Monthly Archives: August 2012

An evening in the dark with strangers…

I love movie theaters.  Nothing is better than a big bag of popcorn, a diet coke and some raisinets while you sink down in a big comfy seat in front of a huge screen surrounded by strangers.  Even with today’s 100+ inch flat screen high definition TVs with sound systems that create that “theater experience”… it’s still not the same.

And even though the big megaplex, gazillion screen theaters of today offer so much more convenience than the small theaters of my youth, I still miss the small ones.

The Carolina Theatre was in the heart of downtown Elizabeth City.  Most nights you would have to park a block or two away and walk to get to the ticket booth.  It was one of those single little box offices recessed a little bit off of the street.  On the average Friday night there wouldn’t be much of a line.. maybe 3 or 4 of my friends and their dates but that was usually about it.  I do remember though when I went to see JAWS there.  The line wrapped all the way around the corner onto Colonial Ave.  That was the only time I ever remember seeing the theater full.  Anyway, as you got up to the front of the line, you could already smell the popcorn that was cooking inside!  Once you got your ticket you could walk through the door on either side into a relatively small lobby.

On the left hand wall were the big movie posters of coming events.  Over on the other side was the concession stand.  If there were two people working back there, it was crowded…. so more often than not… there was just one.

Once you had your popcorn and associated amenities you walked up through the double doors where you would find yourself standing under the balcony but if you looked to the right you were looking out into the theater.  There was a very subtle orange glow to the heavy draperies hanging on the side walls to help with the sound.  There was a little stage looking area at the front of the screen with lights shining up the screen to provide some additional light when you were looking for a seat.

As we walked in, people would call out your name as you walked passed them and of course you would have to stop and talk… and sometimes you might even join them.  But more often than not, we spread out over the whole theater since we were on dates.  We all wanted to be alone… together.

The movie always started with a short of some kind back then instead of commercials and thousands of previews.  Once the movie started though, the experience back then was almost the same as it is today… a couple hours opportunity for me to get completely lost in a world that has absolutely nothing to do with the trials and tribulations of the day to day world I live in.  Now that I think about it… I wonder what’s playing this weekend?

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Making the effort….

I am sitting on a bench in the gym locker room.  Leaning over with my forearms resting on my thighs as I gasp, trying to catch my breath.  My heart still feels like it is about to jump out of my chest.  My ear buds are still in my ears, my ipod blasting out  Billy Joel singing “Captain Jack”.  I am just staring at the floor watching sweat drip off my chin into a puddle on the floor between my feet.  My arms and legs have a slight quiver to them as they try to recover… completely spent from my morning workout.  All of a sudden, I start to chuckle to myself.

So this is it?  Are you kidding me?  This quivering, sweating, struggling to breathe, heart pounding pile of humanity is the new and improved me?  Suddenly the old version didn’t seem to be so bad after all.  But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that yes… this is it… I am new and improved.

I have worked for the last 4 months to be able to run again… to try to regain some of my health that I had been squandering.  I am 50 pounds lighter and just finished a 4 mile run in 41:45.  As I pondered my activities of the last 4 months it came back to me… a saying from my college days….  in Greek, the saying is χαλεπὰ τὰ καλά. It is pronounced “Khalepá tà kalá”.  Translated it means… “Naught without labor” or “the good / beautiful things are difficult [to attain]”.

With every day that passes I am finding this to be more and more true in ever aspect of my life.  We work so hard at our lives to make things easy… when in reality, all of the things in this life that are truly worth having require a lot of hard work.  I can’t think of a single instance where this doesn’t apply.  This hard work doesn’t build a level of resentment but rather it causes us to assess whether or not we truly want something.  Are we willing to do the work necessary to have whatever it is we feel we want out of our lives?

Whether it is a job… or school… or weight loss (physical fitness)… or relationships…  if it’s worth having… it’s worth working hard to have.  So, don’t let the hard work deter you, my friends… if it’s worth having or doing, it is worth the effort… just keep pushing forward!

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Simply the best…

I have been thinking a lot lately about friends.  You remember those kids that you would get together with the moment you woke up and you would be with them all day long.. and a good part of the night too.  And you did this every day of your life.  You seemed to always want to do the same things.  Always thought the same thoughts… you were like one person in two different bodies.  There was just no way that you could possibly get through life without being in each others presence…. it was like you were Siamese twins separated at birth and forced to live in separate households.  How cruel was that!

