As an introvert, I’ve found it easy to stay at home

Johnny Carson

If you’ve been around a long time and used to watch the Tonight Show With Johnny Carson, you may remember that one of his recurring bits, when others were talking about going out on the town for an upscale night of partying or dining, was to sit at his desk with a woebegone expression and say he’d probably just go home alone and eat a cracker.

As for me, I’d rather stay at home than go to a party or (hell) a rock concert or any event with 1000000000 people and eat a cracker. My wife of almost 33 years (our anniversary is tomorrow) feels the same way. We have shelves full of books and old movies and know how to prepare comfort food that we usually prefer to a $100 meal.

Biltmore Estate

Now, had we known our favorite vacation spot (Biltmore) was going to announce today that it’s reopening its 8,000-acre estate in Asheville, NC, we might have bought a three-day pass. We’ve been going to Asheville regularly since we were married (if not before). So, we do come outside our house from time to time and go back to places we’ve come to know as comfort places. I did send off to Biltmore for Cardinal’s Crest, our favorite wine from their winery. Fortunately, it arrived today.

We have steak, pork chops, and ribs in the freezer, but seriously during our rainy days, getting out and cleaning up the old Weber grill isn’t very tempting. Don’t laugh: we’ll probably have a squash casserole or beef stew instead. (“Isn’t that just typical of old people,” our Facebook friends are saying.” My response is, “Hell, we ate like this 33 years ago.”)

History Channel

If the space launch doesn’t get scrubbed due to bad weather, we’ll be watching that. Neither of us misses space shots, a habit we started before we knew each other. Since our regular TV shows are on hiatus, we’ve turned to the History Channel. We’ll finish up “Grant” this evening, but if they’re not lying to us, the previews have shown snippets of more cool stuff coming up. (“Yawn,” you say? My response is “Pshaw!)

I saw a link on Facebook today to an article that predicts kids are going to have a real depressing summer. My only response to that was if so, it’s due to a lack of imagination. Yeah, we went on family vacations and such things might now be possible this year, but even without them, we were seldom bored. Of course, my brothers and I played outside from dawn until dusk, and that was a lot more infinite in scope than the Internet or, God forbid, screaming in a swimming pool so filled with kids all you could do was, um, just stand there. Yawn.

Florida Panhandle (still not ruined)

Luckily, we grew up in the Florida Panhandle where are beaches weren’t screwed over by developers like the Peninsula part of the state. Our beaches were free and clear so we could enjoy them rather than share them with 10000000 other people who, when it comes down to it, are needless clutter.

But, I digress. As an introvert, I enjoy being quiet and going to quiet places. So staying at home and (figuratively!) eating a cracker is the cat’s pajamas. (Google that phrase if you’re too young to know what it means.)

Or, as Johnny Carson said, “Happiness is having a rare steak, a bottle of whiskey, and a dog to eat the rare steak.” Okay, we’re not quite that bad because we have cats and my wife doesn’t like Scotch. So, maybe happiness is a night at home with somebody you care for a whole lot.

–Malcolm

The Flooers of the Forest

My ancestors play this Scot’s lament for me on Memorial Day, and though it’s forever a reminder of the country’s loss to the English at the battle of Flodden, in September 1513, I cannot help thinking that after every battle in every war the flower of the nation’s youth will not be coming home.

Here’s the song as I hear it. I’ve added some translations at the end.

I’ve heard the liltin at oor yowe-milkin,
Lassies a-liltin before break o day
Now there’s a moanin on ilka green loanin –
The Flooers o the Forest are a’ wede awa

At buchts, in the mornin, nae blythe lads are scornin,
Lassies are lanely and dowie and wae
Nae daffin, nae gabbin, but sighin and sabbin,
The Flooers o the Forest are a’ wede awa

In hairst at the shearin, nae youths now are jeerin,
Bandsters are lyart and runkled and gray
At fair or at preachin, nae wooin, nae fleechin –
The Flooers of the Forest are a’ wede awa

At e’en at the gloamin, nae swankies are roamin
‘Bout stacks wi the lassies at bogle tae play
But ilk ane sits dreary, lamentin her deary –
The Flooers of the Forest are a’ wede awa

Dule and wae for the order, sent oor lads to the Border
The English, for aince, by guile wan the day
The Flooers of the Forest, that focht aye the foremost
The prime o our land, lie cauld in the clay

We hear nae mair liltin at oor yowe-milkin
Women and bairnies are heartless and wae
Sighin and moanin on ilka green loanin –
The Flooers of the Forest are a’ wede awa

yowe=ewe
ilka=every
wede=withered
buchts=cattle pens
dowie-sad
wae=woeful
daffin’=dallying
gabbin’=talking
leglen=stool
hairst=harvest
bandsters=binders
lyart=grizzled
runkled=crumpled
fleeching=coaxing
gloaming=twilight
swankies=young lads
bogle=peek-a-boo
dule=mourning clothes

–Malcolm

 

Maybe there will be fewer Memorial Day sales this year

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them. – Robert Laurence Binyon

My wife and I see our reflections in the Vietnam War memorial as I find the name of a high school classmate two died there.

