How does death change your perspective?

Thankfully, I am still above ground, taking nutrition and making trouble. When asked about my take on the hereafter, I tell people that you need to go on a journey before you get there. No fancy limo pulls up to drive me there. Instead, my old backpack appears, my guitar is in its case, and I go off on a frolicking detour for epic proportions. My best friend and I visit every top-notch party of all the other travelers, visit fantastic locations, and enjoy the most piquant meals in the best restaurants. Along the way, we run into old friends and tell outrageous stories of all the outlaw things we’ve done. And, oh yeah, cry some tears for the wasted opportunities, lost loves, and tragedies. Good times without some regret couldn’t be really good times.
Eventually, we wind up where most old sailors wind up on the wide river, almost an ocean, at Fiddlers Green. The hostel at Fiddlers Green is part hotel, concert, and dance hall, plus being the embarkment point for the final voyage. It’s a continuous concert with string band music, dancing, and all-night-long conversation.
Now everyone is different, but there is a point when you are ready. It’s different for everyone, but at some point, you know that you are prepared to leave Fiddlers Green. Then you get aboard a fancy paddle wheeler for your final voyage and pass beyond knowing.
I have no clue what happens next. And I am satisfied.

I’m not interested in criticizing, denying, or denouncing someone else’s mode of transport to a final reward or another form of afterlife. But, being so little seems to be known about it, it just seems to make sense to fill in some of the blanks on our own.
Take the opportunity to fill in the blanks. I do have some caveats, however. First, if devils sticking you with pitchforks is your kink, keep them away from me. Also, I’ve never been one for floating on clouds singing hosanna either. Finally, I’m a guitar player, harps and lyres are not my thing, and I don’t do duets with angels of the noncorporeal sort.

Have fun. It’s your afterlife.

bad coffee

What do you complain about the most?

Griping about things is part of being a sailor. I discovered this from my father, a Merchant Marine engineer, and had it confirmed while in the Navy. Griping as an art form was re-affirmed to me while working in the marine trades as a carver and catch as can boatyard worker.
Griping is not necessarily pejorative of other people. We don’t just complain about the bosun, the carpenter, the skipper, or the boat owner. We complain about the food, weather, and workloads. But, of course, a cherished area of complaint is coffee. We can complain about coffee until the third pot of the day is downed, and the thought of another cup will make us bilious.

OK, I’ll say it – take any random sampling of castaway sailors on a desert island with nothing to eat but coconuts, and their biggest complaint will be the lack of coffee. When they get tired of griping about no coffee, they’ll move on to the lousy coffee they’ve had. After exhausting that, they’ll move on to bad chow, the rotten bunks they had to sleep in, the worst liberty ports they visited, and then the miseries of being at sea in heavy weather.
Regardless of political orientation, they’ll rage on all evening about this stuff until they are exhausted and sleep. Then, the lack of coffee will start the day rolling in the morning.

I hate to side with the officer class, having worked for a living myself, but the continual griping is why it’s crucial to keep sailors of any sort busy. Let them sit around and get bored, and the complaints start.
Maybe that is the reason for all the rotten coffee? Give the apes something to gripe about that’s safe.
Rats! I make my own coffee. It’s unfair that I can only complain to myself.

Family Traditions

Write about a few of your favorite family traditions.

Humans have a prodigious ability to create and destroy. The very concept of culture ( big C or little c) is something that we are continuously developing and eliminating. So traditions exist as a process; we continually reshape them even as we celebrate them. I’ll have to beg the reader’s forgiveness; although I no longer work as an anthropologist, I’ll never shake the orientation.
Family traditions offer a look into the processes of development and loss. In October of 2023, I’ll initiate the 50th anniversary of the Carreras family fruitcakes. Were fruitcakes a Carreras family tradition before then? Nope. And I honestly do not remember why I settled on making fruitcakes that fall fifty years ago. But every fall since I start on the family fruitcakes – which after baking, settle in for a long rum-soaked gestation before being shipped off for family eating during Christmas.

