Beneath an Orange Sky

Photo Courtesy of Kim C.

It wasn’t mine, although I’d like to stand on a wooden fence and dream that dream beneath an orange sky. Opportunities to do this are not in my life as they are for Abby, the reflective little bit of dressed evening sunshine standing on the bottom rail. Her mom, a piano student of mine, started gracing the keys at an age not much older than Abby. I do remember those early lessons … years ago. Dreams were probably different back then – for both teacher and student.

I suspect 88 black and white keys, Mozart, or major scales were not in Abby’s mind as she looked past the nearest post to her right. Appropriately, everything was impeccably right in her childlike world at that moment. I do believe children see good in all things down the road, undoubtedly similar to this inquisitive fence rail-stander who saw imagination driving by.

Adult hopes don’t rest on curvey, worn wooden thick planks stretching between posts solidly pounded into the ground. Our dreams wiz quickly past the opportunities to stop and admire the sunsets and sunrises. We swiftly move from task to completion, from goal to success. The Abbys beside the road on which we travel see us, but fade away as blurs in our accelerating rear view mirrors. It is the way we adult under an unrecognized, unseen orange sky.

Adult hopes always appear to be around the next corner. The next chapter. The next person. The next job. The now is never enough. The sunset right before our eyes – the fence upon which to stand – we never see as a child sees: an opportunity to dream. As Kim so aptly bookended her words, a chance to live the music in our lives as well.

Granted, kiddos don’t have the stress of bills, home repairs, and pet problems (to list three out of a possible thousand or more). Arm resting off the top rail during an amazing sunset is easier if all you need to think about is your next play date with other happy-go-lucky-ers. In Abby’s miniature state of affairs, she has, now, two younger siblings to love and care for, many dear friends, … and this family follower who, virtually, still has fantastic memories of her mom, uncle, aunt, grandma, and “Pop-pop”. Wonderful people all. Those nows in my life at that time will never be lost.

As for Abby above, that was a now moment. Everything must have been right for her. We will never know her thoughts or dreams as she barely balanced her little feet on the splintered rail. Snapshots in time like that are for her dreams, but we are able to find small, colorful hopes inside a child who took a few minutes to watch imagination drive by.

Maybe all we need to do is stop and exit our busy lives for a short while, join the Abbys of the innocent world who stand on fences, and look for amazing, orange sunsets. If enough of us do this, fences may not be adequate as dreams become too big to hold back. Those we will recognize. Unrestrained, creative ideas – free to expand without “never enough”, around the corner, expectations – are real adult dreams born from child-like imaginations.

As these words fall, Abby is on her way elsewhere. I believe mom and daughter are making costumes if FB is up-to-date. I’m so glad these still moments are available to me. If I am allowed to be my slightly sarcastic self for a second? Too bad Abby isn’t very photogenic, right? Oh, and mom is pretty shy about posting “a few” pics here and there …😉 Wonderful. So delightful it is for me to write about this young lady.

With that, find an Abby moment in your life somewhere … a fence, a now moment. Slow down. We’re all so freakin’ busy anymore. Down the road, around the corner, may not be so far away and time gets shorter with every second that’s wasted. Lean on a rail and watch for splinters.

I’m sure Abby would love the company.

Rick, Michelle, and Table 10

I hope my point of view will ease your daily grind. At the very least, if Chet Baker has any influence on what I write, you’ll remember somewhere the sun is shining whenever the skies are blue. I know, just know, as Chet so aptly sings, “A heart, full of joy and gladness,
will always banish sadness and strife” in your life. If not forever, maybe for a few minutes.

It did last Friday night for me. “Silver Linings” painted my heavens a spectacular shade of musical wonderment. This comfortable musical couplet sang their cover songs, shoes off, voices on key and guitars well above average. To be expected. I’ve known and heard Rick and Michelle before last Friday night. They’re spectacular.

Skies were overcast when the text came thundering across my phone hours earlier. It was to be another musical experience – another event to set up around a stage to sell food-stuffs to attendees coming to hear a cover band play … outside. Aaand … another rain-out to cap off a few weeks of miserableness in what’s known as concession craziness – i.e., planning and preparing – over and over – only to get the notice of a cancellation of postponement due to wetness dropping down from the unforgiving dark skies.

Should be comfortable with the news, but I never am. There’s always hope the traffic signal colors I see creeping across my weather radar screens will stop short and disappear before the first downbeat. Unfortunately, most organizers have to make the call hours earlier – before sound checks and food trucks fill the airwaves and concrete. So, this was my Friday, day. The text arrived around 2:00 pm. Concert at 6:00, postponed until September.

