Z – Zymurgy Blessings (NaPoWriMo #30)

Zymurgy (zy-mur-gy; zī mәr jē) is chemistry that deals with the fermentation processes (as in wine making or brewing), There are zymurgy clubs around America, a brew pub called Zymurgy in Torrance, CA, and even a magazine called Zymurgy. It’s a fancy word for something we didn’t know we had a fancy word for. In words like this, experts, specialists, and aficionados find each other.

 

 ***

A toast to the Grog
By Bill Reynolds

Hold your drink high as we all salute,
Stand proud and tall as you toast our success.
Long we have toiled to blog the last dribble,
To the craft of zymurgy, my final tribute.

To the blessings of grog from the art of the craft,
I brought you my twaddle, the sweet and the daft,
With creative support of that spirited guest,
I sent you my poems, the poor and the best.

From the wine to the beer,
The ferment and brew,
The stout and the red
Went straight to my head.

My thanks to my readers,
Both critics and lovers,
And for the crafters of zymurgy to brew,
Grateful to all, I am thanking you too.

***

Wine to the left, beer on the right,
Look both ways and have a great night.
Of the gaps be mindful, it’s been so delightful.

Advertisements

The Art of Aging

birthday 70 2

Forty years ago tomorrow, I was the father of two boys: one age five, the other was two (two years later we added a daughter to the pride). Tomorrow would be my 30th birthday.

I was the navigator on a B-52 bomber crew. I recall that as I was taking a shower about fifty yards (roughly 45 meters) from a nuclear armed airplane cocked and ready to go blow the crap of somebody, I was quietly lamenting my age.

B-52D Navigator's Position

B-52D Navigator’s Position

I would no longer be in my twenties. I thought that I was not young and never would be again. I was knocking on the door of middle age, or so I thought. I was feeling down because I was turning the dreaded big three-zero. “Don’t trust anyone over thirty” was the phrase. I still don’t really know what that means. I just knew it was bad.

A Young B-52 Crew Dog

A Young B-52 Crew Dog

Our society convinced me that I was getting old and that I should be sad about it. In four days, that five-year-old I mentioned turns 45. He and his 42-years young brother really are middle aged, and their baby sister is knocking on that door. I was not old, but I was depressed thinking that I was. Thanks to our shallow, f***ed-up, foolish American culture that values all the wrong stuff in people, my thinking was foolish (and not only about age).

birthday 70 1Is it all that important to be a thin, white, dark-haired, strong, male member of this country? We seem to think so. I hope that continues to change.

We have to pass laws to keep people from discriminating against older people, and the age in the law is 40. WTF? Forty is not old. Again, forty is not old! At most, it’s lower-middle aged.

And if you plan to call this foul-mouthed, hard-drinking, Fightin’ Texas Aggie, Irish-Welshman elderly; you best be certain that you can kick his ass. Because this one is standing straight-up and walking your way (in silence) to demonstrate that old is not elderly!

But, I will indeed become a septuagenarian at midnight tonight. In the game of life, I will be at ‘Level 8.’ I’ve literally been there, done that, and have the scars to prove it (which I wear proudly). I am on a first-name basis with my cardiologists, and if my peripheral vascular surgeon would do a better job, I would be running three miles a day, instead of walking. I ride a Honda Forza motor scooter because my 800-pound, 2007 Yamaha Royal Star Tour Deluxe touring motorcycle got too heavy to pick up (last year). But I still ride on two wheels. I’ve retired from the jobs that pay, but I work every day. I’m a writer and do volunteer work. My only boss is the one I’ve been married to for 50 years.

I like people and I want them to like me. But I also don’t give a flying f**k what anyone else thinks of me or my opinions, politics, religion (or lack thereof), foul language, or beer breath. I do not, and never will, wear socks with sandals. I remain a teenager of the 60s.

birthsday 70 6I am retired. All the shit/crap that I put up with for all those years of school (nuns-groan), yes, sir and no, sir; kissing up to very few idiot bosses (most were great), scrimping and saving and working – it was all worth it. As my wife would say, “Rave on, dog shit!” And so I do. Every day is a weekend and I can do what I want (with her permission—I’m old, not stupid) whenever.

