The Soapbox Papers

The Soapbox Papers is my two-cents worth.

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Location: Beloit, Wisconsin, United States

I am a cross between Tinkerbell and Calamity Jane.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Jeanne, Jeanne....

Another weekend, another hurricane..I guess there is a lot of shell shock going on around Florida these days. If the newsfolks start talking about another tropical storm, I will have to redecorate my safe space.

For me personally, it has only been the storm mentality, the usual anxiety, the strange wonder and awesomeness storms have always held for me. I face into the wind of most storms and almost challenge them, dare them to do what they will. It is frightening, yes - but I also actually feel the power of the storm in me, and I like to think that in standing up to it I am absorbing some of that power into myself. If you have never done it, I doubt you could understand this sort of - defiance, I guess.

But I didn't do that this time. I looked out the window first, down on the trees from my 7th floor apartment to the courtyard and out toward the parking lot, past that out to sea, where the Gulf meets Tampa Bay. The courtyard is that space in the center of this U shaped building, and the landscaping is a private joy to me. I watched the winds blow in - and out -- at the same time, swirling in circles up and down the length of the building. I stayed put with my cat, who suddenly glued herself to me.

We lost power. That hadn't happened in any of the storms before. I'd already unplugged the computer and other important stuff and set my little radio and headphones to the right station, and checked the safe place, a rather large bathroom. Liberty and I had water and munchies, pillows, and candles-in-glasses, the small box that holds important things in my life, lighters, and Liberty's string -- an accessory we couldn't be without. We were ready.

Still, I watched through my closed windows. I could see the parking lot, but not my car - there is a tree that blocks my view, but I got a reassuring glimpse of fender and didn't think twice about it. My designated spot is in the first row, across the top of the U of buildings, and it never was a problem. I looked across to Bayfront Hospital's heliport. It was lit up, but most of the building was dark. Everywhere I looked was dark. The swirling winds were fascinating, but with no power, I decided sleep was a good idea and took a nap -- woke up with the television - power was back. Not one to wake up quickly, I lallygagged around, made coffee, watched the storm and listened to the reports. And the power went out again. We get blips of outages around here all the time, but this time it stayed off for hours again. And it was dark. So I went back to sleep. Libby was all for it, and we woke up again sometime after ten, and the 24/7 coverage of the storm was off, regular television was on -- the new Law and Order I didn't want to miss. I cooked up something for dinner and ended up spending the night up on the computer, writing and editing and playing a couple of games, thought about taking a nap this morning before I had to go to work downstairs, but didn't. For all of that, I ended up being down at the main desk half an hour early to open the computer lab. A friend cruised by in his power chair and asked me if I had seen my car. Now, Doc is always asking me if I want to sell my car to him for fifty dollars, when he knows it's full of repairs and close to completely rebuilt -- so I didn't take him seriously -- but he rode along beside me, telling me that windows had been blown out of quite a few residents' cars. The nearby security guard explained that the pea gravel on the roof (?) blew off and did a number on the parking lot. So I went out into the courtyard, Doc wheeling along beside me, and my heart sank when I caught a glimpse through the trees. There was a different shade of light in the car, a lighter light through the back window.

Glass was everywhere. Chunks of it on the back seat, the back deck, in the seams where the trunk and body connected, atop the trunk, and all over the parking lot. In all, seventeen cars were damaged, and I told Doc that it couldn't have been the storm. It had to be some demented person. We wandered around, looking at the other cars, and then Doc pointed out to me a window that had shattered but was still in place. There was a small dent quite visible from which all the crazing went out to the edges of the window. I could have tapped it and caused it to fall out. It was a newer car, and all I can imagine is that the glass in older cars like my 89 Buick had been sunned so much -- and perhaps the air pressure inside was so great -- they just burst out. Even pea gravel can do that if it hits at 50 - 75 mph, which is what some of the wind gusts were clocked at less than a mile away.

