Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I ran into a bunch of students today at the hospital. It's pretty easy to tell how far along they are. The bags under the eyes are usually a pretty good barometer. Hair too, not much time for styling when you're cramming to be a doc or a nurse. Today's batch was as fresh as they come. Slim, stylish kids in lab coats, makeup all done, hair all pretty (guys too). I showed them through some of our space and watched them soak it all up like they were on the set of a TV show.

I ran into one of them later on after work. She said she was changing majors. I said that was probably a good idea if you weren't positive you wanted to run yourself into the ground for the sake of your fellow man.

Nursing's hard on a girl. You see a flock of nursing students flutter by on a tour, all sweet smelling with their hair all perfect and it's kind of awe inspiring to know that (possibly unwittingly) they're going to sacrifice their youth and good looks in order to keep the meds flowing and the bed pans squared away. (I know that's putting it extremely mildly, nurses, it's only for the sake of brevity.)

It's even more inspiring to see the real nurses. Overweight because despite being physically demanding the work isn't much for cardio and let's face it, the gym? After a day on the unit? Hair in a pony tail, joints aching, baggage from the stress tucked somewhere out of site. And no thought except for the comfort of their patients. People who call nurses angels are mistaken, God probably doesn't make angels work a double during flu season.

Anyway, it had me waxing all thoughtful about the passing beauty of youth and the true beauty of a life spent in service of your fellow human beings. Next time you see a nurse who is by all outward appearances un-lovely, keep it firmly in mind that she took a pass on another career with less wear and tear and better outfits to give comfort to often ungrateful patients.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Location, Location, etc.

I got the soda treatment today. That brief instance where someone gets up on their high horse and snickers at you for referring to carbonated beverages as "pop". There was a lot of that when I was away at college in New York. New Yorkers have particularly high horses. I only let it bother me the first time though. (In my defense I was pretty much laughed right out of a room.) After that I decided that was one particular flavor of nonsense that I wasn't going to put up with.

So now when it happens I have a response:

"Oh, right, begging your pardon oh urbane one... I realize that your big city upbringing has endowed you with a certain air of superiority with respect to carbonated beverages. But you obviously need it pointed out to you that there is a problem with your feet and in particular your nose. When you are standing in the shade of sugar Maples and breathing the air that is cooled by the Great Lakes... it's pop. Now why don't you toddle off in search of a gellato or something (heh, good luck)."

Perhaps my own horse is getting a little high here but really, you've got some nuts to stand in the very heart of "pop" country and haughtily snicker at somebody like the Pepsi you drank back in the Burroughs is somehow ever so much classier for being called "soda". We may be hick, we may drink cheap beer from cans, but we don't pay $400 a month to park our cars, so who's the smart one now city kid?

Done ranting...


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

All Saints Eve

I wonder if the people who complain about creches on public lawns and Christmas greetings from cashiers are the same people who cover their lawns with styrofoam grave stones and plastic ghouls. Would they be offended by a giant inflatable jack-o-lantern in front of City Hall?

I only ask because of all the holidays Halloween is the hardest to explain to my kids. Sure, we play along because costumes and candy are fun. Honestly, we find any excuse we can to get into costumes the whole year round. But explaining the made-in-Taiwan gore-fest that some people put on is just beyond me.

We're Christians, so explaining all the trappings of our religion's holy days is easy. The patriotic holidays are a snap too. I really love all the harvest type decorations that people put out. Corn stalks, pumpkins, gourds, the occasional jolly scarecrow, all these things speak of the joy of the season. But when my three-year-old stops dead in his tracks, shuffles real close to me and grabs my hand because there's a bloody skeleton crawling out of my neighbor's flower bed... I'm at a loss to explain that shit.

"Well you see son, once upon a time there were pagan holidays that involved carving turnips into scary faces to scare off all the evil spirits. After a while the Church created All Saints Day to balance things out, but it didn't really work so well. People are a superstitious lot and even though they go to church on Sunday it still pays to placate any evil spirits that might be roaming the neighborhood on a frosty autumn evening. Story tellers of old would scare the villagers with chilling tales of ghosts and goblins. With the advent of cheap printing these stories continued to circulate widely and eventually transformed into the gore genre of cinema in the 1950s. Americans maintain a fascination with the occult and are happy to bring it on home from Wal-Mart. Even though most people don't have any concept of what evil really is, who the Devil is, or anything to do at all with spiritual beings like angels or demons, they're happy to participate in a holiday that involves costumes and candy."

So just ignore that creepy dead guy with his bony hand scrabbling at the edge of the sidewalk and concentrate on that big, fluffy pumpkin in the next yard. Maybe if you think about that big, happy jack-0-lantern I won't have to hold you in the dark for an hour later on because you had a bad dream about the living dead coming for you from out of the hardy mums.


Saturday, October 10, 2009

Days Gone By

Today marked the celebration of the 175th anniversary of the town I live in. It wasn't much to look at. The town board didn't realize that we were due for a shindig until it was almost too late and they just threw something together. The 150th was way better, mostly because I was eight and there was a guy with a real... live... teepee.

