LOOK FOR STEVE JOBS’ (d. 10/05/11) MEMOIR in about two weeks, October 24, 2011. The title of the book is Steve Jobs. The previous title was iSteve: The Book of Jobs. His biographer is Walter Isaacson, an author who has written a biography of Benjamin Franklin. The publisher is Simon & Schuster, and they accelerated the release date from the previous November 21st. I am sensitive to this publishing acceleration concept, in that I have a memoir on file with CreateSpace Publishing, and I am waiting for editors to release my proofs. Deadline is Friday, October 14th.
According to an article in last Friday’s New York Times, October 7, 2011, Section B (Business), Steve’s biographer asked him why he, so private a man, had consented to the questions of someone writing the memoir. The article said he gave forty interviews. Steve’s reply was, “I wanted my kids to know me. I wasn’t always there for them, and I wanted them to know why and to understand what I did.”
That’s pretty much it– an individual desires to leave an account of the life lived as best the individual could figure out how to live. We can’t even be sure that our children, our spouse, our siblings, our cousins will read the book of our life slanted our way. But we know that a few friends will, and that if the promotional writing on Amazon.com is effective, some strangers will. That is the job before me– to post some marketing verbiage on the CreateSpace site that will at the appropriate time transfer to Amazon.com. I look forward to holding my first book, approximately 5-1/4 inches by 8 inches, more than a couple of hundred pages, in my hand, a memoir entitled Ann, Patricia, Zelma, Beulah: Our 42,224 Days, and imagining loved ones and strangers alike reading it.
I am interested in the fact that Walter Isaacson, Mr. Jobs’ memoirist, chose to write a book about Benjamin Franklin. My book in two volumes about the life of Ben Franklin is entitled Benjamin Franklin: A Biography in His Own Words. It was published in 1972 by Yale University Press. Thomas Fleming and Editors of the Newsweek Book Division finished the writing Ben Franklin began. In the front of the book there is some interesting reading. The legend is that in 1788, friends urged Ben to complete the task of his famous Autobiography, begun a quarter of a century earlier. Ben’s writing was interrupted by the Revoution. Ben told his friends he was too busy living his life to write about it. (This cuts close to home!) Ben Franklin died in 1790 having written about only the first half of his extraordinarily long and active career. He bequeathed his papers to his grandson William Temple Franklin. More than a quarter of a century passed before he produced Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Benjamin Franklin in three volumes in London in 1817. I must share a fascinating anecdote found in the Introduction of my Volume 1: As was already mentioned, Ben laid aside his writing that was begun in 1771. It was in the form of a long letter to his son William, and it was autographed. The British occupied Philadelphia in 1777, and they requisitioned the house that Ben (arch-rebel) owned, for officers’ quarters. In the confusion of the time, the manuscript was thrown out, but rescued from the street by the sheerest chance– an old friend of Ben’s saw it lying in the gutter and recognized the handwriting. Encouraged by friends who read the manuscript, Ben resumed writing at Passy, France in 1784, where he showed portions of it to his French friends, among them M. Le Villard, mayor of the village. Not giving you all the details of the trading of manuscripts between Le Villard and Ben’s son, I will close with the fascinating fact that our American patriot, our founding father’s memoir was first published in French in 1791! It was promptly translated into English.
Many thousands of letters and other papers had been given by Ben’s grandson to a friend, Dr. George Fox of the Philadelphia area. Those manuscripts descended to his son, who stored them in a stable, and from time to time would extract samples to give to his housequests. Eventually he gave the entire collection to the American Philosophical Society. Finishing the tangental interest in an American hero of the past, I return to write more about a hero of today, the late Steve Jobs of Palo Alto, California, CEO and co-founder of Apple, Inc., home based in Cupertino, California, producer of the iPhone, iPod, iMac, and iPad.
The iPhone 4S, released October 4, 2011, the day before Steve Jobs died, is the newest of the Apple frequent-product-cycle refreshers. It is a smartphone I want to own. I am eligible for an upgrade, and have completed research comparing the Android Galaxy 2 at the Sprint retail store with the iPhone I really want, being a MacBook Pro satisfied user, and being the only one in my family who has not owned one. I hope to have the 4S in my hand on Friday, October 14th, the same watershed day my memoir proofs are promised from CreateSpace Independent Publishing Company. Taking my time to consider this phone in comparison to the best-selling worldwide Android on Google’s operating system (ironically, I am a Google stockholder), I settled on the choice of elegant design with which Apple is associated. Steve Jobs in the 1970s emerged as a rescuer of our culture’s design possibilities that were termed “boring” by architectural minds. Steve said that the technology the public was being presented with (by Microsoft) lacked good taste. Perhaps Jonathan Ive, Apple industrial design chief since 1996, should be acknowledged. He is said to be a background worker who revitalized the line of Apple products and is known for attention to detail.
From what I understand, the new iPhone 4S has a faster microprocessor than the 4. Time will tell if I get interested in apps. If so, my new phone will run them at high speed. I know already that I want the app that measures decibels of sound. Now, can I get a heart-rate monitor on this smartphone? A feature I definitely am into is photography by phone handset, and the 4S has a more powerful camera than the 4. Otherwise, this new edition is the 4, a great phone, say retail people. I enjoyed selecting a red case, and it wasn’t easy, considering the large selection of protective boxes and covers, and then I exchanged it for white. Soon I will enter a bright new world, kissing goodbye my Sprint Instinct of four or more years, a great little handset.
STEVE JOBS GOT HIS LIVER TRANSPLANT IN MEMPHIS IN 2009. His hospital was Methodist University Hospital and his surgeon was Dr. James Eason. Steve moved into a stately house to live in on Morningside Drive of midtown, remodeled to lessen noise of traffic from East Parkway and FedEx jet noise from the overhead flight pattern. The new liver gave him thirty more months of life, and Steve spoke so highly of his children that we imagine him back in Palo Alto at home talking with them and exchanging hugs in those last months. Steve was quoted as saying that having four children was 10,000 times better than anything he had ever done.
Any readers out there buying memoirs on Amazon.com this fall and winter– Steve’s, or mine? It would be so nice if you posted a comment! Thank you for considering the idea.