I want to be happy and I am. My last meal will truly be a good pizza (my wife makes the best) and a fine stout brew. When the time comes, I want to walk into Dr. G’s office and say, “Time to shut it down, Doc. It’s been a great ride and I’ve loved it all. Let’s talk about the final git-er-done.” But that day is some ways off. Getting old is not dangerous, driving on our roads is.

Get ready big eight-zero ‘cuz here I come. ~ Me

birthday 70 3

I toast the good health of my birth year (1946) peers: Cher, Barry Gibb, George and Laura Bush, Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, Linda Ronstadt, Sally Field, Ed O’Neill, Reggie Jackson, Daryl Hall, Jimmy Buffett, Dolly Parton, Tommy Lee Jones, Al Green, Loni Anderson, Cheech Marin, and others. We’re still kickin’ the can down the road.

birthday 70 8

May you have love that never ends, much money, and many friends.

Health be yours, whatever you do and may the universe bless you and yours. Rock on, my friends.

I’ll publish my promised blog on creativity this next Friday. I am also tinkering with one on recovering from middle age (men only, I am unqualified for the experiences of the softer, better looking, and smarter sex) because I have been there and done that too.

What do you want?

The first of three questions I think everyone should be able to answer quickly is ‘What do you want?’ I’ve always felt that few of us think about that. We may have short term goals or we may want some things to come our way. But the ultimate answer, while not illusive, is something we seldom ponder. I say this with the opinion that for virtually all of us, the answer is simple, easy, and nearly the same for everyone.

What Do You Want ?As I listened to an interview with Christopher Hitchens, I was surprised by something he said. I’ll get back to that in a minute. Frist, I want to talk about the genesis of the question and my answer.

Beginning about 25 years ago, my life began to take some very significant turns. Much significantly changed for me. My life was on track, then it was not. This life transformation continued for years. Much of it was unpleasant, disruptive, sad, and shocking. The unhappier and more miserable I became, the more I thought about what had happened and what all was going wrong. I’ll save the details for a memoir. Suffice to say, shit happened and stuff changed.

This led to a rather spiritually reflective time for me. I read a lot of spiritual books, studied religions (some more lightly than others), and pondered what I thought were important life questions.

I don’t recall when or how I came across the brochure. It was titled Oh Happy Fault! A Confession of Hidden Sin by Vinny Flynn. In the brochure, Flynn confesses that his sin was being unhappy. Silly as it seems, that resonated with me because I realized that I was unhappy, or depressed, or both. Either way, what had been going on inside me (where no one could see) was the same. This led directly to my reading three books and indirectly, discovering one other.

Fully Human, Fully Alive, by Fr. John Powell, SJ
Siddhartha, by Herman Hesse
Man’s Search for Meaning, by Victor Frankl

About the same time, I also read, The Seven Story Mountain, by Thomas Merton.

Question One7

The result of all of this was that I made two decisions. Actually, I made many decisions and continue making them, but early-on I decided that I wanted, or perhaps needed, to be happy. I knew that I was unhappy. So I decided to be happy. More importantly, I decided that my happiness was up to me – that I could do something about it. It took a long time for my happiness to improve, but it did.

Jump ahead about six years. I found myself conducting classes for other very troubled people. They were not exactly unhappy (some were). They didn’t seem to have any focus about anything. In my opinion, they had no world view. One of the questions I would regularly as them was “What do you want?” Their answers sounded like a list of shallow, adolescent ideas about hot cars, money, and hot men or women. The blank stares and silence I got when I asked ‘why’ disguised their answers of ‘who the hell cares?’ With that experience, I have continued asking people the same question for years. “What do you want?”

