Monday, April 27, 2009

Whoa! Now that's a great idea!

It happened again the other night. I awakened around two oclock, thinking about a new idea for a short story. I know it was a good idea because I remember being excited about it. The problem was; I really didn't want to climb out of bed in the middle of the night. At my age I do that enough just to make necessary bathroom trips. So, I decided it would wait until morning.

In the morning I'd get to the computer and write down the idea while it was fresh in my mind. Of course, anyone over sixty knows what happened. I arose in the morning knowing I had a good idea for a story. The problem was I couldn't remember anything about it. First, I laid there in bed, racking my feeble brain, trying ineffectually to recapture the idea. It didn't work. Then, I went to the computer thinking somehow that sitting at the keyboard would help my memory. It didn't work either. The idea was gone, vanished, I mean gone for good!

If I could I'd have kicked myself in the butt! I did it again! You see, this was not the first time I relied on my memory and, the sad truth is, every time, I mean every time, my memory has failed me. I've awakened dozens of times during the last couple of years, with a story outline worthy of a Pulitzer Prize (well, that's an exageration I'll admit) and forgotten it completely by morning.

Why do I do it? Why don't I just keep a notebook on the bed table so I can quickly record my nocturnal thoughts? Why don't I get the thoughts down on paper while they're fresh in my mind? I suspect the answer is the same answer I once gave my parents when, as a young boy, I did something really stupid. I'd give them a big eyed innocent look and say, "Because." While it's hard to admit that I've not grown into an adult after all these years it's still the only answer I have. "Because."

What I should do is get a notepad and pencil out of this desk drawer right now and put it on the bedroom night table right beside my bed. Then, if I have an idea tonight I'll be ready for it. I'll sit up in bed, grab the notepad and get down the bones of the story. Then, I'll never forget another great idea and when the Pulitzer Prize Committee calls I'll be glad I did it.

But....I don't feel like getting up right now. I don't feel like rummaging through this desk drawer to find a pencil. I don't feel like walking into the bedroom and clearing a space among the half-read books stacked on the night table. So....I'll wait a while - maybe later in the day....maybe I'll do it this afternoon.....that is.....if I remember.


Memory is what tells a man that his wife's birthday was yesterday.
Mario Rocco

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Britain's got Talent

Yesterday a friend sent me a link to a show called "Britain's got Talent" on UTube. The clip was of a nice woman who was appearing on the show, something like American Idol, I guess, since I don't watch those shows. My friend said to give her a listen. "She's great", he said. I listened. She was a fine singer and wowed the audience and the judges.

But! What caught my attention while I watched the eight minute clip, her beautiful voice notwithstanding, was the smarmy, arrogant attitude of the three judges and the audience. From the time the singer came on stage the three "Beautiful People," apparently the regular judges, along with the audience took one look at her rather plain appearance, heard her strong accent, and began snickering and whispering snide comments about her. To her credit she handled it well, ignoring the arrogant and rude behavior.

Then she began singing and the ugly mood changed, a little too much in my opinion. The camera man began focusing, closeup, on the faces of the judges, on many in the audience, as they dutifully acted amazed - surprised. A couple of them, I kid you not, pretended to be crying. It was a display of insincerity such as I've not seen since Bill Clinton pretended to be in tears over the death of Vince Foster. So, here were three judges, each thinking that they are surely the prettiest of them all, and an audience, obviously there to hoot, holler and denigrate anyone who walked onto that stage, and all now driven to tears by the woman's angelic voice. Like I said; insincerity taken to a new level.

Then, afterward, each of the judges expressed appropriate amazement and took the time to say more insincere things like, "We were all so against you before you sang. This has been such a wake up call for us." My Lord! A wake up call! How old are these people? Back when I was a kid I learned, "Don't judge a book by it's cover," and "Judge not - or you will be judged!" These nasty, small-minded little people, in their arrogance, seemed to relish being judgemental. The funny thing is; I never saw any of the three before. I don't have a clue as to who they are or why they have reason to act so superior, except, I will admit, they were pretty.

But I'll bet they felt great, admitting they were wrong in being against her and in initially judging her by her appearance. A liberal friend, and I don't have many of those, made a rare admission several years ago. He said, "We liberals like to judge people. That way we can feel badly afterward and, you have to understand, feeling badly about ourselves assures us that we are good. In fact, it assures us that we're nicer than most other people, who we actually hate."

My Lord! That's exactly what I watched on "Britain's got Talent" yesterday. The woman certainly had talent and I wish her great success. She deserves it. In fact, she deserved better than she got from those nasty people on that terrible show.

“Many people are arrogant about their own modesty”

Christopher Molineux

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Old Codgers Lunch Bunch

It started a couple months ago. Three of us, two grizzled old coots and a younger guy, still wet behind the ears at 55, got together for a Wednesday lunch at a local fast food place. It was great. We ate, talked, ribbed each other and had a good time overall. In fact, it was so enjoyable we decided to make it a weekly routine. We've met every Wednesday since.

Our conversations run from writing (we're all part of the Conway Creative Writers group,) to our assorted infirmaties and the medications we take to counter them to, of course, politics. I think we're commendably open about everything but politics, not being sure what the other guys think about specific political issues. Turns out though, we're all conservatives at heart and when we cut out the little differences we all want about the same thing (for Nancy Pelosy and Harry Reid to be gone.) So we talk openly, rib each other unmercifully and have a fine old time. So fine, in fact, that last week we met at 11:00am and didn't get out of there until after 3:00pm! Hey! We lost track of the time. I watched the place fill up and empty twice while we sat there, talking and sipping diet coke. The guy that manages the place came by the table a couple times, asking how things were, but I'll bet he was actually saying, "Lord! Would you guys go home! I need the space." So, just to look like paying customers, we ordered another round of sodas, seconds free of course, just so he'd feel better.

