A tale of two sheet pans

by Dave Williams

It was the best of pans, it was the worst of pans.

CarolAnn and I will celebrate our 34th anniversary three days from now. It’s a proud achievement for us both. The secret, as most long-married people will tell you, is to learn the art of compromise. Here is one of ours.

I am not allowed to cook with CarolAnn’s baking sheet. She likes her pots and pans to shine. I don’t see the point, I really don’t, especially when it comes to the bottom of a pan, the part that sits on a stovetop or oven rack. We don’t put food on burners or racks and in any case the long exposure of a trifle of potato slices or a slab of chicken to high heat makes any argument about cleanliness really academic in my view.

My view is not universally accepted.

So, we each have our own baking sheets. Here are hers and mine side-by-side. You guess which is whose.

By the way, I scrubbed the one on the right in soapy water before taking this picture.

When I cook for us I use my pan and it doesn’t seem to bother her in the least. And, cookies that come from her glistening cookery have never tasted too clean for my palate. The result is peace and tranquility lending itself to an epic tale of marital harmony.

Just one final note. In the spirit of helping younger life partners evolve a bit in this matter, I’ll leave one more picture.

CarolAnn does all of her cooking in the kitchen next to our family room. This is mine.

Any questions?

 

Bunky has checked out

by Dave Williams

We all say we want to live each day as if it was our last but we don’t. We live responsibly and follow rules of behavior that sometimes tug at the free spirit within us like a dog straining at the leash.

We try to be people others will approve of.

Randall “Bunky” Jacobs did not.

Randall “Bunky” Jacobs

“Uncle Bunky burned the candle, and whatever else was handy, at both ends. He spoke in a gravelly patois of wisecracks, mangled metaphors, and inspired profanity that reflected the Arizona dive bars, Colorado ski slopes, and various dodgy establishments where he spent his days and nights.”

Bunky didn’t care what anyone thought of his life of self-indulgence. Though some would surely judge him harshly it seems pretty obvious that Bunky just plain didn’t give a shit.

Yet, those who knew him loved him.

“His impish smile and irreverent sense of humor were enough to quell whatever sensibilities he offended. He didn’t mean any harm; that was just Bunky being Bunky.”

He died far younger than necessary I suppose. Still, his obituary tells me that Uncle Bunky got more out of 65 years than most of us would in 165.

“In lieu of flowers, please pay someone’s open bar tab, smoke a bowl, and fearlessly carve out some fresh lines through the trees on the gnarliest side of the mountain.”

Bunky surely had his regrets. The obit doesn’t mention a wife or children though that doesn’t mean he didn’t have them. I’m guessing he did not and that might have been a sore point for him. Who knows?

It’s impossible to know what a man on his death bed is thinking. Did Bunky wish he had done things differently or did he simply enjoy his life, accept his fate graciously and look for the exit? The obit suggests the latter.

“I’m ready for the dirt nap, but you can’t leave the party if you can’t find the door.” – Uncle Bunky

I’ve decided I can admire Bunky without idolizing him. I don’t think he’d want to be idolized anyway.

Maybe he could have lived longer and even happier in some respects, maybe not.  That’s a personal matter we’ll all have to decide for ourselves.

Either way, there’s something about Bunky or his legend that I love.

 

Is the pandemic a reset?

by Dave Williams
April  2, 2020

   The whole world is gripped with fear. COVID-19 is killing people, overwhelming health care systems and forcing the global economy to its knees.

As I write this we’re all being told to stay home, wash our hands constantly and don’t touch our faces. We’re told to stay at least six feet apart lest Armageddon takes us all, one hapless victim at a time.

Mass media reports are hysterical.

What if this is a Grand Plan? What if God is hitting the reset button and putting us back on the right path?

If you don’t believe in a supreme being that’s fine. I’m not sure I do, either, but hear me out.

Whether this crisis is real or manipulated as some believe, whether or not  the threat to human life is real or overblown it is undeniably real in the changes it  has brought to all  of our ordinary lives.

People are staying home. Families are forced to spend time together, to play games and to remember – or learn for the  first time – what it means to be a family.

