Monday, April 27, 2015
Saturday, April 11, 2015
With all that is going on in the world, it's difficult to avoid negativity, so, at times, I find myself reflecting on the decade of the '50s; a time just prior to the onset of our national psychosis. I thought I'd reflect on a few of my light-hearted memories from those great days when I was a kid.
I once wrote a book called, "The Huckleberry Days of the '50s" describing my personal experiences growing up in Los Gatos during the '50s. Silicon Valley back then was a blanket of fruit trees. Schools had to adjust their starting date based on the prune crop, because most students worked picking apricots and prunes during the summer.
Blossom Hill Road, running from Los Gatos to San Jose, provided a panoramic view of blossoming fruit trees as far as the eye could see. Those magnificent miles of orchards were the playground for young kids and a source of income for older kids.
The orchards and open fields served another purpose - forts. The urge for young boys to build foxholes and forts seems to be universal. I still remember those “fort-building” days and the competition between the ground-dwellers, who dug holes and camouflaged them, and the tree-dwellers, who had the advantage of prehensile tails for climbing. The gopher guys usually did better, because the monkey guys didn’t have opposable thumbs and kept dropping their tools.
Miraculously this building urge hit all my friends at about the same time. Our neighborhoods were pock-marked with foxholes. It looked like the area had been taken over by a hoard of large ground squirrels.
I remember my younger brother building a better fort than the one my buddy and I had built. Tom is smart. It takes brains to become a Captain for a major airline. TWA honored him upon his retirement, which was rarely done. I've always been proud of him. His mechanical skills blossomed early and I envied his fort.
Tom had the additional advantage of having a girl to share his domain. Tom didn't know the unwritten law that forts were for boys only. Girls were not allowed in a boy's fort. But Tom hadn't yet grasped the concept that girls weren't boys. He thought they were soft boys with long hair who ran funny.
But ignorance of the law is no excuse. To express our displeasure, my buddy and I lit Tom's fort on fire while he was inside playing doctor with his girlfriend. The poor kid tripped over his stethoscope as they both scrambled out in a cloud of smoke.
If we had given him a few more minutes to finish his exam, he may have resolved any question he may have had as to why we didn't let soft boys who ran funny into our forts. Of course, that attitude changed dramatically for all of us a few short years later, but by then we had forgotten how to build a fort.
There is a lingering rumor that my fort-building buddy used Tom's stethoscope on dates in high school combining it with the reassuring ploy, "It's okay. I'm a doctor."
We needed wood for our forts and we weren't adverse to commandeering wood anywhere we could find it. A local contractor had just completed a house on the next street over from ours. The word on the street was that his house came up one bedroom and half a garage short. He ran out of lumber. The poor guy was still studying his wood order when I tossed the last of the camouflage over my hideout.
I have a friend who was raised in Southern California where orange orchards covered the land. He and his buddies built the mother of all foxholes. It was deep. It was huge. And it was very well camouflaged. One sunny day my friend and his buddies were making their daily trek to their underground home when they heard the sound of a tractor. Suddenly they saw a tractor make a turn down the very row where this huge foxhole had been dug. It was the farmer who owned the orchard blissfully guiding his tractor into fort-building history.
The boys took off running as the tractor approached their camouflaged foxhole. They looked back just in time to see the tractor disappear head first into the black hole. That was many decades in the past. Legend has it that the tractor is now buried under a shopping mall and when it's real quiet and the moon is full, they say you can hear the ghostly sounds of a tractor engine idling where orange trees once grew.
That's a true story, except for the ghost tractor, and I may have embellished the thing about burning down Tom's fort. But that was the world I grew up in and it couldn't have been better.
Friday, April 3, 2015
Easter means chocolate eggs, Easter egg hunts, and spring break to some people. But for many others, Easter is a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Mel Gibson's movie, "The Passion of Christ" gave us a realistic-maybe too realistic- depiction of what Jesus went through prior to and during the crucifixion.
We've seen versions of the crucifixion many times in a variety of movies. The unjustified brutality can elicit anger and hate for the Roman soldiers and religious leaders who inflicted pain and suffering on a man who only expressed love and kindness. The people chose the criminal Barabbas for freedom and the sinless Jesus for crucifixion. Evil abhors good.
One thing that has always stood out to me is something I find very difficult to comprehend. It's the fact that even on the cross, while in excruciating pain and agony, Jesus looked down from the cross at the Roman soldiers who were gambling for His clothes and said something shocking. Jesus said, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." He forgave them.
Could you forgive those who had whipped and tortured you and had just pounded huge nails through your wrists and feet? I couldn't, but Christ did.
We live in a time when Christians are persecuted, tortured, and killed world-wide. The persecution and hatred of Christians is increasing in America. I have a visceral reaction to those anti-Christian zealots, particularly Islamists who behead children in the name of a Muslim god. The last thing I want to do is forgive them, but that is what Jesus taught and demonstrated in the most horrific and least likely situation one would expect to find forgiveness.
I suppose I could forgive the Islamic savages after I killed them. I don't think forgiveness means acceptance and I doubt that Christians are obliged to stand by passively while evil primitives slaughter Christians and Jews, including innocent children. So there is a conflict, but Jesus said that if we want to be forgiven, we must forgive others. Talk about a dilemma . . .
We always think of forgiveness as forgiving others, but how about forgiving ourselves? I think that is some cases it's easier to forgive someone who did something to cause us pain than to forgive ourselves for things that haunt our memories and cause a sense of guilt and regret.
This whole forgiveness thing is something I don't completely understand. It seems to go against human nature. There have been many times when I have been reminded of this obligation and have tried to forgive with some degree of success. But it's difficult to wrap my mind around the astounding fact that Jesus forgave while dying in agony on the cross.
That is only one of many things that impact me personally when I consider an event that happened over two thousand years ago; an event so powerful that it divided history into BC and AD. That brief statement by Christ from the cross is sometimes overlooked, but it is immensely significant.