Word from Bird Archives Feb 2016

Perchance to dream

You know, I really like sleep.

I like a good, long sojourn into the land of Nod. Or even a quick nap to recharge the batteries.

I like a sleep, where I went to bed so tired, that I wake up the next morning in the same position I was in when I started the night. I also kind of enjoy restless nights where I toss and turn, pulling the sheets from their anchor and ending up in a twisted morass at the foot of the bed.

I don’t know why I like sleep so much, it’s not like I get enough of it.

It seems I always wake up in the morning feeling more tired than when I went to bed. I know it is just a normal reaction, to waking up, but it sure feels like I could stay in bed for a few more hours. (And no, I don’t suffer from apnea, at least I don’t believe so.)

But, on those rare days when I actually could sleep in, I typically can’t.

As hard as I try, usually I wake up within a few minutes of when I normally would.

When I was a kid, and had the benefit of lazy summer days, sometimes I wouldn’t get out of bed before noon, despite my parent’s protestations. In college, once I figured out how to juggle my schedule to only afternoon classes, I would do the same. But, those long mornings usually followed a night where I didn’t go to bed before dawn.

But as I age, and have actual responsibilities; I find my body is just used to getting up at the same time every day.

It also expects me to go to bed around the same time, but I can usually win that battle for a night or two.

It’s nice to have a little internal alarm clock for mornings when there is a power outage, or I forget to reset my alarm. It makes sure I don’t miss going to work. But on a rainy Saturday, it sure would be nice to hit the mental snooze button for a while.

I have a nightly ritual, where I retire to the bedroom a little before I plan to sleep. I get comfortable, snuggling up with a good book for a few minutes before the Sandman pays me a visit.

It helps me clear my head before going to sleep. On nights when I have a lot on my mind, I can stay up for hours going over things in my head. By spending a few minutes lost in a good book, those worries fade away, allowing for a clear head.

I find, with a good night’s sleep behind me, those worries are lessened by the morning’s light.

I bet if I could sleep a little later, they’d be gone completely.


Smells and sounds

I hate to make myself feel old, but I came across an article this week about smells and sounds that are becoming extinct. Some of them I’m not sorry to see go, like the way diesel fuel used to smell before they reduced the sulfur content, but others make me think back to my youth, like the sound of a record player changing discs, or the static of a television when you manually changed the channel and skipped over the stations where nothing was being broadcast on.

There are some smells and sounds kids today will never experience, but were an integral part of growing up for my generation.

They will never hear the pop of a flash cube that we used to have to put on top of our film cameras if we wanted to light a dark picture. And they will never experience the smell of a freshly opened pack of film either.

The sound of a manual typewriter is something that has gone the way of the dodo. I can remember sitting for hours at end at my family’s old typewriter compiling a list of all my baseball cards when I was 10-years old. I spent the better part of a Wisconsin winter picking up each card, typing the player name, year and card number onto a plain white sheet of paper. If I made a mistake (which was often), I’d have to pull the paper out and go over the misprint with a special eraser, then re-load and hope to have everything on the same line.

Of course, the following spring my list was moot when the new year’s cards hit the stores. Today, if I wanted to do that, I could simply set up a spreadsheet and keep it updated on my computer, but it doesn’t seem as fun now.

I still have that list somewhere, and I can still hear the click and clack of the typewriter whenever I think of it.

Speaking of baseball cards, I don’t think kids of today have really experienced placing a baseball or playing card in the spokes of their bicycles to make it sound like a motorcycle. While not exactly extinct, that practice seems to have ended long ago as well.

And for sure they don’t remember the smell of opening a new pack of baseball cards and smelling the sickly sweet aroma of the gum that used to come packaged in with them.

The smells in school have changed as well. Remember getting a mimeographed test sheet? That smell of methanol and isopropanol sure reminds me of class work. That odor has been replaced by the modern printer. Even the markers we used back then had a different smell before they changed the chemical formulas.

It’s funny how even the thought of a particular smell or sound can trigger memories associated with those senses. Kind of like the smell of mom making dinner, or hot chocolate brewing on the stove after a cold winters day.


My Dream House

After years of living a transitory life, spending tens of thousands of dollars in rent I have decided it is time to begin work on a house I can call my own. For many people owning their own home is a large part of the American Dream, and I want my share.

So I recently began working on building my dream house. Not any ordinary house mind you. No! It will be the ultimate house for a man of my tastes.

You see, I have been thinking about this for a long time, ever since I was a young boy in grade school. I went back and found the plans I drew for my dream house back in 1981. I have made some changes and updates to modernize it but the basic layout remains basically unchanged. Who needs architects?

Let me take you on a virtual tour of Casa de Bird.

