Funny how memory works. I encounter the word abalone and think yes, thats a type of tuna. No, Im wrong. An abalone does live in the sea, but its a shellfish.
Whats the tuna word Im thinking of? Anemone? No, an anemone lives in the sea, but its a predatory polyp. Or an anemone also could be a flower that lives on land. How confusing.
For a type of tuna, Im looking for a similar word. Starts with an a. Artichoke? No. It has a b and an l in it, I think. Albino? Abdominal? Abominable? Abysmal? Albanian? Alabaster? Ali Baba? Algebra? Albuquerque? Abracadabra? I finally give up, knowing itll come to me later.
And five minutes later it pops into my head, totally unbidden.
Perhaps the difficulty arises from never having looked at the word closely before now. Obviously, it must have been derived from alba, white, and core, center. (And dont try to tell me, Mr. Webster, that it comes from the Arabic for the precocious camel, which is al-bakura. That would only put me back on the abracadabra track.)
JULY 24, 2015 DESCARTES BEFORE THE HORSE
Silence. We had been expecting more. I remarked, Seems Ive heard that before. It certainly qualifies as an old one.
I have a horse joke, offered Nick Taylor, the Episcopal priest.
Nick had to remind us of the famous saying, I think, therefore I am. You see, his horse had applied the negative corollary: Non cogito, ergo non sum. He was thinking not. Therefore he was amming not.
JULY 21, 2015 NOTHING AT RISK
My favorite Janis Joplin song wasnt released until after her 1970 death: Me and Bobby McGee, written by Kris Kristofferson. But I never completely understood the line Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose. Freedom means a lot more than that!
Only recently did retired sitcom writer Earl Pomerantz enlighten me on his blog. In essence:
JULY 18, 2015 REACHING FOR THE SAME PIECE OF CAKE
Earlier this week, the following situation happened to me for the third time in the last 20 years. (One remembers such scares.) Thats me in the red car, merging onto the expressway.
In the future, how do I avoid these near misses? I dont know. I'll just have to continue to be vigilant behind the wheel.
JULY 13, 2015 HE'D BUILD A GREAT, GREAT WALL
I suppose we shouldnt be surprised that Donald Trump quickly shot to the top of the polls in the race for the Republican nomination for President. For one thing, name recognition is a major factor. Trump is a celebrity running against politicians (14 of them so far). At this early stage, low-information voters may not know much about the others, but they have heard of The Donald.
Nevertheless, in a letter to the editor published today, Oren Spiegler of Upper St. Clair does register surprise. I find it stunning and sad that Donald Trump, the coarse, crude, arrogant, condescending loudmouth of the Republican Party, has soared to first or second place in polls.
Im not that stunned, because I think theres a second reason. A significant portion of Republican voters are themselves coarse, crude, arrogant, condescending loudmouths. Lets call them CCACLs. Theyve found in Trump a champion who speaks their language. He promises easy, simplistic answers.
Mr. Spiegler wonders whether any candidate is willing to display sufficient courage and decency as to challenge and attempt to disassociate the party from Mr. Trump.
Some have in fact registered disagreement with Trumps rantings. But I suspect his typical opponent doesnt want to denounce him too strongly, because after Trump drops out of the race, the opponent will need some Trump CCACLs to switch their votes to him. He doesnt want those voters to have written him off as a coddler of immigrants, an unpatriotic Donald hater.
JULY 12, 2015 A HUNDRED NAMESAKES
Scientists estimate there are 3,800 Americans who, like me, are named Thomas Thomas. Or maybe its 700. Depends on the methodology.
* * * * JULY 2, EVENING
I wish I had the kind of relationship with my neighbors where I could tell them to knock it the hell off with the fireworks.
* * * * JULY 4, MORNING
I wonder if my neighbors would be as patient with me setting off fireworks at 8 in the morning as I was with them at 11 last night.
Watch Independence Day today and celebrate the American tradition of making bad choices thinly rationalized by patriotism.
* * * * JULY 4, AFTERNOON
Sitting out in the heat waiting for the 4th of July parade and fireworks because I love my family more than I love my own comfort.
Parade float throwing peanuts instead of candy: You're like the Halloween house handing out raisins. If raisins were a fatal allergen.
O hai! Ominous clouds! Gusty winds on the 4th of July, because for a little while there I was worried some moron with homemade bottle rockets wouldn't cause a wildfire.
Marvel must be feeling pretty cocky that Captain America T-shirts have now become acceptable patriotic clothing.
* * * * JULY 4, EVENING
Boom Boom Pow has replaced Neil Diamond's America in the fireworks show. I want my country back.
Going to sleep is just a foolish wish at this point, because SPLOSIONS.
Yes, I know you want to be setting off fireworks at 11:30. But see, your want to exists in a world of laws and other people. Dickhead.
Here's the thing: I generally think, How will my behavior affect other people? And I foolishly expect it should be a universal principle. And so I fume impotently on Twitter when I'd love to be sleeping. Lucky you.
When you think about it, the 4th of July would be the best time to shoot someone. my wife, insuring I will not sleep at all tonight.
[2-minute-long period of silence] Me: Dare I even hope? Laura: You shouldn't. You'll just be even more pissed off.
You know it's love when someone cares enough to remind you that hope is a futile endeavor.
* * * * JULY 5, MORNING
Early enough on a Sunday morning after a holiday that I might as well rant into the emptiness.
I make what jokes I can about the hey I'm launching fireworks at midnight thing, but it's one of many symptoms of a societal sickness. It's hardly a brand-new one I refuse to get all kids these days about it but it feels like it's getting worse all the time. It's an overwhelming brand of narcissism: What I want and what I feel are the only thing that exists.