In the final analysis, we don't solve any of the world's big problems. I know, I know, we don't solve any of the little ones either. But what we do though is spend some quality time with good friends, talking about things we enjoy and things that we don't enjoy. When you get right down to it, that's really plenty enough.

I don't know how long we'll keep doing it. Things like schedules and health issues can interfere, nothing we can do about that. Still, I hope and pray we find a way to go on with these hours of fellowship. It important to me and I do believe important to the others. In fact, it seems to me that more folks should do something like this - meet with friends or, more important, family members, to just talk about nothing in particular. For me, at least, it's been like therapy. As they say, "It don't get no better than that."

"A friend is one who knows us, but loves us anyway."

Fr. Jerome Cummings

Monday, April 13, 2009

You meet the nicest people around here

So I was googling around yesterday, just looking for references to the Barham family or maybe thinking I'd get lucky enough to find some old Barham photographs when I came across two Blogger sites that caught my attention. First, the nice woman who does the blogging has the user name of "territorymom" which was enought to catch my attention. Second, in looking for Barham stories and photos I started reading some of her posts and they made me laugh out loud. She's obviously a warm-hearted and very funny lady.

Well, I bookmarked her site and dropped her an email, thanking her for the site and for the Barham photos I had "lifted." She responded and the bottom line is, I've now got another terrific cousin I never knew I had.

territorymom got me to thinking about family and the internet. It simply amazes me how we can now find and communicate so easily with family - great folks we would never have heard of just a short while ago. In fact, just last week I received an email from a woman in England. England! How great is that? She saw my website and wanted to talk Barhams and how we related. Like I said; Amazing!

Anyway, territorymom is terrific and I'll visit her blog often. Here are the links to her two blogs:

Give her a read. She's a very warm, funny lady.

And, by the way, here's another blog by a good friend who just happens to be in our writing group, Conway Creative Writers. She's a lot like territorymom and I like her user name too; livinglifeafter65. Kind of says it all, doesn't it. Anyway, give her a read too. You'll love them both.


If all the nations in the world are in debt,
where did all the money go?

Steven Wright

Sunday, April 12, 2009

So? Are we who we say we are?

I've been doing a lot of genealogical work lately, researching new family members and updating my website. Anyone who does family research knows you usually find someone who to say this?....who would embarrass our more prudish cousins, aunts and uncles. And that's the type of person I found myself going back to several times a day. When you find a hidden gem in your family's past you just have to dig deeper.

The guy I'm talking about is a cousin from the late ninteenth century. What happened was; he ran away from his wife and two children. In fact, he ran out on his life in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and ran all the way across the country, after a stop in Idaho to take care of some trivial matters, matters like marrying again (disregarding the pesky little problem of being married already.) After commiting bigamy he headed west to California where, by all accounts, he straightened his life out and became a good family man.

Meanwhile, back in Virginia, his first and real wife sued him, first: for all he left behind and, second: for a divorce. Of course he never knew she won the divorce and ownership of their assets. He was obviously too busy staying undercover. Her case was published in several bits in the Washington Post for all the world to see, saying he had "Repeatedly stayed up all night, playing cards and drinking with his friends until early morning." And, she said, "He never gave her any money for food or to run their household."

I know, I know....right now you're asking yourself, "So....what did he do wrong?" Still, understand that in those days those sorts of things were frowned upon (I'M KIDDING!) In any case, on his death bed, he told his wife and his adult children the entire story and how, after all those years, their names were not what they thought. In fact, one of his sons came back to Virginia, met many of his new-found relatives and documented the entire story. Suffice it to say, he never considered changing his name. The false name was quite good enough for the family, thank you very much.

Then, after we discovered the above story, my wife told me about one of her relatives who did, essentially, the same thing, only for far more sinister reasons. It seem as a young man her relative had engaged in a string of armed robberies in a southern city that will remain nameless. I suppose you could chalk it up to youthful exhuberance but things went out of control one day when they tried to rob an unfortunate motorist, a travelling salesman (okay! Salesperson!) who just happened to be sitting at a traffic light in that city. It seems the guy didn't take the two bandits seriously but, unfortunately for him, they were completely serious. They panicked when he refused to hand over his cash so they shot and killed him.

Well, they both ran like very scared rabbits, as well they should, but one (not her relative) was captured and went to prison for life. Odd? Seems he served just seven years of his life sentence, and that after he'd escaped twice! The criminal justice system hasn't changed all that much, has it? The other guy, a married man with several children, moved a half dozen states away and was never caught (apparently his partner in crime didn't rat him out.) He died several years ago, after living a relatively honest live, never telling his family the details. But the wife knew and, on her death bed, she told her children the story, leaving out the part about the murder and his other nefarious activities.

My wife, a tenacious person to say the least, spent a lot of her genealogy time travelling and digging out the real story. She keeps most of the ugly details to herself, saying "to protect the innocent."

So now I find myself sitting here I really Dan Barham???? Or did my father, or his father's father, do something reprehensible, something dastardly, something that would necessitate a name change and a quick departure from some long-lost city? I don't know and what I don't know worries me. What, exactly, did they hide from me all those years ago? Am I who they say I am? There's got to be someone out there with answers to these life-changing questions. If you know "The Real Story" about me and my ancestors please let me know. I must tell you.....after all these years it's a terrible burdon. Can you help?

"If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten;

Either write things worthy of reading, or do things worthy of writing."

Benjamin Franklin, May 1738