Well, that’s not who I’ve been thinking about.  I have had true deep friendship on my mind.  While the people that I was just talking about may have turned into these kinds of friends, my guess is they probably didn’t.  Actually, all of my friends like that from my past are gone.  I never see or talk to any of them anymore.

But we all have those rarest of people in our lives.  If we are lucky we may have two or three… for most of us though… we are lucky to find one.  These are not people that love us for all of the things that we are.  Oh no, for some reason, they love us, in spite of all of the things that we are.  They will stand there and let us abuse them… ignore them…. hurt their feelings… stomp on everything that is important to them.  They will stand right there, pick themselves up from the ground after we have knocked them down for the 10th time in that one day… brush themselves off and keep standing there with us.

They will watch us take a match and light it and set it to our own lives and burn it all to the ground…. destroying everything that we have known and cared about and worked so hard for.  And when the smoke clears, we look around… disbelieving what we have done to ourselves… and their they stand… ready to help us.

Why do those people do this?  Why do they tolerate us and all of our shortcomings?  Loving us unconditionally?

Well, let me tell you… I am one of the blessed ones… I have just such a person in my life… they keep standing there…. and I have no idea why…. and yet, I don’t know what I would do if they weren’t there…  and so I thank you, my dearest of friends.  Thanks for your tolerance… your patience… your devotion…. and your love.

You do realize that you could take that match out of my hand before I actually use it sometime, don’t you?

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Tricycles and tar are NOT a good combination…

Being the younger child in the house had its drawbacks.  Yeah, I could get away with some stuff that my sister couldn’t… but I always had to deal with her hand me downs.  No, not her clothes!  (Thank goodness that it never went quite that far!)  But I am talking specifically about my first bike… but even more importantly… I’m talking about my little tricycle.

I’m not sure how old I was but I know I was young…  And I do remember that the trike had been ridden a lot.  It was small and rusty a little bit and the hard rubber tires were a little slick.. but now… it was mine!  And I did love it as if it were just picked up from the local Western Auto and delivered right out of the box!

While our house at the time had a carport with lots of concrete to ride on even in the rain… the drive was gravel.  And not only was the drive gravel but the street wasn’t paved yet either.  But none of this stopped me… I was a trike pedaling fool!  I bet I did a thousand miles up and down that drive way.  And then came the infamous day… the day when the state was finally going to pave our street.

Back in the day, street paving wasn’t as neat and clean as it is now…. neat and clean obviously is a relative term with it comes to street paving.  But back then they used a lot of liquid, gooey tar… at least it was gooey when they put it down.  Once it cooled and solidified it was okay for driving on.  Well, as you can imagine, there is nothing more exciting to a young boy than all of the activity associated with paving a street… and I could just see images of me flying up and down the street with my trike… like I owned the road.  I could even stand up on the back step things and push it like a scooter and get up a lot of speed.. I could hardly wait!  It was like Christmas in the summertime!

My mom was well aware of this excitement… and to try to keep it under control, she threatened me within an inch of my life if I got anywhere need the end of the driveway where they were putting out the tar.  You may remember from some previous post, I always had trouble following these sorts of instructions from my mom.  I think it was a hearing issue… or at least a listening problem.

So the paving began and I stayed under the carport just as my mom wanted… at least for a while.  I am convinced to this day that the driveway was on a steep incline going back down to the street… although it might have looked flat to the average person.  Gravity was pulling me uncontrollably down the drive toward the street.

But being the good son that I have always been, I stopped before I got all the way too the street.  But I have to tell you, it really did look cool.. that black and shiny tar… and the great pungent smell… and the huge machines that were putting it out… how cool was all that?!?!  So I’m sitting on my trike there at the end of the drive just watching…. as I started to pedal away, suddenly my trike tips over!  How can that possibly be?  A three wheeled vehicle tipping over?  Somehow, I ended up in the tar… or maybe it jumped on me… I can remember.  But my mom wasn’t buying the jumping tar story.

She came out of the house just as I was getting back up and trying to rub the tar off my hands.. on my shirt, of course.  She wasn’t happy at all with this situation.  All I can tell you is that was the last time I was outside that day… and that was the last time I ever wore that shirt… I guess tar on cloth is a tough thing to clean up.

