…Funeral Trains, Facebook and Ferguson

FueneralTrain

I’m sitting in the heart of Ferguson Missouri.

I’m sitting in the heart of Ferguson Missouri, listening to Greg Brown sing, “The Train Carrying Jimmie Rodgers Home”.

I’m sitting in the heart of Ferguson Missouri contemplating exactly what type of curmudgeon I will become.

Our family moved to Ferguson in 1984. I was 30 years old and had the idea I wanted an old house. We purchased a small Victorian home built in 1890, it had three bedrooms, one and a half baths with an enormous formal dining room. We scraped, we sanded, we painted, we sawed and we hammered. We built a treehouse, created a perennial garden with antique roses. We also got involved in the community. Commissions, boards and local politics.

The Smith family (not their real name) lived next door to us. The Smith family were African-American. It was a non issue, we were a diverse community, that’s a big part of the beauty of Ferguson. Our oldest daughter when she became old enough to realize there were differences in race assigned flavors to people, not color. The Smiths were chocolate, we were peach (let’s be honest, who wants to be vanilla?)

Only one full bath was not enough for our growing family, all girls by the way, so in 1992 we bought a larger house in Ferguson. It was also built in 1890. We started the process of scraping, sanding, painting, sawing and hammering all over again.

We watched as the downtown area of Ferguson gained new life; new and refurbished restaurants, bakeries, bicycle shop, loft apartments and even a wine bar. Some of those businesses were owned by chocolate people, some by peach people and some by caramel people.

I watched last night as some of those businesses were damaged, destroyed and burned.

On the scale of world tragedies, this was not even a blip … logically I know that, but dammit, it’s my town!

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote, “What seems to us more important, more painful, and more unendurable is really not what is more important, more painful and more unendurable, but merely that which is closer to home. Everything distant which for all its moans and muffled cries, its ruined lives and millions of victims, that does not threaten to come rolling up to our threshold today, we consider endurable and of tolerable dimensions.”

I am proud of my town. I am proud of how we have grown as a diverse community. I am proud that we have people of all flavors living, working, dining and worshipping together.

I am bewildered by the hate that has been thrust on our sleepy little diverse town. I am bewildered that under the guise of furor over racial injustices, many of the businesses targeted were minority owned.


I am unlikely to become the type of curmudgeon who shakes my cane at children and yelling, “get off my lawn.” That’s not my nature, nor do I care that much about my lawn. If I can keep my weeds mowed to a reasonable height, that’s good enough for me.

I’m more likely to become the type of curmudgeon who longs for simpler and slower times. I’m hardly a Luddite. I love my iDevices. I got most of my news last night from Facebook and Twitter, but I’m not sure we are better for having instant and most times semi-accurate news and opinions thrust on us constantly.

When my house was built if you wanted to have a conversation with a neighbor, it meant talking face-to-face. It meant reading someones expressions and body language. It meant being able to shake their hand or give a pat on the back. It meant give and take because we were neighbors.

When the shooting death of Michael Brown first happened, I naïvely thought that at the least maybe some good conversation would come from that tragedy.

No one seemed to be talking last night.


Ferguson still has it’s original train depot. It now serves as a small museum and frozen custard shop. During it’s heyday it served primarily as a commuter station, carrying the residents of Ferguson back and forth from St. Louis to work or attend the theatre.

I doubt that any famous funeral trains ever stopped in Ferguson. Certainly not Abraham Lincoln’s or even Jimmie Rodger’s. I’m not sure if we ever had any funeral trains.

But one left the old Ferguson depot last night, it carried my innocence.

… Crazy Jazz Musicians up in the Trees

Everything but hurricanes, typhoons or gentle ocean breezes, that pretty much sums up the weather here in the Midwest. We get to enjoy the full breadth of everything Mother Nature can throw our way across the complete range of the four seasons.

Four seasons… and three out of four are pretty darn sweet.

Winter sucks ice balls!

I could go on and on about winter’s, so cold it hurts, sloppy, sliding, fall on your butt, then freeze it off, kind of weather but that’s not really the point of this blog post. This is to celebrate those crazy jazz musicians that live up in the trees for those wonderful three out of four seasons.

We live in an old neighborhood, our house was built in 1890. To say we have plenty of trees would be a big understatement. Those trees provide shelter for the wonderful critters that provide us with a nighttime serenade from spring through fall. I like to think of them as eccentric jazz musicians.

