Saturday, April 28, 2012

American history and our future

I am not a world traveler. I've been physically in only three countries, Here in the Unites States, Canada and the District of Columbia. :)  However, I do read continuously all sorts of stuff about the rest of the world. From what I read, in my opinion there is no other country that tries harder to make everyone happy, regardless of race, religion, gender or whatever else that separates us from being a common culture. If anything, it almost seems that we are constantly in a turmoil because we find it repulsive or sinful to agree on any particular life style or set of rules. We can't call each other mister, or master or miss or miz without offending ourselves. Then we turn around and describe ourselves as some type of other country American or specific lifestyle American. Everyone wants to get in on being American but they want every American to cater to their unique standard of what they feel American should be. America used to be a melting pot. I don't particularly see that as true any more. Without a clear picture of just what being American should be we are left to fend for ourselves. American can mean almost anything now a days, be it legal or illegal. Yeah, I know, now I'll get a bunch of guff for picking on illegal aliens but I'm not saying anything more than what's going on. With all  rules and standards designed to preserve our way of life up for grabs we are a country bound for internal extermination. With free interpretation of our laws by both lawmakers and the judiciary they change so often there is no security left as far as the right and wrong the American culture used to stand for. Instead of evolving and strengthening our way of life, we are de-volving into hundreds of separate mini, rogue cultures.

In our constant attempt to guarantee freedom to be whatever and whoever we want to be we have dispensed with the most important part of freedom: Standards!

Standards of right and wrong concerning just about everything:
honesty and truth
reward and punishment
you name it.

Although we all mean well when we try to accommodate the desires and needs of each and every one of us, meaning well doesn't make up for the loss of a common standard we can all count on to establish how we can all live together. No sir ee! In school history class the teachers, all of them stressed how the past is always a mirror of the future be it learn from mistakes or be required to repeat them. "The pendulum swings."  I wonder if I will See it swing back?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Boyhood secrets and old bottles

Rummaging through the items offered in a recent garage sale just down the street from my house I ran across a couple of treasures from the past. The guy running the sale passed into being a senior at least two decades ago and now he was going to sell off his stuff, downsize and move into a small condo. "Everything must go!" the sign said. From a used toilet seat to a brand spanking new, still in the box, lighted dial Princess telephone. I enjoyed the memories some of his stuff brought to mind. He was at the ready with stories surrounding each item too. A pleasant experience. On the back wall shelves jutted out laden with his antique bottle collection. They were for sale too but I got the feeling he wasn't in any hurry to see them go because they were almost hidden behind the clothes rack hung from the rafters. Beer bottles, perfume bottles, after shave bottles, water bottles, whiskey bottles, wine bottles and soda-pop bottles. That's where I ran across something I hadn't thought about since years before my amnesia incident. Dusty, some dead ants inside and with a half dissolved label was an old bottle of "Par-T-Pak" Rock & Rye. One of my favorite flavors when I was a teenager. Maybe the taste wasn't exactly my favorite but the story behind Par-T-Pak brand Rock & Rye was.

The word going around between pre-teen and teen age boys, handed down from older boys as a right of passage was that Par-T-Pak "secretly" made Rock & Rye with Rye whiskey. Whoe! Did you get that? Rye whiskey! In a soda pop that any young boy could buy? And then, just to sort of keep that legend going, several of the store keepers in the neighborhood kept Rock & Rye off the shelves and in the back of the cooler. A guy had to actually request it. Then the store keeper would limit what you could buy, "Only two bottles at a time" they would say. Us guys would go as a group from store to store so we could get enough to last around our camp fire that night. And, just in case you didn't know: Only Par-T-Pak made it with Rye Whiskey. All the other Rock & Rye brands were fake! The story kept going around for at least two years as far as I can remember. None of us guys ever got real drunk because of course, we were "in control!" A couple guys acted drunk though, probably because that was what was expected when you drink Rye Whiskey. You know how peer pressure can be at that age. The, one day the word got out that the government had caught on to what Par-T-Pak was doing with the Rock & Rye and sneaking whiskey into it and they made the company stop making it. What did us guys do? We bought cases of that stuff and hid it out in the woods across the tracks close to where we had our camp fires. Our plan was good but we hadn't counted on someone finding those cases of soda pop and throwing rocks at them and busting them all up. That was the end of our secret. The mystery would always remain though. Mysteries are a great thing at that age.

I didn't buy the bottle but the old guy and I had a few moments there where we both understood. A part of us would always long for a dark night, sitting around a camp fire with a bunch of friends, talking about the mystery of Par-T-Pak Rock & Rye, secret whiskey and why girls were such big trouble.

Monday, April 23, 2012

First goal complete

Red Skelton, the comedian used to say: "I dood it!" After yesterday I can say that too.

Yesterday I jumped on the bicycle and rode off on my first step of my dream of repeating my walk around Lake Michigan almost 50 years ago. I set no records! But am gratified in the knowledge that it has begun and 15 miles are behind me and I actually "Got out of Dodge." Human limitations and misjudgment being what they are I feel it was a most successful experience. It's been a while since I rode enough to turn my legs to rubber. I find that changing the trip from a disciplined, single event time line to a more flexible, step by step staggered series of small trips is a more realistic dream.

My ride began with the temps in the mid 40's and the wind in my face at 15mph gusting to 35 at times. Level pathways and roads posed no significant problem although the wind gusts slowed me to a snail's pace at times. Then came "the hill" about halfway that seemed to rise forever. I'm thinking it may stretch a half mile although it felt like two miles. By the time I reached the top I was totally aware that I wasn't about to reach Lake Michigan on my first day. The trip ended for safety reasons at fifteen miles and the Western outskirts of town in Standale. Every trip needs a beginning. Mine has begun.

"I dood it!".........................Joe
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