I was looking for something to replace my grandmother’s Poppyseed bread. Grandma had died years before without leaving a recipe and without taking apprentices. So her tradition, dating back generations in her family, effectively died with her.
Replace a traditional Hungarian treat with fruitcake? As a family, we tried to duplicate her recipe without luck. She had always been elusive on her secrets, a sort of “pinch of this, a pinch of that” description of the process that guaranteed it could not be duplicated. So as a family, we eventually threw in the towel on reproducing it. A family tradition lost.

That was where we were the year I first made my rum-soaked fruitcakes. The first year I only made two; one for myself and my wife and one for my parents. Things evolved. Over the years, the recipe evolved; ingredients were added, quantities changed, and the rum-soaking technique matured. Eventually, I reached about twenty cakes and distributed fruit cakes in early December to any family member who appreciated them. There is a bit of drudgery involved in making that many. but commitment is part of tradition.

At fifty years, I can look back and see how the tradition started, developed, and is being passed on. A few years ago, my oldest son apprenticed, transcribed the recipe, and can now make the cakes. I fully expect that, over time, his cakes will vary from the ones I made. That’s part of what makes traditions alive; they change and develop while staying steady parts of our expectations in life.

About seven years ago, I was able to replicate grandma’s Poppyseed bread. I now bake this for the family at Christmas time and tell the story about how she rewarded and punished family members by giving them loaves with more or less filling. After all, it’s not only the food that makes the tradition; it’s the telling of the stories surrounding it.

Families are microcosms of culture, and family traditions connect members across generations leading back to the past and forward to the future.

Down with Emojis

In what ways do you communicate online?

Online communications? Wrong topic to get me going off about. First, people tend to lose any filters they might have in regular face-to-face communication, and because email is so rapidly composed and sent, little reconsideration is placed on what gets said. But you’ve heard all this a thousand times by now.
My real gripe with online communication is emojis. The design team that invented them deserves to be throttled with garrottes decorated with little crying-faced emojis. By turns, emojis are fizzy, meddlesome, creepy, and insulting. Have I made myself clear enough, or should I find an emoji with smoke curling out of its ears?

Emojis have proliferated so much that it is easy to insult or miscommunicate using them. Pass beyond the simple smiley face or tear-filled emoji, and you’ll soon find yourself in a world fraught with special meanings and innuendo. I imagine there is a dictionary of emojis or a Dummies book on their use somewhere.

Optimism about emojis is not easy for me to find. I forecast that we’ll soon see night classes at community colleges on “emojis as a second language.”

Conventional Wisdom

What is your mission?

I don’t think of myself as a folk artist. In fact, none of the craftspeople and artists I know are comfortable with all-encompassing labels. One of my peers who smirked at the folk artist label being applied to her and her work cackled and said, ” let them call me what they will as long as they buy the work.” I think she sells her impressionistic paintings at different galleries than where she sells her folksy greeting cards. It boggles the imagination that critics, folklorists, and others seem to think that just because you produce one type of work in a particular area that it renders you unable to do other things.

The little angel is me in folk arts mode. It’s my mission to confound and confuse the narrow-minded.

Darn it! Let’s fold, spindle, and mutilate convention, and have a good time doing it too!


Do you want to live forever?

Live forever? Dear Good God! Wait, maybe dear, not so good, god. There’s a nasty bit of myth about the gift of eternal life. It seems that a goddess wishing to reward her mortal lover gave him eternal life. But having a busy schedule that day, she failed to include eternal youth or good health. He aged.
Probably, he aged like most of us do in youth, barely perceptively. But as the years rolled on, he noticed that his left shoulder was cranky. In addition, the loss of acuity in vision left him less than satisfied while watching sunsets or clouds scudding across a moonlit sky. Finally, being a practical guy, he noticed that his fingers didn’t darn as well if he repaired his socks. The realization that he was aging was sealed with the graying of his previously lustrous brown hair.

