Saturday, March 17, 2007

Ann Arbor Kaleidoscope

My wife and I are visiting our daughter and her boyfriend in Michigan.

In no particular order:

** Me: (To the front desk clerk) "Why is it called Ann Arbor?"

Other: "The first name of one of the founders of the city was Ann. The middle name of the wife of the other founder was also Ann. And because of all the trees."

I wasn't particularly interested in the names of the founders so it didn't go any further. Mission accomplished. But shouldn't it have been called: Anns' Arbor?

I'll have to find out more about "all the trees" because it doesn't seem that there are all that many trees here. Maybe if you were coming from Oklahoma it would seem that way. Maybe I should find out where the founders came from originally.

** Passing an older gentleman at the Briarwood Mall; he's in the slow lane and me in the passing lane, during my morning walk. On the back of his gray t-shirt there is an orange triangle, like one used on road construction sites, with the words "Caution, slow moving vehicle" under the triangle.

Me: "(laughing)...slow moving vehicle."

Guy: "Hey, I'm still moving."

Me: "Chew got dat right, mon"

** Passing two women in comfortable chairs in the mall. I didn't look closely but one was the designated listener and the other was speaking with ... something...I'm not quite sure how to describe it, but I thought that she may have been post-stroke from years ago.

Speaker: "If you were the normalist person in the whole world, would you..."

She stopped there and waited for me to pass. It was like she was saying this is a private conversation. I wonder if she knew I was "listening in" even though I was eyes forward and moving fast? What was the vibe she picked up on or was it just coming from a sense of "hey, even though I'm talking loudly, this is private."

** The busses here (the system is collectively referred to as 'The Ride') have a gizmo on the frontend of each bus where people can place their bicycles. Great idea!

** On line at Starbucks at the mall. I pick up a New York Times. Waiting in line. I hold the paper up in front of the man along side me.

Man: "Did you want me to see something in particular?"

Me: "No, (playfully) there's nothing really of much value there anyway."

Man: "It's a bit much to the Left for me. But it balances out the cricks."

Me: "Yes. We need that balancing. This past election was an important one in doing that."

Man: "In what way do you mean that?"

Me: "The overwhelming majority of the American public spoke with their votes to balance away from the consolidation of brute force power practised by the Bush administration. The country, in my opinion, was headed towards 1984 in our world of comfort trappings. I don't hold out any positive expectations for the Democrats to do any better...but the trend was stopped dead in its tracks."

Man: "Yes, gridlock is the best outcome."

Me: "I don't know if that's the best outcome but it's better than where it was headed."

** The main reading room - I will call it 'the Great Reading Room' in the Horace Racham building at the University of Michigan is nothing short of spectacular. Walls were, I roughly estimate, about 60 feet high, 80 or 90 feet wide and about 150 feet long. Wood paneling. Windows along one wall were 35 feet high and about 13 feet wide, long deep red drapes with tie ropes pulling them to the side half way down. Heavy wooden chairs and long wooden tables aligned down the center line of the room, and they were punctuated by easy chairs up against the walls. You could hear a pin drop; maybe you couldn't since it was almost so cavernous that the slight sound would be lost in the size of it all. Many other pleasing rooms in the building. By the way, Racham was the attorney who wrote the articles of incorporation for a guy with a hair-brained idea to replace horses with something called a horseless carriage. But Mr. Racham saw something in the idea and went to a bank and borrowed (?) $5,000 to put into the business as a shareholder. Oh, the guy was Henry Ford. The rest is history.

At the other end of the campus is a somewhat similar building, housing the Law Library. The reading room there is similar but nowhere as elegant. The exterior is, however, a spectacular example of Gothic architecture and the only thing missing was chairs outside the library so you could sit and slowly inhale the beauty of it.

** At some point you have to visit Zingermann's Jewish Deli and Bakery. Maybe twice. It would be worth more visits but you'd go broke.

** Best meal so far was Rush Street restaurant. Go there Monday through Friday between 4 and 6 and all the meals and drinks are 1/2 price. Excellent food. I had plain old spaghetti and tomato sauce with lots of herbs and shrimp. It just got better and better.

** If you're into movies, check out the Michigan theater. It is an old movie theater which has had a ton of restoration work done. On the outside you would walk by it without giving it a second thought. Inside is a totally different story.

We saw a German movie: "The Lives of Others." It was a riveting political thriller about life in East Germany in 1984 under the Stasi (State Secret Police) and tight / taught human drama of how the spirit can survive even under those conditions and how risky it was for anyone who wanted to keep their spirit alive under terribly oppressive conditions. Not a pleasant movie but you know afterwards that you were outside the bubble of "isn't everything just so wonderful."

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

This Writing Stuff Can Be A Bit Risky

The last several entries I have made have been decidedly on the heavy side. I've been writing about spacing out, psychological shock, talking about difficult things, pandemics and social isolation, etc. But, what can I say, that's what I've been writing about and that what has been on my mind.

Also, I've been visiting two additional websites which look at themes which fit the "bad times, they be 'acomin" genre. One is Sudden Debt and is devoted to the shenanigans in the world of finance and the persistent question about how long the present bubble can continue before a major correction occurs. The other is Generational Dynamics which is about a way of looking at the world of trouble that the world is in, and how, when one looks at history from the point of view of the impact which successive generations have on the course of history, interesting patterns evolve which may be useful in predicting trends in current times.

John J. Xenakis, the author of GenerationalDynamics, posted a comment on my entry entitled: "A Little Technorati Drum Roll Please..." (2/14/07). In it, he states: "I like to tell people that what's coming is coming, and it can't be stopped by any politician or anyone else, any more than a politician can stop a tsunami. You can't stop it, but you can prepare for it. So I tell people this: Treasure the time you have left, and use it to prepare yourself, your family, your community and your nation."

Powerful words. It reminded me of James Kunstler's encouragement to "enjoy the abundance while you can still have it." It also reminded me of a line in one of my previous posts where I said: "I wonder if Climate Change gives a hoot as to whether Mr. Cheney says that the American Way of life is not up for discussion."

So, I started thinking about those words and my recent topics, and I pushed the uncomfortable factor into the land of Murphy - of Murphy's Law - but on steroids. By this I mean, I started wondering about really bad scenarios and what John said about not being able to stop what's coming. The three scenarios were economic collapse, the pandemic, and a world war over oil - all happening approximately at the same time and the phrase "The Perfect Storm" popped into my head. It's a little like writing my own personal Stephen King novel in my head and then finding that I was drawn into it too uncomfortably far.

What happened was that I propelled myself into a perfect little storm in my mind and that became a little like a black hole in my consciousness which was absorbing my attention and my mind. I found that I was becoming more grim by the moment, I was thrown off "my game," and there was a background uneasiness about it all which made me restless. The whole storm was heightened by feelings of uncertainty.

It was unsettling, to put it mildly. And that is one of the reasons why I have been inactive on my blog for the last few weeks. I just knew I had to get myself out of the morass which I had created in my mind. (That is not to say that The Perfect Storm couldn't happen in external reality, but that it was not present in actuality, and I had become victim of my own internal virtual reality (mind) exercise. If you remember from one of my previous posts, I said that what happens in the mind influences the body and the emotions. And that's what happened to me over these last few weeks.)

I'm happy to say that "I'm back" and regaining my natural balance points and accustomed compass readings and can now start to talk about that process. To be continued...