30 Day Challenge – Twofer

9: Your Last Kiss
11: Your current relationship, if single, discuss how single life is

I put these two together, because I’m not really going to write about either, yet they kinda go together.

The wife and I are now closing in on 53 years of marriage, but I’m sure that there are readers who would be surprised to find that there is not an abundance of “Love.”  For much of history, and much of the world, marriage was a socio-commercial undertaking.  Even today, ‘arranged marriages’ are common, and their divorce rates are lower than the ‘marriage for love’ ones.  They are based on mutual respect and adaptation.

I’m assuming that the author meant a passionate, ‘love-induced’ kiss, not the How Are You peck on the cheek from a sister-in-law.  At the three-quarters of a century mark, there’s not a lot of passion left.  The son says that he gets strange looks from co-workers when he tells them that we are each just hanging on until the other dies – dark humor, that boy.

Hoggimus-Higgimus
Man is polygamous
Higgimus-Hoggimus
Woman’s monogamous
It is said that a man will trade love for sex, and a woman will trade sex for love.  The wife and I have learned to respect each other, and there certainly has been a great deal of adaptation over the years.  There was a certain degree of love to get the marriage started, but…. 

A man chases a woman – until she catches him.  I came home one day from work, to find that the coffee klatch at my house had not disbanded.  I heard the wife telling the neighborhood women that she picked me, because she felt that I was very intelligent, and she thought that smart men made more money.  Oh, you sexy minx!  You had me at ‘Credit Check.’  I am the victim of an arranged marriage.  It was just my wife who arranged it.

I am not displeased or disappointed with my married life.  Only occasionally do I wonder how things would have gone in other circumstances.  One of my online friends has been divorced and living alone for 30 years.  I don’t have the self-sufficiency to live alone.  I need a zoo-keeper to care for and feed me.  As a mild sociopath, I could probably handle the isolation, but I still value the social and intellectual stimulation from my children, and now grandson and granddaughter-in-law.

There have been few periods in our marriage that could be described as brilliant fireworks.  That’s probably a good thing.  Slow and steady wins the race.  I have seen those whose lives, including their marriage, have been roller-coaster ups and downs.  Eventually the downs seem to be such a contrast, that they decide to give up and change them.  Divorce is survivable.  Suicide is not.

Our marriage has not been boring.  We have been able to travel a bit, and see and experience some interesting places and things.  Now that we are (much) older, and the bodies and the bank account are weak and creaky, we are learning to use our electronics for entertainment and social connections – like this.

Thanx for stopping by to read this unexciting description of Same Old – Same Older.  I’ll haul out more interesting info for next time.  Wanna hear about the neighbor who’s a drug dealer?

***

I’m still (reluctantly) getting used to this damned Block Editor. I’ve figured out most of it but, can someone tell me where to find the control for color of text??

Flash Fiction #233

ted-s

PHOTO PROMPT © Ted Strutz

LESS IS MORE

In some ways, under-population is the bane of the developed world.  When I was a child, I thought that inheriting this house would be marvelous.  Now that it’s happened, I own a white elephant.

When it was built, 150 years ago, the normal 8-10-12 children were needed to maintain it.  Older sons mended the shingles. Middle teens cut the grass and pruned the trees.  Daughters tended flowers and vegetables.  Young Tom Sawyer-types whitewashed the fence.

Medicine improved, and families shrunk.  Now, I don’t have the time, energy or income to keep it presentable.

***

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

friday-fictioneers-badge-web

Why I Am An Old Codger

Cadge

WHY I AM AN OLD CODGER

By Emeritus Archon

Mrs. Upshall, and my fellow Grade Four classmates

What is a codger?  I bet you thought that I knew everything about English language words.  I know I did!

The same extinct British TV show which brought us the word manky, as well as the more recent phrase, ‘Stone the Crows,’ also recently taught me why I am an old codger.  I have accepted (bitched about it – but accepted) that I am old, since I turned 60 – but, codger?

In ancient times – and not-so-ancient times – birds of prey were important to royalty and nobility as a symbol of swift, destructive power.  Eagles, hawks and falcons were common on heraldry and coats of arms.  The bigger the dick lord, the more birds he might own.  A king could have 15 or 20.