The silver lining? I finally got to enjoy my musical self!

Table 10 was a surprisingly comfortable round corner conversational buffet. The banquet room at the U.S. Hotel in Hollidaysburg is a large, acoustically challenging room where – on any other occasion – steady, mature adults would sit sipping wine, eating hor d’oeuvres, and flapping about the day’s news. With cans of craft beer of which I didn’t indulge, great food, and conversations concerning matters of an adult nature, our table was unsteadily hilarious, immaturedly necessary,… and just what was needed.

Words among friends. Ah, yes. Even those I met for the first time. Connections were different. I knew this person … Who knew this one … Who didn’t know him, but knew of that one because of her … kinda thing going on. It didn’t take long for us to become comfortable with one another. Music and theater have that adhesiveness. Once folks realize the connection, it’s magic.

Hours of chair-scooting between the table next to us, in order to chat with friends I don’t see regularly, was a necessary pleasant surprise. On occasion, an acquaintance would stop over to gain a quick, “Hey, what’s up?”, or “Nice to see you …”. A former piano student approached to say, “Hi!”, and get caught up with life as I sipped my innocent Pepsi. All the while, a great friend and I were getting caught up as she sat to my left upon arriving late. Losing a husband recently is tough, so I assume a night away – among her very busy social schedule – was a pleasant exhale for her. Her gray skies are gonna clear up.

As all the chit-chat and frivolity was happening, Rick and Michelle continued onward. Lyrics floated above all the tables … Folks went about their own week-ending, calming conversations. I suspect our table 10 subject matter uniquely surpassed any limitations unconsciously plated on any other table that evening. With two confirmed witches and a crystal/wellness store proprietor in tow, our table was a-rockin’ with distinctive dialogue. Throw in a few discussions about bisexuality, shoe and fashion choices, blueberries, and weed, … I would’ve challenged you to find another table that night with greater color and flavor in their words.

Yep, it was a silver lining for me. I did Kristopherson my way into the hearts of those around me as I Shallow-ly dueted the chorus over top of clanging dishes removed every now and then. S’ok. I don’t fancy myself a singer, so having forks and glasses as an accompaniment was a nice go-along considering most weren’t listening, anyway. Maybe if I had the Bradley Cooper looks, Star is Born thing going on and Lady Gaga talent? …

It’s enough to say I had a really good time. A “Silver Linings” good time. It would not have happened if Rick and Michelle weren’t scheduled to play that evening, so here’s to them … and all the local musicians everywhere who go out and perform. You bring joy and happiness into our worlds – and our table 10’s. Even if we’re not paying full attention, our hearts are in the music passing through our ears. We are with your every pulse, every lyric, every smile.

I don’t want a lot of cancellations. My bills don’t need them. Chet can sing of silver linings all he wants, but the bank wants loans paid, regardless. Too many rainy days and Mondays will always get me down, Ms Karen Carpenter. These are the facts and figures in what I do for a living. However, for a Friday evening in the middle of a rainy stretch, I’ll take table 10 for a few hours. The friends, music, and conversation were my silver lining in an otherwise cloudy day.

Let’s take our calming cue from my happy human friends, Rick and Michelle. Ease your daily grind by tossing off your shoes once in a while and singing the chorus from your favorite rainy day song. Remember, when music floats above, skies are always blue.

Chloe Chronicles

She was anxious to see me; However, it was almost like she knew I settled a few words about her on blog pages. The look of, “C’mon, Doug … really? Again?” gleaming across this face shouldn’t be confused with her knowing I wrote two short, doggone wonderful DougHug entries within the past year. She is, after all, a neighborhood friend. Chloe. A frequent interchange in my human-puppy road experience.

She’s a decorative stone chewer and lover of the barking craft. As well, a clever end-of-the-leash u-turner once I decide to walk across our less-traveled, two lane avenue to extend my hand in affection. A tease of the highest order she is, I must say. Pleas to pet from from afar are met with taut leash rejection once I enter her space … defined as that 1/4″ edge of concrete just off the public avenue blacktop. It is the clear, non-furry fringe of her Doug/dog comfort zone I’ve come to accept. At that step, her immediate turn toward porch happens. The leash slacks and I begin the invisible dance with her.

Darts and dashes. In between two porch chairs, around poles, parked cars perhaps, … maybe a bush or two – she weaves a tapestry of one-leash wonderment as I usually stand waiting for her approval. Never do I understand this dance. All I can do is, ah,Staire at her amazing energy and enthusiasm hoping to reclaim the original intent of her yippy query moments before.