Memorial Day Sales

These anger me because merchants raking in money and shoppers getting a good deal on the latest electronics equipment are not the purpose of this day.

Must we commercialize everything, including the day set aside for remembering our dead?

I’m by no means a hawk–just the opposite, actually. So, I do not see Memorial Day as part of the misbegotten notion that there are glory and honor in war.

Some say we should use the day to visit military cemeteries and memorials. That’s a better idea than heading over to Walmart and filling up a shopping cart. We could spend a quiet day at home or walking a favorite trail through the forest: such things allow us time to attune with the universe, ourselves, and our fallen soldiers.

‘All Quiet on the Western Front’

Reading this book at a relatively young age was a strong influence on my becoming a pacifist. The novel is graphic, shows the dying, the dead, and the battle-weary in ways that leave no space for saying “isn’t this glorious?” Not that I’m suggesting we all stay home and read military history, battlefield novels, or watching films like “Saving Private Ryan” or episodes from the old TV series “China Beach.”

You Don’t Need to Become a Pacifist to Remember

The fallen were doing their duty as they saw it, sometimes against their will (at times of conscription), whether we agreed with the need to fight a particular war or not. Those who came home from those wars have not forgotten the fallen. Those who came home and those who did not and the families and friends of both often supported the wars and the need to enlist, heart, body, and soul. Those who supported the cause and those who did not have an opportunity to come together on Memorial Day and remember those no longer with us whom we loved.

I’ve written somewhere in one of my novels that the true casualties of war are those who come home with or without PTSD. They need our support and understanding and, on Memorial Day, our solemn regard for those who were killed. There’s no support available from us while we push and shove through the crowded aisles on a big box store.

The stores I respect are those that close on Memorial Day out of reverence for the meaning of the day.

–Malcolm

 

 

Centuries of progress

A Facebook friend of mine reported today that her mother has just passed away after living for 100 years. The post reminded me that one of my aunts lived over a century and shared memories of the old days (crossing the country in a covered wagon) that to her were just as vivid as yesterday. She was physically frail for years and lived in a nursing home of sorts where my brothers and parents and I used to visit her.

Nursing Homes

When I was young, it bothered me a great deal that during all the years of my going to grade school and high school and college, she was living in that room. She knew everybody and had her fair share of visitors, so she didn’t lack for company. While I was bothered a lot about her being in that home, I didn’t know quite how to ask why because the question would have implied that somebody in the family in her part of the country should have taken her in.

Kirk Douglas

When Kirk Douglas died at 103 in February, the press and those who knew him talked about his accomplishments and the pride he must have had in the success of his extended family.  Of course, Douglas’ life was a public life, so his accomplishments are usually discussed in terms of movie roles. That’s not the case with our own family members

A Century of Progress

The 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago was called “A Century of Progress.” While it celebrated industry and invention, I always liked the larger meanings of its theme because I think they can apply to all of us whether we live 100 years or not. I have no idea what most people believe is the over-arching purpose of their lives. I think our purpose is to make progress, spiritual progress, more than wealth, power, or acclaim.

When we talk to people who’ve lived long lives, we tend to talk about what they remember and how they felt when monumental events and discoveries were made. Perhaps it’s too private to ask them how they’ve changed, and I suppose most would think it vain to even answer such a question. The standard joke about old-timers is that they reached an advanced age by smoking a pack of cigarettes a day along with a quart of whiskey.” Too bad that’s not true for most people.

My belief system doesn’t presume those who live a century do so from luck, fate, or the Lord’s intervention. I think they learn and continue learning and have plenty of advice to pass along to others if and when they found anyone willing to stop thinking about the latest fads and listen to their philosophies.

It would be presumptuous to suppose one became perfect during their one-hundred-year stay on this planet.  But one hundred years of improving day by day is worthy of mention. I can’t help but see that improvement as a Century of Progress.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of magical realism and contemporary fantasy novels and short stories.