Each and every one of them must be exercised every day, by the bird trainer.  They must be taken away from the castle where they roost, to an open patch of ground, so that they can be flown, one at a time, trained to attack prey, and brought back to the trainer, using a bait, swung around and tossed into the air at the end of a stout cord.

That’s the trainer’s job, but whose job was it to get all these birds to and from the castle – and how?  A device called a cadge was invented (See above photo).  It’s like a small end table with no top, and upholstered rails for birds to cling to.  It has shoulder straps to support the weight when a person stands inside it.  10 to 20 birds, at three or four pounds each, can be quite a load.

Strong young men were better employed for other uses.  It was usual for older men to tote this thing around.  Dictionaries are not sure where the name cadge came from.  Some feel that it originally might have been ‘cage.’  Others, (which I agree with) feel that it’s a development of ‘carriage.’  The poor lout who got burdened with it became known as a cadger.  Pronunciation drift eventually changed that to codger.

So, that’s the story of how I came to be what I am – a flighty old man, forced to help support and train a bunch of bird-brains.  I come by my title of Grumpy Old Dude, honestly.  😉

Book Review #22

Captain Stormfield's Visit to Heaven

Mark Twain, making fun of Christians’ beliefs about heaven. 

The book: Captain Stormfield’s Visit To Heaven

The author: Mark Twain = Samuel Langhorne Clemens

The review: This is a short story written by Mark Twain, about 1868. It was not published until 1909 – 41 years later – because it was thought to insult all the Good Christians.

The story follows Captain Elias Stormfield on his decades-long cosmic journey to Heaven; his accidental misplacement after racing a comet; his short-lived interest in singing and playing the harp (generated by his preconceptions of heaven); and the general obsession of souls with the celebrities of Heaven such as Adam, Moses, and Elijah, who according to Twain become as distant to most people in Heaven as living celebrities are on Earth (an early parody of celebrity culture). Twain uses this story to show his view that the common conception of Heaven is ludicrous, and points out the incongruities of such beliefs with his characteristic adroit usage of hyperbole.

Much of the story’s description is given by the character Sandy McWilliams, a cranberry farmer who is very experienced in the ways of Heaven. Sandy gives Stormfield, a newcomer, the description in the form of a conversational question-and-answer session. The Heaven described by him is similar to the conventional Christian Heaven, but includes a larger version of all the locations on Earth, as well as of everywhere in the universe (which mention of, albeit as a backdrop, is the last science fiction element).

All sentient life-forms travel to Heaven, often through interplanetary or interstellar space, and land at a particular gate (which are without number), which is reserved for people from that originating planet. Each newcomer must then give his name and planet of origin to a gatekeeper, who sends him in to Heaven.

Once inside, the person spends eternity living as it thinks fit, usually according to its true (sometimes undiscovered) talent. According to one of the characters, a cobbler who “has the soul of a poet in him won’t have to make shoes here,” implying that he would instead turn to poetry and achieve perfection in it.

On special occasions a procession of the greatest people in history is formed; on the occasion of Stormfield’s arrival, this includes Buddha, William Shakespeare, Homer, Mohammed, Daniel, Ezekiel, and Jeremiah plus several otherwise unknown people whose talents far exceeded those of the world’s pivotal figures, but who were never famous on Earth.

As Stormfield proceeds through Heaven he learns that the conventional image of angels as winged, white-robed figures bearing haloes, harps, and palm leaves is a mere illusion generated for the benefit of humans, who mistake “figurative language” for accurate description (the wings are part of their uniforms, and not functionally wings); that all of Heaven’s denizens choose their ages, thus aligning themselves with the time of life at which they were most content; that anything desired is awarded to its seeker, if it does not violate any prohibition; that the prohibitions themselves are different from those envisioned on Earth; that each of the Earth-like regions of Heaven includes every human being who has ever lived on it; that families are not always together forever, because of decisions made by those who have died first; that white-skinned people are a minority in Heaven; that kings are not kings in Heaven (Charles II is a comedian while Henry VI has a religious book-stand), etc.