And who carries comprehension insurance on an 89 Buick, which the Blue Book values at $850? I ran into the new manager here and half joked that the housing authority was responsible; it was, after all, their pea gravel. She said I and the others should make a FEMA claim. Hm. Hadn't thought of that. Here people have lost everything they own to storms for the last how many weeks, and I am going to submit a claim for a back window on my 89 Buick? You bet I am. I don't expect it to be resolved quickly, but yes - it is a disaster, at least to me, and paying for it to be replaced is a hardship I really don't need right now. So I printed out 24 pages of the FEMA How-To booklet available as a PDF file on line - but I couldn't isolate the application form, so after printing out the 24 pages, I pulled the application and made copies of that and trotted it into one of the counselor's office and dumped it on her. Pat likes me, and always wants to know what is going on, so I told her. By this time I had contacted three local mobile glass service people via e-mail, and told Pat that where space allowed, I asked the glass companies if there was a discount for volume. I figure if we can get a better rate for all being in the same parking lot, that would help. Pat said that since FEMA will cover it (according to the 24 pages of information I printed out) eventually, I didn't have to worry about getting a discount (?!) but that isn't how I feel about it, and I said so. Those that help us should never have to pay full price if a discount is possible.
My computer lab co-worker, Robert, showed up with a thick piece of tarping, and I came up here to my place to get some duct tape. (I have always had duct tape, don't know why -- but now I do!) I thought I would write this out quickly and be done with trying to explain it all - but no, not me -- I had to get mouthy about it..
Anyway, as my friend Billie would say, it could be worse -- it could be raining. And it looks like it might soon, so I am grabbing the duct tape, a garbage bag for the safety rounded shards, and going down to cover the back window. It really could have been worse. It could have happened last year, when I Iived in my car.

My life is never dull --- haven't I told you this often enough?



Ah -- I am back in the safety of my own home and I can safely band-aid my fingers (safety glass my butt!) and feel somewhat better about the car. I have no idea when during the storm the window went, but the car was still dripping wet in the back seat (where I had conveniently left a bag of books to give to a shelter's reading room -- oops. All gone -- and a sketch pad I kept in case was ruined.

Between a heavy horsehair brush and one of those dusting things on a stick I inherited from my son, I got a lot of the glass from the surfaces that will hold the tarp secure. It is a small canvas piece that used to be a flag that hung from light poles when St. Petersburg wanted to celebrate its historic district (What--? Where?) and I can't figure out where the rest of the duct tape went, but I only had about 1/4 of the tape on the roll. No time for errors here -- every sticky had to count. I think it will hold for a day or two. I imagine it was a sight to see -- now is as good a time as any to tell you that I walk with a cane, having no cartilage left in either ankle, and a pair of trick knees. And the hips are not doing too well, either. But nevertheless, there was no way t get to the center of the rear window to tape down the tarp but to climb up on the trunk of the car - which was accomodating with ridges going across its width and a spoiler across the back rear...and ittty bittty pieces of glass that were not round safety pieces. I think I got them all out. I think...


With an eye to the sky,
Smokey

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Mr. Bush Gives UN Speech

Normally I just listen to the television in the mornings while I am keeping an eye on my Sims people and go about straightening my apartment. I am used to the morning talk shows and once in a while I stop what I am doing and watch. This morning my usual routine was interrupted by NBC's coverage of the presidential address to the UN -- the same UN, you will remember, that did not back Mr. Bush's invasion of Iraq in 2003. It left me rather confused.

In plain English (well, as plain as his speechwriters could make it) Mr. Bush said that terrorists among us were the aggressors, that the aggressors among us were terrorists. Forgive me, (as I said, I am confused) but was not the act of invading an unprovoking Iraq an act of aggression? Does that not, in Mr. Bush's own estimation, make us terrorists? Is this the description of Americans we want the world to have? Is it the one they already have about Americans?