Step by step I make my way to the small porch knowing soon – within five minutes – she will approach me. That is, as long as certain terms are met. 1) I am sitting on the one step, 2) I am not wearing part, or all, of my concession business uniform, 3) I don’t make any sudden movements, 4) She can sit on my lap when it is convenient for her, and, for my protection 5) I must be absolutely prepared for sudden tongue licks on my face. Other than those “must haves”, we’re good.

I don’t mind the essentials. Chloe time is worth it. “I mean, look at that face!”, is the loving phrase her human momma says all the time. Human dad, who is seen periodically doing the fatherly duties, doesn’t utter flowerly phrases while sitting idly by, but does reflect the same sentiments. Chloe is well kept … and loved, of course. She’s worth the effort.

There are few, if any, kiddos in the neighborhood. Dogs out number them. An adults and canines support group here in a one-way in, one-way out, three avenue, one street tuck-away. So close to activity we are, yet comfortably distant from a lot of the highway noise only blocks away. Such a small number of cars pass by I wonder if puppies – such a Chloe – are developing properly not having the opportunity to chase an adequate amount. Perhaps what she’s been lacking in auto-pursuing is being projected as Doug-poking?🤔…

Regardless, puppies around here are special. They give us adults some relief from all the “stuff” we have to deal with all the time. Frequently, Chloe time gets me away from my immediate self – the daily Doug. I can talk to the neighbors while patting down fur across her back a few seconds at a time. Satisfying, easy, rhythmic joy for me … to pet Chloe and talk away some humor or seriousness at the same time is valuable real estate in my emotional neighborhood.

… And I do believe Chloe may understand this – without giving her too much credit. Perhaps it just dumb luck? Maybe a bit of wonky star dust falling onto my path during certain walk-throughs? A specific, “trouble-in-the-air, Timmy?” that the little nose between those two sad eyes can detect? I don’t know the reason behind her insistence. The barking. The end of the leash, “Please come over and pet me!” pleas darting across the summer breezes once in a while I must entertain. The dance. All of it … I don’t know IF she knows, specifically. I do know, though, I must obey.

Not to wouldn’t be healthy.

Pushing through what we may not understand, watching the dance play out … to experience something so much better is life at its best.

If there’s one guarantee in my life with Chloe as a neighbor, it is this: walking back across that same avenue after fifteen minutes, my steps are lighter. Heavy are the burdens we unconsciously place on our shoulders. Puppies and/or pets aren’t the whole solution, obviously, but when one decides it’s time for some attention, … You should consider it if you need a “healthy”, emotional neighborhood in your life.

One may not be as ridiculously cute as Chloe – or KNOW it as she probably does. This one can bark all she wants and I will continue to dance the dance. Once a week or so, this warm weather exchange is bound to continue. It must. We need it. Intersecting lives unleash the happy in one human and one puppy one pet at a time.

As long as I follow the rules, of course.

Featured

Bumble Be Big

“Bumble”. He’s 14 months young, … and huge.

Walking by his rather small car cradle the other day outside Sam’s Club, I was drawn to Bumble’s puppy face. You would’ve been, too, had the owner’s permission been granted in your favor as well. The kind gentleman loading boxes of goodies into the back of a non-descript SUV suggested kind words and gentle strokes are saintly acceptances for Bumble. From his response to my momentary attention, I believe this was the case.

Meaning “brave as a bear”, Bernard as a moniker attached to this sizeable, furry tot may be a bit premature. “Saint”, as well, could be up to those who decide such things. Now, to squitch the two together and imagine Bumble for work as a rescuer on the Great St Bernard Pass on the Italian-Swiss border? This I could see because he has such a sweet personality. The little experience we have as dog whisperers considered, sometimes we can just sense these things, right? … Or, think we can, anyway.

Dogs force us into a parallel universe of humanity. They make us talk funny, act weird, and spend a lot of money on upkeep, toys, and treats. I see it happen a lot and don’t even own a dog anymore. None of this is unfortunate for human or canine – it just, well, is.

I have friends who call their pets by nicknames that rhyme with the dogs actual names. Maisy the Daisy – although changed to protect the innocent – is one example. Names can also fluxuate depending upon the circumstance. During difficult, disciplinary times, names become “-natored” as in “Aargh! … Fido-nator! You pooped on the carpet, again!!” Sweet, affectionate moments are dessert-ed and verbs get awkward s’s attached to them. “Awe, my lovable little Fido-cakes! … I loves you so much!”…

I get it. Some have a dream to be smothered in puppies for hours. Admittedly, a few minutes under a bundle of Bumbles would be nice up to the point when oxygen intake becomes a problem. Thems are big pups to state the obvious here. Can’t imagine the food bill … or the, er, back end clean up ahead for the owners.