Making fun of slavery was one thing, but making fun of people’s cherished Christian beliefs was something else entirely. This book never did well, and even many Twain aficionados are not aware of it.

 

WOW #58

 

I am the walrus…. No, wait. That was John Lennon.

philosopher

I AM THE ARCHON

And I have been since a high school history class in 1958, when we studied the Classic Greeks. The king of Sparta was killed in a battle, and his son was only 11. The law stated that he needed to be 18 before he officially succeeded his father.

Seven of the king’s closest friends and advisors formed a committee, and offered to protect and mentor the young teen until he could take over. They became ‘The Archons.’   True to their word, they trained and advised the young man for years, and when he came of age, they crowned and installed him as king.

Impressed by their wisdom and honesty, I decided that I wanted to be an Archon – a tribal elder, a senior statesman – passing along knowledge and integrity. It is a self-appointed title that I’ve held for over 60 years.

Somewhat sadly, the word/name/concept did not begin with the ancient Greeks. It actually goes back to, or beyond, the time of Gilgamesh and the Mesopotamian Empire. The original meaning was of beings that held power and positions which they were not authorized to hold.

Modern Christian Apologists have decided that these tales were about demons afflicting mankind. I have been unceremoniously dismissed by Christian debaters, because my ‘Archon’s Den’ website is obviously a home for the Devil.

Well, now that I’ve made it all about me, it’s about time that I dragged out the Word Of the Week, gave credit where it is due, and explained why.

Once upon a time, I claimed that I was ‘The Archon,’ and blogger buddy Jim replied that, of course I was, and he was the

POLEMARCH

That had me quickly scurrying for a dictionary and a history text. It turns out that, while an Archon may be a noble, a member of the aristocracy, one who makes the laws to rule a country – the POLEMARCH is a senior civilian bureaucrat, charged with the administration and enforcing of the rules.

Fasces

I hope that Jim is not dismayed when I say that the Polemarch is Fascist. Like the swastika symbol, the poor word ‘Fascist’ has suffered a reversal of fortunes and meaning, which may not be set right for another hundred years. The left-hand, reverse swastika has been the symbol of the Zuni Indians’ Sun God for centuries.

Swastika

The right-hand version, presented flat and square, instead of the diamond Nazi method, had been a good-luck symbol to the Hindu and Jain religions for millennia. It has even been accepted by various Christian sects as the cross of Saint John.

The Greek concept of the Polemarch was adopted and modified (along with so many other things) by the Romans. Administrators named Magistrates – a word, which in English, means ‘master’ – patrolled Roman cities, dispensing justice. They were accompanied by one or more assistants, bearing their badge of office, called ‘Fasces.’ (fass-case) These consisted of an axe, the blade visible and facing outward, surrounded by a sheaf of wooden rods.

Actually, only the rods were fasces, but the whole assembly soon took on the name. The axe (more than) symbolized the power of death – by beheading – capital punishment.   The wooden sticks were used to administer a beating or flogging – corporal punishment, for lesser crimes.

Instant justice, delivered hot and fresh, on the spot – today’s lawyers would be aghast at the lack of fee-producing stays and appeals. The term ‘fasces’ produced the word Fascist when Mussolini’s WWII Brown-shirts co-opted it, and the symbol, to show the government’s seizure of the right of life and death over the population.

Small Town Reality

Small Town

A recent humor post about small towns elicited some comments, questions, and not-necessarily-good memories. For those with curiosity, or defective nostalgia, here’s the real low, down.

Baskin-Robbins only has three ice cream flavors.

Corporate America has still not reached my little Canadian town. There used to be a couple of independent, Mom-and-Pop convenience stores that hand-dipped ice cream, before pre-packaged treats became available. Now they subsist by selling lottery tickets to folks dreaming about having enough money to get out.

You had to step out of the village limits in order to change your mind.

That’s a trick question. Nobody in my town changes their mind.

The nickname for the city jail is amoeba because it only has one cell.

Hah! Our town jail has two cells. One for drunken white men, and another for drunken Indians from the adjoining reservation.

McDonalds only has one Golden Arch and the nearest one is 15 miles away.