For some photo buffs of old photographs, good-looking, fashion-conscious women who came of age in 1940 hold a mystique. In my mother’s case, south-central Texas girls finished high school at age seventeen, and knew they could attract an ambitious man, even if war service had to be factored in to a marriage. This was a time in American history when young ladies pulled up their nylons that were not pantyhose and fastened them to restraining undergarments (girdles and garter belts). Slim ankles did not go unnoticed, accented by pumps and gracefully hanging skirts that graced the tops of calves. And who wouldn’t appreciate the cascades of curls or waves swept back with bobby pins? My mother’s face, fascinating for its hazel eyes, skin tone, and countenance, resembled the young Katharine Hepburn (b. 1907, d. 2003), Hollywood star, recipient of four Academy Awards.
On television this evening at 6 PM Central Time, viewers heard President Barack Obama address a joint session of Congress in the U.S. House of Representatives. The speech was not a state of the union address, but rather an urgent dealing with a stagnant economy in a time of severe partisan disagreement, a “political circus,” to use Mr. Obama’s words. The first such speech, in the past, was about health care. The purpose of tonight’s speech was stated by Mr. Obama to be “Put people back to work; put money in their pockets.” He also stated that our economic recovery will be “driven by business and workers.” He asked, “Can we actually do something to help the economy?” His plan is titled American Jobs Act.
Unfolding the specifics of the American Jobs Act legislation tonight, and it incudes writing by Republicans, the president said he will give a tax cut to small businesses if they hire, and also if they give raises to employees. A comment by a political analyst after the speech put a damper on that– reminding that businesses hire based on business rather than tax relief; i.e., if businesses get more business, they hire. However, Representative Eric Cantor, R, VA, Majority Leader, stated to CBS’s Bob Schieffer that he could agree with the president on small business tax relief.
Other specifics Mr. Obama mentioned were getting teachers back to work and hiring veterans. Also, that young people need the hope and dignity of a summer job. Middle-class taxpayers will again receive a $1,500 tax cut, if Congress passes this legislation right away, which they should do, Mr. Obama repeated many times. He stated that he will release a debt plan one week from Monday September 12th, saying, “We have to reform Medicare/Medicaid to strengthen it.”
The anecdote about Warren Buffet added interest, in that he asked the government to fix the unfairness of his paying taxes at a lower level than his secretary, attributable to tax breaks and loopholes. Mr. Obama stated that government should not give an advantage to big corporations who can afford lobbyists. Instead, give an advantage to companies who put people to work. “Keep loopholes for the wealthiest? he asked, “or help the middle class? We can’t afford to do both.”
Talk of returning manufacturing to the United States had the sound of the ring of truth, an idea whose time has come (back). The president wants to speed up the patent process for inventors. He wants South Koreans to drive Fords, Chevys, and Chryslers. He has brought together a Jobs Council for developing ideas, such as training ten thousand engineers per year so that we are competitive with China and Europe for the long haul. Just as Abraham Lincoln, in the middle of the Civil War, initiated construction of transcontinental railroads, created the National Academy of Science, and thought up land-grant colleges, so must we now let go of a rigid idea of government and look farther down the road.
Mr. Obama closed with the assurance to big business that although he will allow deregulation if the regulation does not pass a common sense test, he will not wipe out basic protections Americans have counted on for decades. He is a definite “NO,” to stripping away collective bargaining rights. It was an effective half-hour speech wherein the president said what needed to be said. Some of his closing words were “Let’s meet the moment!”, and “Let’s get to work!” Bob Schieffer’s last comment was that in regard to President Obama’s tone, Mr. Obama believes the people are with him.
Going back through files in Word to finalize chapters for the publication of my memoir, I decide to post some of the writing about Memphis on patnotes.com, writing that is neutral in flavor or slanted toward the positive. I have to admit, after reading this particular post, I must have a fondness for, and enjoy living in Memphis.
A reason for posting the Memphis writing on the first day in September is that Labor Day Weekend is upon us, and people may be visiting relatives and friends in Memphis. Labor Day is the public holiday of the US and Canada held in honor of working people on the first Monday of September. Labor Day is celebrated on May 1st in some countries. If you are a patnotes.com reader and headed to Memphis, write me a comment, please. I would enjoy hearing from someone out there, now and then. Thank you very much!
THOUGHTS ABOUT MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE, PLACE OF TALL TREES
Memphis, Tennessee, my home for twenty-six years, is tree rich. Tall, straight trees, deciduous and otherwise, abound. Memphis is reputed to have the longest growing season of any major city. This means that a twelve-year-old tree can get up to thirty feet in height, as compared to, say, Texas, a place of less plenteous soaking rains. Even before the 2011 drought, Texas trees would tend to scratch out a height of a dozen gnarly feet in the same number of years. Memphis rains come in any style. They come gently, come as soakers, come as downpours, and come as severe thunderstorms. They sometimes come with straight-line, gale-force winds, and occasionally with the twisting winds as do the tornadoes of Texas and Arkansas or the hurricanes of Florida. Lightening lights up the sky, and the thunder booms and frightens, and yet, from my perspective, all seems well, for the most part. This is different from the Texas big-sky gully-washers that scare people to death and yet do not end the droughts. Memphis is much farther east than Dallas, my city of birth and rearing, and much farther east and north than San Antonio, my second home because of in-laws there that we visit several times a year, and it being our home for five years in the 1980s. My opinion of the climate of Memphis, Tennessee is that these unexpected variations in weather through the four distinct seasons are a strong point of marketing this city. I enjoy the changes the weather here brings to daily life.
Going back to the descriptive trait of tall trees, I will bring up a negative resultant trait: the grey squirrel population. It is worrisome, the number of healthy, muscular, bushy-tailed mating pairs that populate the numerous tall trees. If only these invasive pests could be the cute red squirrels of Britain of the past! What a difference a property-owner would feel if the scampering, tree-spiraling, acorn-burying critters were the slower, red-coated animals, very much favored in England, now overrun by the large greys.