There are more people walking the streets of our neighborhoods than ever before. They’re staying safe but being brave, acting cheerful and neighborly. I’ve gotten waves and smiles from people on our street I’ve never seen before. Social media is giving us glimpses of families and friends engaged in happy play in the safety of their own homes.

Kids have never had it so good. Not since I was s child in the 1950s.

Our dogs have never known such loving attention and companionship as they do now, the kind of love they’ve always given us.

We’re home. We’re fearful but we’re learning to rediscover our  humanity and the meaning of life on our own terms.

Even the terrorists are setting aside their fratricidal tactics to ensure their  own safety. ISIS recently told their own death squads to  hunker down. Think of it, people who  willingly blow themselves up to take innocent lives are suddenly fearful of their own mortality.

Change is in the air, all around the world. It’s a terrifying time to be sure. But what if it’s just meant to be, for our own good?

The New Testament describes Armageddon as both a place and a revelation of events that many deem to foretell the end of the world.

What if it’s really a new beginning?

Believe what you will of the existence of God and Revelations. I don’t know what to believe. That stuff is over my head. But I do see something resulting from this pandemic, real or imagined, that is more hopeful than we might have ever dreamed possible.

We’re setting aside our petty differences, putting careers on the back burner and finally finding time for each other.

This may be much more than a silver lining around a dark cloud. It just might put us back on a path we lost a generation or two ago.

Family, friends;  do unto others.

For now at least, love, decency and kindness seem to be in vogue.

I embrace it and look forward to a better, happier world when this is all behind us.

What do you think? Leave your thoughts with me, here.

#StaySafe. #BeBrave. #BeHappy.

Our pandemic of fear

by Dave Williams
March 21, 2020

Coronavirus 19, CDC photo

Nobody could have imagined something like this. Life as we’ve always known it has virtually ground to a halt around the entire civilized world. Here in the U.S. many public gathering places are closed indefinitely. We’re told to socially isolate and self-quarantine.

Wash your hands, stay six feet apart.

Rumors are flying that martial law will soon be imposed and we’ll all be prisoners in our homes.

How could this happen over a disease that most people survive? As of today there have been 287,000 confirmed cases and 11,900 deaths around the world. We’re warned that the numbers will go much higher but if the percentages hold most of us will be just fine. Except, maybe, financially for the immediate future.

Nearly empty flight from Los Angeles to New York. Facebook photo by my friend, Doug McIntyre.

The shutdown of businesses is crushing the stock markets. Hundreds of thousands of people are out of work and here in the U.S. the number of lost jobs is expected to soar into the millions.

It’s like something from a sci-fi movie.

This blog is a diary, really. I write it for my own future memories and for my children and theirs.

Perspective: It’s a grim time here in the First World. And yet, I can’t imagine life in desperately poor countries where this disease is just another relatively minor pain in the ass for people who live with deadly diseases and devastating poverty every single day of their lives.

By comparison our First World has a slight sniffle. We’re fine.

Perspective: I awoke this morning well rested to a beautiful early spring day, my beloved wife beside me. I made coffee as the dogs waited for their breakfast.

Our kids and their families are hunkered down and healthy, as are most Americans.

When all of this is just a memory toilet paper will be the iconic symbol of COVID-19 in America. We have a panic-induced shortage of it but life goes on.

Some people think this is all a lie or at least overblown. Far more people die each year of the flu, it’s true. We just accept that, so why all of this now?

I think the world is getting its act together as a species, globally responsible for the first time in human history. From the local store owner wearing latex gloves to state governors implementing mandatory restrictions of assembly and movement and nations closing their borders we are working together sensibly, cautiously.

Congress is working in bipartisan near-harmony, for God’s sake.

This will all be over sooner rather than later because Americans and citizens of every other nation in the world are reacting to a crisis with serious actions and measured perspective.

While you’re cooped up in self-quarantine with your family this weekend and for what might be days and weeks to come, make it a special time that none of you will ever forget. Give your kids joyous lifetime memories of the time their family came together as families had in generations past.

This, too, shall pass.

My dear mother always said to me, “This can be a good day or a bad day. It’s up to you.”

Stay safe and well. Make it a good day.