 

A bunch of stuff for Sunday

  • We’re all looking for ways to cope with pandemic anxiety. You may find this free workbook from the Jung Center to be of help.
  • Several things have helped me cope. First, I don’t have to leave the house often. Also, I have chores (like mowing the yard) and enjoyable work (a new novel in progress). As you get older, you’ll discover that even with a riding mower, cutting the grass is a multi-day project. One day to cut it and several days to recover from all the aches and pains that arise from riding over a fairly rough yard that was part of a farm several years ago.
  • I’m re-reading Jeff Shaara’s historical novel A Chain of Thunder about Grant and Sherman’s siege of Vicksburg. Vicksburg is often overlooked by those who study the Civil War because the battle ended one day (July 4, 1863) after the Battle of Gettysburg (July 3, 1863). Both were important Union victories, but Vicksburg was far away in what was in those days called “The West” and Gettysburg was close at hand.
  • I know all of you have been waiting with bated breath for news about the pot roast I mentioned recently in my slow cooker post. It came out great. We’ll finish it at supper tonight: that means I’m not spending the afternoon in a hot kitchen. My wife grilled some asparagus for a tasty side dish.
  • With most of our regular TV shows done for the season, we have been turning once again to old movies. In addition to Netflix, we find many of them on Turner Classic Movies which is part of our basic package on DISH. The Noir Alley films air at midnight on Saturday. (We archive them to view later.) Many of TCM’s movies are introduced by hosts who provide a little background. I especially like Noir Alley’s Eddie Muller because he provides interesting facts about the movies, directors, stars, and trends before and after the films.
  • A favorite author of mine said she has a new book coming out soon. I can’t tell you who she is or the name of the book because it’s not yet in release and if I mention it here before the publisher announces it, there will be hell to pay. Fresh hell, probably.

–Malcolm

My novel Mountain Song is free on Kindle through the end of the day today.

The slow cooker blues

The blues don’t come from how great the pot roast tastes after it simmers for eight hours in a slow cooker. The blues come from the fact that after several hours or so, the entire house smells like supper is ready. This turns into an afternoon of snacking to keep one’s hunger at bay. Then, when it’s really time to eat, you’re no longer hungry.

Our house smells great right now because I peeled carrots and potatoes and quartered onions at the crack of dawn. I added a bunch of secret herbs and spices. I won’t tell you what those are because if you try them and don’t like them, y’all might turn into an angry mob. One tip: the cup of Port wine is what makes it work so well, and that’s odd because I really don’t like Port.

The inventor’s specs

The trick, I think, is to keep your afternoon snacks small–say, one Dorito or one Babybel® Cheese round out of the mesh bag or one chocolate chip cookie. Wash this down with about ten glasses of quality wine (preferably red though certainly not Port or bottom shelf Chianti).

We bought our first real Crock-Pot from Sunbeam (now Rival) in the 1970s when they were suddenly the best thing since fire. After a while, they became pas·sé, and those who still used them never told anybody since they’d be mocked as badly as those who admitted they were still drinking Mateus Rosé wine.

Now that their popularity has returned along with other time-saving devices aimed at families where both spouses have fulltime jobs, I can admit here in my blog that I’m making pot roast in a slow cooker (a real Crock-Pot, by the way).

Unfortunately, writing this post didn’t help with the hunger problem. Somewhere I read that every time you take off the lid to a Crock-Pot to check on what’s happening, you have to add 30 minutes to the cooking time. I have no idea whether that’s true, so I can even pretend to be tasting things (for quality control) the way I do when I make stew in the Dutch oven.

And it’s a bit early to be pouring a glass of wine.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell’s novel Mountain Song is free on Kindle.

 

Cormac McCarthy: Maybe not the best author to read during a pandemic

When I run out of factory fresh books, I turn to my bookshelves and re-read older books. I stumbled into the Cormac Mcarthy section recently (I have most of his books) and read Cities of the Plain. Most things go wrong in this book, but I read it all the way through because l like McCarthy’s dialogue, descriptions, and the tone of his books. I think he writes with grit and stars rather than ink. This book has a few good people in it.

I thought, what the hell, I’ll read another. I chose Outer Dark. This novel has a lot more grit in it and even the stars aren’t clean. It doesn’t have any good people in it, though some try hard to be good in narrow ways.

Guy Davenport, in The New York Times, said, “Nor does Mr,. McCarthy waste a single word on his character’s thoughts. With total objectivity, he describes what they do and records their speech. Such discipline comes not only from mastery over words but from an understanding wise enough and compassionate enough to dare to tell o abysmally dark a story.”

The fact that it’s so well written commits one to keep reading even though reading McCarthy is often like drinking poison for recreation. If it were badly written, it wouldn’t bother readers so much, especially when the world around us during this pandemic seems to have come out of something McCarthy might have orchestrated for his next novel or screenplay.

Time to move on to another section of my bookshelf.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell’s Mountain Song is free on Kindle.