Question One1

I’ve always thought everyone’s answer should be ‘happiness.’ During the Christopher Hitchens interview, he said that he did not think that he wanted ‘happiness,’ but wanted ‘satisfaction.’ I liked Hitch, but on this answer we would disagree. Maybe he felt that happiness was too much to ask for. Anyway, at least one dictionary indicates the words have synonymous meanings. There is a difference. Even though satisfaction implies having our needs met, happiness involves our state of mind regardless of needs.

Question One5

I’m skeptical of some folks wanting to be happy. Some people seem happy by not being happy, or not wanting anyone to know they’re happy. It’s like if anyone knows, they will set out to ruin my happiness; therefore, I mustn’t appear happy. Maybe they really are just waiting for something bad to happen, or maybe they seriously do not want to be happy. Maybe they think there is a happy tax.

Question One6A satisfaction tax would make a lot more sense. It seems like things may satisfy us, but we decide to be, or not to be happy. How would we measure and estimate a tax on feeling good?

Anyway, I hope you are happy now. I also hope that Hitch is satisfied and Mick Jagger (after all these years) can get some damn satisfaction. I mean, how long does a guy have to wait for that?

 

Bill’s Top Five (No taco today)

Top five3The internet is loaded with lists. Lists are recommended for writing/blogging because we read them. My wife likes to read lists to me. Neither of us have any idea why. This is my personal short list with explanations for why the item is here. In a way, it’s a gratitude list, but that’s not exactly what this is about. It’s about me, not the list. Please comment with your top five. I’d like to know if you share my opinions.

I call this the top five inventions now affecting my life. Back in history, each of these might have been considered magic. In a way, I consider them the magic of science. Many discoveries, inventions, and innovations were necessary predecessors to make these possible, and for those I am also grateful (things like electricity, fire, internet [actually came later], printing press, writing, etc.) Some are closer to my heart than others. Bill’s top five inventions are (random order):

Top five2

The computer. The PC, laptop, and gadget after gadget (smart phone) using the science and technology to make my life better. I sat in front of one of these things for years at work and then spent more time on-line at home. Now in retirement, I use my laptop, smartphone, or iPad more than 8 hours a day. I type/keyboard with all ten fingers, like to write, and can make a mess with a typewriter. (electronic digital computer, 1939, Atanasoff and Berry)

Top five6Global Positioning System (GPS). I was a Master Navigator in the United States Air Force. Navigating was my profession. I was also a bombardier faced with the challenges of dropping things on targets (to put it nicely). 35 years ago, I was delighted to have technology that would tell me how fast I was going and in which direction. I used the sun and stars to determine where on earth we were, errors of miles were not unusual. I actually had mechanical/analog computers, which were also often wrong.

What I would have given for a GPS! Sometimes, we dropped hundreds of bombs hoping one might find the target. Today they use a (as in one) GPS-guided ‘smart bomb’ that can hit someone’s dinner plate. They need only one bomb per target.

Driving home, I can see a map of the roads all around me, traffic conditions, my position, and my arrival time. In 1978, the first satellite was launched and it was Y2K before GPS devices became available for personal use (instead of military only).

The Spell Checker. I often joke that the only thing worse than my handwriting is my spelling. Top five5Actually, I have no idea which is worse. Together, they conspire to make anything I handwrite virtually useless. Even I can’t read it. Professional, highly trained code breakers would never figure it out. It’s like a disability. Fellow writers often proclaim the great value of writing by hand. One page and my hand hurts. My head hurts from trying to make it legible. And my brain is pissed from focusing on scripting and spelling and not on content.

My poor penmanship has been replaced by computer writing software. Part of that software has been written to show me wrongly spelled words, and sometimes it even fixes some of them. Look – I fully understand all the pitfalls and problems of spell checkers. I’ve read the cute little poem (joke) about this. If your handwriting and spelling are adequate, good for you. Mine aren’t. This software has saved my ass from the constant embarrassment of ugly hand writing and atrocious spelling.

