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October 5, 2011

Curmudgeon’s Joy

Ranting can be a true source of enjoyment and self-entertainment (you thought I wrote this blog for the readers?). My mother used to call it, ‘getting on your soapbox’, and I never miss a chance.

After ringing phones, what other pet peeves can I go on and on ad nauseam about? Hmm, I know, fireworks. I strongly dislike fireworks. I don’t revile them; I’ve watched fireworks many times and enjoyed them occasionally. They are extremely common here in Messina, almost a nightly, certainly a weekly occurrence. The best fireworks show I ever saw was midsummer in West Yellowstone, Montana, right over the airport where we parked and laid down on the car hood. It seemed like we were part of the explosive color spectacle. It went on and on, wasting money for tourism. The worst was in Hermosillo, Mexico, where they shot them straight up over the crowd of thousands and they came straight down, starting fires and killing people right in front of me.

What is the point of fireworks? Nothing. We shoot rockets that blow up just to watch them. They can be beautiful or terrifying, if, for example, you, like me, saw the Challenger explosion live. Exploding stuff is an extremely popular form of entertainment for most people. Entire films are based on it, mere excuses to blow stuff up.

But not everything that blows up is fun. I was in Zimbabwe during the Civil War, as you can read about if you scan down about a year, and every day we heard bombs going off and machine gun fire, grenades, small arms and land mines, out in the country, over the copse, just outside our compound. On the one hand, I was too young to feel as frightened as I should have, we had assurances from both sides that we were in a safe zone, but, on the other, I got the disturbing sensation of hearing a war being fought within a mile of me every day. It shook the earth.

Then I went to Angola. I didn’t want to, but I had no choice. It was 1975 during the violent transition of power from the Portuguese to the African government. All factions against each other and all against the Portuguese who just picked up and ran. It was bloody chaos.

I was flying from Johannesburg to Rio de Janeiro, and the pilot announced we’d be stopping briefly for humanitarian reasons, to pick up refugees, Portuguese and foreigners escaping for their lives. Flying low over Luanda, we saw fires and battles, smoke and destruction. The city was being rocked and shelled, as were we.

They took us off the plane; we were scared we wouldn’t get back on. I looked out on the runway and saw a man offering a bag of cash to a small plane pilot who had bullet holes all over his plane. In another section of the terminal, thousands of people were pressed to the glass hoping to get onto our plane. We only had about 8 or 10 empty seats. After hours listening to the shelling around us, we got back to our places and took off and flew over the Atlantic. Safely.

Then I was in Israel or Palestine a couple years later, aware of the conflicts without understanding the exact dynamic. I was camping by myself on the Sea of Galilee, not far from the border with Lebanon and somewhere near Syria and Jordan. I slept under a lone tree by the water, knowing there were armed adversaries all around me. In the night, bombs awoke me. This time I was stunned because I didn’t know whether to get out of my sleeping bag and which way to run to get out of the middle of the battle.

Maybe this was the end, I was in or near the middle of a series of explosions I couldn’t identify or understand. It was pitch black. I imagined Israelis and Palestinians shooting machine guns over my head. The bombs or grenades almost blew my ears out. My eyes focused in the dark. I saw a boat on the water near the shore. Coming at me? Are they all trying to kill little ol’ me?

After straining my eyes and sleepy mind, I finally got it. I’d heard about this but never seen it done. The middle-of-the-night fishermen were using dynamite to kill or stun all the fish in the area and scoop them up, easy but disastrous for the future of fishing in that giant lake. Oh man, you guys scared me to death. Damn dynamite. Damn Galilee fishermen.

So, having been in three wars already, without fighting myself, I hear those thuds and booms and am reminded every time of the real thing, not the simulation. Flowers of sparkles in the dark sky is a nice idea, but it is just too similar to the sights and sounds of war, pain, death.

Anything else I can bitch about? I’ll let you know.

Happy trials, Martin

Mutt:  How about this weather we’ve been having?
Jeff:  Everybody complains, but nobody does anything about it.
Mutt:  If a farmer raises wheat in dry weather, what does he raise in wet weather?
Jeff:  An umbrella?
Mutt:  Question: What kind of coat can be put on only when wet? Don’t know? I’ll tell you. A coat of paint.
Jeff:  What do you call a frightened skindiver? I’ll tell you. Chicken of the sea.
Mutt:  Good one. How can a leopard change his spots?
Jeff:  Oh, I don’t know, by moving?
Mutt:  Very good, my man.
Jeff:  My turn. What day of the year is a command to go forward?
Mutt:  Huh?
Jeff:  March 4th.
Mutt:  What did the razor blade say to the razor? No guess? Schick 'em up!
Jeff:  I don’t get it. Uh, what has four wheels and flies?
Mutt: P.U. A garbage truck.
Jeff:  You like the old ones, huh?
Mutt:  Okay, what goes up into the air white and comes down yellow and white?
Jeff:  I know this, but can’t remember.
Mutt:  An egg.
Jeff:  Oh yeah.
Mutt: What four letters could end a game of hide and seek?
Jeff:  O. I. C. U. You still play hide and seek?
Mutt:  With my wife I do. All right, here’s a great one.
Jeff:  Really?
Mutt:  Yeah. What is the difference between a cat and a comma?
Jeff:  No idear.
Mutt:  A cat has claws at the end of its paws, and a comma has a pause at the end of its clause.
Jeff:  Did your English teacher tell you that?
Mutt:  My English teacher has no sense of humor.
Jeff:  They never do.


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Anonymous said...

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