The nearest one is in the next town, 5 miles closer to the nuclear reactor, and the only source of employment left in the area.

Instead of a 7-11 they have a 3.5 – 5.5.

See ‘no corporate America’ above. 3.5 X 5.5 refers to metres – 20 by 30 feet sized convenience stores.

The New Year’s baby was born in April.

With all the screwing that’s going on, some of it even by people who are married – to each other – you’d think this would happen earlier in the year. All praise free birth-control information on the internet.

The “Welcome To” and “Thanks for Visiting “signs are front and back of the same sign.

The town has a lot of long-term summer residents – rich city folks who own expensive cottages. Neither they, nor the residents, really want transient, stay-at-a-tourist-camp visitors. There is no ‘Welcome’, or ‘Thanks’ sign. It was left to the Department of Highways to identify where drivers were with a generic sign.

You have to go to the next town to find 2nd Street….

At least there’s nothing as bland as 1st, 2nd, or 3rd Street in my home-town. We have a British-type, High Street, which I was born on, as well as street names like Morpeth, Anglesia, Grosvenor, Grenville, Landsdowne, Breadlebane, and Augusta.

A “Night on the Town” only takes about ten minutes.

There are bars in two hotels on High Street, a block apart. White folks drink at one. Indians drink at the other. If you drink too long at either, your ten-minute ‘Night on the Town’ could stretch to 72 hours in the appropriate comfortably-appointed jail cell.

The Subway restaurant that serves foot-long sandwiches cannot fit within the village limits.

See ‘no corporate America’ again. There is a French-fries/hamburger/ hot-dog take-out building on the highway, behind the bank. It limps through the winter months, and produces retirement income during the summer.

You do not bother using turn signals because everyone already knows where you are going.

Laid out by British surveyors, the town has good sight-lines, and broad streets. It is one of two towns in Canada with a 100 foot-wide main street – most have 66. If you do manage to cut off a local resident, they feel free to tell you where to go.

Big social events are scheduled around when the high school gym floor is being varnished.

The local Legion is big enough to handle most ‘big’ social events. The local high school was closed in 1955, because of lack of students. The couple of dozen per year are bused five miles to the 350 student ‘District’ high school.

You call a wrong number and the person who answers can give you the correct number for the person you are trying to call..

While this was once true, the internet has become a boon, since the big Don’t-Give-A-Damn epidemic hit town.

There is no point in high-school reunions because everyone knows what everyone else is doing anyway.

This is true of those too dumb to get out. The ones who leave, just tend to disappear.
“Do you remember Bob?”
“Bob who?”
“We went to school with him.”
“You mean Rob?”
“Maybe….”
“I got no idea where he went.”

School gets canceled for Provincial sporting events.

No-one in my town was good enough at any sport to qualify for Provincial meets. Senior elementary classes are sometimes bused to District events.

It was cool to date someone from a different high-school.

It had to be from the same ‘District’ high school, but at least you could date someone from a different town – or a farm girl, who could show you alternate social uses for the hay-mow in the barn.

The golf course had only three holes.

There’s a quite-nice golf course, 2 miles out of town, where the old highway wisely bypassed this social morass, a century ago. More recently, a developer included a tournament-worthy course as a perk with his new housing subdivision, on the other side of town, right next to the Indian reservation, whose residents are wisely not allowed to be members. They are both 18-hole courses. Amusingly, just 2 miles away from my current, big-city house, is a course that the city has grown out and surrounded. It is a par-3 course.

Anyone you are looking for can be found at either the Dairy Queen or Wal-Mart, over in ‘The Big City’.

I remember when I thought that it was the cultural center of the Universe, with all of 10,000 residents.

Directions are given using the one and only stop light as a reference – after they finally installed one.

Even after they redirected the highway through the town, instead of past it, the intersection with the main street was a 4-way stop until the Department of Highways insisted on a traffic light in 1955. It’s still the only one.

Weekend excitement involves a trip to the grocery store.

1955 was a year of excitement. A Canadian-based supermarket came to town to challenge 3 little independent grocery stores. While considerable excitement can be had with bananas and cucumbers, the entire town was agog when they imported coconuts.