Example of coronary artery sents and placement

Example of coronary artery sents and placement

Stents. I am a medical science advocate. I may not agree with every practitioner, but I agree with mine. I inherited several things from my father: fondness for beer, a temper, and a circulatory system that likes to clog-up. It eventually killed him as it probably will do for me one day. But not today.

Several years ago my leg went numb while walking. A doctor said, “I think I know what’s wrong and what we can do about it.” He put three stents into my iliac arteries. They worked. Years later, I was told that coronary bypass surgery was too risky for me due to my calcified aortic arch. A Cath Lab team lead by my doctor inserted four stents to open my clogged/blocked coronary arteries. Six months later, I had two more inserted. Not heart attack required. Stents work immediately and the recovery time is measured in hours. I have a total of nine. Dad had none.

 

Top five1Airplanes. I like to fly. Much of my first career was spent flying or teaching others how. My second career was still associated with teaching others to fly. I like aviation museums. I also like books and movies about flying.

When I moved, I left Florida in the morning and was at my new home in the Pacific Northwest by dinner time. A forty-hour drive flown in seven. Until teleporters are perfected, we can travel to any place on earth during the same day, provided we do it in an airplane.

Beam us up, Scotty. There's no intelligent life down here.

“Beam us up, Scotty. There’s no intelligent life down here.”

I could add things like the internet, automobiles, digital music, and sliced bread. But five’s enough. Right?

Frat Friday

Frat Friday

Defending Aging

How old are you? Please don’t give me that woo-woo crap about it being ‘just a number.’ If you are old, it matters. “What is old,” you ask? It’s 15 years older than the person judging old. At 20, it’s 35; 50 thinks it is 65. I think old is 85, but I know a few of 80-year-olds who say it might be 80.

I thought I was old on my 30th birthday. I used to hear “don’t trust anyone over 30.” The guy who invented that phrase is now 79 – just saying. We haven’t been able to trust him for almost 50 years. I’m sure that he didn’t trust me even when I was 25.

aging2So, I know when I made the change from young to old. It was about 40 years ago.

aging3Have you resigned yourself to the “it’s just a number that’s too friggin’ big” mentality? I’m not complaining about being old. Old people do not intend to complain about age. It is, after all, a successful result. On the other hand, the various consequences of age can’t be overlooked.

How Old is Old Enough?

agingIf we live long enough, we share one important thing with many teenagers – we become bored easily. Old people can be annoying to some young people (15 years, remember). The thought that the feeling may be mutual seems to escape many. Most older folks that I know are working away at life. I know writers in their 80s and 90s who write every day, are working on writing books, and are making plans to publish.

I retired a little late at 68. A 40-something friend who knew my plans said to me, “I want to be where you are some day.” I replied, “Good! Quit smoking and drive safe. Drink some, have lots of sex, and save every dollar you can.”

Of course, he wanted to know if I thought having sex contributed to a long life. I said, “No, it doesn’t. But if you don’t last, you won’t be sorry about that part.” I told him that he only needed enough money in retirement, but no one knows how much that is. There’s no penalty for having too much, but there is for not having enough.

Now What?

aging4I live in an over-55, “active” community. Some folks here are more active than others, but most are kind of amazing. I took a blogging class where I met a lady of 92. She’s smart, funny, and still learning. She taught art classes and one of her subjects was art by carving vegetables. She made a scrap-book of pictures and writings on veggie art. She is an expert. Based on her experience, maybe the only nonagenarian expert. She wants to publish this in a blog. I can look past the outer physical things that show up when one is 90+. This lady is a master at her craft and learning another so she can share the first. I think that’s cool. In heart and mind, she is young, enthusiastic, and capable.

aging1I just returned from a “Personal Creative Writing” class. There are 15-to-20 of us taking the class. Most are interested in writing life stories or memoirs. These folks are talented writers; some are published authors; all are able to tell it like it was. They have the ability to make every life story funny, and even sadder memories are delivered with humor. They are good at their craft, but no one can accuse them of taking life too seriously.

I changed my mind. Age is just a number. Attitude matters and it matters at any age or any number. What matters to you?