I like to contrast where I live to New York City, which claims to be green, yet long ago cut down its trees to build skyscrapers, except for Central Park. The Big Apple does have claim to other parks, and does indeed have a lighter ecological footprint than one would imagine. New Yorkers are said to have a smaller carbon footprint than other states because New York City dwellers do not keep cars as a rule, a big factor in air pollution, a big factor in the footprint. To my way of thinking, a city’s carbon footprint is related to how alert and at the ready the movers and shakers of a place are. Mayors, Governors, investors in the private sector, well-run conservation societies for land and structures, and leagues for grassroots influence make a difference. Sometimes when I try to overcome a burgeoning tree-squirrel population, in a battle for the dominance of my property, I think of those supremely urban New York City folks, walking among the skyscrapers and riding the subways, and their talk of soot tracked into their homes on their shoes. What a contrast to the lawns and streets of Memphis, Tennessee. I wonder if Central Park affords New Yorkers complete satisfaction in communion with wildlife and wild plants.
When it comes to gardening and yard work, Memphis’s wild violets, a groundcover so rampant as to illustrate the concept of perfect natural selection, reign supremely and ubiquitously over well-tended gardens and manicured yards. The wild violet is a four-stemmed, heart-shaped-leafed weed. A yard-worker in Memphis has two options for pulling them up by the roots: you pull by the mature root ball (when the plant says you can), because it has lived sufficiently, or you use a forked thin probe, a “weeder.” There may be one exception—sometimes a dozen or so of the wild violet babies can be rolled up out of damp soil, several at a time, because their tender roots have not dug deep. It is dexteritously satisfying to the gardener to grab the mature stems of the five-inch green plant low down close to the moist soil and feel the roots let go. I have pulled so many of these at one sitting (I sit on a wooden wine box), that the tips of my fingers become sore and my brain indelibly printed with the image of the plant. I have drawn it, watercolored it, and sent the art to a friend on a postcard. The wild violets grow in between cracks in the brick walk, and they grow all through the landscaping– nestling in with the Creeping Jenny and Ajuga groundcovers. Wild violets find their way into potted plants—it is irrational. They pop up in a fertilized, herbicided, mown front yard of grass. These lively and tenacious green critters, sweet when looked upon individually, are entirely too aggressive. I suppose the Texas equivalent would be the Spanish moss in trees.
Having established that my city is green, green in the sense that a Memphian meets nature coming and going, I progress to describing a business view of Memphis, a view that a Chamber of Commerce or public relations firm would release: Memphis is America’s distribution center, having sprung to life almost two hundred years ago on the banks of the Majestic Mississippi River as a gateway to middle America. Memphis was the cotton planter’s launch pad to the world. In about 1870, fifty percent of all U.S. cotton crops were bought and sold here. Cotton turned the wheels of the Southern economic engine at every step of the way.
Memphis is promoted as excellently suited for companies wanting to consolidate inventory at one multi-regional base. Many millions of tons of logs and other bulk commodities are shipped out of Memphis on barges every year. “Memphis is the largest hardwood lumber market in the world . . . and The National Hardwood Lumber Association was founded in Memphis in 1898 and sets grading standards for hardwood lumber. The inspection school trains more than 240 students each year,” states a 1984 promotional booklet published by BellSouth Corporation.
The most famous public-trading company in Memphis is Federal Express, whose multitude of airplanes come and go seemingly continuously out of a hub near the Memphis International Airport, a medium hub size facility, home base of Delta-Northwest Airlines. For a Memphian lunching on the patio of Bosco’s, a midtown pub and grill situated in the flight pattern, she or he would count nine Fed Ex planes overhead during a one-hour lunch.
Another well-known company relocated to Memphis from Connecticut in recent history—International Paper. Thought of as a conservative group of white-collar workers, the administrative branch of the company built an alluring campus of blue-toned highrises. The pretty surroundings, obviously with tall trees, have peaceful walking paths, flowerbeds, and shrubs for workers and persons doing business there to enjoy.
There is much development in medicine and the health sciences in Memphis. New buildings have increased the outreach. The University of Tennessee Health Science Center serves our state and the entire country in the training of doctors, dentists, nurses, physical therapists, and other health providers. The faculty have achieved a high ranking among medical schools. Regarding hospitals, our “Med,” serving three states, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arkansas, is known for cutting-edge technology and for treating trauma cases in rapid time. Le Bonheur Children’s Medical Center has expanded and built a state-of-the-art treatment center. Many other strengths abound in Memphis: a vibrant downtown emphasizing residential restorations, an excellent baseball stadium for Redbirds, feeder team to St. Louis Cardinals, The Peabody Hotel—“The South’s Grand Hotel,” Beale Street for Blues Music, bars, and strolling late at night, Grizzlies NBA Fed Ex Forum, Trolley Ride from the bluffs to “The Pinch,” an old émigré neighborhood near St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The trolley passes the National Civil Rights Museum, one of a kind in the world. The downtown area has Mud Island featuring a paved miniature Mississippi River, a Mark Twain-themed museum, an outdoor concert arena, and a monorail to transport you to the island. Furthermore, downtown has a stunning Chinese Art Museum on Main Street, near the antique Orpheum Theatre, which has a gilt ceiling and immense glass chandelier. The Cannon Symphonic Hall is modern and thoroughly appreciated by music lovers and ballet goers. Out east, in a suburban area approximately a dozen miles from downtown, the Wolf River Trail has been built with private money. This is a wonderful outdoor-exercise addition to the popular Shelby Farms, a huge preserve with buffalo, too many geese to count, Patriot Lake with canoeing and paddle-boating, and hiking and biking trails.
PATRICIA’S FAVORITES – SIGHTSEEING (updated 03/11)
1) Lobby of The Peabody Hotel, “The South’s Grand Hotel”
Whether or not you see the trained ducks march to or from their Italian Marble Fountain, carved all from one piece and topped with a live floral magnificent display, come to this space, so memorable architecturally and for people-watching, listening to piano, and sipping a beverage. Be sure to look up at the ceiling!
2) Trolley Ride: On June 29th of 2007, ran until 1 AM
Stand at any corner on Main or Riverside; trolley runs every 10 or 12 minutes all day, every day; fare = $1
To “Ride The Loop”, which gives you a look from “The Bluffs/Bluffwalk”, get on the Yellow Line, between “The Pinch” District (north) and G. E. Patterson (south), where Arcade Restaurant (540 S Main) serves, near National Civil Rights Museum.
