot babe” in a role reversed world? What about Kelly Osbourne? Male Teen pin up?
In a Role Reversed world, George Clooney would be out until he touched up the grey. Matt Damon, close but still second tier. The same goes for Will Smith. Jon Mayer. Gone.
The rich and powerful men of the world? Bill Gates? Yikes! Joe Biden? Whoa, what a comb-over! The original world’s worst comb over, “the Donald?” Reduced to personal ads in the Village voice. Bono? Singing in the shower – alone. Newt Gingrich? What can you say?
Oh, and Barack? A little advice………………………………..
“Just for Men” and “www.BeachBody.com.”
And, for God’s sake, do something about the ears!
William Stephenson Clark
Ya, think? Mind you, this is not a bad thing. Cats are wonderful little creatures, full of mischievous, always getting into trouble but lovable anyway. Dogs, on the other hand, can be trained, unlike cats, and they generally follow commands and are obedient.
Kind of like men and women.
Now, before the “Angels” come for me – “Charlie’s, not Hell’s” – I should say that I respect women and have always supported equal rights for women.
That statement should give me at least a five-minute head start on the posse.
But men and women are different. Truly. Men will spend three hours watching Timbuktu U. v Bumfart College battle it out on the gridiron, while women will still bring a fifty pound bale of tissue while they watch “Beaches” for the twenty-ninth time.
Women will stop and ask directions from a stranger on the street, while men will drive around aimlessly before even thinking about asking the guy at QT “where is Main Street?”
Women want an oil filter. Men want a FRAM oil filter. Men know what 10W40 means, women think they “might” need oil in the engine. Men will pull over and pee on a tree. Women will hold it until their eyeballs explode before using a bathroom that is not clean.
Women want clean sheets. Men want to get between the sheets. Women “work” in the kitchen, but men “cook!” Women leave a clean kitchen, but men are fine with it looking like an explosion in a tomato sauce factory.
Men clip their fingernails, sometimes using the In-Sink-Erator, while women get their nails “done.” Men shop around to find the $5.00 haircut, while women get their hair “done.”
What does “done” mean? You mean, like “done” forever, or just for today?
Women shave their legs. Men, well shaving is something we avoid like watching Beaches one more time. Men fart, women toot. Women “need to go,” while men “Damn, I need to piss!”
Men are dogs, no doubt. Women, well they will never admit it, but they are cats!
So, from my “undisclosed location,” in a fortified bunker surrounded by armed guards, I ask you:
Cat or dog?
William Stephenson Clark
Well, I didn’t mean to do it. I would have done anything in the world to avoid it. It just happened.
This is the story………………………………………………………………….
A few weeks ago, I mentioned that a couple of neighborhood thug alley cats had broken into my home during the night. I found them in my house in the morning, but the damage had already been done. Alice was pregnant.
Five weeks ago, Alice gave birth to four kittens, two light orange kitties and two all grey little guys.
I had prepared a box and a blanket in my closet for Alice and she gave birth, ironically, while I was in my office writing a column for this blog. At first all was well. Alice was a good Mama Cat and she took good care of her little ones. I put a bowl of water and a dish of food in the closet with her and she and her offspring were doing quite well.
I didn’t notice that anything was amiss until a week ago this past Wednesday, when I found one of the little grey ones dead. I was shocked and confused, because I thought everything was okay, and the little ones were progressing quite nicely.
Alice is a tiny cat, often mistaken for being a kitten herself. I hadn’t noticed that she, herself, was getting skinny, postpartum.
And I didn’t notice the fleas.
All summer, I have been battling fleas. The damp spring and warm days recently have made it prime season for fleas. The dogs have been treated four times for fleas, but the cats, who live inside, seemed to be immune from the menace.
Abruptly, I had a fight on my hands – anemic kittens and a mother cat that was suffering. I bought Advantage kitty flea medicine for the kittens and adult cat medicine for the cats. I also purchased “kitty milk” to help the kittens with nutrition, since Mama was unable to give enough to them.
Thursday and Friday were a struggle to give the “milk” to the kittens. The two orange ones did well, but the little grey guy fought it. He wouldn’t nurse and seemed to want to be alone. His mother, however, still cared for him as best she could.