The Flying Fickle Finger of Fate

by Dave Williams

Rowan & Martin’s Laugh In, 1967-1973

I read this story on Fox News a couple of days ago:

A couple married for nearly 50 years had just enjoyed a cocktail on their deck, where they talked about their inevitable deaths.

As they walked back inside their Vermont home, a piece of ice fell off the roof and fatally struck 73-year-old Linda Freedman Scharrenberg in the back of the head, according to the couple’s daughter, Jodine Meyers.

In the porch conversation, Meyers said her father told his wife he didn’t know how he could live without her.

Sometimes coincidence borders on creepy. And if you think about it for more than a moment it can make you question your disbelief in fate.

Another news story I recall telling on the radio many years ago was about a man fishing at a lake while his family was preparing a picnic table nearby. He hooked a very small perch and it made him laugh. Lifting the tiny fish still on his line above his head he called to his wife and kids, “Hey, look at this whopper!” As she grabbed for her camera the guy looked up at the sunfish dangling on the line over his head, throwing back his head in laughter.

The fish wiggled off the hook, fell into the man’s open mouth and lodged in his throat suffocating him.

Sometimes even God can make clumsy work of things left until the last minute.

Little Boxes

This is a picture of the sales department in the radio station where I work. I kick myself for thinking it’s kind of sad. Who am I to judge?

I’ve never worked in a cubicle. I guess the idea is to give employees their own private space within the much larger hive of many worker bees.

They make their cubicles as personal as they can, dressing them up with lots of pictures of people and places they love, of children’s artwork, toys, awards and memorabilia.

They decorate their private spaces with silly and serious memes, of rapturous photos of vacation memories and maybe-someday dreams.

They post inspirational words that remind them of who they once were and hopefully can still be away from all of this.

I don’t work in a cubicle but I do live in a box, a house that looks nearly identical to all the rest of the homes on our street and the next several streets over in every direction.

Like the  worker bees my dozens of nameless neighbors and I dress up the insides of our otherwise identical private spaces to declare our individuality, our uniqueness and to remember who we are.

Still, we really are workers bees in a hive.

I guess it just shows how we all work together to form a productive, efficient society to the benefit of all. I guess.

But the sales department cubicles still make me sad.

Judge not…

by Dave Williams

My special friend and blogging partner, Anita Garner, just posted an insightful piece called The Way You Make Me Feel. You should read it. It will make you think.

When I was young I was quick to judge others for their attitudes, words and actions. I was young, strong, handsome, wise and cocky.

The only part of that I have left is wise and I’m less sure about that the more I learn about life and myself every day.

Many years ago my adult son asked about my relationship with his mother from whom I had been divorced since he was four.

“I can’t see what you and Mom could have ever had in common,” he said.

“You didn’t know us when we were seventeen,” I answered. “We had a lot in common. We were in love but we grew up in different directions.”

As I am dragged kicking and screaming into my golden years I find great peace in learning that we are all still growing up in directions we never would have expected.

I’m still a flawed mortal, I do pass judgments on others but these days it’s usually judgments on social media squawks from people I don’t know and will never meet. We all need to identify the idiots in the world, right?

But, I’m deeply satisfied with myself these days for having been relieved of the burden of critical introspection in realizing that I have no way nor reason to judge the paths others have chosen or the perspectives and opinions they’ve developed along the way.

I’m interested in your life but I can’t share the millions of moments that have shaped the person you are right now.

We’ll both be different the next time we meet. I can’t wait.

© 2020, Dave Williams

An unrepentant underachiever

by Dave Williams

I don’t remember when I first realized that I was never going to be special. I don’t mean as a person. I’m a good guy and I’m proud of that but when we’re very young we imagine a world of glory and achievements just waiting for us to arrive and pick them up as fate has arranged.

As kids we’re told we can be anything we want to be. It’s a lovely lie.

I wanted to be a major league baseball star. I daydreamed about it for years and played the game joyously. I was decent. I could hit the ball a mile but was a terrible runner and chasing down a fly ball in the outfield was always an adventure. At some point I suddenly understood that hitting World Series winning home runs would always remain in my imagination because I could never be good enough to play center field for the Giants.

The seed of doubt was planted in me early, fifteen or sixteen, maybe. Once they take root doubt seeds spread like dandelions.

