Saturday, February 26, 2011

Is it Friday yet?

Shooting from the hip!  What a great topic for a shoot out!!   I loved westerns on black and white TV growing up.  The Lone Ranger, Tales of Texas Rangers, The Cisco Kid, Roy Rogers and Trigger (who is now stuffed and standing somewhere in the Rogers' Estate), Gene Autrey and his sidekick Pat Somebody-or-other who had a high pinched voice...
I enter the Bagman and Butler studio, however, with absolutely no pictures, because my camera has been holstered all week.  And I enter, uniquely, crashing through the side wall instead of the door, having been launched at warp speed from the weeks' out of control merry-go-round and land in the middle of the floor, covered with plaster and holding a dirty baby diaper in one hand and a copy of Turbo Tax in the other.

"Is it Friday yet?' I mumble. 

BAGMAN: "You missed it, you idiot.

KAREN (Calling from downstairs): "Mark!  Mark!  One of the dogs pooped in the house again!! I thought you said you walked them!!"

BUTLER: "You have 45 minute until tomorrow."

I struggle to pull my camera from the holster, place it at my hip, aim in general direction of Bagman and Butler, squeeze trigger...

BUTLER:  "Cameras don't have triggers, Mark."

Nothing happens because the battery has died.

I hear Noah waking up somewhere in the house and starting to cry.

The thought strikes me that this is what retirement is going to be like and I lay back down on the floor and fall asleep.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Spring already?!

In Charleston, there is a saying that we have 4 seasons -- Almost Summer, Summer, Just past Summer, and Christmas.

When I lived in Massachusetts, I remember snow in April.   But here it is only the middle of February and the green grass is starting to pop through the dried brown grass of Just Past Summer.  

Of course, the prickly balls from the gum tree are still falling.  And I am still picking them up. 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Friday Photo Shootout - Twisted

So I'm about to leave work and go home and work on the Friday photoshoot - twisted.  I look under my desk at work and get my first shot. 

It's not Ansel Adams but at least I have taken out my camera and actually photographed something so I feel pretty good.  I start to call my wife to tell her I am leaving work -- I'm not sure why I got into the habit of always checking in.  I guess it's sweet.  But I start to pick up my work phone and...

This is not as bad as it sometimes is...but WHY I've often wondered do telephone cords always get twisted?  It's not like I'm turning in circles when I talk on the phone.  In fact I almost always just pick it up, talk, and put it down.  So why it twists up, I haven't a clue.  I wonder if Alexander Graham Bell had the same problem.

Undeterred, I zip on home past a twisted palm tree.

Hey!  At least I'm shooting again instead of pillaging the archive!

And here's another I took this week!  I shouldn't brag because I've done so little shooting, the camera confused me (controls all twisted up in my mind) so I just shoot automatic...and without much thought.

Lots of handles you could twist on this thingamabob.   I guess maybe the fire department knows what to do with it.

But traffic is so tangled up that I wish I was riding a bicycle instead of driving a car.

Well, maybe bikes tangle up too!  And, of course, now I'm back to the archive.

But I get home and start to head for the Bagman and Butler Studio when Karen stops me to ask if I can connect a cute little pre-school video game that the grandchildren got for Christmas..."Sure, no problem!" I say crawling behind the television.

Wait a minute.  Is it Video Input 1 or RGP input 3 and AUX 1...Does anybody remember when you just turned the television on?  And why do we have three remotes for one television?

And before I get to the B&B studio, Karen has another "To Do" for me. 

She knows that I like puzzles and so I often get the twisted puzzle task of separating out her necklaces. 

And on my way upstairs, I notice another VERY SUBTLE twisty thing -- 

Don't try too hard to see what is twisted because it is Microscopic!  The grandchildren LOVE balloons.  The rubber balloons, of course, lose their helium within 24 hours!  But the Mylar Balloons keep helium in forever.  This one slipped free of it's string over a month ago and ascended to a place of safety high on the vaulted ceiling.  Now you can see that it is just beginning to get flat and, in fact, has begun moving.  It will be interesting to see where it ends up.  The last one that got stuck on the ceiling, for the grandchildren to point at daily, eventually reached a point where it was neutral to gravity.   So it would float around the house for a couple of days and we would find it in the second floor bathroom, in the hallway, in the kitchen -- it was like a ghost and would move at night and sometimes you'd walk into it and scare the spit out of yourself.  I suspect this one will soon start wandering as well.