3) Chinese Art Museum in Peabody Place Museum, 119 S. Main Street, Pembroke Square, Concourse Level, 901 523-ARTS, www.belz.com, 10 AM – 5:30 PM and Noon till 5 on Sat/Sun.
See a breathtaking private collection of the Belz Family– Fu Dogs, Jade, rich woods, reds, so beautiful!
4) Cotton Museum, 65 Union Av., 901 531-7826, $5, Tues-Sat 10 – 5, Sun Noon – 5; Cotton ran the Southern economic engine. This museum is new.
5) The Orpheum Theatre, west of Beale Street, has been restored to old grandeur with gilt walls and a magnificent crystal chandelier. Film series in summer.
6) Redbirds Stadium, Union St. @ 3rd & 4th is a local source of excellence architecturally. As I understand it, private money built it, and it got all the state-of-the-art designs. Memphis’ AAA Redbirds feed the St. Louis Cardinals.
7) Completed in 2011, Wolf Trail, Humphreys Blvd. @ Shady Grove/Baptist Women’s Hospital area, attracts walkers, bicycle riders, moms with babies in strollers, dogs on leashes, and nature lovers in general. A beautiful bridge of Ipe wood, rusted iron, and silver wire span the Wolf River.
8) The Racquet Club, Sanderlin between White Station and Mendenhall, hosts a professional tennis tournament each February. It is easy to park for $5 nearby, walk to the facility, and buy a ticket for the day or night, priced at $30 or $40. I get up-close-and-personal with famous players.
9) Lifetime Fitness Center of Collierville, Just north of the intersection of Poplar and Houston-Levee Rd., this big place has many members. I spend several hours each week with inspiring coaches in dance class or core work, or just riding the elliptical machine and doing mat work.
1) Huey’s for a juicy “World Famous” Burger; try the thick breaded red onion rings; try anything for “Pub Grub”; extra-casual; so casual you can write on the walls.
2) The Rendevous, for barbeque, has astounding “Southern” Black Culture effects. This restaurant is amazing, attracting dignitaries constantly. It is in an alley near Holiday Inn Select.
3) “Daily Grill” at The Westin offers a comfortable meat & veggies dinner or lunch with excellent service. You look out at the Fed EX Forum.
4) Encore has one of the best chefs in town and is elegant and pricey.
6) Paulette’s (formerly in midtown) is a local treasure for French Country Fine Dining. 901 260-3300. Relocated to River Inn, 50 Harbor Town Square (in downtown) March of 2011, (riverinnmemphis.com).
7) Boscos, for a thin-crusted pizza and Famous Flaming Stone Beer, 2120 Madison Av., 901 432-2222.
8) Swanky’s Tacos, Poplar @ Kirby, southwest corner, never disappoints foodwise, and has a lively vibe. Their enchilada plate is good.
9) Humdinger’s, behind Chick-Fil-A on Poplar @ Massey, serves African-spiced fillets of fish: Tilapia, Red Snapper, and other. Sauteed zuchinni and other sides are delicious as well.
10) Interim Restaurant, Sanderlin near Mendenhall, across from The Racquet Club, has a pretty bar area out front of dining area. Dining room shows well because of its modern kitchen on view to diners. 901 818-0821, 5040 Sanderlin Av.
What makes a writer write? We are geared for reflecting, and we value putting language onto memories, and some of us do it for the sake of helping others keep tuned to the positive traits of their humanness, such as kindness. Writers in the memoir genre may involve ourselves in nuanced descriptions of a childhood memories, which helps readers tap into their feelings of love, appreciation, or other emotions about their mothers or parent figures. If I write human-interest stories (interesting enough to attract readers) that build a backstory on behalf of mothering, I will have helped our society’s next generation.
It is hard to put language on the intense love daughters have for their mothers. One could start by saying that we daughters came out of our mothers’ bodies and suckled from our mothers’ breasts, which says quite a bit. And then, we suckled our own babies and understood the unique bond. But beyond those biological realities, it is next to impossible to describe what it feels like to be a daughter thinking about her mother, living or deceased.
I cannot imagine a mother of reasonable health unable to identify the immense positive emotion that accompanies the carrying, birthing, suckling, and rearing of a baby. And even beyond those wonderful experiences, a mother of a daughter stands to gain something great later– another woman friend for life. The two have an eternally braided history.
My mother was good at being neighborly, and she was a strong communicator as a sibling, disciplined in regular telephoning. Mama was the seventh of seven children. Like clockwork, she would put in a phone call to some of her brothers and sisters or their spouses. “Tell everybody hello!” was a common expression among our relatives, used to close out every phone chat. “I love you” was also freely spoken in our family.
Mama Dialogue: Mama, we had warmth between us. It stemmed from your keen eye and ear. You were a constant psychologist/psychoanalyst, never missing anything of the heart. You were not in a hurry. Your key trait was availability. Your children and husband had you 110%. Nothing interested you more than giving attention to your children and husband. If we needed guiding or correction, you had the background of the issue at hand, because you had been alert to its development. The things that you did were plain and simple good mothering. I do not know how to thank you or detail to anyone what it has meant. Even when my older sister Glenda and I have tried to describe your skill in mothering, we end up sounding like elite braggarts. We just thank our lucky stars for you and Daddy, and the love that you gave each other that created us and our little sister, who we got to “mother” along with you beginning in 1956.
The kind of love for mothers by their daughters I am attempting to describe is akin to the gratitude someone might feel toward an insightful physical therapist or chiropractor that has a healing gift. Although never licensed as a nurse, Mother’s nursing orientation showed itself frequently to me, a school kid who caught every sore throat that came along. Every cold and flu season I was one infection away from going to the hospital to have my huge tonsils taken out. This went on from first through third grade. Once my fever was so high I lay in bed talking about the things I saw on the wall that were not really there. Much later I learned the term—“hallucination.” What I knew at that tender time was simply that Mama watched me when I was at home sick, missing school. Whether sore throat, ear ache, three-day measles, three-day measles again, red measles, or chicken pox, I went to bed, and Mama watched me closely, checking my temperature with a mercury thermometer under the tongue and bringing me liquids ranging from water, to chicken noodle soup, to warm Jell-O. These accompanied my saltines for easy digestion. In those days, tonsils were swabbed with merthiolate on a six-inch-long wooden Q-tip by some mothers. I had that kind of mom-nurse.