CricketCrickets

The crickets are the rhythm section, they lay down the beat for everyone else to follow. Crickets are so dependable in their rhythm that you can use their chirps to calculate the temperature. To convert cricket chirps to degrees Fahrenheit, count the number of chirps in 14 seconds, then add 40 to get the temperature. Example: 30 chirps + 40 = 70 degrees Fahrenheit. OK, that’s way too much math for this blogger. (Did you know there are three kinds of bloggers in the world, those who understand math and those who don’t?)

TreeFrogTree Frogs

Tree frogs are the bass players in this jazz quartet. Though not near as deep sounding as their bullfrog cousins, the tree frogs add a wonderful layer of rich undertones to the treetop symphony. They take their work seriously, bobbing their heads as they thump out the chords of their modal jazz interpretations.

KatydidKatydids

A contradiction in their existence, katydids are both shy and bold at the same time. Shy because they clothe themselves to mimic the leaves they inhabit and eat, but bold in their rhythms. Katydids put down some serious beats, drowning out the crickets and demanding, hey don’t look at me but listen to my tunes.

CicadaCicadas

These guys are my favorites. Googly eyed with thick lenses and bright-colored jackets, they are the true bebop specialists of this critter jazz ensemble. They don’t care about the rhythms that anyone else is laying down. When they are ready, they just let loose and give it  everything they have across as many octaves as they can cover.

Now truth be told, the rhythms that we enjoy from these crazy treetop musicians are not for our benefit. Like most young men that pick up a guitar, trumpet or upright bass, the music is great, but attracting a good-looking member of the opposite sex is an expected benefit, and that’s OK.

Winter is coming here in the Midwest, the leaves are dropping along with the temperatures and the band is starting to fall silent. Before long the spectrum of colors we have enjoyed during the previous three seasons will be reduced to shades of grey and brown. But the music will have done its magic. The musicians that have laid down the best beats will have also laid down with their cricket, tree frog, katydid and cicada groupies, ensuring that next spring a new generation of crazy treetop musicians will once again provide us with a wonderful nighttime symphony.

— BeachBumPoppy

… Something Old, Something New

I have no idea who gave us the aluminum 7 qt. stock pot I was getting ready to recycle. As wedding presents go it had survived very well. It was not perfect but it was still functional. The delightfully tacky 70’s design enameled around the base was intact. The handles were starting to get loose and the bottom had gotten a little rounded over the years, but whose hasn’t?

Forty years ago I had very little interest in most of the wedding presents we had received, let alone anything related to cooking. I was much more concerned with counting the gift cash we had received, packing the Camaro and getting on the road with my high school sweetheart, turned wife.

 As newlyweds the stock pot dutifully received anything schlepped into it, the canned soups and prepackaged chili mixes. It never complained that it was just used to warm things up to an edible temperature, not really “cooking.”

 A few years later and over several different time periods it served as a baby bottle sterilizer.

 It delivered countless hard-boiled eggs, not for eating, but decorated for Easter egg hunts, delighting our growing family.

 Shortly after the birth of our first grandson, and a day before Thanksgiving, Mrs Beachbum came down with the flu and was unable to cook. I jumped in, took over the prep and cooking duties, delivered an edible Thanksgiving dinner and discovered that I liked to cook. Mrs Beachbum later confessed that she had never enjoyed cooking and was more than willing to turn those duties over to me.

 The canned soups from our newlywed days have turned into hand crafted creations with fresh vegetables and simmering stock. The number of grandchildren has grown to two and the wedding gift stock pot soldiered on.

 But as my cooking skills slowly increased my satisfaction with that stockpot slowly decreased. I became more aware of the loose handles, the thin metal and it’s inability to sit flat on a burner without rocking.

So I bought a new one!

Am I sad to see the old one go? Not really, yes there are some good memories associated with that utensil, but at the end of the day, it’s just a thing. I will still be cooking soups for my high school sweetheart, our kids and grandkids … I’ll just be doing with a brand new stock pot with a flat bottom!

— BeachBumPoppy

pots

…Tom Joad’s Mom

A view from Ferguson Missouri –

 I’ve debated for sometime if I should write about Ferguson. As a resident the events are very real and very raw. I have no great wisdom, solutions or opinions to offer. This is just a perspective from a resident who cares about his neighbors and community.

TomJoad

In John Steinbeck’s classic novel, “The Grapes of Wrath”, there is a scene where Tom Joad first finds his mother after being released from prison and the following dialogue takes place:

“Tommy, I got to ask you–you ain’t mad?”

“Mad, Ma?”