BUTLER (who has come down to see why I'm dawdling): "And what has this got to do with the "Twisted" theme. 

I explain to him that it might be a stretch, but I figure the microscopic fibers in the Mylar material must be really twisted very tight to keep in helium atoms for so long.

BUTLER:  "You're right!  That is a stretch."
I walk in to the studio to download the camera realize I loaned Brian one of the cords that link the camera to the computer.  But I have a spare.

Although finding it and untangling it might be a problem...

Meanwhile, Bagman and Butkler, who have no faith anymore in my ability to use a camera have been ransacking the archives and are ready to post old shots without me. 

BAGMAN:  "I've got one!!  I've got one!!  The lustful twisting and tangling of bodies while..."

BUTLER:  "Don't say that word!!

BAGMAN:  "What word?"

BUTLER:  "The 'F' word!"

"Never mind the word," I say, growing concerned, as always, with Bagman.  "Don't post the picture!!"

BUTLER:  "No problem.  I've got enough for the rest of this post and I'm controlling the computer."

I set about the task of untangling my spare wires while Butler starts posting twisty things from the archive.

And then we are done.  

I go downstairs to untangle some spaghetti into my stomach.

Butler goes to his room to iron out some tangled creases from his dress shirts.

And Bagman...

waits for the moment to be right to add his x-rated tangled love picture...

and waits

and waits

and waits...

And finally

when no-one is looking.

Sneaks it in!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Postcard from the Fishing Hole

The bobber wobbles.
I pull up the line.
The bait is still there,
a little chewed.
We learned on the weekend
another grandchild is coming
in November.
I look at the pond.
There must be fish somewhere.
How do I tell Bagman and Butler
they we need their office
for a nursery.
I consider trying different bait
or maybe fly casting.
Maybe we can convert the porch
to a sun-room.
Money.  And retirement
ain't gonna pay like working did.
I plop the stale bait back in the pond
and stare at algae and remind myself,
children are blessings.
Noisy, demanding blessings.
Retirement.  I'm told that I'm
only as old as I feel.
But what if I feel old?
The bobber sits motionless in the water.
God always has a plan.
I wish I knew what it was.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Gone fishing

No, not actually fishing.  Just taking a break from blogging to think about stuff.  Sometimes it is better to keep my mouth shut until I stop trying to talk and start trying to listen.

But I thought I'd better put a sign up so people wouldn't think that I had just dropped dead and was never coming back.

Then again, if I do drop dead after posting this, people will think I'm coming back. 

Life is way too confusing.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

So what do I do with all this stuff?

I always knew there would be difficult parts of the retirement process:

1. Becoming selfish enough to make the decision in the first place

2. Developing a good-sounding rationalization to tell people

3. Convincing my wife who no longer falls for my rationalizations

4. Trying to know what to say when people congratulate me

But the real problem, it turns out, is going to be leaving my office in some kind of reasonable order for whoever follows me.

When I first came here, 13 years ago, the previous Director had left a gazillion files which I didn’t know what to do with. For months, I pestered everyone around me with questions. “What’s this? Do we need this? Why is there a confidential file that contains lunch menus?”

13 years later, I still have a couple of the previous Director’s files that make no sense to me but I’m afraid to throw them away.

My philosophy has always been to keep no paper in my office at all. Set up a filing system that someone else can manage and keep nothing. I tell everyone to never ever give me an original of anything. This is based on the fact that I know my professional abilities very well and realize I am capable of losing anything and everything in direct relation to how important it is.

So how, I am now asking myself, have I managed to fill a desk, two large bookcases, one small bookcase, and a credenza with a gazillion files and loose papers.

