As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning: A Memoir – Laurie Lee

When I was a young man I was not a very adventurous person. I was a homebody not comfortable with long distance travel on my own. I suspect this was a result of my upbringing, with parents who allowed me to sleep over at a friend’s house only once in my life, and who would not allow me, even at the age of eighteen, to go to my girlfriend’s college homecoming event across the state. I don’t know why not, but I presumed it was because of what we might do when we were off on our own (like we hadn’t already done pretty much whatever we wanted by that time). To tell the truth, I was a little relieved when they wouldn’t let me go. The idea of driving to her college across the state, on my own, figuring out where I was going to stay, and the novelty of the situation all made me nervous.

Oh, how I wish now that I had been a braver soul then. Today I am able and happy to travel to unknown places on my own, but I will never be able to experience places and people in the same way I would have in my youth. Indeed, age even places greater limits on the places I am able to go. I’m never going to hike the wilderness.

So it is with great admiration that I read the stories of people who left home at a young age to wander around another part of the world, let alone across the state. Such is the story of Laurie Lee when he left his rural English childhood home to first go to London and then to wander across Spain.

I suppose that one must be young to travel as he did, busking his way from city to village without any other means of financial support. When you are young, you are more flexible and more willing to deal with the exigencies such travel entails. Go hungry for a few days, eat food that is unknown to you, go without bathing for a few weeks, hike through wind, snow and rain . . . much more likely to roll with those punches when you are young than when you are older and have grown accustomed to the comforts of life.

Anyways, back to the book. This book is the second in the trilogy comprised of this book, Cider with Rosie and A Moment of War. I’ve already written about Cider with Rosie and A Moment of War will follow, as I am going to read it as soon as the book arrives. As I Walked Out covers a relatively short period of time, but it was the time that Spain was erupting into civil war. Had the author started on his trip through Spain just a little later, his experience would have been very different, and indeed, in A Moment of War, he describes what it was like to go back to Spain to attempt to participate in the war.

While Laurie Lee is apparently well-known in England, I had never heard of him before I stumbled across Cider with Rosie. With As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning, I have also become a Laurie Lee enthusiast. I have read the first few chapters of A Moment of War and am looking forward to reading the whole book.

There are those who have criticized the historical accuracy of Mr. Lee’s accounts, but even if not one-hundred percent accurate, they convey the spirit of the time and the conditions of his travels in a way that keeps you reading, or at least kept me reading. And not only kept me reading, but had me wishing that I had had bigger balls when I was young and that I had tales to tell now that would be worth telling.

Finished 10/2/16

Air Rifles: A Buyer’s and Shooter’s Guide (Survival Guns) (Volume 3) – Steve Markwith

This book was written from a survivalist’s perspective, but it contains really good, practical information and advice about air rifles in general. It is well written in an interesting fashion. The author knows his stuff. If you want an introduction to air rifles, this is a good book for you. Don’t let the “survival” aspect of this book dissuade you. While that is the perspective of this book, the information is more widely applicable.

Finished 9/14/16

bookmark: cider with rosie

Cider with Rosie: A Memoir – Laurie Lee

We are all bound to a place and time, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t do a little armchair traveling, both in time and place. So it was with Cider with Rosie. I had the opportunity to live as a child in the early 1900s in a rural village in England. That child is Laurie Lee, the author of this book, who lived there from the age of three until he was eighteen. He lived in a cottage with his mother, seven brothers and sisters, and an absent father.

With no running water or electricity, it would seem to have been a harsh existence, but the author largely recalls his childhood as a happy time. Writing as he did several decades later, I’m sure his memory was hazed by time, but even then it does not sound like a bad place to have grown up.

My grandmother grew up about this time, too, having been born just before the turn of the century (that’s before the last century – before 1900). There were parallels between her life and the author’s, but living in a rural area in England definitely was different than Chicago in the U.S. Still, changes in technology and culture affected both to degree that is fascinating to me. I suppose, if I could have had grandchildren, that they would be hard pressed to imagine my early life with no microwave ovens, no cell phones, no computers, no internet, no . . . well, too many things to list!