In the years before school, Mama, without a shadow of a doubt, checked on me, keeping me from harm, as she went about her remarkable sewing. She had a gift for it and loved it for many years. She did so many things to make a clean, happy home out of that little house on Avenue I, the house I was born into, and that my sister Debbie was born into eight years later. It was a good neighborhood. What a kind and engaging family Carl, Nadine, LaWanda, and Sandy were. We would never be able to express the huge good fortune lasting two generations that was the experience of living next door to that family.
There, you now have a few words from my memoir about my mother, Zelma Louise.
President Obama yesterday experienced his fiftieth birthday, and I hope that he had some pleasantries to take his mind off trouble in the country and the world. The job of being the American President right now is a big one. Having a birthday can be fun, at any age. May he enjoy some fun in honor of his life for the coming days, and even, as a close friend says, celebrate for the entire “season” of your birthday!
Caring for outdoor property can be richly rewarding. Our summer of 2011 investment in the artfulness and health of our tall trees proved to be a memorable spectator experience, almost like watching performance art. For three days, we observed a skilled Tree Crew work to beautify old oak trees of almost a hundred feet in height. The climber deftly pruned the small limbs and foliage, as though the trees were sculptures, and then his ground crew, with ropes and chain saws, gently swung any big limbs he cut onto the ground, sawed them small for carrying, and rid the yard of all debris efficiently. My husband and I photographed the crew extensively. I post a couple of photos for your enjoyment.
I have a habit of searching through a book I’ve had for forty years, Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, for a poetic turn of phrase. For this post in patnotes.com, I read a dozen or so quotes listed in the index under the word “trees.” Nothing interested me much except these sentences by a Japanese writer, Matsuo Basho (1644-1694). He lived a short life, a fact making these lines meaningful:
“My body, now close to fifty years of age, has become an old tree that bears bitter peaches,
a snail which has lost its shell,
a bagworm separated from its bag;
it drifts with the winds and clouds that know no destination.”
in Anthology of Japanese Literature, edited by Donald Keene (1955)
A Comment On The New York Times Article Of July 18, 2011
Subject: “Safety-first” Playground Equipment– Does It Stunt Emotional Development?
This particular New York Times article, “Grasping Risk In Life’s Classroom,” gives me a launching pad for publishing a three-thousand-word story here at patnotes.com. The original story written by me, “To Neutral,” was carefully edited and re-edited by me throughout a year or so. Just like the other short story here at patnotes.com, this second story received no prize or praise, it was simply submitted to the mid-south magazine contest. The story that beat it out and won a thousand dollars was set in New Orleans, the protagonist was male with a lazy streak, flaunting a trait of nonproductivity, and the author was rather well known in the mid-south. My story, “To Neutral,” is set in the southwest, in Texas, a few decades ago, features a tomboy type of female teenager, and deals with her unquenchable desire to take a risk in outdoor play, just like the confident high-school football players that she observed were doing.
Isn’t that just like The New York Times to give a writer (John Tierney) a revisitation of the concept of liability on the school playground? It is the newspaper of newspapers in the sense that such thoroughly researched writing about minor topics can be found daily. We readers know, when we take the time to consider it, the problem of risk management to avoid injury is a problem present through the decades. How do parents, teachers, older sisters and brothers, and others watch over and protect active, healthy children equipped to spread their wings and experience mastery?
The article’s title is: “Grasping Risk in Life’s Classroom,”
and the photo caption reads:
“LIVE AND LEARN: A bad fall may mean
a child is less likely to have a fear of heights later in life,”
and on the second page, the heading reads:
“Life’s Classroom, The Ever-Safer Playground.”
Up front in the article, the quote set in a larger-size font hooks the reader:
“Efforts to regulate playground equipment may stunt a child’s emotional development.”
The excellence of the writing in The New York Times gives readers ideas for conversing. I discussed this particular article with my husband, who was an “all-boy” type of kid. He got a broken arm playing outdoors. He remembers this risk-versus-safety conflict as a kindergartener of the 1950s– teachers set firm restrictions against climbing to the heights of the monkey bars. This succeeded in making playground time boring, he recalls.
The article quotes someone saying, “I grew up on the monkey bars in Fort Tryon Park, and I never forgot how good it felt to get to the top of them.” He grew up to be the Park Commissioner. Someone was quoted as saying “I think monkey bars and tall slides are great. As playgrounds become more and more boring, these are some of the few features (going missing) that can give children thrilling experiences with heights and high speed.”
My memory went to my own determination to raise independent, brave, and imaginative children. Our first-born, a daughter, climbed high, very high in a magnolia tree in the backyard. She went up so high (about thirty-six feet), we really did not know what to do when we saw her. Yell out “Get down?” What good would that do? She became a fearless equestrian. She taught a tall young Thoroughbred how to go into the hunter show ring.
Our other child, a boy, as a tot tumbled off a high metal slide in a nearby park, which we renamed “Pokehead Park.” As I recall, his righting of his consciousness took less time than when he sailed off a low bed head first he was jumping on at home. That bedroom tumble was called a concussion, and our little boy could not be allowed to go to sleep for a number of hours– doctor’s orders. One further outdoor memory of risky business is of climbing a slightly dilapidated fire tower on a country road in middle Tennessee. The higher we four went, the more we, parents and two children, held each other’s hands and the handrail. The scariest view was to look down between the wooden steps. Once on the top weatherbeaten platform, we could breathe again, and prepare for the descent, equally as scary as ascending.