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Getting to the heart of the matter…

Knowledge can be a wonderful thing.  It is a good thing knowing what day it is or what time it is.  It is great knowing how to get around a city or what day you need to put the trash out.  These are all good.

It is even better to know things that can secure you a better future… things that we learned in school, like math and reading and science.  I remember all of the struggles I had with gaining knowledge in those days.  And to be honest, I’m not sure it is any easier for me today.  I read things, or hear them or see them and trying to interpret the meaning of it sometimes leave me more baffled than I was before my initial encounter with it.  But still I am a seeker.  I  always wanted to “know” things.

But lately I’m not so sure about this.  I am confused and torn by many of the things that I know these days.  I know that things are not as good today as they were say 15 years ago.  I know that there is a lot of violence and hatred in the world.  I know that there is still way too much poverty.  I know that many of my friends struggle every day.  I know that I am not the person that I  should be… So, just maybe it isn’t knowledge that I am seeking.  Maybe it is actually understanding that I need.

I need to understand these things… what they are, why are they that way, are there things I can and should do to make them better.  Just maybe if I can move from the knowledge to the understanding then I can truly move things forward in my life.  See, I believe that knowledge is very much a “head” thing.. it is the numbers… the facts… the figures.  Understanding is more the “heart” of things.. what does it all mean… to the world… to you… to me.

Yeah, I think that’s it.. this started out about a need for knowledge but I think I’m in need more of understanding… now…. Where exactly do I go to find that?

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All that…. and more memories too.

So I’ve been thinking a lot lately… and that isn’t always a good thing!  When I think my mind can just jump all over the place.  But in this case, I have been pretty focused for someone with the attention span of a gnat.

My thoughts have been about this blog.  Am I just blogging about stories from my past?  Is that all there is to me?  Just these stories from a youth oh so many years ago or is it really about something else?  So here is the conclusion I have come to related why I write… and what I should be writing about.

It appears that I compartmentalize everything in groups of 4… There are 4 things that make us feel complete.  These things align with the mantra that you may remember that I mentioned a while back.. do you remember, “Physically Strong, Mentally Tough, Emotionally Secure and Spiritually Grounded”?  (well, it aligns in my mind, anyway..)

All of these memories are important.  But in addition to the memories, we also need our knowledge, our dreams, and our beliefs.  The more I learn, the more I realize I really don’t know very much.  But it is important to always search… and probe… and test… so that we are always expanding our knowledge.

Hope lives in our dreams.  Dreams are what get us up and going every day.  No matter how good the life that we are currently living.. the life that can be… the one we dream of… for our friends… our kids… ourselves.  I know that there is pain and sorry and sadness in my life… in the life of those that I care about…. but I do dream of a tomorrow where those things no longer exist… or at least are only present enough so that we can truly appreciate the joys and contentment that life can hold for us all.

Our memories, knowledge and dreams feed our believes.   Actually everything in our world helps form our beliefs…

So as I continue to write…. my trip back up the narrows won’t just include these stories from my memory, but I will share some of what I know… or at least what I think I know…. and some of my dreams… and some of my beliefs too!  But don’t worry friends… there are more memories too.. like the tricycle and the tar episode… and the permanent magic markers and the church wall….  and the great bike vs. trike accident…  and pee wee baseball… and.. oh yeah…. lots more memories!!!

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Falling all over again…

So I’m driving back to the house last night and I notice that the sun is setting earlier these days.  It was a little bit cooler for an August evening than is typical for mid to late August but I was taking advantage of it by riding with the windows down and the tunes up.

I have the good fortune to drive through a lot of farmland on my way back to the house.  The reason for the good fortune was evident last night.  As I was driving along all of a sudden I smelled it.  Oh the smell was so familiar to me.  It was a little bit sweet and yet it was a little bit earthy too…. even a bit musty.

As I rounded a curve, I came upon the source of this most wonderful smell.  They have begun cutting corn where I live.  I love the smells of harvest time.  Those smells that take me back to the miles after mile of corn fields… the dusty smell of potatoes being dug… and peanuts… The beautiful white fields of cotton in its full mature state… looking like a snow storm has happened in the middle of an 80 plus degree heat wave.

It won’t be long before doves find these freshly cut fields and then the hunters will return… the Friday night lights were all on at the local football fields this past weekend and I could hear the high school bands again.

I love this coming season of change…

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