Prayer of an Anonymous Abbess:

Lord, thou knowest better than myself that I am growing older and will soon be old. Keep me from becoming too talkative, and especially from the unfortunate habit of thinking that I must say something on every subject and at every opportunity.

Release me from the idea that I must straighten out other peoples’ affairs. With my immense treasure of experience and wisdom, it seems a pity not to let everybody partake of it. But thou knowest, Lord, that in the end I will need a few friends.

Keep me from the recital of endless details; give me wings to get to the point.

Grant me the patience to listen to the complaints of others; help me to endure them with charity. But seal my lips on my own aches and pains — they increase with the increasing years and my inclination to recount them is also increasing.

I will not ask thee for improved memory, only for a little more humility and less self-assurance when my own memory doesn’t agree with that of others. Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be wrong.

Keep me reasonably gentle. I do not have the ambition to become a saint – it is so hard to live with some of them — but a harsh old person is one of the devil’s masterpieces.

Make me sympathetic without being sentimental, helpful but not bossy. Let me discover merits where I had not expected them, and talents in people whom I had not thought to possess any. And, Lord, give me the grace to tell them so. Amen” ~ Margot Benary-Isbert

Yesterday

Yesterday

yesterday6Ten years ago, I lost one of my best friends from my childhood. Today, I received a phone call telling me that I have now lost the other. A few weeks ago I was tasked with a writing assignment to provide an essay on what I long for. You can see it blogged under “Nostalgia and Longing.” Reading my blog, you can glimpse my view of humanity and the world. Seldom do I live at any time but the present moment.

yesterday2But today, I want to think about the past. Not in a regretful way, but in an “I remember” way that might allow my brain to be the tool of a child’s mind again.
I want to remember friends and our time together when we did things without much regard for the good or the bad. There was no judgment or guilt. The important part that I recall is that we did those things together. That is what a childhood friendship is all about; an unconditional acceptance of us as is. Blood brothers we were – literally.

yesterday3I know that I cannot go back to that time, and I’m not sure that I would want to. But I want to have those memories until I have no memories. I would like to again feel the freedom, the special bond, and the unquestioned certainty that we would all live forever. I want to think about my future and talk about how much better it will all be. I want free and unlimited amounts of candy and ice cream. We didn’t have that, but when we took over, well, you know, right? I want to know that next year, I will be allowed to stay out after it gets dark, to drive a car (legally), to date girls (with everyone knowing).

Today, I want to cry over the loss of my friends and I want to smile in their memory. I want to think about their faults that I never saw or didn’t care about, as they dismissed mine. Indeed, I miss Jimmy and I miss Jack, but the one is miss most is Billy the Kid — me.

What do I remember most? In our late teens Jack made his belief and faith in me clear. Few people had faith in me when I was a teenager, and I don’t blame them. More than my parents, more than any teacher or any other person, he believed I could do what even I doubted.

yesterday4

I subsequently believed him and that was a significant turning point in my life.

I slightly changed the lyrics of Yesterday When I was Young to reflect how I feel today — Melancholyyesterday7

The game of life I played with arrogance and pride
And every flame I lit too quickly, quickly died,
The friends I made all seemed somehow to die away
And only I am left on stage to end the play.
Yesterday when I was young

 

 

Rain Man (you knew this was coming)

RIn a scene from my childhood, I watched through our living room window as kids my age played in a rainstorm. They were laughing and having a wonderful time getting soaked. The streets and gutters were awash. One boy sat down in a flooded gutter as the water pushed against him and splashed hard around his body. I felt envy. Not because they were having fun without me, but because they were playing in the rain. I was home with my mother, and she told me that I couldn’t go out because I would get soaked and catch my “death-of-cold.” I have since learned and admit more about myself, and about colds.

