Jumping The Shark

Two sharks swimming in the ocean under a sun.

I have always wanted to play the guitar.  I remember as a young boy getting a small one for Christmas and strumming away, thinking I was making wonderful music.  It came with a Roy Rogers guitar book that promised to have me playing with the best of them in no time at all.   I dunno whatever happened to that guitar.  It probably got stuck in the closet like so many of my dreams.   I started guitar lessons in 1993 which lasted only 4 months  because a big change at the shipyard forced me to change my schedule and my instructor couldn’t fit me into another slot.  Occasionally, I would pull it out, try to play it for a few weeks, and then I would get distracted with something else.  Well, ever since I watched the movie, “The Bucket Listâ€, with Morgan Freeman & Jack Nicholson, I have been constructing my “bucket list’.  As we all know, a bucket list is a list of the things you want to do before you die, and you probably guessed it already, playing the guitar is on my list.   Vince Lombardi said, “The measure of who we are is what we do with what we haveâ€, and I firmly believe it.  As a matter of fact, learning to play that magnificent instrument will allow me to strike another item off my list: performing in front of an audience.  A place of entertainment we attend quite often has several nights a year for a talent show.   I will be 70 years old when that frightening event occurs next year, but I am determined to make it happen.  As I write this, the fingertips on my left hand are swollen and tender.  I have been assured they will recover.    I guess the next big decision I have to make is deciding when to go on tour J.

I read an article online the other day and the author referred to “jumping the shark†with no explanation as to what it meant.  So off I go to Wikipedia to find out.  Turns out, back in 1977 during the heyday of “Happy Daysâ€, the show’s ratings started to decline and in one episode the writers had “The Fonz†, while water skiing, jump over a shark.  So the term, “jumping the shark†came to mean doing cheesy, weird things to maintain interest.  I probably do a lot of “jumpin’ the sharkâ€.  I tease Jerilyn constantly, a lot of times using the same tired old things to amuse her.  I often wonder if she gets weary of the repetition.  I hope not, I plan on holding her hand for the rest of my life.   I tease friends and family a lot, they seem to enjoy it, but sometimes it doesn’t turn out exactly the way I want it to.  I remember once, taking my car to the insurance company, the young blond girl came out to inspect it and noticed my personalized Virginia license plate that said, “Test Carâ€.  Curious, she asked what I was testing and I replied, “Well, I’m testing a new type of gasoline!†  “Wowâ€, says she, “what type of gasoline are you testing?† I thought for a moment and said, “It’s a combination of nicotine, caffeine, vinegar, honey and 120 octane fuelâ€.   She looked a little puzzled but said nothing as she walked around the car, looking for scratches, dents, rust, etc.  Suddenly she stopped at the driver side headlight, turned and looked at me and said rather seriously, “How many miles per gallon do you get?†  “Uh, well it’s pretty goodâ€, said I, unable to fathom why this young lady didn’t discern that was teasing her.  At this point I knew I couldn’t tell her this is all a ruse, that it was said in fun.  “How many?†she asked?   Then the thought comes charging into my underused brain like the bulls running the streets in Pamplona, Spain, “last time I checked I got 120â€, figuring surely she would discover it was all nonsense.    She finished her checklist, gave me a copy, and headed back inside, telling me she had everything she needed and for me to, “have a good dayâ€.   I opened the car door, crawled inside and sat there for a few minutes trying to understand what just happened.   I finally drove away, with a sadness that comes when you realize that what you tried to do failed miserably.   I think essayist, Agnes Repplier, said it correctly, “It is not easy to find happiness in ourselves, and it is not possible to find it elsewhere.†  If only I could learn that lesson.

Jerilyn and I watched the movie “Up In The Air†starring George Clooney the other night and his character made the statement, “Never quit moving, when you do, you grow oldâ€.  I’m inclined to agree and believe lack of movement creates much of the malaise associated with old age.  It is so much easier to sit around doing nothing than getting off my butt and getting the exercise needed to maintain good health.  On our recent vacation in Pennsylvania we stayed at Woodloch Pines, which is a resort that feeds you until you go blind, or at least until you cannot see out of one eye.  We were fed three huge meals each day, and by the time we departed on the 3rd day, the food I ate only went down as far as my Adams Apple.  I calculated that if all the food I ingested during the 8 days away from home was put in one place, it would easily fill a 5 gallon bucket.  I was so ashamed and angry at myself.  Evan Esar said that, “Anger is the feeling that makes your mouth work faster than your mindâ€.  Well, I must have been an angry guy, because my mouth was certainly working faster than my mind as I stuffed down every imaginable thing you could possibly eat.  That reminds me of a quote by Maya Angeleou: “It’s hard to make the prettiest clothes fit a miserable manâ€.  I have promised myself that I will do better on our next trip.  Maybe I can fit into the prettiest clothesJ.

On our 8 day vacation to NY we watched as the 33 Chilean miners were rescued from 2300 feet below the earth’s surface.  They were down there for 70 days and it made me pause to wonder what I would do if in the same situation.  It took 17 days to make contact with the surface so I imagine that would have been the hardest part.  I probably would have made a lot of promises to God if only he would save us.  Then, I would probably have relived my life in its entirety, trying to identify my mistakes and determining what I should have done differently.  One of my concerns would be that once rescued I would fail to follow up on my promises to God and, over a period of time, revert back to the person I was before the tragedy happened.    We were relieved they were extracted safely from that horrible place.  I hope they are able to keep their promises to their God. .  I know that I would ask The Lord why I was put in that situation, and why I deserved to die in such a manner. I am reminded that, “Where God puts a period, you should never put a question markâ€.

On our trip home from up north, I was sitting in our car in the small town of Millsboro, Delaware, while Jerilyn visited an antique store.  Many large semi-trucks, loaded with live chickens, rolled by headed for the nearby slaughter house.  On each truck, there were many cages with 4 or 5 chickens in each cage.  One of the trucks stopped beside our car, pausing for a stop light, and I noticed the birds seemed miserably unaware of their upcoming fate.   As I looked closely at them, I knew that within a few days they, and many others, would be food on a lot of plates. In a typical processing plant, birds are unloaded in what is known as the “live hang area.†Workers hang the chickens upside down from metal shackles connected to a mechanical rail that conveys them into the plant. They go first into a unit that uses a mild electric shock to make them unconscious, and then they are brought to the “kill machine,†where a blade cuts their throat and they bleed to death. We don’t have to worry about being food on someone’s plate, but we are just as unaware of potential tragedies that may await us.  As a young boy living with my grandparents, I often had the job of killing and cleaning a chicken for supper and that never bothered me much; however, the thought of killing thousands at a time is depressing.  Maybe next time I sit down to eat a chicken, I’ll remember those trucks with their cargo of living things……then again, maybe not L.  As I ponder over those poor chickens, I’m reminded of a quote by Jackie Levin, “My boat is so small and your sea is so immense, why is it filled with so many sharks? “.

I hope that wherever you live on this wonderful planet, you are safe from harm, secure in a happy life, and that you have enjoyed this view from “My Window on The Worldâ€.  If you get a chance, drop me a line, I would love to hear from you.  Remember, if you are rich, your name is on a building; if you are middle class, your name is on your desk; if you are poor, your name is on your shirt ………………………Tommy

To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere

without moving anything but your heart…..Phyllis Theroux