If you would like to be transported back to what seems to be a more innocent time (it was not – it was at the end of the First World War) in rural England, I can recommend this book. In addition to writing his memoirs and other prose, Mr. Laurie was a poet, and his love and use of the English language is engaging throughout. Though I thought at times that his writing might have been just a bit overwrought, it was still a book well enjoyed.

Addendum – This book is the first of a trilogy of memoirs by the author. Mr. Lee also wrote As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning (about his travels through Spain) and A Moment of War (his short time in Spain participating, or trying to participate, in the Spanish Civil War.) I will update this post with links to the other books as I read them.

Finished 8/31/16

Advantages of Moving into a 55+ Park: How to Enjoy Your Retirement Even on a Budget – Jerry Minchey

Having read Mr. Minchey’s book on retiring in an RV, I thought I would see what he had to say about retiring to a 55+ retirement park. Guess what? He says pretty much the same thing. Indeed, much of it is word-for-word. Not that I’m criticizing; re-purposing your writing is a good way to make it go further and earn you additional dollars. On the other hand, if I had paid for both books it would have pissed me off, but I didn’t.

Still, good information, and at least half the book is specifically about living in a 55+ retirement park. I don’t think it is the lifestyle for me, though. Too many people too close together. I think I could more easily see myself retiring in a motorhome. Then again, you never know how the cards may fall.

Finished 8/20/16

Motorhome and RV Retirement Living: The Most Enjoyable and Least Expensive Way to Retire – Jerry Minchey

As I was going through my latest move, I was overwhelmed with all the “stuff” I have. I started to really feel that my life was being controlled by my stuff, rather than me controlling my stuff. I remember my mother hitting a point in her life where she went through everything in the house and started getting rid of stuff that was no longer important to her. I now totally understand that. Indeed, as my wife and I are trying to sort through everything that I moved back into our house, there is some discarding going on, but probably not nearly enough.

Why is that relevant to this “bookmark” post? Because if you decide that you want to retire and live full-time in an RV, you better be prepared to get rid of a lot of stuff, and the subject book is all about retiring full-time to an RV.

Besides the appeal of lightening your life by cutting your possessions back to those that would store easily in an RV, there is the appeal of travel. My wife and I have wanted to do that for years, and perhaps this lifestyle would finally allow it.

To get a handle on what it would take to retire full-time in an RV, I read this book. I’ve had it on my Kindle for a bit, though I’m not sure how I got it. It most likely was a deal, though it is only $2.99 to buy in Kindle format on Amazon. There are a few spelling and grammar issues, but unlike some Kindle books, not enough to distract from reading it.

Mr. Minchey give a good overview of what you will need to consider when assessing the lifestyle. Everything from shopping for an RV, to lifestyle cost considerations, to making money from an RV (money never hurts, particularly when you are retired), to healthcare and other subjects. The book offers solid information from a man who has done, and is doing, what he writes about. This may not be the “bible” of RV retirement, but it covers all the basics and will give you a good idea of whether the lifestyle is something you should consider or not.

I have to admit, the author makes it sound easier to do than I would think. The hardest part would be getting rid of the bulk of stuff I own. It would also require changes to hobbies. It’s a little difficult to pack a whole wood shop into an RV, but there are alternatives. Besides, maybe I’m ready for a change.

Finished 8/17/16

money for nothing, checks for free

Adding to the list of firsts in my life, today I received my first Social Security check, actually my first Social Security direct deposit. Even though I knew it was coming, when I checked online to see if it had been deposited it was the weirdest feeling to have money appear in my checking account without having worked for it. Of course, as my wife was quick to point out, I did work for it. I have been putting money into Social Security for many, many years (hmm, thinking about that, it has been fifty years – wow!). So while it may only be what is due me, it still feels a bit wrong to take that money.

I have to admit, though, that it is nice to have that income. Knowing that no matter what happens with my job, I at least have that monthly Social Security amount to carry me through, though it would be more like being carried through on a stretcher rather than riding in a limousine. Oh well, much better than the nothing that I would have otherwise.

As a senior citizen, now that I am receiving Social Security payments, you can bet your bottom dollar that I will fight just as hard as other senior citizens to keep that payment coming in, without being compromised by some cost-cutting politician. I don’t deny that the system needs changing, but you can’t yank something away from someone after they are receiving it. Well, they could do that, but talk about an open revolt! Instead, they really need to put individual retirement funds into the hands and management of the people who earn the money. No, not likely to happen. The government likes having those funds coming into their coffers. They can play games with that; they can’t when it’s in the hands of the people.