The Town Hall is one of the oldest buildings in town. It's a three story cobble stone structure and it's just one house up the street from me. The third floor has a museum in it with as much historical junk as could be scraped together. It's actually pretty neat to see how much variety there is, considering that the only source of relics is the attics of a township that only covers thirty-five square miles. Civil war uniform, Edison wax cylinder player, WWI firearms. This is our stuff, kinda cool.

And along all the walls are photos of the town. Railroad bridges being built, train depots, and the coolest of all, aerial photos from several decades. The one from 1965 struck me as particularly cool because about half the town just isn't there! One thing that is on it though is the old three bay garage down on the corner. It was remodeled into a modern day convenience store when I was a kid but I can still remember it as an auto shop with a news stand out front.

That news stand was the reason I started writing tonight. Inside was nothing but a magazine rack, piles of newspapers, a black and white TV and a very bored clerk. But outside there was a Coke machine. A particular breed of Coke machine not often seen even way back in the dark ages of the late 1970's.

This Coke machine was of the beautiful design wherein a long rectangular door on the left side opened up, just like the fridge at home. Behind the glass were five or six holes from which peeped the caps of glass bottles of pop. (I'm from Western New York, it's my story and it's POP, all right?) Simplicity itself. You drop in two quarters, grab a frosty bottle and give it a yank. The metal jaws grasping the delicate hourglass let go and you have yourself a pop.

Simple, right? One payment, one pop. But no... a much older, much wiser cousin let me in on a little secret. This was the cousin that would later on know all sorts of things about computer hacking, he was almost dangerous. The secret was that the jaws didn't just let go of the pop that you paid for and latch on to the next one in line. They were on a timer!

So this meant that any industrious lad with a couple chums could treat the whole gang if they could scrape up four bits between them. One guy fed the coin slot and manned the door, one or more would squat and hold arms out underneath, and the guy with the fastest fists would be the puller.

Clink-a-chunk, clink-a-chunk, fwip.... deep breath.... yankyankyankyankyank!

The best of the best could get four or even five cold ones out before the jaws slammed shut. But even a pre-schooler could get one for himself and a friend.

Wrong! Stealing! Yes, I know. But how sweet it was. How utterly sweet to be the Orange Pop Bandits!


Sunday, October 4, 2009

On Love

All you need is love (name that band)

She love me... she loves me not... (name hat game)

Love is patient, love is kind, etc... (name that book)

I'm not even gonna mess around here, I just read a post by Irish Gumbo about love and now I'm waxing thoughtful. (Which is unusual these days, I'm running low on wax.) The first paragraph talks about all the ways we learn about love and the second about all the ways we loose it. That's what got me to wondering... is it possible to loose love?

If you're allergic to religion don't click away here, I'll keep it brief and non-confrontational. The Bible says, and I'm paraphrasing here, that God gives without repentance. Which is a fancy way of saying that God is not what we used to call an Indian Giver on the playground. If God gives it to you, no matter how things go after that, you've still got it. If He says He loves you, there is not any imaginable course of action that could cause you to fall away from that.

So now I look at my own life and wonder if that doesn't apply to me as well. As a child I fell into the love of my parents and the rest of my family. Luckily for me I have Super Sweet parents who never did anything to me to make me doubt their love for me; at least not in any real sort of way, restrictions on teenage lifestyles aside, they did it out of love after all. But looking around, The Missus has some issues going on in her family, but does she still love the one that left. I'm thinking that it's so, otherwise she wouldn't be bothered by it.

As I grew up my boyish heart turned to thoughts of love, or possibly it was just the testosterone cocktail coursing through my veins. With the eye of (relative) maturity it's easy to see that most of what happened to me in those years was just puppy love, or lust, or what have you. There was only occasionally any glimmer of anything even remotely approximating love that transpired between myself and any of the girls that I dated back then. The one point of interest is to look back and see in the (very) small handful of relationships where we got it just a little bit right. Mostly I never give even a passing thought to past relationships, but for one or two, where there was that tiny germ of proto-love, something remains. Not anything to worry about, don't misunderstand me one bit. There's no interest in rekindling old flames, but that tiny drop of love warms my heart when an old girlfriend turns up on MyFace or SpaceBook and is happily married with beautiful children. Apparently there's no return on that deposit but it seems to remain proportional.

Until I met The Missus my friends always received the greater portion of my love. I still maintain a fierce love for my Bros from way back, even though contact these days is sporadic at best. Even the one guy I was always at odds with, the one friend that's "broken up" with me and vise versa numerous times. The bond of love that is true friendship maintains a place for that guy in my heart. I still care.

And finally, to wax theological once again (just briefly), to quote Gumbo, "Love will not feed you, or clothe you, or put a roof over your head. It will, however, sustain you." In my life I've seen that God's love is enough. The Bible says not to worry about money or clothes or even what I will eat. God cares about the birds of the field and sustains them, how much more will he sustainsus that He loves. (that's Us as in Humanity en toto not just us the Christians).

As the guy who's responsible for bringing home the bacon (for six) a good deal of my mental process is dedicated to our sustenance. Sustaining us. Things go best when I rely on my moto, paraphrased from the Good Book, "I may not ever be rich or have nice things, but God loves me and I know he's not going to let me and mine starve on His watch."

Anyway, I don't feel like that was terribly coherent but it was on my mind this morning. And now my Short People are up and want me to make waffles. Time to make sure the Love is baked in...