Ramblings of Charles Prier – Writer-Insomniac-General Know-it-All

A New Year’s eve monologue

Big George Collier and his band blasted out nostalgic tunes. Cigarette smoke filled the room. We are all crowded on to a tiny square of polished hardwood. Finally, the dance floor cleared a little as a variation in the music style provided a cue for some of us to retreat to our seats. One or two other unremarkable songs in the final set of 1987 passed by.

Only thirty-five minutes left,” someone yelled and then the band began its version of “That Lovin’ Feeling.” I asked Robbie to spend the rest of the year dancing with me. She skeptically agreed, and we moved to the crowded dance floor.          

A giant mirror along one wall reflected reality but provided the illusion of greater size.

 It was a good dance. Robbie is so pretty. I wonder what she sees in me, I must be okay or she wouldn’t… I felt a bump, squish, and push as some fool tried to get the whole dance floor by knocking everyone else off with their big buns.

The colored lights around the bandstand blinked in perfect sequence. I wondered if they were just Christmas lights or part of the band’s engineered lighting.

Big George sure is tall… what does an earring in a man’s right ear mean? I’m sure not going to ask him. He’s a little cross-eyed or something – sure has a good singing voice.

Under The Boardwalk” sounded good. I think we were in Memphis then. I don’t think I’ve ever been under a boardwalk. Robbie sure does this well, wish we had more room we’d really show’em how.

A woman dressed in white was watching herself in the mirror. I couldn’t believe it; she didn’t even know anyone else was there. She was in love with herself in the mirror. Some twit in a red tie is looking at her; he’s not with her is he? Dang! That’s me. I feel so silly. I don’t think anyone saw me. Hmmm… I see what she means. I don’t look so bad. Maybe if I could lose a little of that paunch… o’ well maybe someday. 

“Up On the Roof” suddenly began playing. How did they do that? The song was different without stopping or starting. I think that’s what they call “Beach Music.” Wonder whoever thought of eating a raw oyster for the first time? Had to be someone who spent a lot of time at the beach. It was probably just a joke. Suddenly we were back to “Under the Boardwalk” I didn’t even hear it change. Whatever happened to Loretta Bowman?

The Song was over, about twelve minutes to go in the year.

I didn’t know the next song. Robbie didn’t either. I could tell by the way she looked at me. It had a nice beat, maybe a little fast and jerky. I probably looked so silly. I couldn’t see the mirror. Hope I don’t have a heart attack or some kind of medical fit, everyone would just think I was dancing. 

“Are you all right?” Robbie asked. 

“I’m fine.” 

Robbie would know if I was having a fit. Or… she would have before I told her I was fine. Shouldn’t have answered her. Sure is a long song. Why did she ask me if I was all right?

My Girl,” that’s better. I hoped it was the last piece so they wouldn’t play another silly song. 

Song ended. “Fifty seconds to go,” someone in the band yelled over the speakers.

They can’t play another song, can they? There’s not enough time. Just stand here and hold Robbie close. Count down’s starting. Did they say fifty seconds of fifteen seconds? Can’t tell. Just watch everyone else. This silly hat doesn’t fit. 

Five… Four,” the group shouts. 

Must have been fifteen seconds. Hope I don’t tear up when they play “Auld Lang Syne.” 

“Three… Two… One.” Sheeesh! Sniff Sniff…

Happy New Year! 

 

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Vision Stories

One day when I was almost 14, I was with a group of teenagers just goofing around in front of the library. Sharon, a member of our group, was holding her glasses in her hand. I took them from her and put them on intending to ham-up the delivery a Groucho Marx joke.

Suddenly, the whole world was different. I could see and read the store signs across and up and down Main Street. People nearly a block away had faces. The sidewalk was no longer just a gray slab of concrete but a mosaic of tiny pebbles. I was amazed. I didn’t know until that day that I was nearsighted.

It took a week for my first pair of glasses to arrive at Dr. 0. B. May’s office from Little Rock. They cost $28. I walked around town all day reading faraway signs and just seeing things brightly and clearly at a distance and with detail that I didn’t know was possible.

I was somewhat intimidated by the much bigger world. People looked at me differently; a few of my friends started calling me professor. A couple of guys called me four-eyes. Someone said that I looked diplomatic. I didn’t know the meaning of diplomatic but it sounded good.

I will forever be grateful to Sharon for just being there that day and to Dr. May for his kind professionalism and letting me pay in installments.

Years later, I was a training specialist in the Navy engaged in training Navy Reservist to be aviation flight crewmembers. This involved flying from time to time. Charlie Lindbergh (really that’s his name), a shipmate of mine suggested that we should receive hazardous duty pay like those we were training. This required passing a flight physical — a significant challenge since, we joked, neither of us could see our feet; me because of my vision and over-weight Charlie because of his big belly. Charlie went on a diet. I memorized the eye chart.