His calls to his lover went unanswered. She had moved on to younger men and had stopped thinking of him years ago. The years and centuries rolled on, and his condition continued to deteriorate. Nevertheless, he still lives today, and if capable, he advises you to be careful of what gifts you accept from forgetful deities. If I remember, it was a Greek goddess involved, and perhaps that was the actual origin of the saying to “beware of Greeks bearing gifts.”
Well, anyway, “live long and prosper!”


Do you spend more time thinking about the future or the past? Why?

Thinking about the past? Or the future? The other day I saw a post with a quote saying that the present is all we have.
I believe the past is our foundation, the future is what we build, and today we plan and make. Therefore, it’s preposterous to overvalue a single time frame.
Without the past, there’s no guide to what worked or failed. Without the future no path forward. Today can bridge the two.

Play Time

Do you play in your daily life? What says “playtime” to you?

I am a gadget fan, but despite being a fair craftsman, I never inherited the mechanical skills for taking things apart and putting them together that my father possessed. But I love to watch them whirr, turn and do something on the tabletop. I am continuously tempted by mechanical toys meant for my cat or dog – it’s a toss-up as to who is most entertained by them.

The other night I was having a conversation with one of my sons. He’d found a website with numerous kits for gizmos. Whatchamacallits. and gadgets. We spent a half-hour touring the site and appreciating the goodies on sale there.

I recalled Tom Paxton’s song The Marvelous Toy this morning.

The song sums it up so well:


What are your biggest challenges?

Acronyms have a nasty way of creeping into our daily language, nestling in, and, poof; we forget the original meaning, and they are a word of their own – if they are pronounceable. This happened to radar and other terms. You’ll have to Google the meaning because I’ve forgotten. There see what I mean?
A university puts out an annual list of words that should be retired because of overuse. This year GOAT, the acronym for greatest of all time, is leading the list. They seem to think that we’ll all obey just because they say so. That’s not the way language operates.

Perhaps we should be more reserved in constructing these selections of letters, so they don’t trip so well off the English-speaking tongue. The inquisitive mind will find thousands of snappy acronyms popular in print but not easy to pronounce as a word in English: WYSIWYG( what you see is what you get) comes to mind. In English, it does not trip so smoothly across the tongue. Which raises the question, what about acronyms in other languages? would WYSIWYG fluidly flow from the tip of a tongue speaking another language?

Pursuing this a bit further, if WYSIWYG became an overused word, would it wind up on the banned word list? Or is there a rampant preference for banning only English words here? Prejudice?

OK, WYSIWYG is indeed just one measly little acronym from the Trans Voltaic Urdu family of languages. But dammit! the sheer ” English privilege” of this list bothers me. Can we sanction such linguistic exclusivity in a world seemingly growing smaller every year?
I say no and shall spend the year fighting it. It will be my biggest challenge of 2023, but I will persevere.

Justice and fairplay for all – JAFFA!

Late at Night

What makes you feel nostalgic?

I try to avoid being up late. Staring into the fire can stir up too many memories, and nostalgia comes around stalking me from the roots of my recollections.

Nostalgia is a deadly foe. I know there is a natural shedding of details with older memories. Over time the edges are worn off both the sweet and the sorrowful.
It’s the sort of thing that makes a beautiful salubrious event out of an absolute hell-whacker of a day at sea in the middle of a hurricane. The details of how you “chummed the fishes” – tossed your cookies- are hidden.
But I can live with the sort of nostalgia that sanitizes the merely hellacious. It’s those dread trips down Memory Lane that scare me. The ones where you consider the woman with whom you never quite got together—those border on dangerous. You wind up turning a nasty little peccadillo into a sentimental affair.

The present may have its traps, but they are nothing on the traps set by memory.

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