Archive for October, 2011

Cryptic Message From the Basement

October 6th, 2011

Hideaway

Folkies in the basement, oh my.

A request from a high school chum, whom I’ve not seen in decades although spoken with by phone, got me doing a real search. I tried the old Google/Yahoo/Dogpile routine, but ended up actually contacting live humans, primary sources as academicians like to put it.

He wanted to know the rest of the message that appeared on the back of the membership card for the folk music club in the basement of the Jewish deli in near North Plainfield, New Jersey, in the mid-1960s. How’s that for obscure.

He remembered that it started out, “Just for today…”

I learned two things. First is that another friend (his name is blanked for this post) is a packrat. He had his card — from 46 years ago, for the sub-restaurant where we spend a couple hundred weekend evenings.

Second is that I should have recognized the lingo. Searching today for the text, I found it bubbles right under us all. This is part of the much longer Just For Today resource for families and friends affected by alcoholics. It appears Al-Anon sites,  like this one, including the lines from the card that read:

Just for today I will be unafraid.  Especially I will not be afraid to enjoy what is beautiful, and to believe that as I give to the world, so the world will give to me.

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Stand-alone, those words certainly fit that place and moment, a transition from beatniks to hippies. No foul.

Yet clearly someone in the small cabal that created the card must have dealt with alcoholics and maybe been an Al-Anon member. It was not a factor in my family or those of my friends. For us, if we drank at all, it would be a small glass of wine or beer or maybe a shot of some liqueur snuck from a parent’s liquor cabinet and shared — a silly tipple for the drama and not effect.

Wisdom and beauty don’t need to come marching to the door, kick it in and yell.

Good? Habits

October 1st, 2011

Sometimes one of our two sons still at home locks the back door when one of us is on the deck, working in the yard or unloading a vehicle. We can’t get angry. We’ve taught them to close and lock the doors.

Recently on the trip to Block Island, I found another illogical habit grounded in good reasoning. That is, as my wife and I biked around the wee, hilly resort, I constantly checked my side mirror.

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That’s a good safety move, except the mirrors are on my bikes in Boston and not on the rental provided by the inn. Next time I go where I’ll rent a bike, I’ll bring a spare mirror.

For most of the rides, I was in front. My wife got chuckles as she realized that a few times a minute, I’d turn to the non-mirror. If I wanted to see where she was or what vehicle was rumbling behind us, I’d have to do the owl neck-turning thing.

Whether it’s in a car or on a bike, I constantly locate myself with the mirrors. It’s habit of mind and muscles. By the time we were through two days of cycling on BI, I stopped reflexively looking at my left handle bar end, but only by fighting the urge when I felt it. I still wanted to look.

That’s not the only habituation I have with bikes. I recall over 20 years ago when we moved to the bottom of Jamaica Plain, I’d climb on my bike and instinctively expect to buckle a seat belt.

That goes way back. My first car, in 1965, was a 1955 Pontiac Chieftain. It was sturdy like Refrigerator Perry or a tug boat. It would have won in any collision.

Yet, I bought into the seat belt idea. As cars back then did not come with them, I went to Pep Boys, bought them, drilled holes and put them in. I insisted friends and GFs wear belts. No fool, I put three belts in the front too for proximity assurance.

I’m positively anal about seat belts. No one in a car I drive goes without or the car doesn’t go anywhere. So………..come a bike, I laughed at myself as I reached for a seat belt. Yet it took quite a few rides until I was comfortable heading off without one.

We habituated animals teach ourselves good, neutral and bad tricks.