During the eye test, the medical corpsman asked me to read a line from the chart. I recited it flawlessly without hesitation. The corpsman gave me a puzzled look and said, “You certainly can see good, sailor. You just read the other side of that eye chart.” No one told me that eye charts have two sides.

The results of our efforts presented a life lesson to me. Charlie’s hard work paid off with dividends. My shortcut didn’t even work.

I still had to fly from time to time and without the extra pay. I complained once to my crew leader that everyone was receiving hazard pay except me. He said, “Maybe your participation in this flight is the reason the rest of us are getting the hazard pay.”

Another life lesson — it’s not just about me. I never complained again.

Free Kittens for Sale

Not really, I only have one cat and he is part-time. He comes here on weekends and sometimes evenings, when the office next door is closed. That office is occupied, during business hours, by my son and my animal-loving daughter-in-law.

The title is more of a philosophical statement than an advertisement. You may have to think about that for a moment. To me it’s reminiscent of everyday adages and familiar clichés such as: there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Thinking further you can even conjure up other saws that are applicable to everyday situations, e.g., the purchase price is only a down payment. That’s particularly true of pets. A blank check is limited by the amount in the account. And even unconditional love ultimately has conditions.

To me it’s an important reminder that I should diligently think through all the circumstances before I invest money or, more importantly, life energy in exceptional situations whether these are perceived as opportunities or problems.

When considering opportunities I find that I tend to not only rationalize the expenditure but sometimes do a lot of wishful thinking about the expected results. For example, I might forget a kitten too soon becomes a cat who, depending on gender, either odorously marks his (and my) territory and prowls or periodically generates numerous other cats.

 Problems are a different matter because there are so many different kinds. I often think of obstacles that prevent me from being right or having my own way as problems. I know that my moral compass should rule in these cases but its bezel is often clouded with stubborn selfishness and pride. The clouds usually go away with time, a little pouting and giving or pretending to get an apology.

Sometimes fate deals us a hand we can’t see beyond. The problem attacks us on several fronts, questions worthless to even think about, spring up. Why? What did I do to cause this? I could’ve. I, we, they should’ve. Thinking through requires the realization that answering these questions and mulling over possible missteps will not change the situation one iota and will drain away valuable energy that should be directed toward finding solutions, carrying out those that are possible and living hopefully.

There are two things I sometimes forget when I’m thinking things through. The first is that I’m not alone and my reactions to opportunities and problems will impact, to some extent, my friends and loved ones. These deserve consideration. And the other is: Everything in life, good or bad is temporary. –CP

Well that’s almost true. Most of my success in investing has been due to ignorance. For example, part of my incentive pay was once from stock options. At the time I didn’t know what to do with them. Fortunately they were good for five or so years. I felt a little foolish thinking about them from time to time but because of the complications and my low tolerance for confusion I just let them sit. Over time the options increased in value, the stock split several times and continued to grow in price. Before the first batch expired I had to do something. I got up enough nerve to ask a few questions of my friends at happy hour. I learned that you didn’t really have to have the cash to buy the options to start with. You could sell them short and then pay for them from the proceeds. It worked out well I made it a good piece of change by being ignorant of the process.

I had learned another valuable lesson, which was that I could ask a few questions at happy hour while everybody was happy, without appearing too ignorant. So I asked how day-trading works. The know-it-all from Finance said, “That’s easy, here’s the deal. You select the stocks you will buy somewhere in the $10 to $15 or $20 range and set aside $20,000, or there about, to play with. You buy 1000 shares of a stock near the close or the next morning. Then you watch it for a one dollar uptick in price, then sell it. Don’t get greedy waiting for a higher price and don’t fall in love with your selections. If it hasn’t gone up a dollar within a week sell it anyway and pick another stock. You could make $1000 to $2000 a week without much effort or a lot of risk.”

I picked some stocks and pretended to buy them just to check out the system. It worked! I made and imaginary $28,000 in less than a month. Lost some too, also imaginary thank goodness. It was obvious that I needed to know a great deal about the companies I selected and the businesses they were in if day-trading was to become a major income stream. I put my Happy Hour University Diploma away in my Someday Pouch along with all the fun things I was saving for someday. I think of it from time to time . . .  between fun things.  –CP

Stumpset’n

Claude Parker, a Navy comrade of many years ago once told me that he could just sit around and think and learn stuff. He said he tapped into the universe for new knowledge and could assimilate facts from his memory. I thought the idea was preposterous.

I was wrong. Through this process he noted that elements of fundamental truths among unrelated things often correspond. For example: while thinking about questions on an intelligence test, he noted as fact that Paper is to pen as chalkboard is to chalk ;therefore, many of the characteristics of paper might apply to chalkboards and the same for pen and chalk – new facts to consider and assimilate.