Let us get on with the telling of the adventure story of Marty, strong-willed girl with time on her hands and a big imagination, during one hot Texas summer. Previously titled “Rhapsody On Ravine And Vine,” I renamed the story “To Neutral,” and I present it here:
Long ago, a tree grew a branch across a ravine toward the east sun, even though its roots grew the other way. Growing around the branch was a thick rough vine, one like Tarzan of the old movies would swing from. For an imaginative girl, the scene seemed straight out of the Amazon forest. The girl doing the imagining lived at the ravine’s edge. She was the Arins’ second daughter Marty, who took extraordinary notice of that tree. She logged many auspicious observations from the family’s backyard tree house. “Don’t you swing on that vine, Martera Jean,” Nadine, Marty’s mother, cautioned. Nadine’s mother Memaw helped marshal more nurturing force to tame Nadine’s second-born—Marty the adventurer, Marty the strong and the quick.
A second-born girl, in her own mind, urgently needs to separate to be different from her older sister. Marty’s sister LaWanda sat indoors playing the piano. Thus, outdoor activity attracted Marty like a magnet. From Marty’s perspective, a ravine in her own backyard required exploration. You climbed down, one way or another; you were a lucky dog if you had access to a rough, natural place. It provided opportunity for deep solitude. People who lived in the urban cove or attended the nearby high school were not looking for an Amazon-warrior adventure. But Marty had three wild and crazy girlfriends who would scuffle down the ravine’s side with her by rappelling, a rope flung over, sculling with a stick or two, and bracing feet against deep-rooted rocks. It was a feat so few girls would attempt, especially LaWanda. The two sisters would banter, “The thing to remember is to step fast so you don’t roll.”
“Yeah, well, I’ll go down there when the creek runs dry!”
“The creek is dry. I’m not asking you to rappel somethin’ slippery.”
“Let’s just leave it as what attracts you ‘rappels’ me!”
“Well, if you would rappel down you might not be so repelled!”
LaWanda loved words and loved to make people laugh. She was a busy twenty-something, out on her own, with a fiancé, and too much at stake to risk her neck for an urban jungle expedition. Not Marty. From her tree-house perch, she observed the high-school football players who would come to the tree, grab the vine they had tethered, and swing to the other side, thirty feet away. “If they can do it, so can I!” she reasoned, hearing their howls of laughter after the daredevilry. Seeing them flexing their oversized muscles and beating their chests before they grabbed the vine and sprang off the edge, she thought of them first as monkeys, who then transformed into ghosts riding to the other side. She told her ravine friends who risked scraped elbows, palms, and knees that one day she, too, would ride that ravine. She just knew that one day she would go up, stand under that tree, reach for the vine, and jump. It would be the ride of her life.
She meant it. It was a matter of timing. On the day that was the Day of Days for the Arins family, Marty went. She pushed off against the steep side clutching the thick vine in no ordinary grip; the rough-edged vine became her umbilical cord to continued life above the dry creek bed twenty feet below. Prior to doing the act, she had considered the horizontal along with the vertical: the propulsion had to be huge; she had at least thirty linear feet to traverse. A sufficient push would give entrée into the in-group of the tall, the brave, the experienced. She had watched these elite riders rise up from their mighty thrusts and make it across the ravine. Through two seasons, as she sauntered in the creek bed, emotionally bonding with the vine-wrapped tree, seeing it against pale skies, she analyzed the flight trajectory, twenty feet up, thirty feet across.
A summer breeze blew gently. “I’m riding that ravine,” Marty announced, darkly, to Martha, Rita, and Leta. She separated, and went to the fabled post. At the edge, she hunkered down into reliable shoes, lucky shoes, the best sprinting shoes, toes to the starting block. Toes ready for the push of a lifetime, Marty untethered the vine and tugged firmly on it. It was long, and had a foot left over like a tail.
Marty went, even though doubts gathered like storm clouds: “Don’t Marty, MARTY!” and her ears reverberated her mother’s voice of warning, “Don’t you do what those boys’re doin’!” She went anyway, springing off, engaging the flight . . .
OH! The thrill! . . . She floated through the air . . . OH! . . . the freedom, the one true, free act philosophers talk about that lasts for a lifetime! Oh, to push off and sail, to have a perfect float, that was her desire. “Now I am the ghost . . . a faint trace of who I was . . .” she mouthed, glancing at the dry landscape under her, littered with rocks and broken limbs. She was sailing, sailing against the wind, high above the dry bed below.
Now for the flight’s finish: brain, in red-alert mode, fires synapses, tricky business here . . . “Stretch toes to the approaching edge, get those sneakers a toe-hold . . . c’mon, c’mon toes, get long and get a hold . . .” “What?! . . . NO! . . . NO! . . . Can’t!! Goll-ee . . .” No toe-hold. She was short, the push insufficient, job not done. “Help us, Hannah!” Marty cried, having no landing, no way to cross, no touching down on the other side. Short flight, short shrift . . . the ride across to the other side got eclipsed. Marty would be a human plumb line hanging straight. Hands would be aching. Palms would rub raw. It wouldn’t be long and the ground would come up to meet her.
“Ugh” . . . thrusting, scooting higher up the vine . . . alarm bells went off in her head, “OH! . . . Thrash, thrust, propel yourself, girl!” She saw the plain picture of a terrible scene, “Goh . . . uh . . . ah . . .al . . . lee!” No possibility of momentum. No chance to touch the other side. No redoing the thing. No going back. The creepy finish approached, stiller, and stiller. Marty, neutralized, was left hanging. A scary predicament was at hand, literally. All she had was the rough vine scraping raw palms. She held on. Nothing else to do.
The girlfriends yelled. Nadine was in the house. Would she come, they wondered? “Nadine! Help! Memaw! Help!” But those two ladies were old. What could they do—drag a mattress out the back door and throw it down the ravine? Stupid thought.
Everyone knew LaWanda’s fiance drove an ambulance. “Get Howard on the phone!” “She can’t hold on long!” “Go call him; hurry up!” Marty’s palms were moistening. She squirmed and threw one hand over the other, wincing, as seconds ticked by. She was at zero looking down at the spot where she would drop. It was just a matter of time. She wondered how soon LaWanda and Howard could rescue her. “Stupid thought. LaWanda can’t get down this cliff. What’s Howard gonna do in the next two minutes before I slip off the end?”