When I see some a-hole weaving through traffic, there's no other conclusion to be drawn but Nothing else matters but my needs.
So much public debate seems to revolve around conflicts where people refuse to acknowledge that their position affects others negatively.
I'm rambling. Sorry. It just feels sometimes like the idea of a society is waved off as utopian by radical individualists.
No right is limitless. We can disagree on which rights have which parameters, but at least consider that parameters should exist. You do not have a 1st Amendment right to a religious practice that involves human sacrifice. You do not have a 2nd Amendment right to a nuke. Once we acknowledge those things, we can start having reasonable discussions about the responsibilities of living in a society.
JULY 4, 2015 WHAT ARE THEY SAYING?
Heres some insight Ive gathered from the Internet over the past week.
A conservative claims: I insist on Freedom of Religion.
A liberal responds: Good. People of all the different religions should be free to follow their own consciences.
The conservative actually means: I insist on the freedom from being required to live in a world that isn't run in strict accord with my religion.
A conservative claims: The truth is, it is in the Bible that marriage is between one man and one woman.
A liberal responds: No, it isnt! Stop saying that!
The conservative actually means: I know its in there. Maybe I cant find the chapter and verse; no scripture specifically, just the Bible. Of course, I use the Bible and my pastor at church interchangeably.
A conservative claims: Same-sex marriage undermines traditional marriage.
A liberal responds: Are you crazy? How is a straight couples marriage threatened just because two other people also get married?
The conservative actually means: Same-sex marriage may not weaken a traditional marriage that already exists, but it does provide another opening for willful people in the future to eschew holy matrimony. You see, marriage used to be a duty. When a man became an adult, he was expected to marry the girl arranged for him (or if he selected her himself, he had to obtain her fathers approval). His wife was obliged to submit to him, to stay home and take care of the house, and above all to bear him many babies. But the recent Supreme Court decision redefines marriage as an institution of love instead of oppression. Freedom has broken out. People feel free to make other arrangements as they see fit, even arrangements that don't include procreation. Needless to say, conservatives oppose such freedom.
JUNE 30, 2015 SHARE THE STREET
But then, remove all the lane markings and crosswalks from that block! Remove all the signs and traffic lights! Even level all the curbs and sidewalks! Just let all the cars and trucks and buses and bicycles and pedestrians go wherever they like, whenever they like, using their common sense to share the space with everyone else.
Thats nuts. Or so it seems, one participant admitted. But it might just work. Shared space has been successful in several European cities. Weve even seen it in the U.S.; this video is a few years old, but it shows San Franciscos bustling Market Street without signs and signals.
The key to a shared space, the newspaper explained, is creating a design that causes drivers to slow down, which improves safety. Paradoxically, the resulting slow but steady traffic can actually move through the congested area in less time, because no one is standing still, idling, waiting two minutes for a light to change.
Doing away with the rules forces drivers and pedestrians to interact and cooperate. Ownership of the entire street vests with everyone. Drivers pay attention to pedestrians and other drivers rather than signals and signs. Foot traffic increases, stimulating retail development.
It occurs to me that it wont be possible to eliminate all signs. It will be necessary to explain to drivers and pedestrians before they reach the shared space that theyre about to enter the Wild West, a lawless open free-for-all. They should not expect any government-painted lines on the pavement nor any stop signs granting them the right of way over other people. They should be prepared to respect their fellow citizens and defer to them.
JUNE 26, 2015 12C BUZZWORD
In introductory college chemistry, organic chemistry is a more difficult laboratory course than inorganic, because the molecules are more complex.
In broad terms, organic chemistry means containing carbon specifically, carbon compounds like proteins and carbohydrates. Inorganic chemistry includes everything else like metals and acids and salts.
I just brewed myself a cup of chai tea. The package of teabags says its organic. Of course it is. To me, all food is organic, not because of how its grown but because it contains carbon. Inorganic tea would not taste good. So there.
JUNE 20, 2015 HE SAID, SHE SAID
Denny Roberts wrote that he got in big trouble for it. That was in a book of memories we exchanged last weekend at our reunion. So I asked him about it. He told me he did the painting with the help of Gene Somerlot and Pete Ransome. Also, our class wasnt the only mischievous one; the tower had been tagged by older classes in prior years.
However, Pat Ransome Kyle-Beatley told a different tale. She wrote, I can recall climbing the water tower with Sheila Ward to paint Class of 65. Dont believe what Denny Roberts had to say. Too bad the girls were responsible for this. Where were our guys?
Alas, we may never know the truth. Nevertheless, I went ahead and tabulated some of the details and statistics from that book of memories. I also added a whole bunch of Tonya Davis Paynes reunion photos. Its all in a follow-up story, More on the 50th Reunion.
JUNE 10, 2015 FINAL TESTAMENT
They were inside jokes when they were written. Half a century later, even fewer people can understand them. Nevertheless, they're in my files, so now they're online, whether you "get" them or not.
They're the bequests made by the members of the Class of 1965, as read at the very last Richwood High School Junior-Senior Banquet. They're known as The Will.
JUNE 1, 2015 HE CALLED FOR HIS FIDDLERS THREE
At the beginning of your correspondents career, 62 years ago, I was all prepared to conduct an exclusive interview with the king!
Notice my hands; I seem to be holding my notebook like an accordion. As I recall, old King Cole was a merry old soul, and a merry old soul was he. But then our one-on-one was upstaged by the arrival of Daffy-down-Dilly.
Actually, we were all in costume for our kindergarten operetta. It was the spring of 1953. I played Mother Goose's secretary, Kelly Drake portrayed the king, and Sherry Keigley was the daffodil. As Nathaniel Hawthorne observed,
And thus have I colorized this portion of the cast photo.