A simple example yes, but it illustrates the underlying process of Stump Sitting (pronounced Stumpset’n). Stumpset’n involves clearing out those ingrained notions, attitudes, and prejudices that are queues for the repetitious sequence of everyday thoughts. Once the sequence is broken new facts can be observed.

Why is so much effort involved in solving everyday problems?

We don’t usually carry around problems looking for solutions but we carry a bag of solutions with us at all times. When a problem is encountered we reach into our bag for the solution. If we can’t find a solution that fits the problem, we lapse into a quandary and launch a sequence of thought to redefine the problem to match a solution in our bag. The path is set, redefinition follows redefinition and is not likely to lead to an effective solution.

Frustration is added as a new ingredient to the process. Further mental effort is demanded, intensifying the repetitious sequence. Our thoughts diverge further and further from the needed solution. It’s not until the sequence is broken that an optimum solution is reached.

Stumpset’n is not for solving specific problems but for practice in clearing the obstacles to unencumbered thought. It adds to your bag of solutions by creating new solutions, variations of old solutions, adding options, smoothing out and filling in details.

Find a stump in a quiet spot (physical or mental) where there is just you and God. Relax to the point your shoulders are no longer touching your ears. Observe nature, relive happy and triumphant events, savor the moment, and follow the threads of random thoughts until they become obscure or excite you to the point of action. Now you’re Stumpset’n.    –CP

 

Parson Marcus Burns was a blessing to the Villagers of Ballycarry in 18th century Northern Ireland. When he came to visit, if their floor squeaked it stop squeaking, if their roof leaked, it stopped leaking. Babies stopped crying, dog stopped barking, colors were brighter and the air throughout their home took on a clean and wholesome fragrance. The Parson’s visits brought peace and tranquility to the family along with a sense of security that there would always be plenty of everything they needed.

Some thought the Parson was accident prone because he was known to suffer numerous bruises, scratches, and minor lacerations from odd accidents. Actually, Satan hated him, he cursed him and placed obstacles in front of him to trip him up everywhere he could. He would cause otherwise friendly puppies to bite him and kittens to scratch him. At inconvenient times, bees and unprovoked wasp would sting him. Parson Burns was undaunted by Satan’s efforts. He kept his faith and cheerfully continued his visits with the villagers.

One day while visiting a newlywed couple the bridegroom mentioned that he was concerned that their well was going dry. While leaning over to look into the well, Parson Burns slipped falling headfirst into the well. The young parishioner, trying to save him grabbed the Parson by one leg. Unfortunately, he kept slipping and slipping until he was holding him only by his shoe. Finally the Parson’s foot slipped out of his shoe and he continued to fall into the well which, since being bless, was filled with water. All efforts to save Parson Burns from drowning failed.

The newlywed parishioners kept the Parson’s shoe, placing it in a position of prominence in their home. Throughout their lifetime their home was abundantly blessed with plenty of everything they needed.

Since that time the Villagers of Ballycarry have given a single Parson’s shoe to newlywed couples to remind them of the Parson’s blessing, encourage them to keep the faith and to symbolize their wish that everyone in their home would always have plenty of everything they need. –The Towne Crier, 1796

My Friend Finis

Although some would say he was a sissy, having Finis as a friend was advantageous; he lived nearby, was usually available for an adventure of some sort and best of all, he had a brother-in-law. Having a brother-in-law was always an asset if you were 13 or 14 years old. It gave you access to all sorts of information about sex and girls and women and more or less made you an authority to all your other friends on these and other grown-up subjects.

Finis was not particularly creative but had an unusual imagination. For example, when someone asked why his brother-in-law put an envelope instead of money in the plate when it was passed around at church each Sunday, he said it was because he and his sister were married in the church and had to write on the envelope the number of times they did it each week.

“Everyone who puts their offering in an envelope is reporting the same thing. Even the old people that were thirty or thirty-five,” he said. “These were read by the preacher and the deacons to make sure that the marriage was going okay.”

You would be surprised at the number of his friends who actually believed he was telling the truth. Of course, he was speaking from the authority of having a brother-in-law, so no one could dispute him.

Finis and I used to camp out in the woods or in a field nearby. I don’t believe we ever stayed out all night because Finis had large and very sensitive ears. He was good at hearing scary but imaginary sounds no one else could hear. He would get scared of some monster, often a panther he heard in the woods and we would break camp and go home.

I remember his mother as being an older woman who suffered from some nervous disorders. She was not like my mother or the mothers of our other friends. I always wondered why she named him Finis. Of course Finis does mean the end and he was the last of her children.

I have some fond memories of Finis and some of the things we talked about during our adventures together. He always had cigarettes or roll-your-own tobacco and could make a nice campfire. We told jokes that we both had heard before and always laughed when hearing them again.

The last I heard anything about Finis he had passed away. I had a moment of silence out of respect and thought of the bicycle accident we had riding in tandem down Dennison Hill.

Rest in Piece my old friend.

The End (No pun intended)

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