Your teachers remember when they taught your parents.

My Dad was a Johnny-come-lately, carpet-bagger, non-native. My Mom left in her early teens during the dirty-Thirties, and returned as an adult. None of the teachers had been inoculated, or developed a resistance to me.

The best burgers in town are at the four-lane bowling alley.

Our bowling alley had the best burgers and 8 lanes, but was an unheated summer-only, beach bowling alley, only open from the end of May, till Labor Day. The next town down had a year-round, 4-lane alley, but no lunch bar. The best burgers were next door at the owner’s A-frame, chalet diner.

Tell us about your tiny home-town…. or the unfortunate section of big city that you grew up in.

Why They Don’t Speak English

Stunned Emoji

Why do you study English??! We all speak it.   😳

The lights are on, but there’s nobody home.
The wheel isn’t turning. The hamster is dead.

Once upon a time, on a sunny September afternoon in 1958, I sat in a high school English class. We were studying Shakespeare’s ‘Merchant of Venice.’ The teacher had just read a passage, which included the phrase, “By dark and divers ways.”

The SCUBA diving system was a relatively recent invention, having only been patented by Jacques Cousteau 15 years earlier, in 1943. Suddenly, Biff, the class jock who sat in the row next to me, put up his hand. “Uh, Mr. Johnson, are they talking about guys who jump off cliffs, or that new SCUBA thingy?”

Mr. Johnson is bewildered. As far as he knew, we hadn’t been talking about people throwing themselves off cliffs – and he had no idea what a “SCUBA thingy” was. As he was stammering for a reply, I hissed at Biff, “Put an E on the end of it!”
“Whuh??
No talking in class!
Well, I was in it now. Might as well be hung for a sheep, as a lamb. “Put an E on the end of it!”
“Uh…. Edivers??”
That’s right Biff; there are two ends to a word. Only you would pick the wrong one. Now there were at least two confused people in the room.

“What’s going on back there?”

I stood up. I’m sorry Mr. Johnson. Biff saw the word ‘divers,’ and wondered if Shakespeare was talking about people who dive off things like cliffs, or if he was referring to the new mechanical system which allows people to be SCUBA divers, and breathe underwater, even though it didn’t exist 400 years ago.

We just came here from French class, where the French word ‘divers’ (dee-vare) means of many types, different, various. I was trying to tell Biff to add an E at the end, to produce the English word, ‘diverse.’

This led Mr. Johnson on a spirited lecture about the origin and changes to many English words, and got me off the hook. Biff probably went on to fame and fortune, and a football scholarship, while I can only define the word ‘obscure.’ He was regularly outwitted by the tackling dummy, and needed a handler to tie his shoes, ‘cause Velcro hadn’t been invented yet.

WOW #54

Boustrophedon

Here’s another in a long line of words that you’ll never use in polite company – or in any company, I would imagine.

BOUSTROPHÉDON

Languages that are written in the Greek, Cyrillic, or Latin alphabets, are written from left to right. It only makes sense. 90% of people are right-handed, and the right arm moves away from what is being written. Asian languages like Chinese and Japanese are written from the top down, vertically. At least they’re getting out of their own way.

Forgive me for being un-PC, but languages like Hebrew and Arabic are just stupid. Both cultures – Arabs worse than Jews – make a big deal about being left-handed. Somehow it’s evil, allied to Shaitan, The Devil. Yet these languages are written from right to left. It’s only in the last 75 years that technology has partly rescued them, with instant-drying ballpoint ink, and word processors. Before that, writers’ arms covered what had just been written, smudging or smearing the pen or quill ink.

Cuneiform

Boustrophedon is a Greek name for some of the much earlier Sumerian and Akkadian cuneiform type of ‘writing.’   This was just wedge-shaped marks, pushed into soft clay tablets. Back and forth – to and fro. Since there was no ink to smudge, a line would be entered from left to right. Then the writer would just drop down a line, and enter the next one from right to left.

