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Three score and ten or more

Wednesday, September 28, 2005



About the first thing that happened to us after we arrived in Helsinki was to be taken to the Ouimahalli or public swimming pool to go to the sauna. I was appropriately shocked,( to the great amusement of the old-hand missionaries who took us for the purpose of shocking us), when we went to a dressing room and took off our clothes, then set off down a second story aisle to the sauna. Of course a young, blonde, female sauna attendant came down the hall to greet us. Since I was nude, but had a towel I covered up the essentials till she was past, then glowed a majestic red blush till we reached the sauna. I recovered as we went in the heat (heat is the word in the real Finnish sauna, the steamed heated air often reaches 100 degrees Celsius; to the uninitiated that is the boiling point of water), out to a cool shower then back in the heat. When I came out of the heat the second time I got my second shock when I discovered that my new friends had paid for me to have a scrub.

The word “scrub” in this case is a total understatement. When a Finnish Sauna Lady sets you up for a scrub, you get the equivalent of an entire Automobile Car wash only it happens to you personally and in parts. You are flopped on a wooden bench (usually face down– at first) and each part of you is taken in turn (much like one might eat a lobster). Each section is scrubbed enthusiastically with either an old wooden brush like the one your grandmother scrubbed floors with, or sometimes with a loofa sponge -called a sauna sponge in Finland-, cut open to the most abrasive section. The soap has a flagrance of fresh lye and is applied till the skin screams for mercy. When the back, arms, neck, waist, and lower extremities have felt the tender mercies of the brush, the lady dumps a bucket of water on you, then flips you over with the skill of a pancake master. What was good for the back is good for the front. After all appropriate (and some inappropriate) parts have been cleansed to the stage that any surgeon could use you as an operating table, another bucket of water, then you are sent back into the heat. (To sweat out any traces of soap– or anything else).

If any reader senses that there is any erotic element of this scrub, I hasten to dissuade you. To the sauna lady, you are the equivalent of a beef carcass offered up to the butcher. You are a product to be processed as efficiently and completely as possible. For the victim (or volunteer) you are so concerned with the similarity of what is happening to you to being flayed alive, that no erotic thoughts would dare come to the front. Witnessing hundreds of such scrubbings, only once did I ever see a male show signs of “arousal”, at which the sauna lady reached for what appeared to be a large wooden spoon, swatted the offending member sharply and all signs of arousal disappeared instantly.

If it sounds scary, it is, to the newcomer. I confess that the result is a thorough, tingling sense of cleanliness. After a good “re-steaming” and an ice cold shower (or a dip in the lake or roll in the snow) one feels energetic and has a great sense of well-being.. I confess that almost every time I went to a public sauna (really not as often as one gets to a private sauna in or around your residence) I ordered a scrub (if I had the money). Being a Sauna Lady is a respected position, sauna attendants had great pride in the reputation of their profession, and I felt a moral obligation to keep their families fed.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Pictures of Joensuu, Finland, 1955

1955 Finland

I believe I have figured out how to use the picture download without printing three at a time. We’ll see. The picture on the right, above is one of those from a slide that was corrupted by mold, and it has only been semi-successfully cleaned, but it is a picture of a place near Joensuu called the Koli heights. Along with the Grand Canyon, Cappadocia in Turkey, and a few selected spots in the high Rockies and Alps, this is one of the most beautiful and impressive sights I have ever seen. I went skiing there in March of 1955. Most of the skiing I had opportunity to do in Finland was cross country, while this was at least in part alpine skiing. Mormon missionaries are not allowed to ski anymore, and if you had seen me traveling up the rope tow at Koli upside down and backwards you would understand why, but it was a grand experience none the less.

The picture on the left is also from Joensuu. It is one of my favorites. I don’t know if the kelka (kick sleigh) is used anywhere but in scandanavia, but it is one of the most fun and most practical tools found anywhere there is snow. This little boy was obviously having fun.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Home in Joensuu Finland, February 1955

This is the home in Finland. Don't misunderstand, Finland is not primitive, but this occured less than ten years after WWII ended. If you can't load one, load three I guess. SIGH Definitely three score and ten. I have a couple more pictures but I will wait til tomorrow when I have a hang on this upload deal.

Going to Finland, 1954
I have been bemoaning my ability to write anything real for the last few days. I finally just put the thing away and started what old farts like myself often do. That is to explore the past. I was a Mormon missionary in Finland for almost three years in the early fifties. I took many many pictures (slides really) of Finland in that time, so I decided it was time to scan those slides and put them on a CD before I forgot what they were and who was in them. It turned out to be a frustrating thing. Copying slides is no big deal, I have done it a lot, but many many of the slides that I have save from the fifties have aquired blotches, most of them from some kind of mold. I have tried almost everything in the way of film cleaners etc., and have even used some household mold killers (not bleach, I am not that stupid) I have also used the editing capacities of two or three different photo processes (the most successful fromULEAD). At any rate I have a mixed bag of pictures and suddenly it occurred to me to seriously go into the old fart (I really should just say Three score and ten or more, my wife is going to speak unkindly to me when she reads the "old fart" comment, but that's how I feel right now) business and ramble through my memory a bit. What I am actually going to do is post a few pictures of Finland between 1954 and 1957 and you can look at them (or not,) if you choose. I will also tell you about them a bit.

The first picture is from Joensuu, a beautiful town over in east Finland. It is a picture of my first residence in that town. We rented a little room that was warm and cosy but it lacked running water, hygenic facilties etc. What it lacked in facilities, it made up for in bedbugs. You can't really appreciate bed bugs without experiencing them. The little red flat monsters are clever beyond belief. If you put the legs of your bed in cans of kerosene (we did) to keep them from climbing up the legs, they would crawl up the ceiling and dive bomb you. Our poor land lady denied their existence until we began to catch them and pin them to the door. She tried everything she knew to get rid of them but the chemical world then was not like that of today.
We went out to the well to get water, (often putting a large stone in the well bucket to break the ice. It was cold, and it was delicious, but a little close to the outhouse for my comfort. If you look at the picture below, the little pyramid in the back yard is the well. The big brown building next to it contained the "facilities". Rather than a hole in the ground like American outhouses, the Finnish outhouse was "upstairs". The waste fell to the ground and every few weeks a man would come with a wagon (to which we referred as the honeybucket) and empty the waste and carry it away. (I know not where, and I never asked).