All I know for sure is it was a breath of fresh air seeing something different and magnificent the other day. A Saint Bernard puppy named Bumble didn’t know he brought a little joy into the worlds of folks going about their lives. A rather bland parking lot full of cars and people, well organized into a daily routine of go-here and go-there, was the place to pet a large, gentle creature and forget why the troubles of the day weighed so heavily on our shoulders.

He is, after all, bred to rescue. This is pumping through those large veins of his. Sure, it’s not a snowy mountain range where we struggle to survive. A sunny day outside Sam’s Club in Altoona, Pa is hardly roughing it by any standard. My new Sketchers wouldn’t handle any snow depth over 1/4″ and, most certainly, any hint of a degree less than 60 at this point would be wholely unacceptable.

He rescued us from our normal. Happy times, if only for a moment. Normal is good, too. Don’t mean to throw routine and everyday under the bus here. When special and unique crosses our path – like a 14 month old puppy like Bumble – we should stop to appreciate how wonderful a ” step aside” can be.

That day, when I happened to stumble upon Bumble, I walked away with a lighter bounce in my step. Can’t say he’s totally responsible, but I spent way more money than planned while inside Sam’s after the encounter. Darn Bumble-nator had me feeling good about myself … causing me to over stuff my cart!

I guess I’ll give him a pass this time. After all, he’ll be a big boy someday and I may need an actual rescue on the Italian-Swiss border. If that happens, I’ll forever be grateful to the Bumble-muffin who saved my life.

Toby Full of Heart

I like my personal, peaceful sits. Ya know, those times when breezes and people pass by without relinquishing their troubles … asking me to understand something I care not to appreciate at the moment. My sedentary self on a comfortable chair, outside any coffee shop or bistro, furnishes me breaths I cannot get inhaling busy air while going about daily congestions. Yesterday. Business passing by in which I didn’t need to be involved. Human interactions less interested in the iced green tea placed just within my reach than what was waiting inside. Nearly perfect as the early afternoon sun’s shade crept across a marginally wobbly iron table. A nice breathing space shared by all – a table, a deserving man, the slight early summer breeze, and Toby … a little guy who teaches all of us ToBe full of heart.

He was a little fretful an hour before this picture was taken. Can’t say I blame him. The “experienced” ladies in charge of his care appeared to be concerned about everything swirling around the outdoor patio. They were sweet … don’t misunderstand my words. Toby did the best he could to slowly find his way around the unfamiliar maze of sixteen metal legs and four familiar human legs. The older countesses of this blog did come across their happy breezes as well on the upper side of their table as Toby twirled beneath. I suspect this was the situation even before I walked by to enter Panera Bread. Loved for sure, he is. I’m sure.

Loved for years. Toby isn’t young. Cataracts kept him from moving too fast. Casual glances in his direction between my sips of tea didn’t appear to make him move much. Either his interest in my interaction was “meh”, or he couldn’t see me. I’m so inclined to believe the latter is true. I need to wonder this … Yes, unconnected “peaceful sit” time is valuable, but being tossed off by an aging canine can sting a bit.

In between Toby times, there were times ToBe absorbed in heartfelt thoughts. Just passing by, they were. Not completely soaking in all of my time, but here and there. Too many deep, pensive notions in a row – in combination with the near perfect weather – would have slunk my body into a three-hour Sunday trance the likes from which no “Flavorful & Craveable” smelling salt could bring me back. Maybe a flaky, chocolate croissant? … mmm, possible.

I considered how busy we can be. This isn’t new to any of us, is it? The cars pulled in and out … customers came and went carrying their orders. Smiles – I think were genuine, but I am not one to judge. Most, if not all, who sat as my concrete companions under the strip mall roof entertained their afternoons with phones in one hand. Expected busyness in 2021. Even I checked my friendly messages once in a while. It is what we do. We want to stay engaged in something – connected to busyness – even when really easy early summer breezes offer us time to get away from all of it.

I considered how difficult big changes can be. When casually over-the-shoulder spying on the gentlewomen of the Panera patio, I had to wonder how many changes have taken place during their, assumed, nine-ish decades of life. Clearly in their late 70’s, possibly 80’s, they laughed through conversations I couldn’t clearly make out (and, for the record, wasn’t trying). Were these the same friendly laughs carrying them through the deaths of spouses? Sisters loving each other once again as they did when loving parents passed into energy eternal? Are salads and sandwiches the daily connections they need to small-bite the large change pains that are still sitting in their lives?