She tried to articulate more thoughts: “My life could be over real soon; nothing is available; friends are watching . . . I am hanging in the air utterly, completely neutralized . . . sliding . . . off the end . . . “Ah, Mama . . . Oh, Jesus . . . it was all happening fast! ARGH!” . . . the fall came, onto a limb-littered streambed strewn with rocks, the wrong bed in which to tend the injury sustained—a fractured right elbow. “Ugh . . . foolish . . . foolish . . . why did I bend my arm!” A few thoughts raced on. All 130 pounds of dead weight went onto the arm, arm screaming louder than the girls’ voices. Nerve endings went crazy. The lights in Marty’s awareness flickered and went out, she a plangent heap against an unfriendly floor. Nadine came with Martha to look over the edge at her unconscious daughter. She saw Marty’s head bleeding. “Lord, what are we gonna do?” said Nadine. “Call Howard. He’ll bring a stretcher. He’ll need Rex.”
The two men got to Marty, not without tricky maneuvers and LaWanda’s unwieldy attempts at going down. They strapped Marty onto the stretcher, and then the bigger challenge began—where to scale the slope. They settled on using Marty’s rappelling rope, weathered, but tied in a good spot. Would it hold two men and some dead weight? Good team training and with luck holding, the men got halfway up the slope then, “Oh, my gosh! Grab her!” Marty’s sixty-degree-angled body, flat-out against the canvas, slid through the straps, almost leaving the frame. Howard grabbed a handful of her hair, and kept on grabbing it, all the way up the slope. Marty felt her scalp’s screams subside as the men strode across the acre of backyard, into the street to the ambulance. A couple of slight jostles and she was loaded and off, siren blaring out the terrible predicament all the way to the Methodist Hospital. The young, defeated Amazon warrior got all the help she needed to survive the ordeal. In terms of ancient mythology, however, this warrior had passed muster. She had done the deed.
Thirty-plus years later, in a talk with a friend from the old, first neighborhood, Skyline Heights, the one before the suburban ravine neighborhood, Marty still remembered her screaming scalp, a handful of her hair in Howard’s hand, as he, Rex, and LaWanda rescued her on a stretcher. “It hurt! Pat, I’ll never forget my screaming scalp! Man, it hurt! It took my mind off my broken arm! If I were a crier, that would have been crying time for me!”
“Why did you do it?” Patrea, the early girlhood friend, asked her. “Pat, I know something about myself. I get a feeling and I can’t stop it. Sometimes I have to go do something. Can’t stay the same, can’t let go the feeling. So I go on and do the thing,” Marty answered. “Maybe you need meds!” Patrea joked.
“Naw . . . it’s not like that.”
“How come I didn’t know about it; I didn’t know that second neighborhood!”
“We were older. I was in high school. Neighbors changing neighborhoods had already separated us. There was a lot of change going on. You know, those Sixties.”
“Yeah, I know the Sixties. Well, we should have held onto each other. Even if it was by the hair!” Patrea guffawed.
“We had to grow up– Avenue A where we played was . . . small homes . . . you know, nowhere to disappear in houses that small. Our mothers beautified them, and our daddies stood up those flocked trees at Christmas.”
“Yeah. You used to knock on my door every day. When I was at your door, I would ask Memaw if you could come out and play. We pretended we were ranchers, fixing the miniature horses in the flowerbeds left and right of your front porch. We arranged those little rubber horses for hours. I don’t remember what we said galloping the horses and riders across, back and forth, ranch to ranch. Marty piped up, “Probably, ‘See ya later, pardner; I’m headin’ to town.’ It was a safe neighborhood; nobody got hurt; well, wait . . . Glenda crashed skating downhill and got a bloody ankle. We wore the skate keys on a string around our necks, remember?” Patrea nodded, and continued, “Well, I should’a stayed by you; I guess I was shallow, pursuing popularity . . . maybe you wouldn’t have taken that risk . . . with your life . . . were you restless? Did you miss me?”
“You had your friends; I had mine . . . you were in the junior high then. What surprised me was that LaWanda actually went down that slope with Howard and Rex when they came to get me! She nearly somersaulted, but Howard caught her by her belt. They both fell down; Wanda got pretty scratched up, and she was already bawling. They kept telling her, ‘Sit more; bend your knees!’ but she just flailed around until she got to me . . . my wild and crazy friends said you would have thought she was saving herself, she was so intent! She tried to hold me onto the stretcher, but she was bleeding; oh, it was messy! Without Rex, . . . Whew! I don’t know. But, I can still use my arm. This scar on my head is small.”
“Yeah, the arm scar gets looks, I guess. I never broke my arm. Here– a present. It’s a little horse and rider . . . made in Germany; it’s from an upscale toy store. Open the card first; it has the coolest quote.” The card Patrea gave Marty pictured two smiling girls posing, one a little taller, dressed exactly alike, except for their shoes. It read: ‘In a friend you find a second self.’
“Thank you.” Marty opened the present. “It’s so cute. I’m going to play with it.” She galloped the little horse and rider by rocking her hand across the end table. “Yeah, after I got out of the hospital, Wanda morphed into a SU-PREME nurse, after the surgeon put the pin in my arm and all.”
“She’s your only sister. She was a pretty capable big sister, I remember.”
“Still is. Mostly, she knows humor. She juiced me up, laughing so much. She did the same thing when I landed flat on my back.
“Oh, no! When was that?”
“I got thrown from a horse.”
“What was the horse’s problem?”
“It didn’t want to be ridden any more.” Patrea asked for a few details, as fitting in polite conversation, then realized their time was at a close. “I’ll hear more about that later,” she said.
“Humor is disappointment turned on its head,” Marty commented, drawing down the pleasant reconnection time.
“Wanda sees humor; she truly does. Humor . . . I would say . . . It is liquid refreshment– like a prime juice. It leaks out through the healed cracks of brokenness.”
“Oh, nice! You majored in English, didn’t you?”
“It’s true, people in pain may feel they’re in a desert place, thirsty . . . or hungry,” Patrea continued, “The LaWandas of the world are the decanters. They decant the premium juice– humor. Not the ordinary human juices, you know, saliva . . . but the prime human juice– humor.”
“Yeah, I get your metaphor.”