Using the facility in the winter in below zero situations was tricky. Fasten to the "seat" of the outhous was a small sledge. It was important to look down the hole before using the john because it froze in a vertical sharp pyramid, and if the sledge were not used occasionally one could have an involutary suppository. (If you don't understand, don't ask.) With all it's vagaries it was truly beautiful and we lived there through most of a winter.

(for some reason --typical of seventy year old computer skills, the picture didn't upload, I'll try it as a separate post above)

Sunday, September 25, 2005

A DAY OF ADVENTURE , 1942, Alameda/Pocatello, Idaho

On my first entry into this project, I stated that once in awhile I would post something that I had written in the past, but not successfully peddled to publication. The first entry I made of this kind was actually something that I had sold (in an edited version-magazines are like that) and been paid for but that had not been published. It was mostly a real event with slight adornments to cover that fact that it happened about sixty years before it was written. Now, because my brain has fried, and I can't seem to get one coherent thought after another I have decided to post another childhood adventure. This one, with the exception of names changed to protect the guilty, happened almost exactly as it is written. For the two of you who seem to read this blog, it seems like this is the only way I can do the job for this day.
Richard B. Johnson

Some school days are better than others at Roosevelt School, but today, the second Tuesday in October was one of the "others". I didn't do my homework and Mrs. Spriggs made an example of me in front of the class. I got picked last for the softball team at recess, and fumbled a fly ball, and everybody on the other team laughed. I didn't want to play softball anyway, that was mostly for fourth, fifth and sixth graders.

I started to have a good time when I went to the bathroom, after lunch, because, when I was coming back to class, I heard somebody talking under the coat rack of the other third grade class room. I looked to see where it was coming from, and found this hole in the wall right under the coats, with slats across it like a venetian blind. When I laid down next to it, I could see and hear everything in the class. Steve Palmer was sitting right next to the hole and he was scratching his behind with a pencil.

I pretended I was a spy, and that they were Nazis, and when Miss Griffin was talking about subtraction, it was really code for bombing the Army Air field out toward American Falls. Just as I was trying to translate the code, to save the Air Field, somebody grabbed me from behind, and I screamed out loud. I guess I thought the Nazi's had caught me but it was only the Principal. It was funny though, how, when I screamed, everybody in that class jumped up and stared at this vent-hole in the wall where I had been. Miss Griffin came running out into the hall with three or four of the kids from her class, and Mrs. Spriggs came running out of my class and there I was, hanging under the principal's arm like an old bag of spuds. He told them to go on back to class, that no one was hurt, but that somebody might be hurt before the day was over. Mrs. Spriggs gave me a dirty look, and they all went back, then the principal lugged me on back to his office.
When he set me down on the ground, he told me I had no business looking in at the other class, and that hiding under the coats and peeping at the class made me a snoop and he wasn't going to stand for snoops in his school.

I was still kind of pretending to be a spy, so I stood up as tall as I could, looked him straight in the eye and didn't say nothing. I thought what Van Johnson or John Wayne or Humphrey Bogart would do if the Nazi's caught them, and just stood there. He seemed to get mad that I didn't talk so he told me to hold out my hand and he whacked it hard with a ruler. It hurt, but I knew Van Johnson wouldn't scream out if he was being tortured so I just bit my teeth together and stood there. He looked at me, and his face got red, and his eyes kind of bugged out some, and he hauled off and hit me three more times. The last time he hit me it really hurt, and it came to me that until I quit being a spy and cried some, he was just going to keep on whaling away, so I put my hurt hand in my other arm pit, looked down at the floor and cried some. Truth is, once I quit being a spy, it wasn't a bit hard to cry. My hand really hurt.

When I cried, he put his arm around my shoulders and told me to be a man, and dry my tears. Struck me funny that, when I was trying to do that, his face got all red and he hit me, and I almost giggled, but it struck me that wouldn't be a very smart thing to do, so I didn't. He made me sit there in his office till school was out but he didn't call my mom. I was glad he didn't call my mom, cause I didn't think I'd like it if he called my mom.

When the bell rang, I went to get my jacket and Mrs. Spriggs came out and gave me a bunch of homework to do to make up for missing class. The day wasn't getting better at all.
I was just about to go on home when Delano Busby came along and asked me if I wanted to walk with him to Primary. I had forgotten that this was Tuesday, Primary day, and I had to walk on up to the church for Primary. I told Delano "Sure, and started off with him, but I really wasn't sure. Most times I really liked Primary. I liked the singing, and I really liked it when we made soap carvings, and kites, and colored pictures and stuff, but the way this day was going, this was going to be one the Primary days where we spent a lot of time listening to the teacher talk about how Jesus loved the little children, and that he loves us, and that we should love one another and be kind to one another, all that stuff, and the way I felt, I figured that if that was the kind of Primary we were going to have today, I was going to puke.

Delano and I started off the nine blocks to the church. By the time we got to the railroad tracks, he and I, and Donald Duckworth, (wouldn't you like to have that name, and have to get all A's in all your classes too) some little kids, and three or four of the girls from the church were all walking together. (My primary teacher and my mom told us that we had to let the girls, and even the little kids walk with us because we had a traffic light and the railroad tracks between us and the church). We usually made the girls and the little kids walk behind us a little ways, but this day we were all walking together except for some fifth grade boys, who made us all walk behind THEM.