I have relatives - most especially, an uncle - who sends me all the Kerry bashing e-mails around. He plans to vote for four more years of things just the way they are with Mr. Bush. There hasn't been a pro-Bush e-mail yet that could stand up to my
Snopes check. My uncle's anti-Kerry e-mails were determined to also be untrue or, at the least unsubstantiated by Snopes. Snopes is a great clearinghouse for what comes in via e-mail, and things that come to me through mailings are never sent along to others unless and if they pass the Snopes scrutiny.

Please don't misunderstand. I am not necessarily pro-Kerry. I do believe he - or anyone with an ounce of Statesmanship who surrounds himself with the best advisors -- could run this country better than it has been run the past four years. But because the chosen opponent that stands the best chance of winning is Mr. Kerry, and because, at least so far, no one has uncovered any dead bodies or other proofs of Kerry being a serial killer or madman, I find myself behind him because he is better for the country than Mr. Bush has proven to be. And Mr. Kerry gets points in my book for not going to the trouble of asking around, getting party pictures of Mr. Bush in his drunken younger days, even though these days of Mr. Bush's debauchery coincide with Mr. Kerry's Viet Nam years. Restraint. Yes -- I like that about Mr. Kerry.

I am not going to second guess Mr. Bush and his rush to invade Iraq. If he didn't have all the facts at the time -- well, if he wasn't in such a rush, these things might have come to the surface, mightn't they? -- he made the decision to go to war on the best information he had. There are those in Congress who may not have agreed, had the facts been available. Now that it has been established that there were no caches of hidden Weapons of Mass Destruction, some of those who approved the action have now rescinded that approval. Mr. Bush has since changed his reason for going to Iraq -- we went there, he says, to liberate the people and get Saddam.

I have a slightly skewed opinion of liberating people who have not asked to be liberated, but that will be another topic at another time. Enough to say that since June 30 we have lost many good men and women during the "peacekeeping" of Iraq. There are clearly large numbers of the Iraqi population who did not want to be liberated, who preferred the status quo, who would kill for the right to live as they choose. In fact, they are killing for the right to live as they choose. When Americans choose to kill for the right to live as they choose, it is called patriotism and they are called "Freedom Fighters." We call the Iraqui "insurgents," and they are rebels against the democracy we told Iraq they wanted.

If there truly was a reason to invade and occupy Iraq (I glance around the room as I write the work 'occupy' -- I was informed by a one-time Marine that the word 'occupy' is offensive to Marines. However, I cannot find another word that indicates hunkering down and fighting the 'rebels' against the government that was installed by the 'conquerors' when that country's ruler had been dethroned...) Anyway -- if there truly was a reason to invade Iraq and occupy it, it would have become obvious to the American people and to the world neighborhood that it was so - upon the capture of Osama Bin Ladin.

Now, I can recall a teary eyed Mr. Bush vowing that we would certainly find Bin Ladin and bring him and his henchmen to justice. I can recall the people behind the US as we went into Afghanistan looking for Bin Ladin. Had our forces been entirely directed to that promised action, and not diverted to Iraq, Bin Ladin would have been found and brought to justice by now. Instead we have our forces divided on two fronts, and we are losing our sons and daughters on both those causes - because they are not the same cause -- they are separate. If we'd have caught Bin Ladin and were able to establish connections to Iraq - or any other place - any further action taken would most likely have the sympathetic nod of approval from the UN and nations throughout the world.

I guess I am just tired of hearing of the wounded and dying, of the construction workers who contracted to do work in Iraq because they could find no work in their own homeland being beheaded in public, his family notified by the news reports of something grisly on the internet.

I have a wonderful friend who cannot hear, and she shared with me accounts of US military people aiding the hearing impaired in Iraq (not widely recognized, but if you want details, ask -- I will get the articles for you) and I nod my head - American Military is still American Military - caring and willing to go beyond their assigned tasks to do the humanitarian thing. I'm sure there are other unsung heroes. But this is war, folks. All the news reports are grisly.


I can feel the flames curling about my feet as I stand on this soapbox (Remember, this is one of the reasons I've chosen to blog in the first place!) - so I will step down for the moment. But only for a moment.


