Scratching Post

The cats and I each have items used to exercise our paws.

My period of relevance has passed.  I’m enjoying my life very much, but I know I am out-of-sync with current culture.  I drive, but mostly within a six-mile radius that spans my little town.  I have used computers for decades, but I didn’t get into using a portable one until last year.  I don’t own a PDA or iPod, and my cell phone has big buttons that are easier for my aging eyes to see.  Though I don’t follow news closely, I get the information I need by reading parts of the newspapers (free) over tea at the roadhouse near my job.  I like the letters to the editor best.  It’s the pre-history of Twitter.  As much as I adore and have learned from Bugs Bunny, I was never a good hare.  I’m a better tortoise.

(Speaking of tortoises and hares, I have a low boredom-threshold when I’m waiting to be called for work.  Here’s a 70 year-old cartoon I watched while waiting.  The director, Tex Avery and I have the same birthday, though his was in 1908.)

Though I am getting old, something about me will remain timeless and unconquerable.  It’s a gift I was born with, one that I’ve had all my life.  I’m curious about a wide range of subjects.  It takes me years to satisfy my curiosity about things I wish to know about or do better.  Some of my interests require thousands of hours of practice, like music and writing.  They can never be mastered.  I can only become more proficient in more styles over time.  I’ll always be working on something new.

I also want to know what’s up ahead, for me and for everyone else.  Even when I’m depressed, upset or afraid, I am still curious about the future.  I make guesses about it all the time, and am as delighted to be wrong about it as when I guess right.  Nothing has ever made me want to stop tuning in to see what will happen next.  Just writing that last sentence made my heart rate go up.

Fortunately, I live in a town that celebrates being old and new simultaneously.  We have the highest percentage of homes and buildings constructed during the Victorian period in this country, and the highest number of them outside of San Francisco.  At a time when physical printing is in steep decline compared to digital info dispersal, the largest private employer here is an 80 year-old paper mill.  Paper is old tech, but the mill is going to expand into generating power from burning their waste products.  That’s a new technology, and it’s a big topic of conversation both in the newspapers and face-to-face.  The median age here is 47.  New tech tends to be more upsetting to those who are older.  I like new tech if it works, but it depends on what the costs are and what you have to give up in order to adopt it.

Port Townsend has a high percentage of alternative-energy projects and hybrid, biodiesel and electric vehicles, but we also have a school for training people to build wooden boats.  There are more sail and paddle-powered vessels than motorboats in the bay.  A fair number ride bikes here, but many more choose the lowest tech transport alternative whenever possible.  They walk along country roads miles from town, even in pouring rain.

My enjoyment of Leo Kottke (both personally and professionally) fits right in.  One reason some of you haven’t heard of him is because he performs more for the love of doing it than for the fame or money.  He doesn’t allow merchandise at his concerts.  He thinks buying and selling distracts an audience from the purpose of the gathering, which is the playing of and listening to the music.  He makes records (CDs) because he hasn’t got time to visit every town, and because he likes recordings.  He learns new techniques from listening to recordings of his favorite players, and from watching and collaborating with them.  In his four-decade professional career, he has performed with every kind of guitarist imaginable, from all musical genres.

Leo is both high and low tech at the same time.  He plays acoustic 6 and 12-string guitars with his naked fingers, but the guitars are always amplified with pickups, and their sound is always modified with a small amount of chorus and phase.

There’s been a nice side effect to having seen Leo perform last week.  I’m noodling and scratching around on the guitar more bravely, trying out different tunings and new fingerings.  I hope you don’t mind that I’m posting a bit less often right now.  I have a lot of practicing to do.


Filed under Metaphysics, Music

22 responses to “Scratching Post

  1. I have the same cat toy! They manage to get the ball out of the track and bat it around the house. I don’t think that was the intent. Spinning it around the track also entertains me! Is fun.

    I liked Leo. Great sound. Very mellow and soothing. I like the idea of you posting less and relaxing and doing things like going to see Leo more! Blessings!

  2. I sure enjoyed the Bugs Bunny video. When my sister and I were little, we used to say to each other, in a sing-song voice “That’s a pos-si-bil-i-ty!” I wonder if we started that after seeing this cartoon?

  3. Perhaps you did. That phrase was borrowed by the makers of the cartoon from the routines of a popular bug-eyed, mustachioed radio comedian of the 1940s named Jerry Colonna. He also originated the catch-phrases “Something new has been added!” and “Ahh, Yes! (add adjective here), isn’t it?” Bugs had enormous influence on my philosophy. I’m glad you enjoyed the cartoon.

  4. Deborah

    I do like these peaceful, considered posts of yours, Mikey. Especially when one is waiting for me to read while drinking my morning tea here in Blighty.

    (I originally wrote there ‘waiting for me to drink’ – an interesting and probably appropriate Freudian slip.)

    • That sort of contemplative mood is exactly the effect I wanted to convey! Reading it during a quiet time of your own should help. I still have a cartoon guy inside however, even during meditation. I’m the sort to set loose a wind-up toy to roll down the aisle at a funeral.

  5. Perhaps, one day we will get to hear your tunes. That would be great. Enjoy the practicing.

  6. I enjoyed the laid back reflective insight into your life. It was a peaceful, enjoyable read on a somewhat hectic morning. Retirement reception sandwiched into graduation activities this afternoon/evening. And my last graduation to attend in the morning. Then I’m officially done, although my last official day is Tuesday. After graduation tomorrow, I’m taking the train up your direction to spend the weekend with a friend in Seattle. A nice way to start retirement! Thanks for the refreshing break!

  7. You’re welcome, Galen. Should you be in PT at some future point, we would be happy to save you the cost of accommodation. Just drop a line to my email.

  8. I empathise. Our age is a funny one, isn’t it? We recognise we are aging, but inside we are still young. At least I think so. My eyes are shot to pieces, I have ringing in my ears and it takes an age to lose a kilo but an instant to put it on. Yet I feel young inside. I don’t want to know that Bugs was around 70 years ago!!!

    • Aww, it’s okay about Bugs, Robyn. The wabbit was created for movie screens decades before TV existed, even before we were born! We got him through the translation of later media. It’s like people writing about saints hundreds of years after anyone who knew them had passed. It’s ghosts who left their drawings behind. There are so many in-jokes for adults who lived through the Depression that were done in those cartoons. It’s taken my whole life to track and understand some of them. But they are a treasure trove of American pop culture history from 1935-1958. After Carl Stalling (the music) retired, and the best directors (Avery, Clampett & Chuck Jones) were gone, the toons lost their edge.

  9. I loved reading this and I opened another window to listen to Leo as I read. I’m a fan of both of you. 🙂

  10. We have some similarities…I drive in about a 5-mile radius. But I think I’m far less inquisitive than you! I remember Leo Kottke. None of the videos work for me tonight though. Guess it’s slow internet pike across the Pacific tonight. Yes, please do practice to your heart’s content.

    • Slow is fine. You have the time to share love.
      I can play some of Leo’s simpler stuff, but heck, there’s nobody like him.
      It’s pretty cheap to catch up with his work if you are interested. Get these recordings, used or new (in chronological order):
      6 & 12 String
      My Feet Are Smiling (Live)
      Chewing Pine
      Guitar Music
      Burnt Lips
      Any or all would catch you up. This list are the key albums.

  11. That was the cutest cartoon ever, esp. the turtles.

  12. I remember seeing Kottke play in Salem circa 2001. He talked about John Fahey (who lived in Salem and had recently passed) and his debates with Pete Seeger about politics and music. Then he played Banks of Marble because it was one of the songs that got him brought in to testify for Congress. One of the best shows I’ve been to.

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