I considered how wonderful friends can be. I’ve said this before and will continue to say it. Quite straightforward is this safety net of comfort, support, and advice. When we are too busy and going through a major change in our life, friends support us. They tell us what we need to hear – even if the advice is not exactly framed with words pleasing to our ears.

While all of this circled around the table and the inside of my cup became more melted ice than tea, Toby appeared from under his lunchtime abode. What emerged in plain view was the heart on his coat. I couldn’t resist the notion to believe his heart was more than black on white in front of my eyes.

Only after considering what’s truly important in life, does one’s heart appear. I didn’t see it as he slowly scurried about earlier. It was seen only when I was ready to see it. Toby’s heart is inside his aged little body, too. He can’t see very well. He can’t move fast. Chances are good – if I ask the nice ladies – there would be other ailments he has. In his frailty, however, he reminds us there’s goodness all of us can see in our change and busyness.

Life isn’t easy. I guess that’s the point here. It’s a lot nicer for me when I can have my personal, peaceful “sits”. When hearts are wonderfully placed in my life – unexpectedly – I must ask, “Toby, or not to be?”, …then take that comfortable path to a small hamlet where coffee shops and bistros exist as breezy escapes. To be full of heart is the only way forward – inside and out. It’s tough, but as long as friends have our back, we don’t have to see everything clearly.

If this is good enough for Toby, it’s good enough for me. Glad to have a new friend.

I Don’t Know Joe

I don’t know Joe, but I know Dave. He is on the right … next to a glad to be there friend of his. Most likely he is smiling not only because it was a 60th birthday celebration, but also the colon cancer so prevalent in his life seems to have taken a break. I love this guy. A customer … and a good friend.

As I took inventory of my life and watched invisible minutes swoosh by over Canoe Creek, the opportunity to take another picture of this state park arose.

I wasn’t as much on edge emotionally as I was physically – sitting on yet another worn picnic table. These sit-upons have been there for decades, so it was a challenge finding a comfortable splinter-less, middle-of-the-plank location on which to rest my aging butt. The early May wet weather didn’t help, either. Damp spots sprinkled areas on the dark green outer seats making choices less available. Finally giving in to a forgiving, yet small, dry area slightly under the pavilion’s protective overhang, I sat with a festive piece of birthday cake in hand.

Dave’s day. A surprise planned by his son, Matt. I was one of a few non-family members who came by to wish another year of happiness. Atop the little hill. A Canoe Creek pavilion where my family reunions and church picnics were religiously held. Memories filling those invisible minutes. My great-grandparents sat there, breathing in the same lake experience I was having many decades later during a cold Saturday birthday visit. Seemed like a short Friday before when church prayers and cookouts happened only yards away from where I sat. It wasn’t, of course. Memories appear like yesterdays, but aren’t, right?

What was in my brain? A lot of great memories at that time, for sure. Thinking about my mom the day before I wouldn’t be able to celebrate another “winning the cancer battle” Mother’s Day Sunday with her, my mind was on other things when pulling into the park earlier. The particular pavilion hosting a friend’s party was not in any memory of mine, … short or long term. I knew it. Matt told me weeks ago. I, simply, forgot.

I don’t know Joe. He graduated this year. Congratulations, Joe. The blue balloons attached to the pole outside pavilion number one attest to his achievement. I boldly walked past them on my way to the enclosed tent where festivities and merriment were clearly underway. Any person wanting to be involved in a birthday celebration would’ve walked up to three men and asked the same question. “Hi. Where’s Dave? Nice to see such a turn-out for his birthday.”

“Uhm, hey Doug! (I was wearing a company jacket).. How’s the hot dawg business?”

“Great. Sales are sales, I guess. I don’t see Matt. He said sometime around 1:00 would be a good time?”

“Kinda would be … except this is Joe’s graduation party.”

“Oh? Joe?. So I probably have the wrong pavilion?

“Suspect so. You’re welcome to stay, though. We have hotdogs!” (yuk yuk … always the joke when I’m at a picnic)

“Sorry to interrupt, geesh. I bet they’re at another pavilion!”

“Uhm, yeah. Not here, for sure. I think there’s another party closer to the park entrance” …

…. And then, ONLY then, did I remember Matt’s instructions were to drive past the parking lots up to the little hill. With extended apologies I didn’t need to say, off I went to arrive moments later … without ever meeting Joe.

Up a small grade and over past the buffet table full with pork, potatoes, and coleslaw, Dave welcomed my visit with a warm smile and handshake. Matt followed with his wife and relatives. Turn-out was small due to the weather. I suspect nobody would have been turned away, friend or stranger, had an adult mistaken their pavilion for another. This is a nice, kind family who embrace the minutes just as I did on the edge of a rickety bench.

