I woke up way too early this morning, as a result of far too many diet sodas at the Japanese restaurant last night. Fortunately, after popping off an e mail or two, I managed to get some sleep again, and wake once more at a useful hour.
We lunched at the little Australian pub place, watching the Dallas Cowboys reverse last week's misfortunes and top the former Houston Oilers, who moved to Tennessee and renamed themselves Titans. Since last week Dallas lost to the new Houston team, a sort of poetic justice was at play.
I am such a herd animal! I do not really follow sports all that assiduously, but a win by the local pro football team can still positively affect my mood. I don't even believe in pro football, to the extent that I believe in Santa Claus, life on Mars, or my ability to manually play LP records at 33 1/3 by hand backwards when I suspect masking is at play. But let a second year quarterback throw a bomb pass over-optimistically into double coverage, and actually complete the darn thing, and suddenly I'm a fan again. Stamp ESPN on my forehead, and set me out in the cold cuts section. Right by bologna.
We went this afternoon to pick up the suit I had purchased three weeks ago. It looks nice. I like that suits can be found that look workable in fifteen minutes or less, if one goes to the right store. I resisted politely the cross-marketing effort. I have a four dollar ebay auction win to pay for, after all.
During Labor Day, my wife took the key to our back fence with her to Virginia. During last weekend, rains preventing my mowing the back yard as well. This weekend, I tackled the yard, which had turned into a sort of north Texas jungle ecosystem. Grasshoppers disguised with moth wings and moths flew from the mounds of grass. Mushrooms the size of sentient beings were spotted here and there. What is usually a ten minute mow required many times that, as mulch continually clogged the mower. I finally learned a little mulch-shaking dance I could do with my lawnmower, not so much a pogo as a foxtrot, and got the job done.
I weedate and weedate and weedate walls and cubbyholes and weeds all around the house. I managed to avoid the Tropicana rose, which no doubt means my life will be spared for yet another week. My neighbor, who seems to work longer hours than I do lately (and I work very long hours lately), turned me to me as we passed, weed eaters in hand, and said 'Remember when things were simple and we had time for this?', and I said "yes". I remember when I was a teen, and used my father's International Harvester Low Boy tractor to mow massive fields of grass. A Low Boy was the largest lawn tractor known to man--too small for any real field work, but the sort of thing that made people whistle when one passed and say "man, that's some tractor". I remember many a 13 year old day, mowing the late Mrs. Betty Slayton's huge grassy field, and singing Grand Funk Railroad's "I'm Your Captain" or "Hello, Young Lovers", from "The King and I" or Three Dog Night's "Joy to the World" or "Pieces of April". My voice sounded so good when the engine muffled most of the notes and tonals. Life was simpler then, and I had a song in my heart. We mowed for hours at a time, my brother and I, and then split 5 dollars and 50 cents. A milk shake at the drug store cost 50 cents.
Things were simpler then. Mrs. Slayton was a widow schoolteacher, a biology teacher who let me help her keep her fish tanks. She drove an old but immaculate Buick which must have had less than 5,000 miles on it, because it only went to school and to church and to the grocery store. She was well read and wordly and wise and strict and she attended the Methodist church we attended, but she never joined, because she was "really" an Episcopalian. She won science teacher of the year in our state, and she lived by herself in a small home with ivy running up the side. But it was a simpler time--she owned this home, and a HUGE grass lot beside it, and she lived simply and she wanted for nothing. Even an underpaid teacher could really live in that small town.
It was a simpler time. We would never have dreamed of having all the utensils and mowing stuff and weed eaters and stuff we have now. We had sturdy rakes that lasted, and hoes that rarely broke. It was a simpler time. People tended to speak to each other in polite tones, even if people didn't like one another. People could, as my family did, leave their keys in the cars, because auto theft was unthinkable.
But in some ways, it was a much worse time. Segregation was actively practiced, years after its legal abolition. I remember reading a news article where the local authorities had forbid an interracial couple to marry, on the ground that it was "miscegenation". Unplanned unwed pregnancy rates were much higher than today. There was no internet, no cable television, and the library had a limited selection. I knew people who felt trapped, literally trapped, by the intellectual isolation. We rose each morning to morning news, where we listened to newsmen with straight faces literally give us body counts from the Vietnam War. If you believed the news, the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese were dropping like flies. We kids all imagined that we would live to see a Soviet nuclear strike; I remember the notion of the bombs, in mid-air. Divorce rates were skyrocketing. The optimism of the Great Society gave way, in my part of the country at least, to teen women choosing to get pregnant in order to qualify for Aid for Dependent Children. Large trucks sprayed for mosquitoes with DDT every summer night. We had no hawks, no eagles, and few herons, because DDT ruins their eggs. It was all so simple then--but it was not all so easy.
I did not live in a time when values were somehow well superior to today. In my little town, when I was in 9th grade, virtually every graduating senior girl ended her education with high school due to unplanned pregnancy, including many of the honor students. Churches regularly preached abstinence, and marriages frequently were contracted when abstinence and birth control were neglected. Poverty was rampant in the countryside, as not everybody had a good logging operation or a good job at the mill. Although people lived with a lot of pride and dignity in many cases, the safety net for those who could not were not just frayed, they barely existed.
I do not get nostalgic for the days back then, because much bad went with the good. But I do get nostalgic for that IH Low Boy tractor. With that, I could cut through any problem.