First thing Saturday morning, I tried again to feed him the “kitty milk.” He fought for a moment, then went into convulsions, cried and then died as I was holding him.
My heart was broken.
There is no point to this column – just a sad story. There is nothing that I can say, nothing that I can do to give that little guy another chance at life. His tiny cries as his short life ended will be with me forever. One day, he and I will meet again, across that Rainbow Bridge.
I hope that he can forgive me. I hope he knows that I loved him.
Our little creatures look to us to give them love and care, and sometimes all we can give them is love.
William Stephenson Clark
Postscript: On Friday, I took the two remaining orange kitties out of their “home” to let them move around and play. To my horror, one of the kittens was not walking on her hind legs, rather, she was dragging them behind her. I do not know if she has been injured or if this is a congenital defect. She will be going to the Vet shortly, but I don’t know how she is going to be able to survive. More than likely, she will have to be put down.
Tobacco being an expense and not having gotten any unemployment for the last five weeks.
This morning I was reduced to digging out a relic, my dad’s pipe and a bag of tobacco.
Fortunate for me my son-in-law has better taste in pipe tobacco then dad did and the bag was left by my son-in-law.
The pipe really is a relic, twenty years ago my dad had broken his pipe and I was smoking a pipe then.
So I had given him one of mine, since I had about ten different pipes I was really into smoking a pipe!
Well this morning I load the pipe and started to light it when I noticed I was having trouble.
The bowl seemed out of line and turning away from me.
I finally took it from my mouth and looked it over, dad had done his remodel on it!
He liked straight stem and I like to have a downward bend, he had done some craving and then taped it to suit him. The problem was he was right handed and I am left handed.
Being in my right mind often sets me at the mirror image of how everyone else does things.
Left justified instead of right justified, once I moved the pipe to the other side of my mouth everything seem to line up just fine.
Does that ever happen to you, something that once belonged to a parent and it was passed down.
But it brings out a difference between you and them?
“I’m so glad, that she’s my little girl!
She’s so glad, she’s telling all the world.
That her baby buys her things, you know.
He buys her diamond rings, you know.
She said so!
I’m in love with her and I feel fine!”
The Beatles – “I feel fine” – 1964 – Lennon/McCartney
What could be better than cruisin’ down the road in the summertime, windows down and the wind blowin’ back your hair (if you have any left) and the radio cranked up to blast out one of your favorite tunes.
When you hear one of those songs that you instantly recognize from the opening riff and you just have to reach over and turn up the sound, you just know that a little part of your youth has come back to life.
For me, “I feel fine!” is a song that I know the moment that I hear John Lennon’s familiar feedback guitar. It is a signature riff – the first recorded use of feedback on a record. The song is credited to “Lennon/McCartney” but it was written by John. With Beatles songs, you can pretty much tell who wrote it by who sings lead vocals.
The Beatles are gone. John and George are dead, Ringo recently turned Seventy and Sir Paul buys “Just for Men” in 55 gallon drums. The music that they left us, however, will live on forever.
And so life goes on. As each day passes, we creep a moment closer to our date with fate. Life goes on, with you or without you. No matter how hard we mash our foot on the brake pedal of life, we cannot slow down or turn back time.
But we can turn up the radio for our old favorite songs and blast out the tunes that helped define our lives.
When I am feeling down, nothing brings my mood back faster than listening to that good old rock ‘n’ roll music that I loved in days gone by. It truly doesn’t matter what it is – Stones, Beatles, Detroit rock music, the British Invasion or Motown – my blood flows again with renewed vigor and my foot starts tapping out the beat.
For each of us, there is that song, one that brings back memories of the “good old days” or that lost love.
What is yours?
William Stephenson Clark
It has been said, many times, sometimes at great volume, that Wichita drivers are the worst on the planet. There are days that I tend to agree.
I took a short trip down Seneca to 31st Street a short time ago, within the last hour or so. During that two mile drive, I twice had to slam on my brakes to avoid vehicles pulling out in from of me, one of which was a large truck. On two more occasions during the same drive, I observed people putting on their turn signals – in the middle of the turn they were making. I once watched a man texting as he drove. He was riding a motorcycle.