We start out in my spacious game room, equipped with all the latest technologies; big screen TV, full blown stereo with surround sound speakers, complete video game systems from XBoxes to Playstations (upgraded from Atari and Intellivision) with all the games, pool table, dart board, and of course the requisite super-comfortable couch with chocolate milk dispensers built in. The room is big enough to seat 30 of my closest friends in luxurious comfort as we watch football on my satellite.

My kitchen will be equipped with all the latest gadgets including a full sized pizza oven constantly churning out Chicago style deep-dish pizza to satisfy the hunger my friends and I work up. The refrigerator will be fully stocked with all my favorite beverages and snack items. And right next to the stove will be a grill so I can enjoy my barbeque anytime I want.

My formal living room will be opulently furnished and be spacious enough to hold 200 people for when I throw my weekly dinner parties. Next to the living room will be a dining room filled with banquet tables so everyone gets a seat. A Vegas style buffet table will surround the room and there always will be a plethora of various foods on it 24 hours a day.

Of course I will have an elaborate library filled with thousands of books. I will have all the greats of literature, Shakespeare, Dickens, Hemmingway, Bradbury and King. It will also have a huge comic book collection for the days I feel like some light reading. The room will have a huge fireplace and have a large overstuffed reading chair right in front. A humidor stocked with the finest cigars and bottles of the finest cognac.

My bedroom will have the most comfortable bed ever designed, complete with “magic fingers” for a good massage. A plasma screen TV on the wall, stereo and walk in closet. The bathroom will have a Jacuzzi, large tub (I haven’t taken a decent relaxing bath in years, at 6’3” I am too large to fit in most tubs), TV and Stereo of course. All 50 guest rooms will have similar accoutrements.

Out back I have an Olympic sized swimming pool with diving boards and a water slide, hot tub for 40, and patio. All of it will be enclosed so I may enjoy it any time of the year. Also there will be a full sized golf course, go-cart track and batting cages.

Obviously I will want to keep out the riff-raff. So in addition to an electric fence/ security gate I have a moat surrounding the property stocked with killer sharks and electric eels. Anyone wishing to come over and visit will have to pass through a checkpoint guarded by large mafia-type thugs. If they don’t have the password for that day, they don’t get in.

So that is my dream house in a nutshell. It will be really cool and I am looking forward to starting construction. Back in the day I estimated it would cost only about $10,000 to build. Factoring in inflation I think I can get it done for less than $80,000. Don’t you?


The Lost Art

There has been a lot of news regarding making laws that would mandate school children learn cursive writing. Six states have such laws, and others are looking at similar legislation.

When did cursive not become a thing that we teach our children?

When I was in school we spent many painstaking hours with jumbo-sized writing tablets and pencils so large we could rest them on our shoulders - making loops and swirls until blisters formed on our fingers. The nuns at my school would patrol the aisles with the dreaded ruler ready to crack our knuckles if we showed poor penmanship. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I had to explain my swollen, misshapen hands at the end of the day to my parents. I wasn’t very good at it.

To me, cursive writing is an antiquated form of education. I would wager if you took a survey of most Americans over the age of 25 you would find 90% of them do not use cursive in the way it was intended. Unless you are a doctor or an elementary school teacher I don’t believe anyone actually writes cursive the way it was intended.

Somewhere in our teens, laziness took over and we all developed a bastardized version of cursive writing. The lazy way of writing is a combination of printing and cursive.

Let me ask you this, how many of you still know how to make a proper capital Q or Z in cursive? Does anybody put the extra loops in the capital B, D or Y’s anymore? Does your lowercase r’s contain the proper ridge in it? Does your cursive m actually look more like the way an n should? I thought so.

The only place I see a capital cursive G is on a General Mills cereal box. My name starts with a G and I never could get the cursive form to look right. Just as soon as the class ended I reverted to the standard G when I wrote my name.

Learning cursive, or “script” as it is sometimes called, is a lot like learning Latin as a language. It’s great and gives you a more rounded education but it is not something you will use in everyday life. I don’t think I have ever been in a situation outside of grade school where I was asked to write something down with the stipulation that it must be in perfect cursive form. I would be in trouble if it ever happened.

I realize that most of the things we had to learn in grade school seem pointless to us now or at least useless. I had to do a report on Belize in 8th grade and still can remember some of the facts I used, but how often in everyday conversation does Belize City come up? Calculators have supplanted times tables and I still can’t name the capitals of all the 50 states.

The most important thing to come from grade school is the identification of a child’s skills and areas where he or she needs extra attention. I frustrated many an art teacher with my inability to draw even the most basic of pictures. On the other end reading was never a problem for me and my instructors encouraged me to keep at it. Math was not a strong suit for me but I had several teachers who pushed me to improve and when I graduated high school it was one of my strongest areas.

So maybe we should keep cursive writing in the schools. Who knows, we might be training the next generation of doctors or at the least calligraphers. Just don’t expect me to teach the class.