Robert (gurdonark) wrote,
Robert
gurdonark

Balloons fading into the sky

Last night during my walk to the park, I saw a string of balloons floating in the sky-blue sky. They seemed to be tied together with string, so that they looked like a travelling flock. I watched them float off, until they almost looked like birds, but they were balloons. I looked away for a moment. When I looked back, I could no longer see the balloons.



When I was a kid, I liked the stories of people who put notes in helium balloons and released the balloons. The notes said "please write me, and tell me where you found this balloon". I liked the stories when people got letters from Denmark, or China, although I suppose it is improbable that one could get one from both Denmark and China.

Now I understand that it is considered environmentally unfriendly to send out such balloons, as the landed balloons apparently cause difficulties for birds. Instead, one has the internet.

When I was a kid, I played my father's well-used Hallicrafters shortwave radio, with which I could listen to broadcasts from all over the world. The radio was a tube type, and you could hear the sound fade in as the tubes warmed up. Now I could listen to a world of internet radio stations from across the world, but I never tune to those.
I put on my headphones and listen to my own little Radio Shack shortwave, which has miraculously good reception.

When I was a kid, our television could pick up four channels--ABC, NBC, CBS and PBS. Cable television was not available.
On stormy nights, the reception would become patchy, because the nearest television station was 83 miles away. I remember watching PBS' "Tom Brown's Schooldays" and "Upstairs, Downstairs" on nights when the reception was so poor the characters appeared to act through a snowstorm. Now we have some 90odd channels, and that's because we picked the less expensive cable package.

When I was a kid, I knew people who had never left our home state, never flown in an airplane, and never done lots of the things that folks now seem to have done. Apparently, there are still lots of people who fit this description, though, but they don't live in my neighborhood. In my neighborhood, the "for sale" signs pop up regularly, as this is the kind of "moving up", "moving down", "job transfer", "job loss" suburb in which mobility is the norm.

When I was a kid, we left the keys in the car overnight, because car theft was reasonably unimaginable. However, smaller things, such as a bicycle, might have been fair game. Now we have to make sure our office space reception area is free of anything valuable, as teams of folks, both here and in LA, visit offices to see what can be grabbed while people's attention is diverted elsewhere.

When I was a kid, people who had lost a parent got free education through Social Security until age 23 or so. My first semester of college tuition was 200 dollars, which, even after inflation adjustment, would be something a tad over 400 dollars today. Admission to my state U. was easy. One needed a C average in high school and an ACT in double digits. Now my school writes to me to boast of how it is no longer easy to gain admittance.

When I was a kid, most kids I know had dads who worked for the local plywood mill, or who hauled logs for sawmills. Most of the kids I went to school with did not get their college degrees. Many of them went to work in the timber industry. They have a Forest Festival in my old home town now, with country music and cake walks. When I was a kid, country and western music was my bane. Now I kinda like it.

Yesterday I found myself stridently and indelicately setting forth thoughts on something that was not even really my business.This is something I would have done when I was a kid. I had opinions on everything. I probably still have opinions on most things. Sometimes I have to rein myself in a bit, as I get too caught up in the moment. I suppose at heart I am more an advocate than I realize--but sometimes I wish I were a more effective one in my non-work pursuits.

Yesterday I found myself calling a sales representative for a hotel for the second day in a row. I am trying to rent a room for a chess tournament in January, if the price fits my budget. I'm always intrigued how people promote themselves as conference centers, but then don't return calls. Over time, I find that personalized service remains the most elusive virtue--I'll have to remember and apply that to my own approach to my work.

When I was a kid, Earl's Cafe served home-made rolls fresh every day. Our school cafeteria served real food, not the fast food I see on the local school menus in the paper. I remember that the charge for lunch was nominal, and one paid an extra thirty five cents or so for milk. I drank a lot of milk growing up. I virtually never drink any now, though I do use it for raisin bran.

When I was a kid, a trip to the mall (82 miles away) was a big deal. The local dime store sold those little rubber balls attached to a paddle with an elastic band for a dollar. A plastic sack filled with "cowboys and indians" or "soldiers" was also a dollar. A plastic model of a car might run 55 cents. A paper glider might be a quarter. We did most of our Christmas wish lists based on the Sears, Penney and Spiegel catalogs.

I have been ruminating on focus this week. I want to make an effort to write more poetry, play more chess, do more acts of intentional charitable work and kindness, and be more productive at work. I find the weblog process valuable for self-monitoring. I've learned that sometimes my mood or whim about what I am up to is less important than actually doing what I mean to do.

But someday soon, I want to fly a kite, and then lie on my back in the grass, and watch the clouds float by.
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