If it isn’t the high speed lunatics, it’s the “how slow can you go” morons.
Obviously, there are tragic results to bad driving, but I would rather not dwell on that, nor the obvious problem of impaired drivers. We have enough simpletons on the roads to make a simple trip to the grocery store into an adventure, with throwing those topics into the mix.
As many of you know, I rode motorcycles for many a year. As a confirmed biker, I rapidly learn from the beginning that a cyclist’s only friend on the road is himself. The “other guy” ain’t gonna look out for you, so you damned well better look out for yourself.
Many long-term bikers, myself included, develop a sixth sense of self-preservation and to use a motorcycle’s inherent superior braking, acceleration and maneuverability to keep themselves alive with the shiny side up.
Unfortunately, most folks don’t drive like a seasoned motorcyclist, they drive with little understanding of “defensive driving” and awareness of the potential consequences of even a momentary lack of attention.
If I could just teach Wichita drivers a few things they would be:
Traffic signs and signals are not “suggestions.”
It really isn’t a crime to use your turn signals.
The speed limit is the “maximum” allowed, not the “minimum.”
Store parking lots are not the place to practice your bumper car skills.
Wichita drivers may not truly be the worst on the planet – Chicago drivers hold that “honor” – but they are truly bad.
So what is it with Wichita drivers?
William Stephenson Clark
“I cried because I had no shoes; until I met a man who had no legs”.
Brendan Marrocco has no legs. He has no arms, either.
He left them in Iraq.
A little over a year ago, Specialist Brendan Marrocco, then PFC, was driving an armored Hum Vee in a convoy near Baiji in northern Iraq, when a IED blew up, ripping the vehicle apart, killing his best friend and seriously wounding another soldier. A fourth soldier walked away, unharmed.
When Brendan was taken to the hospital, he also had a severed carotid artery. Doctors didn’t notice it at first, because it wasn’t bleeding. It wasn’t bleeding because Specialist Marrocco had no blood left to speak of, having lost 80% of his blood supply in the field.
Brendan Marrocco now lives at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center complex. His older brother quit his high paying job to serve as a caretaker for Brendan. They share a small apartment near where Specialist Marrocco receives physical therapy.
Amazingly, he did not suffer any brain damage from the bomb blast or the subsequent loss of blood. He was the first soldier to survive the loss of all four limbs in the Wars on Iraq and Afghanistan. Since the attack on Specialist Marrocco, a second soldier has suffered a similar fate, and he too lives at Walter Reed.
The amazing and inspiring part of this story is not that Brendan Marrocco survived. It is that rather than lose himself to his war wounds, Specialist Marrocco has become an inspiration to all those around him, maintaining a positive attitude and even a sense of humor about his situation. At the Walter Reed complex, he is seen as a hero to other amputees, including the Marine that also lost all four limbs.
Where does someone faced with such adversity summon the courage to not only deal with the loss, but to become a role model for others dealing with severe war wounds?
This is the face of war. It is not the caskets lined up in the cargo bay of a transport. It is not pictures of presidents and generals. It is not the cold statistics on the page of the newspaper. It is not Senators and Congressmen debating the funding and strategies of the Wars.
The face of war is a 23 year old Army Specialist that is broken, but not defeated.
Specialist Brendan Marrocco is the face of war.
(The thread photo is of Specialist Brendan Marrocco outside Walter Reed.)
William Stephenson Clark
This is quite the tricky subject. Employment is a lagging indicator of the health of the economy. Most all other economic indicators return to normal before the employment statistics do. It’s pretty simple, employers do not invest in hiring until they are sure that their investment will pay off.
Further, it has been my experience, that some employers find that they can make do with smaller staffs, even after the economy recovers.
So, more than two full years after the Great Recession began, millions of American workers are still actively looking for work. Many more, especially older workers, have simply given up. Charitable organizations around the country have seen their resources go beyond the breaking point.
In the past month, Senate Republicans have blocked efforts to extend unemployment benefits once again. Personally, that is the ultimate act of hypocrisy. And this is why……………
On one hand, there are those on the Right that say “there are jobs out there” and extending unemployment benefits is a deincentification for the unemployed to look for work. Yet, those same people on the Right also blame President Obama for not creating jobs!