When we crossed the tracks, Del took us up the right-of-way a little ways to show us where the Section Hands had stacked up a bunch of old railroad ties that they had pulled out from under the track. No one was there working, but there was a big tractor, a long piece of new rail and a big pile of crushed rock and gravel along with some tools lying around. Most of the ties were stacked neatly but some were just dumped by the track like a bunch of old pick up sticks.
Del and I climbed up on the stack of ties and challenged everybody to a game of King of the Mountain, but Donald and the girls said they were taking all the little kids and going on to Primary. I was going to call Don a sissy, but just then a guy drove up the track in a yellow pick up truck and told us all to get away from there, so we jumped down off the ties and went off to Primary with the rest.

Primary was just what I though it would be. Boooring. Jesus loves the little children and all that stuff. I could hardly wait till it was over. After class, we were all supposed to assemble for a closing song and closing prayer, but Del, and I, and Art Sparks, who was a fourth grader skipped out early. Del lived right there by the church, but he offered to walk part way home with me, so he and I and Art headed down to the tracks to show Art the ties and stuff at the track side.

When we got there, we each put a penny on the track in case a train came, so it would flatten the penny out. We sat and waited for a while but no train came so we decided to play King of the Mountain. Art was enough bigger than Del and me that he pretty much was king for awhile. He stayed up there and didn't even get dirty while Del and I kept getting tossed down and getting tar all over our clothes, and black tarry slivers from the ties into our clothes. We got pretty mad, and Del and I decided that Del would get some gravel out of the pile and throw it at Art, then if Art came down off the pile to get some gravel, I would get up on top, and call myself king, and only let Del get up with me.

It didn't work. When Delano started throwing rocks, Art just covered up his face so he wouldn't get hit in the eye, and began yelling curse words at Del. I got the idea that I could climb up the loose ties that were at the side of the pile and sneak up on Art while he had his eyes covered. I got almost to the top of one tie, and was going to jump over behind Art when the tie moved. I lost my balance, slid half way down the tie on my belly, then hit an old railroad spike that hadn't been pulled out and it tore the whole sleeve out of my jacket. I fell down to the ground with my wind knocked out and could hardly breathe.

When I got my breath, I looked around and both Art and Del had taken off. I think they thought I was killed and they would be blamed. I was really sore. I had BIG BLACK slivers in me, all over. To top it off, my nose started to bleed, and I was bleeding all over my clothes.
I walked up to the crossing where the road crossed the tracks, trying to stop my nosebleed, trying to pull out slivers (those slivers have creosote tar on them and burn something awful) and trying to think of how I was going to explain to my mother that I ruined my jacket, when, just as I got to the road, along came a car, and just screeched to a halt beside me. And who jumped out but Mrs. Spriggs, my third grade teacher. That made it even worse, because then I remembered that the homework she had given me was lying up there beside the pile of railroad ties.
I turned around to run back and get my homework, when she snatched me up like I was a little baby and hugged me so hard I couldn't breathe. She, kind of panted for a minute, then she set me down. She was crying. "Are you all right?", she said, "What happened? Did you get hit by a car, or a train?" "What could have happened to you?"

I remembered the look she gave me when the principal had me, and the way she talked to me when she gave me the extra home-work to make up for missing class and I thought that maybe I hadn't better tell her that I had been playing on a bunch of railroad ties up the track that the railroad man had told me to stay away from.

"I, I, I'm not sure. I was coming home from Primary," I recited, "When I saw this little girl walking over by the railroad track. She was a little girl, maybe three or four years old, and she was kind of dirty, and she was crying. I called to her to get away from the tracks. Just then, I looked up, and there was a switch engine coming down the line with three or four cars in front of it. I knew the engineer would never see her with those cars in front of him, so I took off running to her, calling her to come to me. I must have scared her, cause instead of coming to me, she ran away, right out onto the track and fell down between the tracks. I ran as hard as I could, and I grabbed her, and jumped out from in front of the cars. Then I heard this loud noise, and everything turned black, and the next thing I knew, I was sitting there in the borrow pit, and the train was gone, and the little girl was gone, and I was bleeding and my jacket was all tore, and I have slivers all over in me. I got up and looked all over for the little girl but I couldn't find her,and I decided I better get on home, cause my mom'll be worried, Primary was over a long time ago."

She pushed me back a little, and gave me a long look, and I thought maybe I had gone too far. But then she picked me up and gave me a hug and put me in her old Ford. She walked up the track a little calling "Little girl, are you alright?" and bent over and touched some of the blood I had been bleeding along the roadside. By now, I had pulled the sleeve off my jacket and was using it to try to stop from bleeding all over her car. When she got back to the car, I could see that she had blood all down her right shoulder on the yellow blouse, and I hoped she didn't notice for a while. I could see that she was sympathetic, but she still had this big "question mark" look on her face.

She took me directly on home and marched me up on the porch where she knocked on the door. I told her I could just walk on in the house without knocking, but she held me right there. When mom came to the door, Mrs. Spriggs looked my mother right in the eye and began to talk. "I think it is possible that your son might be a hero." she said, doubtfully, then proceeded to tell mom the whole story.

Mom hugged me, put a piece of ice on my lip, under my nose, like she always does when my nose bleeds. (I bleed a lot.) Then she sat me down, and pulled out two or three of the big slivers that showed. She then put iodine in the spots where the slivers had been, and it burned almost as bad as the creosote. "Ow," says I, and she said "Hush! It will probably hurt more than that by the time we get you fixed up." Then she went in to say good bye to Mrs. Spriggs.
I have a bad feeling. Mom usually uses peroxide or Mercurochrome on my cuts when she thinks I've had an accident I couldn't avoid. Today she is using Iodine. She's probably going to ask a lot more questions than Mrs. Spriggs. It has been that kind of day.