Of course, the vast majority of this is junk. Notes from leadership trainings that are 10 years old. Articles on addiction that I always planned to read sometime. Emails from when we first went paperless – LOL – and I still was addicted to printing everything.

Anything of any importance should have originals filed somewhere else, I tell myself.

I’m not sure I believe myself.

And books! What do I do with a Financial Management textbook from graduate school? I didn’t even like it when I first took the course! But throwing away a book seems sacrilegious. Not to mention it makes the trash can heavy.

And how do I know (without reading a gazillion pieces of paper) that there might not be a client’s name written somewhere, so I can’t just throw it out! I have to meticulously and mechanically take a ten foot pile of paper and slip it ten or twenty sheets at a time into the narrow slot in the HIPAA confidentiality burn bin. At least it is better than clogging a shredder.

And what needs to be saved for the poor soul that inherits my office?

Since I have almost always brought my lunch and eaten at my desk, I don’t even have any menus!

I still have a month and a half to go. It will take every waking moment to sort through this paperwork avalanche.

So I pick up another pile of papers and start to read them. They are the minutes of a meeting from 2002 which carefully document a lengthy discussion about whether we should change the date and time of the next meeting.

Your tax dollars at work.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Friday Shootout - I am NOT a collector! I'm NOT!

Subtitle:  Butler's Intervention on my collecting addiction

So I’m walking down the hallway toward the Bagman and Butler Studio, muttering to myself, “I am NOT a collector. I am NOT a collector. I have nothing to show for today’s photo shoot because I am NOT a collector.

Reaching the door, I have an uneasy mixture of feelings – guilt, embarrassment, denial (which is not a river in Egypt). Philosophically, I do NOT believe in collecting. “If we collect things, we become prisoners of our own possessions,” I mutter, unaware that I am beginning to talk to myself out loud again.

My soliloquy continues, “Collecting is an obsessive connection to the past that prevents us from living in the present! I do not collect things because I believe in the Zen Buddhist tradition of Carpe Diem.”


BUTLER (who has suddenly appeared behind me, pushes me through the door): “First of all, Carpe Diem is not Zen Buddhism! Carpe Diem is a literary term from English Literature 101. And, secondly, it’s time you finally came to terms with your addiction to collecting!”

BAGMAN (Leaping forward and pushing Butler out of the way): “Mark! Mark! I’m glad you’re here! Tell Butler that he can’t exclude MY collection from this shootout!”

Confused, I look to Butler for assistance.

BUTLER: (whispering): “You know his collection. The one he hid under his bed when he was a teenager.”

This is quickly going from bad to worse. I make a last ditch effort to escape but Butler has barred the door. I don’t know what Butler has planned for me.  But I do know Bagman and I know darned well that we’re not going to display his collection in any G-rated blog, and I tell him so.

BAGMAN (Red with anger): “You are both prudish wusses!” He leaves, slamming the door hard enough to break the molding. Again.

So Butler and I are now alone in the studio and I’m shaking my head and continuing to deny that I have any interest in collecting things. Don’t over-emphasize the past. Live in the present. Don't be tied down with possessions.  That’s my motto.  "I'm free of material things,"  I argue to Butler.  "Show me one thing that I collect.  Just show me!"

BUTLER: “What about your coin collection? You’ve been collecting coins since you were 15.”

“Numismatics,” I protest. It’s a science, not to mention an investment.”

BUTLER: “Phooey! You have no intention of selling any of them. And how about the old bottle collection?”

“No. Those are Karen’s. She had them when we got married. She loves auctions and antique stores. I just tag along to keep her company.”

BUTLER: “Except YOU were the one who kept buying old advertising signs.”

I'm having trouble concentrating on what Butler is saying because I've just realized how ugly our wallpaper is.

BUTLER: “And seashells!

“Hey! We live on the coast! Everybody who goes to the beach picks up seashells.”

BUTLER: “Except not everybody gets up in the middle of a tropical storm and goes to the beach with a flashlight in the rain!”

“But it was also low tide and high waves and and I wanted to get there before the beach got picked over!"

BUTLER:  "It was two A.M.!!!"

"But I found this,"  I protest sheepishly.  