I wanted to be a professional actor and as a young adult some pretty knowledgeable people told me I was good enough to study hard, get better and succeed. I’m still not sure what stopped me from trying. Fear of failure, I guess. Though, my wife, the lovely and feisty Carolann Conley-Williams, says I actually fear success. It’s an interesting possibility.

And that’s where I am now: 68 years old, most of my futures behind me and sometimes still wondering why I’ve carried self doubt with me through a lifetime.

I’ve had a very good radio career. I’ve worked morning shows in major markets and learned my craft as well as anyone in the business. I say that with expert objectivity. I’m very good but I’m not great.

I can write but I don’t. I want to but I don’t burn for it. Writers always say they write for their own satisfaction but I think that’s a nifty bit of self deception. What’s the point in writing if lots of other people don’t read your work and love it?

Writing is hard, lonely work fraught with doubt.

Contrary to what I had always assumed I began to learn that doubt can be a comforting friend. He requires nothing more of you than acceptance.

My old friend, Doubt.

I describe myself in social media as, “Happy husband, proud dad and grandpa, unrepentant underachiever.” I wrote it to be charmingly humble but it has suddenly dawned on me that it’s true.

I am an underachiever in one sense but I love my life, every bit of it. I wouldn’t change a thing. Not one instant.

Pushing 70 I’m beginning to understand that finding glory in one’s ordinariness can be a deeply satisfying thing.

My old friend, Doubt, brought me here.

Pictures courtesy of the free online photo share source, Unsplash.com.

Big round numbers

June 13, 2019

Highlands High School, Sacramento, 1969

A couple of days ago marked the 50th anniversary of my graduation from Highlands High School outside of Sacramento. A few days later I began my radio career.

50 years. It’s a stunning number. And that was quite a week, as I recall.

June 10, 1969 was a Tuesday. School was out and for some three or four hundred of us assembled in the football stadium the entire world of opportunities was laid at our feet.

I gave one of the two student commencement speeches that day. I waxed eloquently and metaphorically about those opportunities and warned my classmates, “You must be quick to grab the world by the tail (dramatic pause)…or be left holding the shattered fragments of a Crystal Dream.”

Our parents and teachers applauded my youthful wisdom. My classmates drank from hidden flasks, fired off a couple of illegal bottle rockets and laughed like hell.

One guy in the front row flashed me his junk under his graduation robe.

I said goodbye to my childhood that day with a handful of close friends who are still close and the girl who would become my wife.

Then 50 years slipped away.

KLIF, Dallas, 2019

In our fascination with big, round numbers we look back on our lives and try to find meaning in the journey.  We measure ourselves, comparing then and now.

I’ve been anticipating this big round number for quite awhile and now that it has arrived I’m surprised to learn that it’s not that big a deal except for two things:

I’m alive and happy.

Next stop, the big, round 7-0.

Every day is Mothers Day

Don & Nancy Williams on their wedding day, Aug. 6, 1950. I was born exactly one year later.

I’m the oldest of four kids born to my mom, Nancy Laura Webster Williams. She was still three months from her 20th birthday when I entered the world. Now, as we approach our 68th anniversary as mother and child I’m still trying to understand our indescribable bond.

Until this past year I could talk with my mother. We’d laugh and love with the sparkle in our eyes meant only for each other and with words that couldn’t begin to explain the depth of who we are together. But this past year she lost her words and laughter.

She lives but she barely knows my name and voice.

Mother’s love is peace. It need not be acquired, it need not be deserved. – Erich Fromm

I’m not sad. Her memories of us may be scrambled but she gave them to me for safe keeping.

I remember the songs she sang at home and the silly sense of humor she taught me. I remember her hugs and kisses and all the smart things she said; the pain and tears she shared and the sunshine of her smile that followed.

My mother loves me. She has checked every box in the official Maternal Love and Devotion handbook every single day of my existence. I’m in her heart if not quite secure in her mind.

We are the science of genetics combined with all the flowery words of poets.

Today can be a good day or a bad day. It’s up to you. – Mom

We are a mother and her son.

I will tell her again tomorrow that I love her. She might not hear me but she knows.