Odd how getting Social Security can change your way of thinking. Living on just Social Security (and that’s all I have for retirement) would drastically reduce my standard of living, but if I could accept that, or combine that with somehow reducing costs, it would mean that I could live anywhere and do whatever I want, as long as it doesn’t cost money. That kind of freedom is alluring, even if it means living close to poverty.

All my life I have given my job priority. I have worked some ridiculous hours at some boring jobs for asshole bosses, and yet I did it because I needed a job. Suddenly I’m in a position where I could tell my boss to shove it if he required more commitment from me than I am willing to give. (The job I am in now and have been for almost twenty-one years has been a good one, with good people to work for – it was earlier employment that is described above.) I have to admit that it makes me feel not quite as dedicated to my job and unwilling to take on extra projects. Give that to the younger people who still are building careers, and who still need the income to pay the bills.

I’m sure I will get used to receiving Social Security, and it won’t take long. There’s no shortage of places to spend money and this will only help. Nice to finally get something out of the system instead of just paying into it.

Why is it that I get nostalgic for music that was before my era? The music of my youth is that of the 1950s, and mostly1960s and 1970s, so why does the music of the 20s, 30s and 40s resonate with me? If I was someone who believed in reincarnation I could easily believe that there was a World War II soldier who found his rebirth in me.

Then again, maybe it’s just the music. After decades of listening to music played by bands that consist mainly of four or five instruments, the lusher, more complex sounds of the big band era just is a more satisfying auditory experience. Maybe it’s just me getting older. The more primitive, tribal, feel-it-in-your-balls kind of music has lost its appeal to this testosterone challenged old fart and the richer, easier to listen to music provides greater comfort in my old age.

Maybe I am experiencing the same music time shift that my son feels. Seems that some of his favorite music is the stuff that his mom and I used to listen to when he was growing up. That theory would work if my parents listened to much music, but it really was a rarity in our house, at least as far as I can remember. My mom had some 45s that we played on our kid’s record player, but the only ones I can remember are Nothing but a Hound Dog, Love Me Tender, and How Much Is That Doggie in the Window, and I don’t remember her playing them at all. Then again, maybe she did and her music is a subconscious memory for me, but I don’t think so. And my dad? When I was a teen he used to listen to the radio when he was getting ready for work in the morning, but as I remember it, he listened to the same stuff I listened to on WLS, and that was the only time I recall him listening to music.

I do remember that when my mom and I were going somewhere together alone in the car, she would put on “the world’s most beautiful music” radio station (okay Chicagoans, which station was that?). It was mostly orchestral arrangements of popular songs from a slightly earlier era. I always enjoyed that, but such times were pretty rare.

Maybe it’s because my early years of music listening still held remnants of actual musical orchestration. This included the music of Johnny Mathis, Bobby Darin and, of course, Frank Sinatra. As well, I always appreciated songs that were more complex musically, though I do not deny the attraction of music that appealed to the more animalistic side of me.

Whatever the reason, today’s musical menu includes Frank Sinatra, Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw and Benny Goodman. And what the heck, it’s only four months or so until Christmas, so maybe I’ll sneak a few Christmas songs in, too.

By the way, for those trying to think of the radio station that played “the world’s most beautiful music,” it was WAIT. They actually trademarked that phrase.

Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders – Neil Gaiman

I’ve been disappointed a few times by Mr. Gaiman’s books. Never the whole book, but usually the resolution of the tale. With a book of short stories and poems such as this book, that doesn’t tend to be an issue. If you don’t particularly care for one story, you can find hope in the next one. In truth, only a few of the stories left me wanting more and several of them left me sitting back in my chair saying, “Now that was a good one.”

Previously published elsewhere, I was not familiar with any of the stories. I guess I don’t usually read the publications that the stories have appeared in before. It’s good that these collections become available for people like me.

Reading the stories really made me wonder if I could write something as good. For someone who keeps toying with the idea of doing some “real” writing, it is inspirational to read these stories. The stories were almost Ray Bradbury-ish, which is a good thing. Fantasy tinged with reality, or reality tinged with fantasy, it’s a good combination either way.