It was LaWanda who got Martera and Patrea back talking after so many years. Those talks evolved in no time from “What is your last name now?” to talk of riding a horse in a dream, gloriously. At the end of the face-to-face time, Marty trotted the gift her old friend had selected, “See ya later, pardner. I’m headin’ to town.”
“Make sure you don’t try to jump the ravine up ahead.”
“Oh, I think I could ride that ravine.”
I DEDICATE this gardening/yardwork post to my late cousin Sue who kept an immaculate home and patio with flower garden in the Dallas, Texas area. The loving gardening and yardwork effort was rewarded with the community honor of Yard of the Month. Needless to say, her hospitality was sublime. Sue was so pretty, with an alluring humble nature, and a voice that engaged your interest. She will be greatly missed by her husband, caregivers, and three daughters. She was adored by her granddaughters, and a help to those coming her way.
In a later post, you may see a couple of attractive young women’s faces from the forties, as were Sue, her sister Lavona, my mother Louise, her sisters Inez and Eunice. Others of that era were named Dorothy, Tressie, and Blanche. I enjoy the sound of those names.
In the family portrait below, one I have enjoyed viewing through the decades, Sue is the little girl on the right. Her parents Euell and Blanche stand behind her. Louise and Glenn anchor the other side.
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Gardening Equipment: Waterproof Gloves and Ice Water, Covered
Pleasant colors that attract you and good quality in tools, such as pruning shears, help create enjoyment in gardening and yardwork. Care of property is a good thing.
Consider these words from Ralph Waldo Emerson:
“When I go into the garden with a spade, and I dig a bed,
I feel such an exhilaration and health that I discover
That I have been defrauding myself all this time
In letting others do for me what I should have done with my own hands.”
“Garden” by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), American, Harvard graduate, authored a book NATURE and other books, sermons and addresses, poems, and more. An essay “Self-Reliance” is reputed to have once been the most often quoted essay in American literature. Hmmm . . . does that put him up there at the level of Abraham Lincoln?
Many things the garden shows,
And pleased I stray
From tree to tree
Watching the white pear-bloom,
Bee-infested quince or plum.
I could walk days, years, away
Till the slow ripening, secular tree
Had reached its fruiting-time,
Nor think it long.
Solar insect on the wing
In the garden murmuring,
Soothing with thy summer horn
Swains by winter pinched and worn.
O N T H E S U B J E C T O F G O O D N E S S . . .
I have in my blog a desire to express interest in the goodness of the individuals in my family. Being older and in the memoir stage of life, I see the gentleness of the matrix in which I was fortunate to be reared, so long ago, when the times were slower, more deliberate.
PRESENTATION OF AN EARLY 17TH-CENTURY ESSAY
Researching Francis Bacon (1561-1626), scholar in philosophy and scientific method, I found a statement that said he considered his essay writing a kind of gentleman’s hobby. This English major was reminded (assuming that I learned it in college originally) that Bacon wrote during the Tudor period (1484-1603) and beyond to the changeful Stuart England (1603-1700). I have enjoyed, through the years, studying the Stuart monarchs, because of our ancestor coming through Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon, involved in Charles I’s court. My reason for including this old essay by Bacon is that it talks of a character trait not much mentioned in this day and time—goodness. Over the recent years, emphasis on goodness seems to have become supplanted by emphasis on lies, crassness and insults, and violence. Perhaps there is a strange wake-up call, or skin-thickening hidden benefit, difficult to find. My first memoir, Beulah, Zelma, Patricia, Ann, came out of a desire to counter this seeming cultural trend and present goodness in family life. The strain of goodness through one-hundred-sixteen years in four women got a grip on my writerly, reflective self. Retired from public school teaching, I wanted to be with this material, and the desire has held over several years.
OWNING UP TO COPYEDITING BACON’S SENTENCES
Before posting Bacon’s essay on goodness, which I located online, I got rid of a couple of dozen meaningless commas. I do not know why so many commas were stuck in. They hampered the clarity of the sentences. Also, to help patnotes.com blog readers who may tend to jump up for the dictionary, I suggested a couple of substitute words, and they are in parentheses. All the italics are mine. This essay goes on longer than many readers would care about, and thus I have broken it in about two halves, posting the first.
Francis Bacon’s essay: Of Goodness And Goodness Of Nature
I TAKE GOODNESS in this sense, the affecting of the weal (public good) of men, which is that the Grecians call philanthropia; and the word humanity as it is used is a little too light to express it. Goodness I call the habit, and goodness of nature, the inclination. This of all virtues, and dignities of the mind, is the greatest; being the character of the Deity: and without it, man is a busy, mischievous, wretched thing; no better than a kind of vermin.
Goodness answers to the theological virtue charity (substitute “love”), and admits no excess, but (does admit) error.* The desire of power in excess caused the angels to fall; the desire of knowledge in excess caused man to fall: but in charity (aka love) there is no excess; neither can angel, nor man, come in danger by it. The inclination to goodness is imprinted deeply in the nature of man; insomuch, that if it issue not towards men, it will take (go out) unto other living creatures; as it is seen in the Turks, (by past reputation) a cruel people, who nevertheless are kind to beasts, and give alms to dogs and birds; insomuch, as Busbechius reporteth, a Christian boy, in Constantinople, had like to have been stoned for gagging in a waggishness a long-billed fowl. *Errors indeed in this virtue of goodness, or charity, may be committed. The Italians have an ungracious proverb, Tanto buon che val niente: so good, that he is good for nothing. And one of the doctors of Italy, Nicholas Machiavel, had the confidence to put in writing, almost in plain terms, that the Christian faith had given up good men in prey to those that are tyrannical and unjust. Which he spake (this) because indeed there was never law, or sect, or opinion did so much magnify goodness as the Christian religion doth. Therefore, to avoid the scandal and the danger both, it is good to take knowledge of the errors of an habit so excellent.
Seek the good of other men, but be not in bondage to their faces or fancies; for that is but facility, or softness; which taketh an honest mind prisoner. Neither give thou AEsop’s cock (rooster) a gem, who would be better pleased, and happier, if he had had a barley-corn.
[First Half Installment of Francis Bacon’s perspective on concept of goodness]