On Sunday, Dave and Matt came by my cart. I was open for business outside the local Sam’s Club selling on behalf of the appendix cancer research foundation. This is me doing my thing:

There’s a special person about town, Greta, who is seeing her way through appendix cancer. She spent a few minutes talking with Dave across the serving area of my cart as she was helping me serve. They had a colon/appendix cancer conversation connection I simply watched unfold.

This is what’s special about my life and business. Two strangers, bound by a common challenge, connecting … talking things through – figuring life out as best they can.. I’m glad to be a part of that connection.

Neither one is depressed. They’re moving ahead with life as it is. Making the moments count.

As for Joe, I wish him well. Life will be his plan … whatever road he chooses to take. I just hope he listens to directions and doesn’t turn off too soon into a gravel lot expecting to see Dave. It can be a bit embarrassing.

Happy 60th Birthday, Dave!! Many more …

Change is Hard

“Hello?”

This phone has its share of problems. I think of them often as my early morning weekday and Sunday evening body walks by this corner. On a not-so nuanced angle where a pizza shop meets a cigar emporium, I consider the hang-ups I have and unanswered calls for possible solutions to challenges lingering about this brain of mine. Most have connected to the same fate as this coin eating relic: a dead dial tone of silence.

This is ok. My receiver is busted, too, and it takes more than five or ten cents to make me work these days. To coin a phrase, those little dimes and quarters are made of metal because … change is hard. It really is. Most likely explains why this Allegheny street artifact is still bolted to the wall after years of neglect and abuse. Our borough doesn’t move quickly on matters such as this. I don’t blame them. After all, had this worn and whacked push-button recluse been systematically pile-heaped, I’d have no friend to write about today.

It is a friend. Yes, a beaten down, torn up, knocked around friend. One I pass a lot while headed to see my human friends who have their share of problems. A Sunday night dad in a pizza shop, or a group of air-breathers sitting patiently inside The Capitol Hotel. All of them burdened with their own basket of problems. Oh, and I have mine as well. All of us do, right?

We don’t want change, but it happens. Just like my broken friend, change is inevitable. Small bits forced into the slots demanding calls we didn’t want to make. We hope upon hope what we are urged into doing IS the right move – the right call for that moment in time. Is it worth the heightened pulse in our chest and sweat in our brow? Will there be an answer at the other end of the experience? Are the words we speak being received … across a possible, impossible emotional divide? Is the connection even there, anymore?

I think it is. At least for 3,000 of us Americans. According to Google, there are 100,000 operational phone booths in the USA with 1/5 of those in NYC. That means roughly 3,000 folks can pick up a street receiver and number poke a friend. The odds are pretty good no creature under, say, 35 will be doing such dinosaur digit-driving due to their lack of experience in the matter, but those of us who frantically dug into our pockets for dimes and quarters can certainly relate. The connection is there. It may be lint, gum wrappers, or twist ties, but it’s there …

Even though this one friend is broken beyond repair, all is not lost. Connections are never lost forever. Temporarily down, perhaps … but not gone. Change, however hard as it may be, is still in the belly of the beast … just like it is if someone mistakenly slips a few coins into this busted machine. Adjustments and evolutions of self take place over time. Time is what we have until it is no more. Time has been graciously given to my friend – patiently feeling its tone year after year .. and I’m glad the borough decided to give it extended existence.

I’ll pass it again this morning and again Sunday. Nothing will change. Today as has been, the receiver sits half-broken, number buttons have been without finger prints for years, and the “o” remains partially covered with a wonky, pinkish “ok” sign. Those are the only guarantees, I suspect. Everything else swirling about in my world – and the world of my friends and family – will be different. Transitions in small ways will occur and calls to make big changes must be answered. This is life. This is all of us every day.

We have our share of problems. I don’t think I’d have it any other way. Challenges make all of us unique. Isolated unto our own individualism, yet together in our ability to help one another through. Friends through and through.

This phone is my friend. It may be broken, but so are my friends … and so am I. Once we realize nothing is in perfect working order and change is hard, life becomes easier.

On an modest corner where many have passed, I think about my life. Yes, only for a minute or two. Nevertheless, these are the moments I can ask the universe, “Hello? Anyone there?”, and feel someone is actually listening…

… and to know a few steps later there will be … inside a very familiar, comfortable hotel cafe or pizza shop. That’s what friends are for.