Time to pour another cup of coffee and light up a cigarette, inhale, snuggle Liberty the Cat, and remind myself that I am a registered voter - yep, I smoke and I vote - and tomorrow I will print more fliers telling people where to go to register to vote, what time these places open and close, and reminding my real life neighbors that it is up to folks like them - and you - and me - to make our feelings known via the ballot box.


Until next time --
Smokey


Monday, September 20, 2004

The New Thirty

It's become popular to refer to the age of 50 as "The New Thirty" -- and I suppose it is because so many Baby Boomers have hit the fifties. It sounds dreadful, so they disclaim it. These folks haven't learned yet that there is a grace that comes with fifty, a serenity, if one allows it; even the least of us has accomplished something on the way to being 50. I passed fifty flying -- and barely gave it a nod. There is no shame in fifty. And at 50 you start getting mail from AARP, which gets you discounts and other instruments of power if you choose to spend the $10 a year.

Look. Fifty is fifty. That's all there is to it. These cases in which we live are showing a little wear and tear, some of their parts are wearing out, malfunctioning, and being attacked by outside sources. All we can do about it is hoist it all up, take a Centrum Silver vitamin, and get by as best we can. The spirit, that ageless thing that lives within the cases we show others, stays at whatever age one chooses to stay. Sometimes it is traumatized, sometimes it is rejuvenated, the spirit shows itself, if one cares to look, past the encumberances of aged bodies. I can't dance anymore. But I can chair dance, and I realize that one of the regrets of my life will be that I did not dance more when I could.

After fifty you've got to make modifications. I can't drive a 5 speed anymore - I can no longer rely on my foot to hold the clutch in - but I can drive and I do get around. I can't eat as I did once, either - after 50 the body often changes its needs, rejecting what were once considered 'comfort foods.'

I know some people who have "old souls." They have a wisdom that does not correlate to their ages. It's as though they have been around a time or two, learned life lessons via osmosis or some other mysterious process. They are the blessed ones among us. Their purpose seems to be to make the rest of us smile, to cheer us, to remind us where we have been. The don't often strive for greatness, because they are calm in their souls, they are content with being happy and in sharing that happiness. Money isn't important to these folks, either. If they have it, that's okay, it makes life easier and more pleasant. If they don't, they get by as best they can and always seem to have enough to share anyway. Amazing people, these "old souls." I mention them here because they are ageless.

Age brings out vanity in people like nothing else. It's a standing joke that women lie about their ages, and men go through 'midlife crises' -- It seems to me that there has always been a joke about getting older. I celebrate it. It wasn't easy getting to this point in my life. There have been challenges presented and met, fires lit and allowed to burn down to warm embers. Nope -- the fire isn't out - just resting, waiting for the next gust of life to fan it back into flame. There is a certain peace in knowing this. One can stop worrying about it and get on to other things.

And there is a wisdom that comes with fifty that one does not have even the seed to at 30. Wisdom is knowledge applied - experience - and only time can bring this about. It used to be that young people actually went to their elders in search of answers to life questions. It doesn't happen much anymore, and, in fact, in many ways, it is wisest to seek out the young ones for some of the more technical answers. But the younger folks are impatient with 50, don't seem to respect the years of just living that makes fifty and beyond so much better than thirty.

Fifty is somewhat set in its ways. Fifty knows what works and what doesn't and in which situation. They don't know all the answers, and don't pretend to; but in fifty-plus years they have learned where and how to find the answers. That is a wisdom unto itself.

It's late. My cat, Liberty, is mowwowing for me to go to bed so she has a place to sleep - against me. Sleep is important at 50 and beyond. It holds many diseases at bay by allowing the body to totally rest, and it allows the brain to do its sorting and filing processes that aid in memory and other things that appear to fade somewhat after 50.

So say it loud and proud - we're 50 (or more) and we're here - get used to it!

Yours for a nightcap --
Smokey




Saturday, September 18, 2004

Two out of Three Ain't Bad...