The word originally just referred to that form of writing, but the meaning, in Greek, is “oxen turning.” Nowadays, the very few times that it is used, (always by a licensed professional) it can refer to things like the back-and-forth pattern of tweed, or the appearance of an agricultural field which has been plowed – fortunately, with tractors, not oxen – back and forth, up and down, leaving a visual difference between alternating rows or strips.

My First (Imaginary) Car

Old Jalopy

Once upon a time, I owned a car – not of my dreams, but in my dreams. It had a 1-1/2 cylinder engine, and ran on Macassar Oil. Since I was much younger when I imagined it, it was a much older make. It was a Rolls-Cunardly. It Rolls real good down hills, but Cunardly make it up the other side.

It didn’t come with all the creature comforts that today’s cars possess. In fact, I don’t remember any comfort at all. It didn’t have a windshield because, even at its top, blazing speed, the breeze flow wouldn’t equal a hot-air hand dryer.

Its balky, 5-speed gearbox was shifted with a long, floor-mounted handle, in a wide W pattern. In first gear, you could have checked what was in the glove compartment, except this car only had a shelf where, until recently, a red lantern was kept, that a footman had to precede the vehicle with.

You couldn’t put it in second gear if there was a lady in the car – although my girlfriend Muriel, said she enjoyed the vibration. Putting it in third would have allowed you to tune the radio, if it had one. Even if it did, all you’d have heard were the faint beeps that Marconi got, when someone told him to go fly a kite in Newfoundland.

Fourth gear would have allowed you to check your pocket change, but there was no need, since neither toll roads nor parking meters had been invented. Fifth gear was where it began overtaking garden snails. Care had to be taken, not to hit the simple on/off switch on the steering column, and shut it down.

Keys, and locks, and security systems were dreams for the future. Who would steal this monster? I left it running in front of a store one day, and came back to find a silver dollar and a note on the seat. You poor lad, I feel so sorry for you. Buy yourself a bicycle.

Where was reverse, you ask? Toward the top of a steep hill! The brakes were mechanical, and none too reliable. Just don’t park anywhere it was necessary to back up – or convince two husky bystanders to push it back for you. I used a crank-start system to get it going. Not the bent, metal thing. I got the grouchy old guy named Archon who lived next door, to help push me and bump-start it.

Some of the above details might not be accurate. They’re just intended to remind the Millennials about how tough we old coots had to be. Actually turn on a stove and cook food??! Ewww! My condo doesn’t even have a stove. Couldn’t you just tell your smart phone to call Skip The Dishes, or DoorDash, and have your meals delivered? 🙄

’19 A To Z Challenge – X

Shrew

Why are women and children evacuated first in an emergency?
So that the men can think.

philosopher

I’m not saying that every wife is a shrew, nor that there are no husbands who need the occasional bit of constructive nagging. I am a case in point. For every testosterone-poisoned dolt who slaps, pushes, or punches his wife, there is a shrill-voiced termagant whose tongue can etch glass. Sometimes they are married couples who deserve each other, and it is the neighbors who suffer. Let me introduce you to

XANTHIPPE

Shrewish wife of Socrates
an ill-tempered woman

While history records her as being a nagging shrew, it is not complete enough to make clear what caused her ill temper. There are records of Socrates helping the widow of a friend, but help seems to be all he did. Perhaps she felt that he was spending too much time down at the Acropolis with the boys, running the country, when he should have been at home, running his estate.

Some while ago, the BBC presented a show titled “Rumpole of the Bailey.” It centered on a 1950s/60s British barrister (lawyer). He was intelligent, educated, and could have been far richer and more famous if he hadn’t been saddled with ethics.

He could often be seen working into the night for a client, or hanging out at a cheap bar down the street. He was asked why he didn’t go home. The running joke was that he had a wife, named Hilda, but she was never seen.

He preferred the long hours and the bad booze, to going home to her. Like Xanthippe, he referenced H. Rider Haggard’s novel, and called her, “She Who Must Be Obeyed”, only, if he didn’t go home, he didn’t have to obey.

This is the end of the fourth year of the A To Z Challenge, and available words for the letters at the end of the alphabet grow scarce. If I accept the challenge again in April, next year, for the letter X, I think I’m down to X-Men, and Xerox machines – and I don’t know which I know less about.