Copyright C July 1984 Richard B. Johnson

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Some days "three score and ten" sucks. (that is seventy, for the mathematically challenged). These are the days when you want to create something and what used to be your brain just sits there like a lump of cold oatmeal and shows off its lumps. You struggle to get up in the morning and accomplish something and you find that just getting a shower can take the whole morning. You try to get some rest so you go to bed early so that you can get up in the morning rested and at three A.M. you are still lying there staring at the ceiling. You get up to try to compose something for the blog, but three A.M. when your brain is mush is not the time, so you play solitare or skip through the "next blog" index trying to find something interesting. When you find it, your brain refuses to interpret it.

Today I went to the cardiologist who tut tutted a bit, fastened a cardio monitor on me and sent me home. I went to the Family Practicioner to see if he could find some solution to the incredibly itchy rash that pops up on my feet whenever I'm not taking an anti-biotic. (I have been taking a lot of them most of the summer, but they are all through, and my feet are one of the reasons I can't sleep) He tut tutts and sends me home with another of the two hundred and fifty prescription itch creams that haven't worked for a year. (He did give me some ambien, so I might just sleep tonite.) If I wake up with a functioning brain I will try to finish a comment ment for Polanco consulting (don't have the link right now, brain refuses to help) or the essay I started on physical and spiritual self reliance (or not). I promised myself I would not use my blog to whine (I get tired of that easily) and here I am doing it. Come on brain, snap out of it.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

I was muttering last night that I had nothing interesting to say in my blog. I decided to look at the MSN news then go to bed. In the midst of the MSN News, I suddenly received an instant message from-I suppose- MS Instant Messenger (I have never used it, signed up for it or otherwise considered it. I signed up and got an ICQ ID about five years ago and used it three times. I am not the chat type.) At any rate the message came through. "HANG UP BITCH!!!"
I couldn't help but reflect on the vagaries of computers. In the first place, my computer doesn't give me anything to hang up or place to hang it. I suppose I could put the mouse on top of the monitor, but it still isn't really hanging. I could log off the computer. Again, not technically hanging up.

The rest of the message intrigued me as well since I don't technically qualify as a "bitch" either through gender or genetics. I remember when I was teaching, I used to post grades outside my office door, and I was -- rather frequently I'm afraid--- often referred to, through the door, as a "son of a bitch". I was philosophical about that. My mother had long since passed away and certainly didn't qualify, so I accepted the fact that it was not intended as an insult to her, therefore, the innacuracy of the description disqualified the speaker's judgement. I guess the most intriguing thought is how the message wandered through cyberspace and found its way to my computer. I have visions of millions of little messages afflicted with inaccurate addresses rushing around the cyber universe looking for an opening in someone's firewall. Poor things.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

I spent much of the last two days in South Carolina visiting my daughter who works up there as field biologist. She has been negotiating to buy a house and I wanted to look through it for awhile since it is an old place and has some need of repair. I gimped around the old house in my "moon boot" (the result of previously discussed surgery), took my wife and daughter out to dinner in a really nice place, watched a video of Tuesday night's THE GILLMORE GIRLS (yes, I am a fan-- - sigh) and came home to about five hundred e-mails (not counting spam). The last two days must have created an email epidemic. As a shuffled through these a friend from Finland sent me a URL for a blog message that had me in tears. It is the kind of message that frequently gets SNOPED out as urban myth, but I don't give a hoot. Read it. If is isn't true, it is the kind of thing that damn well ought to be true, and I, for one, would be honored to meet the author, even if I thought it was fiction. URL


If you don't agree, don't read it, but I found it completely compelling. It has probably been published on all the blogs but mine already. Tough

Monday, September 12, 2005

Theatre Workshops

I have stated above that I am an actor, director and puppeteer (formally retired). One doesn’t outgrow this stuff so one of my primary activities (in league with my wife, who as noted elswhere is smarter than me) is to travel around and do workshops in Puppetry, Improvisational theatre, what we used to call Creative Dramatics etc. On one recent gig we worked with about thirty middle school students at a Charter School for about five hours a day for ten days and generated eleven puppet shows (five to twenty minutes each) with original scripts and all original puppets. One of the most exhausting things any seventy year old has ever done but it was great fun and I was proud of those kids.

More recently we completed two two week workshops (called Conservatories for what reason it pleases - - - -) at http://www.newblueparrot.com" The New Blue Parrot Childrens Theatre in Washougal, WA.

My wife worked with the young-uns ( aged four to eight or so) while I worked with the older folks (aged ten to fourteen) . The first two weeks we worked on physical discipline, preparation for acting and each group did a performance at the end. The small ones did a quite wonderful improvised children’s play with a witch, a prince, a princess, a dragon and all the appropriate fairy story characters, while the older ones did a traditionally scripted children’s play and a reader’s theatre performance of Shel Silverstein poetry.

What I really opened this subject for was the second group which, involved itself with Theatre sports games and did an improvised play. I liked their play enough that I plan to post the script.. This was created improvisationally by two ten year old boys, a twelve year old girl, a thirteen year old girl, and two fourteen year olds who were about to approach their freshman years in high school. As they prepared this, four of the six were also rehearsing for a New Blue Parrot Children’s Theatre all age production of Bye Bye Birdie, as well as a conservatory training session in musical theatre performance (mostly opening and closing numbers for musicals, and duets) so they were busy young folks. I was pleased with the maturity both of the script and the performance and thought I would share their work with you.


Created through improvisation by Grace Schrater, Emily Jones, Stephanie Bivins, Jocelyn Andrews, Shawn Bradley, and Justin Cameron under the direction of Richard B. Johnson
CAST (In order of appearance)

VANESSA: (Andrea’s best friend) Grace Schrater

ANDREA: (A high school girl whose father has just returned home after a lengthy stay in an oncology center.) Emily Jones

ANDREW: (Andrea’s younger brother) Shawn Bradly

STEPHEN: (Andrew’s best friend Justin Cameron

LISA RAYMOND: (Mother of Andrea, Andrew and Jessica Stephanie Bivins

JENNIFER: (Older sister to Andrea and Andrew, First Clarinet in the school band and
Woodwinds section leader. Jocelyn Andrews



VANESSA: You should have seen his face when I told him that.. . .