“You ain’t poisoned mad? You don’t hate nobody? They didn’t do nothin’ in that jail to rot you out with crazy mad?”

I think I can speak for most Ferguson residents, we are stressed right now, we are tired of sirens and helicopters, we are tired of half truths and innuendo, we are tired of advice offered from experts who have never visited our community or those who just dropped by for their 5 minutes in front of a camera.

We are a diverse community. We have proven for years that we can not only get along, but also grow and improve as a diverse community.

We aren’t perfect, not even close; we exhibit the same capacity as all humans, to float between the planes of angels and demons, regardless of skin color. To put that more crudely, there are black jerks and white jerks, black saints and white saints. Our ability to thrive as a diverse community will be based on accepting each other for who we are, saints and sinners.

To view people of any race, religion, political group or profession as a monolithic block is very efficient, it saves you the trouble of having to get to know them as individuals and they can then be simply referred to as “those people”. Please Ferguson, don’t allow ourselves to be divided on simple terms like that.

Let’s fight the good fight of faith, faith in our selves, faith in our neighbors, faith in our community, faith in the better angels of our nature.

I for one refuse to be “rotted out with crazy mad!”

 

… Sounding Educated

Bowtie

I’ve given up on looking intelligent. I can’t tie a bowtie and I don’t smoke a pipe. Yes, it’s true I have a beard, a grey one even, but in all honesty it shouts age more than wisdom.

So what’s a guy to do?

If I can’t look smart then maybe the next best thing is sounding smart. And what screams education and intelligence more than being able to drop a few Latin phrases at key times during a conversation? The problem is that most well known Latin phrases are kind of boring. How often can you effectively employ, “time flies”, “seize the day” or “let the buyer beware”, during the course of normal conversation?

Enter modern Latin

What we need are modern Latin quotes that can be used during everyday conversation. Latin quotes that will amaze our friends, dazzle our co-workers and intimidate our adversaries.

Say you need a snappy comeback for those aggravating people in your life, maybe even your boss. Sure you could say, “Eat my shorts”, but how much more effective would that be in Latin, “Vescere bracis meis.”

That young lady at your office who is having trouble finding Mister Right, just imagine how grateful she will be to hear your words of wisdom in Latin, “Brevior saltare cum deformibus viris est vita” (Life is too short to dance with ugly men), or perhaps, “Viri sunt viri” (men are slime).

Need a good educated sounding insult? Try this one, “Mater tua tam obesa est ut cum Romae est, urbs habet octo colles!”,  (Your momma is so fat, when she’s in town Rome has eight hills!)

Here’s a few more:

Detesto Lunedi (I hate Mondays).

Diabolus fecit, ut id facerem (The devil made me do it).

Sit simplex, stulte (Keep it simple, stupid).

Capiamus cerevisiam (Let’s grab a beer).

Vene, Vidi, Velcro (I came, I saw, I stuck around).

Cogito cogito ergo cogito sum (I think that I think, therefore I think that I am).

Ubi non accusitor, ibi non judex (where there is no cop, there is no speed limit).

Quondo omni flunkus mortati (When all else fails, play dead).

And if you don’t like any of these, well, “Vescere braces meis!

… Taxes and Feral Cats

We are a family of softies (at least when it comes to critters). If you are a bug that has found your way into our house chances are you will be escorted out of the house rather than being stomped on.

Unless you’re brown recluse spider in which case I will pull out the 12 gauge Mossberg shotgun and blast your little spider guts into arachnid hell … oops, sorry, got a little carried away there … where was I? Oh yeah, we are a kind-hearted family.

FeralCat

So when the first feral cat showed up at our back porch a couple of years ago during winter, meowing and acting all pathetic what do you suppose we did … you’re correct, we fed the poor little creature. Continue reading

… mosquitos and bad drivers

Two eyes focused on the road ahead of me, one ear listening to the ballgame, the other ear is tuned to the pleasant drone of incessant chatter from my 7-year-old grandson in the backseat (which would be annoying if it came from anyone else).

The Cardinals have just taken a 2 to 1 lead over the Brewers when a deep philosophical question was offered from behind me, “Poppy, why did God invent mosquitos?”

The pressure is on… the great “Poppy” can’t say, “I don’t know,” my mind is racing trying to come up with a logical and theologically correct answer that would make sense to a 7-year-old. But all I can think about is buzzing, biting, scratching, malaria and yellow fever. And I’m not going to touch original sin with a 10-foot flyswatter! Continue reading