Ralph Higgins

Ralph Higgins
color pencil sketch by Gayle Higgins

Quotes I Like

“Everyone is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

-Albert Einstein


Monday, December 17, 2012

Gayle and I want to wish every reader a wonderful Christmas season. 

            For those who prefer, “holiday” to “Christmas,” remember that the word “holiday” has its origin in “Holy Day.”  But keep that under your hat and don’t let it get out into the public domain or we’ll be saying, “Happy Snow Season.”  Up here in the snowy mountains, where shoveling a driveway is our winter recreation, that may not be a happy greeting.

            I’m going to take a respite from my blog for awhile, but you can always go into the archives and scroll through my past posts.  You may find something interesting to read.

            Believe it or not, “unhinged” has weekly readers all across the U.S. and scattered in places like Canada, England, Denmark, Germany, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, and Spain. These are regulars.

            There are also occasional readers in countries like Mexico, Russia, Ukraine, Pakistan, Alaska, France, and other far-away lands.  I’m sure many of these “sometimes” readers hit the site by accident.  I’ve also had several unusual visitors, including the Justice Department in Washington, D.C., a year or two ago.  But that just adds to the fun.

            I know that many of you are personal friends going back to our school days, but many are folks I’ve never met in person.  Thanks to all of you for reading my sometimes nonsensical ramblings.  I hope you’ll keep in touch through the blog, which I’ll keep online for anyone interested, or through my website at www.ralphhiggins.com, or by email higgins@digitalpath.net.

            I’ll be back unless the Mayan calendar is true, which is about as likely as the 12th Imam bursting out of his gopher hole riding a goat. But if it is true, just think - we can forget about shoveling snow, last-minute shopping, filing 2012 tax returns, and watching the country self-destruct.  It’s always good to look on the positive side. 

            And it’s also good to realize that the answer to the old song by Peggy Lee, “Is that all there is?” is “No.”  This is not all there is.  Sorry Peggy.

            Ever wonder why so many wealthy entertainers and athletes, who seem to have everything money can buy, get lost in drugs, alcohol, and go nuts or commit suicide?  Obviously, something is missing in their lives.

            Maybe the brilliant French physicist and philosopher, Pascal, had it right in the quote I featured at the top of this post.  It’s a quote worthy of serious contemplation – especially at Christmas.


Gayle and I want to wish all of you a great Christmas!

"Macho" snow dog Dakota

Girl Cat dressed for the season

Monday, December 10, 2012

Valve Oil and Brass

            Today’s post was on its way to my blog when I made the mistake of asking Gayle and my daughter Shannon to read it.  I thought it was funny and appropriately sarcastic, shedding light on the sea of insanity that we swim in these days.  Their impression was that it was “in poor taste,” so I deleted it.

            Believe me, I struggle with writing what I really want to write about regarding politics, social issues and our moral decline, but I also realize that people don’t need more negative stuff and if I step over the line, my wife will remind me. 

            I run these posts past her, since she is a woman and many readers are women.  What my buddies and I think is funny may offend others.  So Gayle said, “Why don’t you write something nice about Christmas.”  We still call it “Christmas.” 

            In a quick response to her request, I thought back on a Christmas that stands out in my memory.  As you know, the olfactory section of the brain is most closely related to memory.  Smell brings back images faster than any other sense.

            When I open my trumpet case, I smell the familiar odor of valve oil and brass.  That fleeting smell always reminds me of when I was a kid opening my first cornet case under the Christmas tree.  I was only six years old, but I’ll never forget that smell.

            Of all the gifts I received, that old horn stands out as the most memorable.  That memory lingers today.  Man, I wish I still had that cornet.

            A cornet differs from a trumpet in that it is more conical, which produces a softer, warmer sound.  I have a couple of flugelhorns that go even further in that “mellow” direction. 

            Christmas with the Higgins family was always centered on the birth of Jesus.  In our travels, Gayle and I have noticed that this event is sometimes celebrated more in third world countries than it is here in the U.S.

            Santa Claus also played a roll when I was a kid.  My dad always dressed up as Santa and, with only the lights from the Christmas tree gently lighting the scene, he would quietly enter the living room with a bag of gifts.

            My brother Tom and I, along with my mother and others, would watch the scene unfold from hiding places just feet away from Santa. Our hearts beat like jackhammers and we tried our best not to make noise.  It was something that Tom and I will never forget.

            Tom and I both carried on the tradition for our own kids, with the same Santa suit.  Now it’s the grandkids turn.  The sad part of the story is that I used to wear a pillow for a stomach.  Tom still does, but for years I’ve had trouble buttoning the suit without padding. 

            Christmas memories conflict so dramatically with what passes as Christmas today that I don’t get involved in the commercial aspects of it anymore.  We do our best to see family and friends, but avoid smiling snowmen.  In fact, Gayle and I once spent the holiday season on a cruise and Christmas day in Costa Rica to avoid the frenetic activities that have replaced the real “reason for the season.”

            When you subtract Christ from Christmas, what is left - a gift list, frantic shopping, depleting budgets, guilty reciprocations, a red-nosed reindeer, and colored lights? 

            As far as Gayle’s suggestion this morning to write about Christmas memories, all I need to do is open my old trumpet case and get a quick whiff of valve oil and brass.  That always does it.  

Monday, December 3, 2012

Where's Jimmy Hoffa?

     My previous post was a philosophical critique meant to encourage those of us who struggle with the changes of age and life in general.  I described “change” as a “constant” and “age” fits in the change category.

            They say that with age comes wisdom.  Or what passes as wisdom.  Sometimes an older guy will not answer a question immediately.  He will ponder it, stare at his coffee, and he may never answer.  This is sometimes considered a sign that his thoughts are much deeper than the question that was asked.  When I do this it’s usually because I forgot the question.

            I’ll admit that sometimes I get carried away with hyperbole to make a point. But why write a story without a little exaggeration?  Or maybe extrapolating from a realistic idea to an absurdity?  That’s what makes writing fun for me.   

            For example, my friend Ed Wall, who has actually seen my infamous garage, considers it a “work of art” and in reality it is not as bad as I describe it.  And neither is my wife, Gayle.  She doesn’t really chase me around the house with an ax.  I hid the ax in the garage and keep sharp implements on high shelves. 

            Ed stated in his comment that Jimmy Hoffa could be in my garage somewhere under all the junk.  That’s not possible.  Based on reliable sources, Hoffa went through a series of facelifts and physical transformations and re-appeared as Nancy Pelosi.  You can see the terror in Nancy’s eyes.  She knows that someday her stretched face will crack open and old Jimmy will pop out, grinning like a hog eating briers.     

            When describing my cluttered garage, I’m going back in time to a very close buddy who had a warehouse that is actually the model for the exaggerated descriptions of my garage.

            His warehouse had tunnels leading through mountains of keepsakes and junk.  When I worked up the courage to venture into those tunnels, I wore a miner’s hat with a light and always left a trail of pennies to follow to get back out. Breadcrumbs wouldn’t work because of hungry life-forms lurking in the darkness. 

            My friend almost got a contract with the government for the Witness Protection Program, since his warehouse was the perfect hiding place.  Unfortunately it was discovered that two electricians and a plumber entered the maze for repair work and were never seen again.  That squelched the deal. 

            My garage is nothing like that.  So far everyone who has entered my garage has come out alive and relatively unscathed.  And so far Gayle hasn’t found the ax I hid.  She always says she’s looking for Christmas decorations upstairs, but I’m never sure.  It’s good to have a wife who keeps you on your toes.