Rain 1The word ‘pluvial’ refers to rain or something characterized by abundant rain. The suffix ‘phile’ denotes fondness. Consequently, a pluviophile is one who finds joy and peace of mind on rainy days. I was taught that rainy days were sad, as in the Carpenters song lyric; “Rainy days and Mondays always get me down.” I was to believe nice days were sunny, cloudless, and warm. I’ve never felt that way. Sunny and pleasant days have their place, but few are enough. Later in life, I admitted to liking cloudy, rainy days. I now identify as a pluviophile. These days, I’m often asked why, after more than twenty years in California, Texas, and Florida; I recently moved to the Pacific Northwest. I ask, “Do you know what a pluviophile is?” Like it should be news to me, I’ve repeatedly been told “it rains a lot there.” I reply with a smile, “Yes, it does.”

“Rain is grace; rain is the sky descending to the earth; without rain, there would be no life.” ~ John Updike, Self-Consciousness: Memoirs

ShawshankRainWide-1 Rain 4My involvement with rain changes with its many forms. Scientific names apply based on how it comes about. But, I am talking about how the rain itself varies from torrential downpour to a gentle drizzle. Duration, wind, thunder, lightning, air temperature, and other factors contribute to our experiencing rain. There are times of rain just falling, and times with thunder and lightning. There is morning rain, afternoon rain, and rain at night. Each is emotionally and physically encountered differently. It can be seen and heard while keeping dry, thus precluding feeling the rain. Only outdoors can we dance in the rain. If I don’t perceive rain with senses—I just get wet. Our world changes when it rains. We need it, just as we do sunshine. To me life smells, feels, looks, and sounds more alive in the rain. In the city, rural areas, and in the forest, everything improves. When I am with the rain, I heal and recover. It’s a spiritual exposure difficult to explain. I’m not especially spiritual, but in rain I sense life — nature.

street_by_night_2_innsbruck_by_maradong Rain 2I recently delayed my daily walk when rain was forecast. After waiting for the rain to start, I donned shorts and tee. I was off in good spirits, expecting to be, and was, soaked. After an hour, I was back home. I sat on a dry and covered bench, removed my soaked shoes and socks, slapped water from my dripping baseball cap, and chuckled. I was thinking how others might consider me deranged. But, this is why I’m here.

Nighttime rain is different—good, but different. There’s more drama on rainy nights. When I have a challenging day, I like to experience night rain by imagining the character of Mike Hammer from a Mickey Spillane crime novel. I picture me on a dark, moonless night; standing under a lamp post illuminating my silhouette. With muffled, distant thunder following flashes of light, rain sparkles from the beams of the light post. I wear the characteristic trench coat with raised collar and a gray fedora,Rain 8 tilted forward and cocked right. The front brim bent slightly downward with water flowing off. The sound of falling rain is all around. I hear it splash into puddles and onto sidewalks. With water moving everywhere, I forget the day’s problems and the annoying people. But mystery is afoot. Like it or not, Mike Hammer is involved. And of course, there is a woman. As Hammer, in the writing of Spillane, I mumble, “In the flora and fauna of the Bowery, she was a lot of flora and quite a bit of fauna. She looked like she belonged in a field of Wyoming wildflowers instead of wandering through the human backwash of the avenue.” In the night rain, I can do this. Rain brings magic and drama.

I’ve passed through forest after a rain. My senses were filled with sights, sounds, and the aroma of nature. There I can see and feel it because everything is wet. For me, awareness of water is experiencing the essence of living.

Tony-Yazbeck-in-Singing-in-the-Rain-Drury-Lane-Theatre Rain 5Let’s take life, rain or shine, one day at a time. It’s about how we feel. We’re not alone in our emotional response to rain. In the Pacific Northwest, we love the outdoors, rain or shine. Too much shine and we miss the rain. After some rain, we’re ready to let a little sunshine in. “In every life a little rain must fall….” Of course, and why not?

“The richness of the rain made me feel safe and protected; I have always considered the rain to be healing—a blanket—the comfort of a friend. Without at least some rain in any given day, or at least a cloud or two on the horizon, I feel overwhelmed by the information of sunlight and yearn for the vital, muffling gift of falling water.” ~ Douglas Coupland, Life After God