He Didn’t Know

That’s for sure. “He didn’t know …”

However, for a waterless non-human, this Ethel Merman-esque high flying bird knew how to catch the camera eye of my friend. My ever vigilant nature-seeking looker happened upon these flights of fancy a few days ago, clicked a few soaring portraits , and passed them on to us via Facebook. Starting off with the words, “Not sure who this is..”, she notes the innocence trailing behind the pack. Some replies follow as closely as he does the white speckles ahead against the clear blue sky. “Blue heron?”. “I’m thinking cormorant?”.

Neither she nor I know. I suspect my knowledge of music and food keep me at greater lengths than her from the truth. If she doesn’t know, then I’m absolutely sure I haven’t a clue. That single spec with wings could be a mini-Batman as far as I’m aware … and that, my friends, is my best guess. I can name birds that meander about for a short time – like chickens, turkeys, and ducks. When one starts naming birdies that flit and soar about against the heavens, heavy gloss starts to overtake my mind. Yes, shiny and new information, but a little too bright and sunny for my bird-brain that isn’t much interested in what kind of bird he is.

What really fascinates me is what he represents … and this gets to the possible point of her post’s comment: ” … but he didn’t know he wasn’t a swan.”

It may not have been her intent. The objective may have been, “Name that bird”. I don’t know. It’s not clear to me. My takeaway, as with most all wonderful whatsits before me, is to think, #1.) Did I take all my meds today?, #2) If I did, are my glasses on my face?, and #3) If both are answered in the affirmative, is what I am seeing just that, or is there another there … there?

Digging down (or, up in this case), we have a “there”. Look! Up in the sky … It’s …

Wanting to belong, to be accepted. Attaching this very basic human need to the personality of a yet-to-be-identified bird. He didn’t know for sure, yet there his wings were – drafted into the same pattern set ahead by welcoming, perhaps even unsuspecting, friends ahead. Still pictures don’t give us the same perspective my friend had as these twenty-something (plus one) in numbers danced their way into her camera lens. She had a first-view account as she immediately accepted them as her friends … an acceptance of them into a world of photographic pleasure she enjoys as one belonging to nature itself.

That’s possibly the “there” here. We belong to nature and are accepted by her. She cradles us if we allow her to do so. The bare grass under our naked feet on a warm, sunny day. A deep, consoling breath of fresh mountain air after a long week of ugh-ness. The crackling and pitter-patter of a stream full of the occasional passerby fish a foot or two below, or maybe just a short nap while sitting on the front porch of your choice … All of these are our swans of smoothness ahead showing the way. We don’t identify as grass, air, streams, or porches, but we can certainly enjoy the benefits of the path they provide for us.

Black swans once were thought to be imaginary. Dutch explorers discovered them in Western Australia around the mid-to-late 17th century blowing that theory out of the water, but not the swans … so relax. That I knew. What I didn’t know was this thing called the Black Swan Theory. To be simple here, it is a metaphor that describes a rare event (or events) that are beyond the realm of normal expectations. It has other hang-along requirements. For purposes here, I’m sticking with that easy, kite-flying definition.

Pretty sure my clicker confidante didn’t arise that morning expecting to find a flock of fancy afoot overhead that day – especially one with a tricky flapper trailing behind. It was a rare event beyond her province of normalcy. What is normal, anyway … right? She looks for certain surprising, remarkable whatsits underfoot and overhead then attaches it to 21st century technology, … and with that, we can live new experiences though her lens allowing us to be slightly different believing anything we want.

… Like acceptance even if we don’t know who we are 100%, or where we belong.

Maybe if we look up once in a while like she did that delightful day, the wait for another picture won’t be so long until she graces us with another.

Here’s to all the black swans who believe there’s a sky for them filled with friends who will show them a way.

Puppies and Rainbows

You have to know Brian. He’s a man of slender build with years of height near mine, definitely more scalp than hair, a hurried gate accompanied by slightly longer arms than the average human, and – without giving him too much credit – near perfect execution of the “puppies and rainbows” gesture. A gesture, mind you, having its genesis in the midst of what I believed to be a fine proprietor/customer relationship.

See, Brian owns The Capitol Hotel. If you are a frequent reader, you’ll recognize this place. It’s a gateway to my morning silly-zone where I can be a sitter out of sorts with a crew of ne’er-do-wells I call my friends. There’s an old retired guy, another retired guy, a slightly older lady, sometimes a guy my age, an artistan I write about on occasion, … Oh, and a waitress. At times, slithering by I see peripheral pals and palettes passing by as well. I have examined, appraised, and evaluated all … concluding if a week went by without them in front of my bad jokes and goofy morning temperment, life wouldn’t be the same – for any of us.