Nope - Two out of three ain't bad (Who sang that? His name eludes me at the moment - I just remember he was not especially pretty to watch, but he could sing! Patience, patience -- the name is somewhere in the cranium, but now and then the cranium fogs up and things are hard to reach. Eventually the fog lifts and -- twenty minutes later into a conversation, almost like magic in slow motion -- the right word emerges. ) Hm. Could have been Joe Cocker.

What two out of which three? My kid people. Two actually commented on the first introductory post. Now, I don't know about you, but I could always say things in the written form much easier than I could muster up the spoken words, so I welcome these two with my whole heart. The third? The third has wandered off in a noble quest - to raise his two little boys (partnered with his wife, who has one of the most beautiful smiles I have ever seen). Circumstances being as they were, he has adopted another family, referring to me as his "birth mother" although, unlike birth mothers of adopted children, I never willingly let him go, even for altruistic reasons. I consider him stolen from me -- and I will always hold one particular man responsible for that.


It has taken a lot of work, two therapists, a psychiatrist or two and a fountain of antidepressants to come to grips with that (and other -- my madness springs from many wells -- though this was among the prime sources) and in the coming to grips with it. The fact that there is nothing I can do today to change it, no way I could have changed it when it happened, means acceptance. He called the play - I get it. Don't have to beat me up over it -- I just get it. So My Son the Military Guy has not checked in. Still, two out of three...

My Son the Professional checked in, bemoaning the fact that to comment here you have to sign in here. He is my youngest, my heartsong. Also my heartbreak. Mothers, you know what I mean. With anything or anyone you love, the old adage says to let it go, and if it comes back it is truly yours. Sort of. He has demanded his space, his independence (go Taran!) and I would wish for him these minor markers of success and then remind him - as I believe all young men must be reminded - that a man is not free or independent until he stop consciously fighting (blindly) for those things. Independence and individuality are evident in a person when he puts down the pistol, sheaths his claws and, trusting he will neither be eaten alive nor lost in the shuffle, he simply takes his place in the family and in the world with a calm dignity that commands the respect he is due.

And Jinger - my bright and funny and beautiful daughter checked in. She is my heart's peace, the keeper of the realm of family, sometimes the keeper of sanity itself. Jinger knows stuff. I don't know how or when she figured it out, but she knows stuff. Jinger knows instinctive stuff, and though I don't always understand why she does what she does, SHE understands why, and that is enough for me. I trust her decisions, and I like the gentle way she carries them out. She has, for qualities, the best from her father and the best from me - although I think her lesser traits come from her father's side except for one major one, from me, which perhaps I will get to writing about one day. The questions she raised in her comment on my first posting were some I have already begun to prepare for airing out here.

So that's about it. Today is Saturday and I have things to do, laundry to launder, and plants to feed, books to dust. I may not write on a daily basis (too much like journaling - which I detest!) but I will do what I can.

Yours for Hi-Test under 2USD per gallon --
Smokey

Thursday, September 16, 2004

How and Why

The name, The Soapbox Papers, is actually the name of a collection of poems I published in 1996. A limited variety of things are in that collection, mostly about relationships and such. Were I to publish it today, it would include a wider subject base - and that is where this blog comes in. Eventually I will get the contents of the poetry collection in here, as well as publishing it online at my website, which is still under construction. For now, though -- this space will allow me to voice opinions and wax philosophic and poetic as the spirit moves. I don't know that I will have any regular readers (I am letting my family know about it but that doesn't mean a whole lot. My children are grown and gone, and I figure if they didn't listen to me when they were young -- well, let's say that I am not expecting their readership.)

I am older than many, though not so old as some. I am grandmother to 6, great grandmother to 3, and if you stop and think about that -- that means many things have changed during my lifetime. I miss some of the old things, and I will talk about those over time. I am amazed at some of the new things, and I will voice that here, too. I am not toting a particular cause, though I have many. The thing is, by the time one reaches this age, somewhere in the fifth decade of life, one had better have some set ideas and beliefs, values and opinions, or one has not been paying attention.

I have been paying attention.

Until next time --
Smokey