As an old man, I’m supposed to suffer from ailments that take away remembrances of the past. Oh, that that were true … I could sleep so much better at night. After an early retirement, in the first hours after midnight, I routinely find myself tossing and turning and digging up bones of melancholy from all of the many years gone by. These flash-backs aren’t universally sad or happy—just unexpected, vivid, and sometimes disturbing. In putting this little piece together, I’ve struggled with trying to tie some of my more recent dreams into an organized narrative of some kind—it can’t be done. As the reader, you’ll just have to be content with a setting, a background, or a personal real life experience that I might interject to explain a possible meaning. I warn you … I’m not sure how this will turn out.
Reflecting on my own mortality and witnessing, in just the past few months, the death of two more high school classmates I was very close to (Charley Becker and Shirley Reasoner), I’ve noticed that death has always been accepted but reacted to in very different ways. As a Christian, I’m receptive to Lamar McLendon’s recent memorial words … “as we grow older, we miss those who go to heaven before us and were welcomed with open arms”, but I have at least two classmates that profess to believe in no superior being. With this concern, I’ve lain awake and … a strange word keeps coming back from my childhood–“nowalayme”. I remember repeating it, or something that sounded like it, over and over and I believe it had something to do with falling asleep.
1863 Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson was an exceptionally religious man. He prayed for the souls of, not just his own, but also those of the Yankee soldiers before he rode out to slaughter them. On his deathbed, after the battle of Chancellorsville and with his left arm amputated, his famous last words made no mention of God. Weakly smiling, he only whispered: “let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees”. Southboro Elementry was heavily damaged by fire years ago and was never rebuilt but the shade of old Banyan trees is still nearby and when the wind blows just right—you can hear Johnny Riggs holler out at Moskowitz.
1958 Before graduation, as we gathered in the old gym in back of Central Jr. High and across the street from Gail Prather’s house to have our Royal Palm yearbook signing party … we had our whole lives ahead of us and we would all live forever—even Bruce Bell and Anne Walker.
I have to get some sleep. That word again … nowalayme … I think my mother taught it to me, but I don’t remember why. Sounds like it might be of American Indian or Pacific Island origination and may even be a proper name? I just can’t get it out of my head. Maybe if I roll over on my left side …
1959 Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner stared in the movie ON THE BEACH. The population of the entire world was being wiped out by a radioactive cloud that, as it progressed south over the globe, had left only a few humans in Australia alive. As a submarine captain, Peck leads his crew on a submerged voyage to the north Pacific and San Francisco. They are trying to track down a mysterious coded radio signal that has continued to be intermittently transmitted, even as no one at that latitude is supposed to be alive. What connection can I draw from any similarity between a few Hollywood dots and dashes and Ruthie Hall’s unpredictable, and sometimes sad, emails?
1991 Another movie, so controversial at the time that it only appeared in obscure neighborhood theaters and for short engagements … BLACK ROBE centered on French Jesuit missionaries along the St. Laurence River in 17th Century Quebec. The plot revolved around the, usually futile, efforts of the priests to convert the Native American population. In a sequence I will never forget–Daniel, a young Frenchman, relays a conversation about religion and eternal life he has had with Annuka, a young squaw he’s become very fond of, to the Jesuit, Father Laforgue:
profile: definition ....
meaning: 1. a short description of someone's life, work, character, and information about the person's interests and beliefs.
meaning: 2. an outline of that same person's face as it is seen when someone is looking at them from the side. If you see someone in profile, you only see them from one side.
From these two definitions I can only conclude one thing: profiles as such and offered by job seekers, politicians, and aspiring writers, risk falling into very obvious categorical traps ..... they will be hopelessly self-edifying and boldly "two faced"!
To avoid these pitfalls I intend to state an illusion and immediately counter it with the fact. If the latter is too candid or disturbing, just disregard it! This will allow me to come off (in your estimation) as the fine upstanding, clean cut, like-minded, and adventurous elderly gentleman you were hoping for.
Illusion: I'm an accomplished "sailor" and have spent over 50 years routinely putting out to sea, first under canvas and in my latter years with only the diesel iron wind at my back.
Fact: In all of my voyages I've never spent more than eight or nine full nights underway and that was only because, over open water, Walker's Cay was too far from Palm City or Havana from Key West. In reality, as the sun begins to set I'm usually tucked into some snug little cove, the hook set, and an icy drink in my hand. I'm not an accomplished sailor, I'm a fantastic "anchorer"!
Illusion: I'm a semi-talented "writer" that creates interesting characters in situations and settings that, sometimes, move a story along.
Fact: In most cases, I am the "character" and I've already lived the story. Then all I need to do is figure out how to just pretend I'm sitting in some sleazy dive in the Keys after a few beers and start to tell my story to ........ (only problem is: .......... is it “i” before “e” except at sea?)
Illusion: Because I am openly conservative and speak with a Southern drawl, I'm looked upon as a right-wing good-ole-boy that picnics under Confederate monuments, lives and breathes Fox News, drives a gun-racked Ford 150, and wears his "Make America Great Again" hat to bed every night.
Fact: I'm very discouraged with what is going on in Washington in general and at the White House in particular. I supported its current occupant and, seeing what options are shaping up on the horizon, I may be forced to continue doing so but he(and we) could do so much better. Do I have to surrender my judgment and intellect to remain a Republican?
I won't dwell on the President's Smoot-Hawley like policies on trade and tariffs ... time and the markets will be the final arbiters and greed on my part forces me to hope for the best. Needless to say, I endorse his impact on the Judicial Branch of Government and I could care less what next week's "horndog rumor" and accompanying hush-money payoff have in store .... I'll leave that to his poor wife and "Morning Joe"! But I do have one pet peeve: we don't need a $5,000,000,000.00 wall to keep out Guatemalans and their Central American neighbors. They only constitute the latest installment in 4 centuries of migration to our shores and may be the hardest working bunch yet assembled. The hardships they are fleeing are not unlike the pogroms against Jews in the Middle East or the 19th century Irish potato famine. The seemingly demeaning statement of: "how would the roof ever get patched or the grass cut without them?" or a variation thereof has been directed at virtually every American's fore-bearers. Unless you stepped ashore on Plymouth Rock or the swampy landing at Jamestown, there was always somebody "better than you" waiting to curse your arrival ……… or put you in chains.
On the flip side of all of this, and without inserting its own Illusion, we don't need porn starlets and their attorneys being featured on Sunday morning talk shows answering pointed questions from wax haired "contributors" about our Presidents libido! What we do desperately need is a media culture that will demand the resurrection and employment of an old concept ...... news REPORTING! On my home cable TV hookup; Fox News is on channel 44 and MSNBC resides on 42. The Guide tells me that the channel between them ...43 ... is dedicated to financial news but that can't be true. The call letters may be CNBC but, judging from the disparity in the adjacent editorializing, it must be Star Wars! ..... the distance between the adjoining galaxies is so "far, far, away"?
Over the past few months I've become a reluctant, almost incarcerated, soccer fan. The game is played, not with a pitch .... but on one, lasts an hour and a half, and often ends with a score of nil-nil. I endure all this because my sole source of, even remotely, unbiased television news and happenings in the good old USA can be found only on the British Broadcasting Corp ..... go Cardiff City!
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2 thoughts on “Remembering too much”
BRILLIANT!!!! Loved every one of the wonderful synopsis Jim!!! Thank You!
Dam! I wish I could put words together like that, that make since. Jim really enjoy reading your adventures, kind of being right there with you so don’t stop. Turning 83 on Nov. 8th and still riding motorcycles.