But but now I am beginning to doubt myself.  Beachcombing for seashells at night in gale winds and pouring rain does seem to be just a tad on the obsessive side of collecting.

BUTLER: “And how about toys!”

“No, Butler. You’re wrong this time. We have to have toys for the grandchildren!”

BUTLER:  "So why is Captain Jean-Luc Picard in your desk drawer at work!?

I desperately try to rationalise, "Motivation when things get tough?"

BUTLER:  "Not even close!  And then there's your collection of old picture frames."

BUTLER:  "You had more room for them before you let the grandchildren have your studio and moved into the spare studio.  And then there is your collection of old negatives..."'

“But I’m a photographer, for gosh sakes!”

BUTLER: “And blogs!”

“Hey!  If it weren’t for this blog, you and Bagman wouldn’t even exist!” I argue.

BUTLER: “Don’t make this about me! And besides, not every blogger prints up all their blogs and binds them in notebooks! You’re a collector! Admit it!

I finally collapse in defeat. Yes, yes…I AM a collector. I admit it! I even collect things that can’t be photographed – like databases that I have kept for years that document all the movies my wife and I have seen together, funny bumper stickers I have spotted on the road, jokes I have heard. Heaven help me! I record all these things in databases!

BUTLER (A little more gently, now that he has broken through my denial) “And don’t forget the dreams.”

Tears and confessions are now pouring out of me. Yes. Yes. I can’t show pictures of them, but I have even kept a database of my dreams for 15 years. I even cross reference them by images, themes and keywords.
BUTLER: “And just recently you’ve started collecting meaningless numbers and putting them in spreadsheets, haven't you?”

“But that's information I need for investing.”

BUTLER: “Good luck with that one, Mark! Just let it all out and you’ll feel better. Admit that you like numbers and statistics all by themselves.  If you can count or measure something, you put it in a spreadsheet and make a graph of it.  Don't you?

“I do! I do!” I bawl, tears of relief flowing freely.  “I admit that I’m powerless over collecting and that my life has become unmanageable!”
BUTLER: “I’m glad you’ve taken the first step. Although I do have one question. I’ve never really been sure about the coat hanger collection.”

I am free to laugh again and I do so with gusto.  "No, my friend.  The coat hangers are not really collections.  They are more like colonies.  Coat hangers are really living alien creatures that reproduce in closets when we are sleeping.  That’s why we find them so tangled up all the time. And every time you open the closet door you notice that there are more and more coat hangers than there were the day before.  I thought everybody knew that.
BUTLER: “Okay. But one last question. Why are they are called coat hangers when mostly you use them to hang pants, shirts and dresses?”
I don’t know the answer to that and I fall silent.  I’m still a little confused but hopeful that I can follow the steps of recovery from my collecting addiction.  Finally, I look up, make eye contact with Butler, and say,
"Thanks for helping me see the truth.  Do you know where there is a Collectors Anonymous meeting I could go to tonight?”

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


That was Bagman's title.  I don't know what he is refering to either.  I just ran in to change my Friday header because it is already Tuesday.   And I figured I'd better write something quick, just to get it in before the family begins arriving.

BAGMAN: "Get it in...hee hee."

BUTLER: "I liked him better during the shootout when we wrapped him in duct tape."

So the dogs are walked.  They are now 90% housebroken...maybe 100% but our schedules are so crazy, they have a right to be confused.  Mopdog and Possumpooch. 

Sometime soon, I've been unable to stop thinking about a blog on Evolution vs. Creationism...because I don't see any need for disagreement.  It seems simple to me.  God created humans.  And the really miraculous part of it is that he created them through his amazing evolution process so that we could continue to be able to change and adjust over time.  

Oops.  I've already done the blog I was thinking about except it was going to be much longer. 

Hey.  Wait a minute?  Didn't I already write that blog?  Now that I'm (1) going into my third year of blogging and (B) gradually losing my memory, I'm not sure what I've said before.  Like being drunk at a party and telling the same joke over and over.  I'm glad I don't do that anymore. 

Oops.  I hear voices coming into the house.  And so the chaos begins for another night!