Finished 8/11/16

where did july go?

Well, July flew by in a hurry, but it didn’t go by quick enough. So what was I doing all of July? Moving.

If you have read this blog, you would have known this was coming from this post. But knowing it is coming and doing it are two different things. Though we have had months to be packing and preparing, we fell back on old ways and pushed it to the limit. We packed up the last of my stuff and cleaned the last of the house at 11:00 pm on July 31. An hour later and we would have been staying over my lease. That night we came home and left the van packed and just fell into bed.

While it was just my wife and I moving a lot of the smaller stuff to our house, we did hire two guys that worked their asses off for a day. I rented a 17 foot U-Haul truck for the day and we had to do two trips. If it wasn’t for those two guys, we couldn’t have done it. As it was, at the end of the second trip, not only did we have to unload the stuff at my house, but we had a couch and love seat that had to go to relatives over an hour away, some boxes of stuff for my son, who lives close to those relatives, and then back towards home to drop off a queen-size bed and bed frame at another relative’s house. The guys we hired didn’t go on the long distance runs, so we had to move that stuff, with the help of my son. That was another long day. I burned up a lot of vacation time during this move and am grateful that I had that much to spare. We needed it.

But if anyone thinks that moving is all about getting the stuff out of the old location, then they have never moved before. We have stuff stacked all over our house, so much so that it looks like a hoarder’s house, with only a small path to walk from the front door to the back door. At least there’s a path! Figuring out where to put what and what to get rid of is almost a bigger chore than moving. (That’s a lie – moving was the biggest chore – almost too much for two people old enough to be on social security.) As my wife is retired, she has been dealing with most of the settling in of the stuff, but even still, you can’t put ten pounds of stuff in a five pound bag. Not to mention that we are still preparing one of the rooms in the house for me – patching, painting, carpeting, etc. – so we don’t yet have the place available that much of the stuff is going into.

Still, with all the work and all the hassle, it is where I want to be now. I hope that my wife and I can coexist in the same space without wanting to move out, because I ain’t moving again! So far, so good, and I think things will work out fine. You get older, you learn lessons, and you work things out.

We are looking forward to having things get settled so that we can actually do something fun, in other words, unrelated to the moving process. We’ll get there, hopefully by Thanksgiving. If we don’t, it will be a little tough having everyone over for Thanksgiving. So there’s our first goal – get all the stuff out of the dining room before then. I think we can do it.

And last, but certainly not least, I have to thank my wife for her patience and hard work in getting this move done. It has totally turned her world upside down, but she seems to be handling it well, for the most part. I hope this move is worth it to her as much as it is to me.

the usual election rant

This is going to be a particularly unsavory political season. With a sleaze-ball candidate for both major parties, there is just nothing good to look forward to. It’s disgusting when I have to agree with Clinton on many of the things she says about Trump. Trump is going to have to get on more solid ground with his criticisms of Clinton, something other than invective, if anyone (with a brain) is going to take him seriously.

It’s not like Clinton is hard to legitimately criticize. She carries more baggage than an Airbus A380. All Trump has to do is pound away at her with the facts, but he just can’t seem to do it without the playground name-calling. Yes, a very large part of Trump’s popularity is his propensity for “telling it like it is,” but unfortunately that does not seem to include presenting any hard, specific facts on how he is going “make American great again.”

Clinton has made very clear how she wants to deal with issues that concern me. I have no need to hear one more word out of her mouth this whole campaign (oh, I could only hope). Actually, it has already come to the point that when a political ad or the news comes on and either Trump or Clinton is speaking, I change the channel or turn off the sound. You just have to do these thing to help save your sanity.

The only greater fear I have than Trump being elected, is Clinton being elected. How I hate elections that come down to voting for the lesser of two evils. In elections like this, I have to vote my conscience and vote Libertarian. In truth, that is the party that truly reflects my values. One may say that a vote against Trump is a vote for Clinton, but when either alternative scares the hell out of you, what does it matter? I suspect the Libertarian party will do rather well this year. If so, it may be a sign that at least some people are starting to understand our country’s problems and who has the real solutions. One can only hope.