ANDREA: He deserved it (giggles) any guy who would try that line.

VANESSA: It is so neat to see you acting like yourself. You have been so out of it lately.

ANDREA: It is great to feel so good. You should see my dad, he’s. . . .

ANDREW: Andrea! Mom said you should bring me and stay with. . . .

ANDREA: She didn’t say I had to stand right next to you all night.

VANESSA: You have your own friends don’t you?

STEPHEN: (ENTERING FROM AUDITORIUM) Hi Andrea! Oh hi! Andrew. (HIGH FIVE). Why weren’t you at ball practice?

ANDREW: My dad came home from the hospital. I got to see him and hug him and everything. Man you should see. . . .. .

ANDREA: You kids are making so much noise. Why don’t you go in there?


VANESSA: How is your dad? Is he feeling good?

ANDREA: Oh he’s wonderful, he’s so much better, and we just talked and talked about everything from books to Barbies. We even talked about cars.

VANESSA: He can’t give you a car, you’re not old enough. (GRINS) Did he bring you anything?

ANDREA: He couldn’t bring me anything. He was way too sick to be thinking about presents….. Oh! Oh! There’s mom by the door. I better find Andrew.

MOTHER: Andrea! I’ve got to talk to you. (PAUSE, X TO ANDREA) It’s your father. He passed away just awhile ago.


ANDREW (ENTERS LEFT) Where’s Andrea going? (REALIZES HIS MOM IS THERE) Mom? Why are you here? I thought you were going to stay with dad.

MOTHER: (PUTTING HER ARM AROUND ANDREW) Your father has passed away.

ANDREW: What does that mean?

MOTHER: Your father died.

ANDREW: Died? How could he die? He just came home.

MOTHER; (KNEELS BESIDE HIM) The doctors did everything they could, but nothing helped. He just …..closed his eyes and died.

STEPHEN: (RUNNING IN AND TAKING ANDREW BY THE ARM.) Hey Andrew, come on and sit down. Everybody’s - - - -

ANDREW: My dad just died! Leave me alone!


JENNIFER: (ENTERS LEFT) Mom, Andrew, Hey you guys, you have got to get in and sit down. Almost all the seats are full, and I have to get up on stage. The band is going to enter. Where’s Andrea? I thought she was coming?

MOTHER: (MOVING TO HER) Jennifer! Come here. I have to talk to you. It’s your dad. He passed away just a little while ago.

JENNIFER: No! You’re lying. He can’t be dead. You told me that I was one of the officers in the band and that I should come here and help set things up. ;It’s your responsibility, you said. You promised me that I could see daddy when the concert was over. I didn’t get to talk to him for more than five minutes after he came home. I didn’t even really get to hug him. You promised. You promised. You lied to me. I hate you! I hate you! I hate you! (SHE RUNS OFF LEFT INTO THE AUDITORIUM).


ANDREA: Mom, I’m going to go stay with Vanessa tonight. I can’t come home. I just can’t-----

VANESSA: It’s all right isn’t it. My mom won’t mind.

MOTHER: Not yet. We’ve got to wait for Jennifer.
ANDREA: You aren’t going to tell Jennifer now, are you? Not before her big concert. You’ve already ruined my day, do you have to ruin her big day too?

MOTHER: I’ve already told her, we’ve just got to get her home now

ANDREA: We don’t have to get HER home. SHE’S got HER own CAR. But, You just have to spoil everything for everybody don’t you.

MOTHER: Don’t you think MY DAY has been spoiled too. Do you think your daddy just waited till the best time to spoil everybody’s day before he died.? How selfish can you be??

ANDREA: I’m going outside to wait for Vanessa’s mom. I just can’t stand this anymore.






JENNIFER: (NOSE TO NOSE WITH HER MOTHER) Get out of the way Mom. I’m going to spend the night with some friends who- really- - care.

ANDREW: What about me??

MOTHER (IGNORING ANDREW) You don’t think I really care??

JENNIFER: No I do not. Will you please move? So I can leave. Maybe you can go in and tell Mr. Jenkins where I went. You should have seen his face when I just packed up my clarinet and left.

MOTHER: You didn’t explain?

JENNIFER: No I didn’t . How many people do you want to know how you lied to me.

ANDREW But what about me???

MOTHER: (TURNS JENNIFER AROUND AS SHE PASSES) Come along home. Don’t you want to say goodbye to your daddy?

JENNIFER: How can I say goodbye to him.? He’s dead! He went away forever while I was setting up chairs for the band concert.


JENNIFER: Get out of my way. (BUMPS HER SISTER INTENTIONALLY) Why are you always in the way.

ANDREA: (BUMPS HER BACK) Who’s in whose way?

JENNIFER: You are in the way ----Roadblock.

ANDREA : Witch!!!!

JENNIFER: It takes one to know one!!! EXITS.

VANESSA:(CROSSING INTO THE AUDITORIUM) I’ve got to go find my mother. Excuse me Mrs. Raymond (to mother).

ANDREW: But what about me??? Do I get to go home?

MOTHER: (CROSSING TO HIM AND KNEELING TO EMBRACE HIM) Of course you get to go home, silly. Mommy loves you.

ANDREA (FURIOUS) How come you hug him, but you don’t hug me? Don’t you think I need a hug?



JENNIFER: (THROW ARMS AROUND HER MOTHER’S NECK AND IS HUGGED IN RETURN) I’m sorry mom. I just want to come home and say goodbye to daddy.

