Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Thoughts on turning 61 and how I came to be

It was the middle of May, 1945.
The young couple had celebrated their 2nd wedding anniversary on May 7.

German forces in Berlin had surrendered the city to Soviet troops on May 2, 1945, and the western allies celebrated V-E Day on May 8.

They may have had a romantic dinner,
perhaps a bottle of wine.

A gentle spring breeze was blowing through their bedroom windows,
stirring the curtains ever so slightly.

Forces beyond their control had brought them together.

Cy was born and raised in the tiny town of Gordon (pop. 2,000) in the northwestern part of the Nebraska panhandle.

He began college at Creighton University in Omaha but transferred to Chadron College after his mother's untimely death and graduated from Chadron with an A.B. degree in 1935,
the first of his family line to earn a college degree.

Cy's father Bill, was a rough-shod railroad foreman with steely-blue eyes
who fell in love with Mae, the beautiful Irish daughter of 2nd generation immigrants.

Mae's parents Dennis and Mary moved from Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin to homestead in some of the last land available in the U.S. in the sand hill country near Gordon.
Mae's father died in his 40s, leaving her mom to raise the family and run the ranch by herself.
Mary was one tough cookie - a great horsewoman and cook.

Bill's ancestors immigrated to the New World from England in 1635 and moved west with the first wave of Mormons to leave New England in the 1830s. His great-grandfather John had been a close associate of Joseph Smith and crafted the ironwork for the first Mormon temple in Kirtland, Ohio outside of Cleveland.

Cy was 16 at the beginning of the Great Depression, and he vowed to make a better future for himself than was available to a young man in the vast emptiness of the High Plains during those hard years.

After college graduation, Cy moved to Washington, DC to put himself through George Washington University Law School, taking classes at night while working for the WPA during the day. He received a Juris Doctor degree in 1939 and was commissioned an Officer in the U.S. Navy.

Millie moved to Washington, DC from Plant City, Florida
after graduating from nearby Florida Southern College, staying with an aunt who lived nearby. Millie descended from a long line of college-educated women.
Her great-great grandfather had been a circuit-riding Methodist preacher, school teacher and teacher of singing schools to the sparsely-populated mountains of North Carolina during the early 1800s.

Cy was 26, and Millie was 20 on September 1, 1939 when Hitler invaded Poland and sparked World War II. On September 3 the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and France responded by declaring war on Germany. Japan attacked the U.S. Naval base at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. On December 11 Germany and Italy declared war on the U.S. About 62 million people, or 2.5% of the world's population died in the war.

Cy was commissioned an officer and spent the war as a U.S. Navy lawyer at the Pentagon.

They met while working for the Navy Department in the Navy Annex, which overlooks the Pentagon.
Their wedding was held in Plant City, Florida on May 7, 1943. He was just a month shy of his 30th birthday and cut a dashing figure in his Navy dress whites. She looked the part of a southern belle at age 24 in her long white lace gown.

At the consummation of their love on that warm spring night,
his DNA merged with hers,
and a new being was formed.
The biological instructions in Cy and Millie's DNA had been handed down from their respective parents,
who in turn inherited their instructions from their parents and so on back to the beginning of life on this planet.

She would have been about 11 1/2 weeks pregnant,
and I would have been about the size of a kidney bean
on August 6, 1945 - the day the Enola Gay dropped the atomic bomb dubbed "Little Boy" on Hiroshima.
Three days later, a B-29 named Bockscar dropped the second atomic bomb, "Fat Man" on the port city of Nagasaki. The Japanese surrendered on August 14, or V-J Day.

On a cold Valentine's night in Arlington, Virginia on 1946,
it was almost midnight when
a young mother brought her firstborn into the world
who now writes this post.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Commercials - the bane of my living room

Why do commercials affect me so negatively?
I wish it were not so,
for when they come on,
my head hurts.

It's like a big ASS comes farting out of the TV screen.

And so I must reach for the remote,
which creates dissent.

If I could,
I would be like everyone else,
and just ignore the commercials.
But there is no other option,
and I must be like myself.

I resent mind control.

I will not
drink their beer,
watch their movie,
or buy their car.

I will not be manipulated.

I must lack some filter
that everyone else has,
or maybe my ears are just too sensitive

Sometimes I do not like being me.

This is the next day, and I've had time to think more about this issue.

I think my distaste for commercials is rooted in three of the central traits of my personality.

I'm the poster child for adult ADHD;
I am HIGHLY distractable.
In college I had trouble finding a place to study.
The dorm was too noisy,
and the library was too quiet;
the books on any nearby shelf always beckoned for my attention.
I could always find a reason to procrastinate and do anything other than studying,
such as making up song lists for my band.

This explains my mediocre college grades.

And so I cannot resist the distraction of commercials;
they intrude on my serenity
and make it impossible to think about anything
other than what they are trying to sell me.
(Which I know is their purpose.)

My ears are extremely sensitive to input.
(I don't mean that I can hear better than other people,
because I often have trouble understanding speech).

I mean that sounds affect me more - or differently - than most people.

When I first started work for C&P Telephone in 1969, the business office where I worked had Muzak playing through the overhead speakers. The sounds of crappy elevator music nearly drove me crazy, although the office full of 75 other workers seemed unaffected. I remember holding both my hands over my ears trying to concentrate on writing memos.

And so commercials rivet my attention in a very uncomfortable way.

Is this a kind of insanity - experiencing a vastly different reality than anyone else?)

I crave independence of thought.
Some kind of internal "intrusion attempt alarm" (for want of a better word) goes off in my head whenever I suspect that I am the object of an attempt to manipulate me.
I cannot control the bristling feeling inside when a voice shouts at me from the TV set,
or the seductive scene begins
that will end in a car commercial
or an ad for a TV show or movie.

It doesn't really matter whether I like the product or not;
I just cannot stand being manipulated.

Is this a kind of insanity?

I grew up in the 1950s-60s during the struggle for Civil Rights and the conflict over the Vietnam War.
Now in retrospect I realize that I had been fed a pack of lies all along.

Lies about the inferiority of black people,
lies about the nobility of the southern cause in the Civil War,
lies about the Vietnam war,
lies about Russia,
lies about sex.

It took nearly a lifetime for me to come to my own conclusions about these issues.

In the 1960s I wasn't sure who was telling the truth about Vietnam.
In college I had John Birch Society friends and listened to their impassioned arguments;
I also had "hippie" friends whose walls were plastered with SNCC and SDC anti-war posters;
I also listened to their impassioned arguments.
I tried my best to understand each point of view,
because I sensed that the real truth lay somewhere in between.

I remember seeing news of forced school integration in the south;
the fire hoses being turned on crowds of black people;
the violence after Martin Luther King's assassination.
From our house I could see the smoke rising from the riots in Washington DC.
I believed violence and destruction was wrong.
(In retrospect I don't know how else such fundamental social change could have come about.)

All the same, I was not one of those brave souls who participated in the protest marches.
I served in the Navy during 1968-69
and immediately thereafter began a career with C&P Telephone Company,
and was too concerned about keeping my job and supporting my family.
I stayed on the sidelines of life,
letting other people with stronger convictions man the front lines.

Boy, this post is wandering far afield from its initial focus on my distaste for commercials.
I suppose I got going on the track of explaining how I have acquired a built-in distaste for attempts to convince me of something I know I should determine for myself.

Okay, now I've wasted sufficient time at work
instead of doing my job.

Do you see that this is a perfect example of my ADHD?

To be continued...