Which is it?
Are there jobs out there? Very few, and most are quite low paying jobs. Did President Obama do enough to create jobs? Probably not. This Great Recession is unprecedented, far deeper than most could have imagined. The answers to all the questions do not come easily.
You know that times are bad when illegal immigrants are going back to Mexico to find work. Maybe NAFTA is finally working.
While there are some signs, however weak, that the economy is improving, there are also signs of a “double-dip” recession. Nationwide, housing prices have increased for the first time in forever, but the Consumer Confidence index has dropped dramatically.
I would like to think that I am intelligent enough to know some answers, but realistically, there are no answers.
Time will heal this wound, but time has a way of taking it’s sweet time.
William Stephenson Clark
“Hey hey mama said the way you move,
Gon’ make you sweat, gon’ make you groove. “
Led Zeppelin – “Black Dog” – Page/Plant/Jones – 1971
It was late spring of 1971 and I had just finished up my first year of college. My parents had sold my ’65 Pontiac Catalina coupe when I left, so now I needed a car. A friend of a friend had an old ’63 Volkswagen Beetle that wasn’t running. I handed over $150 in cash and paid the man to tow her home.
After a few days, I had her cleaned up and running pretty well. She was red with white interior and a sliding canvas sunroof. Most of my friends, probably twelve or fifteen in total, also had Vee-Dubs. We would all gather ’round when someone needed work done, pitching in to help.
We would all mount our tires “backwards” so they looked wider and we took off the narrow “running boards.” I painted my rims red to match the body color. Most of our cars had rusty bumpers, so we trimmed them off, too. I put a “hot rod” freeflow muffler on mine and it sounded all so cool.
We had an eclectic group of Vee-Dubs. They ranged from ’59 to ’70, a couple of convertibles, a Squareback and colors from grey primer to black to red to yellow. One guy filled all the body seams on his with Bondo and painted her green – with spray cans.
Down at the corner, there was a huge old oak tree in front of the bank parking lot. That’s where we would all hang out after work. By then, most of the guys had shoulder length hair and the girls wore skin-tight hip-hugger bell bottoms. Someone always had a bottle of Southern Comfort and inevitably there would be a few “cigarettes” passed around.
And then we would go crusin’. Sometimes it was to one of the local Metro Parks for swimming and other activities. Sometimes it was just down to the pool hall. If we had the cash, it would be off to the Grande or East Town for a concert.
Regardless of where we went, it was always in a line – ten, twelve, fifteen – Vee-Dubs in a row, windows down, hair streaming and the radios on, all tuned to WRIF-FM and blasting out the latest rock ‘n’ roll. We were a rolling, stoned band of gypsies and WRIF played the soundtrack of our youth.
What was the soundtrack of your youth?
William Stephenson Clark
It seemed so funny to me
Laugh, laugh you met a guy who taught you how it feels to be
Lonely, oh so lonely”
There is enough going on in this crazy world we live in that makes you just want to cry. Today is Monday and the beginning of the work week for many of you and all the stress that entails. I look in the mirror every morning and see the jawline is sagging a bit more and the silver has pretty much taken over the pelt that grows on top of my head. And then, there are the “laugh lines.”
So, rather than start off the week with a rehash of the troubles of the world, what makes you laugh?
No, I’m not talking about stuff that makes you chuckle. I’m talking about what makes you bust a gut, laugh till you cry, and makes you start all over again hours later when you think about it.
Anyone that has been around me for more than five minutes knows that I am an incurable and unrepentant smart ass, and that I am as likely to zap myself as I am to zing someone else. It has taken me fifty-eight years to hone this finely tuned, but warped, sense of humor and I won’t give it up easily.
I think Lewis Black is hilarious. I loved Richard Pryor. Some of Robin Williams’ stand up is insanely funny. Some YouTube clips are fall on the floor hilarious.
And my dogs and cats keep me in stitches on a daily basis.
This morning, my newly world famous dog, Cookie, was rolling on her back on the floor, barking. What up with that, Cook?
So, lest we all drown in a pool of our own tears after reading the morning news, share with us the laughs that help to keep you sane (or something resembling sanity.)
William Stephenson Clark