ANDREA: You hug him and you hug her, but nobody hugs old ugly Andrea. He’s always been your favorite, and now she’s all lovey dovey.







Copyright C Richard B. Johnson ,July 2005

Saturday, September 10, 2005

My POME (I know it is a poem, I have a PhD, and somewhere in there I learned "poem".

This little poem was written while I was in high school, and my mother sent it to some magazine (I think it was either The Reader's Digest or The Saturday Evening Post. Wherever it was sent, they sent a check for -I think it was fifteen dollars, and published the poem which my mother had posted on the refrigerator until it disintegrated from old age. (I can relate to that)

Why upon the head must men impress
Their balms and unguents- other foolish finds?
The hair is not a sign of soul or heart,
Nor does the covered pate improve the mind.
The hair is but a parasite, which preys
Upon the blood of man, which could be spent.
Much better in a thousand other ways.
But find the man without, who does not wish
For cover on that bald and shiney spot.
And find the man who has, and yet has hope,
Whose hopes are not to have but to have not.

I beg your forgiveness.

Copyright C Richard B. Johnson 1951 or thereabouts.

Enough Seventy depressing stuff.

Let’s look at the stocking situation. Everybody gives socks to the “senior citizen”. It is a little like discounts at restaurants. No one thinks seriously about discounts (except for the receiver of course). They are just sort of automatic, give because it is the thing to do. It is the same with socks. People give socks to seniors to avoid thinking about gift selection. For everybody who knows a seventy year old marathoner who would like expensive running shoes, there are a thousand people who know seventy year olds with feet, who may only use them for balancing the extended edge of the recliner. These “elders” one thinks, will certainly use socks. Socks for adults come mostly in “one size fits almost all”, so one doesn’t have to think about size. The giver can give on the cheap (Walmart has some socks three pairs for $2.98), or can feel extravagant and buy at Tuesday Mornings for about five bucks or really go for it at a male boutique for $25.00.

This is one reason that old men usually have sock drawers that are jammed full of socks.
A geezer might only have one or two sets of underwear, and very limited shirts and pants, but he will probably have a drawer jammed full of socks.

The gift sock phenomenon is not the only reason why the sock drawer is over-stuffed.
What people don’t consider is the secret life of socks. Everyone is familiar with dryer deduction: the process through which a clothes dryer automatically keeps one sock out of every five pairs that go in the dryer. What most people don’t know about is stocking multiplication. When the sock owner becomes seventy (plus or minus three years), pairs of stockings in the drawer begin to fornicate, copulate or otherwise multiply to make new socks. Usually they make bastard socks that don’t match anything else in the drawer, so you can’t blame any one pair. In this way, even if one throws away all the lonesome socks from the dryer, the stocking drawer continues to fill up with non-matching socks. For the average seventy plus person this can be really disconcerting, because it takes longer for an old man just to find and put on socks anyway. When they are mixed with bastard singleton socks it can add half an hour to the process of getting dressed, and if one doesn’t have a patient partner, it can mean that you have missed breakfast.

Fortunately I am a puppeteer, and I know what to do with bastard single socks, I just throw them into a mesh bag, and when I have enough, I do a sock puppet workshop in an elementary school and use them all up. I am afraid if the teachers knew where they all came from they wouldn’t allow me to give them to the children, so I am depending on all you to keep it mum. SSHHHH! (When I was doing puppet workshops constantly I used to go to Laundromats and ask them for orphan socks. Almost every Laundromat has a big boxful in the back room.) The teachers then didn’t know where they came from either or I probably would have been arrested for persecuting orphans. Well, so much for socks.

Maybe next post I will go back to politics. I am getting more and more frustrated with the governmental blame game that is going about Kristina. I also have some choice thoughts about Rush Limbaugh. I would like to have some choice thoughts about Al Franken, but he has never said anything memorable enough to get angry about.

Friday, September 09, 2005

On becoming a hypochondriac.

Most seventy year olds, whether they admit it or not, are hypochondriacs. Vitamin and drug companies make a fortune from this obvious fact. If you don't believe it, look at the TV adds for drugs. A very high percentage are addressed to the geezer, or the geezerette because the approach to seventy brings on an awareness of the fact that one is gradually (or swiftly) wearing out.

I became a hypochondriac well before I even thought of being seventy. (In fact, when I became a hypochondriac, I didn't really think I would make it to seventy, and if I did, I would be wheeling around in one of these electric rolling chairs the guys on TV are pretending to give away.

About fifteen years ago, I was happily working as a theatre, puppetry, and communications teacher and moonlighting by selling a Network Marketing program called Melaleuca (I won't get into it except to say that the company has gained and is still gaining a lot through my hypochondriasis).

One day I was concluding a meeting regarding the products when one of the ladies near by dropped a pencil. I bent over to pick it up and when I held it out to her there were two of her. One stood about five feet to the left of the other. Deciding that this was not totally kosher, I found a seat and waited impatiently for the two of them to get together. (They/she came over to get her pencil, becoming singular as she did this and she asked me if anything was wrong. I explained what was wrong and her husband (who ran a nursing home and was used to this kind of thing) took my keys and drove me home. I staggered into the house, which by this time only had one door (thankfully), and quickly went to bed. When I got up in the morning, I found that my balance was rotten, and that my right foot was dragging a little. As soon as I concluded my morning classes I went to the Doctor. By then my foot had ceased to drag, but I was walking really funny (kind of a duck walk). The Doctor concluded that I had an inner ear disturbance and gave me some dramamine. Taking the dramamine I reverted to a complete stagger and made my way from class room to class room by hold onto the wall.

I went back to the Doctor and he decided that I had better go up to the Medical College of Georgia to find out what was wrong and have them fix it.

This began one of the crummiest periods of my life. I began by seeing a Doctor in the Family Practice Center. One conclusion that came from dealing with a really caring (and cute female) resident was that when one goes into a teaching hospital, and the doctor who examines you steps out into the hall and calls all the other doctors with a "Come on in here, this is really interesting", you are in a whole lot of trouble. I went back and forth to that hospital (eighty miles away) while various folks felt, prodded, cat scanned, MRI'd, and removed blood from me trying to figure out what was wrong. It was pretty obvious that they started out with the idea that I had had a mini-stroke, but the MRI's said no. In the ensuing four months I was diagnosed variously with Guillen-Barre syndrome, Chronic fatigue syndrome, bi-polar disease, chronic depression, multiple schlerosis, and had a cardiologist catherize me and tell me I had a seriously convoluted aorta (he had another term for convoluted, but I can't remember what it was). My lungs were checked, I had three full days of psychological tests (I have referred to that before), and finally they put me in the hands of the Neurologists to discovered that I have an Acquired Polymotor Peripheral Neuropathy. (They test for that with a cute thing called an EMG in which they put an elecrode on your toe, stick a needle into the muscle around your thigh then shoot electrical current through it to see how fast the electricity travels. It is about the most fun you can have without doing a self conducted appendectomy without anesthetic. )

In the meantime I became really, if not clinically, depressed (I wonder why). One day I had gone to the lab and had to drive back to the Family Practice Center. The distance was a block or two, but I ended up sitting at a traffic light on fifteenth street in Augusta, GA. with tears running down my face because I had no idea where I was. Fortunately I noticed, "cattee corner" from my position a Krispy Kreme donut shop. I knew that almost anything could be healed with the right application of Krispy Kreme donuts. I drove over, purchased two cake donuts with chocolate icing (they have since quit making cake donuts, when I discovered that, I sold my stock-- it is still falling) and got directions to the Family Practice Center (It was one of those "see! right over there on the right, the red brick building" sets of directions).

After going through all that crap, what I knew was that I had lost much of the feeling in my hands and feet, fell down a lot, and though they took multiple little cups of my blood for analysis (along with hair clippings) and they didn't have a clue as to the cause. Most people who have neuropathies are diabetic so I have been tested for diabetes more than any non diabetic in history. I also came down with some eye disease (that is typical of diabetics) and had thirteen laser shots in my left eye and six in the right.

To make a long story a little shorter, when you spend a year being picked apart by doctors and the only real result is a neurologist saying "I have bad news and good news, the bad news is that you have a lot of serious neurological symptoms which we may or may not be able to treat with a variety of drugs. The good news is that you don't have any known neurological disease, which is good because most neurological diseases are terminal." At this point I became seriously hypochondiacal (if there is such a word). If there is an antioxidant that is known to man, I probably take it, along with a wide variety of herbs, vitamins, calcium, other minerals. Add that to the prescription stuff and I single handedly keep manufacturers in business. If I hear symptoms of a new disease on television, I immediate begin to feel them. (Some time, if I get really sour, I will get into my treatment for bi-polar disease, which is serious, but I don't think I have ever had a manic or euphoric moment, and except for the period when the doctors were prodding and picking me I don't think I have been depressed)

What I'm looking for now is a pill to cure Hypochondria.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

More on being seventy and what it's like.

I don't know why this urge to write came in the middle of the night but I know one of the factors. With recent surgery, I am taking all kinds of new medications. Now, I know that people take medications at every age, and I am not unique, but I have one here in my hand that arouses my-- curiosity- - angst-- whatever. In order to prevent blood clots from forming in my legs and coming up to knock me off, I am faced with a blood thinner. It is not the first time. A few years ago I was told to take Coumadin (sp?) for awhile. For the uninitiated, Coumadin is also called Warfarin and is what the rat killing pellets you placed in the garage are laced with. (I think it is also related to Curare which is the poison tratdionally associated with the blowguns of South American aborigines).

I didn't get asked to take Coumadin this time. Instead I was told to (and I am strictly obeying!) inject some stuff into the fat around my middle. The stuff is called LOVENOX. Doesn't that sound romantic? I wonder where my ox is? Am I really supposed to love one? "Some day my ox will come" sound like a familiar song lyric. I am sure that the stuff works because I bleed a lot if I cut myself shaving. My disenchantment began when the pharmacist revealed that if I didn't have insurance, my three week supply would cost over six hundred dollars. Ouch. (One of the other blessings of being over seventy is that even with insurance that pays all but twenty five bucks on name brand drugs and all but ten bucks on generic ones my regular monthly CO-PAYMENT exceeds a hundred bucks.)

The thing that brought me to the computer was the foolishness of reading the label on Lovenox.
It is derived from "porcine intestinal mucosa". That is the fancy way of saying I am injecting the digestive fluids of pigs into my abdomen. You would think that the honest name for this stuff would be Loveapig, or Loveaporker (I don't think Love a swine would cut it, although some of my former students have used the terminolgy to describe intimate relations with their partners.) Oh well, one - two - three POKE. I am now Lovenoxed (or lovea pigged or - - whatever. ). It is weird to think of how many pork chops one could buy for the price of some pig's intestinal mucosa.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

I have been struggli


I have been struggling with what, of the many things on my mind, would be an appropriate post.  I then realized that, considering  the name of my blog, I have ignored the obvious.  

What is it like to be “three score and ten”? (seventy ).  Of course I can’t give a universal.  There are as many different reactions to seventy years old as there are people who have reached that age.  I sing in a community choir with another bass who is seventy and who runs two or three half marathons every year.  His wife, he says, runs marathons.  Have faith, I am not going to discuss my marathon career.  I used to have a twenty minute jogging career, but that was terminated by a combination of : 1. a quadruple bypass, 2. an ankle broken in a car accident (which ankle had to be rebuilt with screws and plates, 3. an infection in the leg which turned into cellulitis (a rotten infection that makes the leg swell up to twice its size, turn red, and drain yucky stuff into a bandage.  I would enclose a picture, but why upset that many stomachs?)  which spread into the hardware in my leg so that I have just come home from having nine screws and a mending plate removed from my ankle..  Now that is not necessarily part of being seventy, but it affects your seventy year old morale (and makes you fat from lack of excercize.)

For me, all infirmities aside (and there are more –sigh) being seventy essentially means that waitresses (servers, I forgot to be politically correct) talk to me as if I were about seven, or younger.  “WEEELLL Now, how would oo like thumb gooey sweet dessert, honey??” .   Your grandchildren who seemed to admire you and have fun with you become—the word isn’t really condescending, but it means that now they don’t want to stress you so they automatically pick up the remote and ask what program you want to watch because they assume that you can’t make the da…. thing work.  Most irritating is the loss of short term memory.   I took a Psycometrist’s  test about fifteen years ago and when he finished he brought me in for evaluation.  “Have you ever had and I Q test?” says he.  

“I think so,” I replied.

“Do you remember your score?”

“Nope. But I think it was pretty high”

“Well I have good news and bad news.  Your tested I Q is high enough that you would  probably qualify for MENSA (an organization of smart folks), but your short term memory is so bad that the next day you would be struggling to remember what you joined.”

I was bad then, but it is worse now.  I still remember the names of my wife and all six kids, and I even remember my grandkids although I occasionally call one by the name of another—I think, from now on, I will just call all of the FRED, and when I say FRED, the one that answers will get a treat.  Nothing is more frustrating than to try to write a note to an old friend and have to go in to your wife and ask  “What’s the name of my friend who is tall and blonde and is the Associate Dean of the College of Liberal Arts)  Fortunately I have retired and remembering his name is not really crucial.

Other than those minor inconveniences the most beneficial part of being seventy is that you have enough experience to know that no matter what miserable thing happened  today, you can’t change it, it is set in concrete, but if you think about it, you don’t have to do the same dumb thing today.  (Another dumb thing will do just as well.)

More about this later when I have thought about it . . . . . . Or not, if I have forgotten about it.

Don’t let the crap that happens get you down.  You can’t ever control the actions of other people, but you CAN control your reactions—and when you do, you’ll feel better.    

Sunday, September 04, 2005

The old man Posted by Picasa

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Sheppard Smith and Television Awards.

This is more or less a postscript to the message below. I don't know who gives what kind of awards to whom in broadcasting. I know that there are Peabody Awards, Pulitzer Prizes, probably Emmys, but if Sheppard Smith (I don't know that I spelled his named properly) doesn't win one of the above or more for his work in New Orleans then the selection process is completely broken down. His analysis and reporting has been consistently passionate and accurate and his analysis superb. On the other hand, Soledad OBryan (spelling again), whose work I have enjoyed for years on CNN this morning should never be allowed outside the studio again. My wife used to identify certain country singers as the "Whiney Blondes". Soledad is the whiney brunette. She has brought a whole new meaning to "whine". Please CNN, bring her home, save our nervous systems.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Television Masochism:

The last few days have been hellish. I sit down and watch the news and fluctuate from tears to fury and back again. I tell my self to turn off the TV. Katrina is eating you alive!! So I go into the bedroom and turn on the TV there. I go from CNN to FOX to MSNC and back again hoping to get some good news from somewhere.

I get so angry with so many people that I am sure that it is lousy for my blood pressure. I start with saying that I was a Bush supporter in both of the past two elections (and, knowing what I know now, I would probably still support him), but I was so furious at him when CNN cut to the President who was going to speak to the nation about Katrina (I think this was the day after the hurricane when New Orleans was beginning to become a disaster area and thousands were heading for the Superdome).
The President expressed sympathy for the folks who were under stress in about a six word sentence, then, because he was speaking to a Texas audience he changed the subject to securing the borders. MY thought was “Doesn’t he even own a television set? Maybe some assistant could at least bring him a paper.” I was grateful that CNN cut away instantly, it probably saved my set from a collision with whatever was closest to me that I could throw.”

As an ex public speaking teacher the realization of Bush’s greatest weakness hit me. He is unable to speak with passion about anything. It all slips through his mouth, avoiding whatever creates his emotions. (One exception: he did speak with passion, beautifully on 9/11, but the words come out of his mouth, for the most part with emotion of a dead fish)

When I am through being furious with the President I become angry with the liberal talking points people on CNN who would try to find evidence that the entire Hurricane was a Bush plot to raise the price of gasoline.

Then there are the cretinous misfits who galloped from store to store looting. I don’t think anyone in the world would blame someone without food from breaking into a store for food, water, baby formula etc., the idiot seen on television (without even covering his face) wheeling a shopping cart full of expensive sneakers, or the three hundred pound goof ball dragging a pallet cart full of stereo equipment and flat screen TVs in the other direction (at least he had the intellect , when he realized he was on TV to pull his T shirt up over his nose) I’d like to line them up and make them eat what they caught.
Now to top it off we had the presentation by the Congressional Black Caucus blaming Republicans and Bush for “everything” as if the levies, for instance hadn’t been a feature in the New Orleans papers for fifteen years citing investigative reports that the levies would never hold beyond a class three hurricane.
What New Orleans lacked was a Rudy Giuliani or his equivalent (or for that matter, the President) stomping out into the middle of the mess and LEADING the community and the states into action. Like almost everything that is run by the government, problems arose instantly because No ONE was in charge so like any government program the beaurocats have to spent one day arguing about who will pay for what, and another day playing CYA, and after all the asses are at least theoretically covered we can start doing something. ARRRRGHHHH I guess I will go in to the TV and torture myself again. I am become an addict to second hand adrenaline. At least, when hurricane Andrew went to Florida I was young enough and healthy enough to go down, help feed people and nail plywood on roof tops. All I can do now is send money, and I would feel better about that if I saw a little more of it used a little better.