This past January wasn’t much different. The first week of the new year began as any other. I walked in through the first set of glass doors taking a few steps before knobbing my way past the creaky old door into the main counter area. With huge glass/brass mirrors and dark, beet red booths always there to greet hungry patrons like me, this hotel in the ‘burg is like no other even in 2021. Covid seating restrictions forced my eyes downward to the empty seat poles strewn intermittently across the counter floor. Some booth seats then, and to this day, are tilted up to prevent seating on one side. Masked matrons scurried about taking orders as I strode my way over to the far corner booth to take my place among the sort-of welcoming warmth I saw on the faces of my friends.

Something was different that day, however. Quiet isn’t the norm … and then I figured it out.

They were waiting to see my reaction regarding a story broadcast the previous night. Our local news station ran a small story about something I did New Year’s Eve with my business. What I did isn’t relevant here, however, what I said during the interview is…

Prior to the interview, I agreed to talk with the understanding I could promote this blog site. She agreed. Cameras rolling, we discussed my event New Year’s Eve, then it happened. Now, I don’t really recall saying the words, but upon review later, I did.

She asked me, “Could you tell me about your blog, Doug Hugs?.” “Sure, I write about happy things. You know. Like puppies and rainbows.”, came the reply out of my unprepared, stunningly oblivious orifice.

I got it. If I had a friend entering the hallowed breakfast nook after seeing his blogous facial faux pas the night before, I’d remain silent until he spoke. After all, maybe the word circus had more crazy out-of-context clowns in his tiny mind’s blather bus.

Turns out, I didn’t. That circus left town. It was in-tents for a few seconds, though. Once all the laughter settled and good-natured ribbing calmed into friendly conversation about the entire interview, the morning unscrambled and life went about its normal routine until … until Brian – yes, that same Brian who finds his way into my wallet almost every day – decided to animate the very three words I’ve come to regret ever saying: Puppies and Rainbows.

“Hey, Doug! …”

With two hands dangling in front as puppy paws then extending upward and outward (gracefully, I may say) in a rainbow arc, he changed, forever, my idea of a Richard Simmons/Mikhail Baryshnikov collaboration with Bob Fosse for an adaptation of “Three Words of Regret.”

Why today, over three months later? This gesture migrated beyond The Capitol. Today. In a friendly local bread aisle where others were rising with the sun’s expectations, Brian and I had a moment at his insistence. A puppy and rainbow moment, mind you.

What was once a simple recognition of my slippery mouth muscle inside an isolated hotel, has now become a greeting – in Brian’s brain – outside the hotel café when he sees me. Oh, boy.😏. A reflex of two hands inside another building when he saw me later this morning. A Hollidaysburg happening hopefully no one saw occurring between two fifty-year-olds picking up a few items to sooth an already busy day for both.

This isn’t a secret handshake to enter a treehouse, or a password to get into some secret society. Apparently, now, it’s a dude-thing and I don’t know how to respond except to say, “Whelp, thanks Brian. At least your kind, err, gesture today took my mind off an extremely busy day and gave me some pleasant, kind thoughts as I ran my butt off for twelve hours.”

Next time an interviewer asks me about Doug Hugs, I may just say, “Kangaroos, and yoyos”. Let’s see Brian pull that off!

This Happened Today

So, this happened today. Not to me, mind you, but to a friend of mine who was merrily on her way when a prehistoric encounter interrupted a rather boring drive. We should all be so lucky. A friendly looking Brontosaurus with, apparently, a frozen Big Foot in the cooler for her visual satisfaction – first hand – and ours through her phone camera.

Yes, I know “Yeti” is the brand of the cooler. Allow me a literary license here. Since we’re considering beasts living an average of 150 million years ago, I figured throwing in a fictitious, furry ice dripper for effect wouldn’t be too much of a stretch. According to legend, Alexander the Great demanded to see the Yeti when he conquered the Indus Valley in south Asia around 326 B.C. (livescience.com). I guess at that low altitude, the great creature couldn’t survive, so a Yeti could not be produced for the Great Alex. Bummer. Yeti continued to believe one existed.

I’m not buying it. S’pose it could be true, but until I have dinner with the 6-foot tall, red haired mountain dweller with extra-large tootsies, I h’aint believing it exists. A Brontosaurus existed, though. I know it! I’ll go one step beyond, too. Snorkasauruses walked this earth as well … Fred Flintstone had one – I saw Dino with my own eyes years ago … and I heard him talk. Nobody, not nobody, is going to convince me that pinkish-purple, ploding, pouncing, tongue flapping, happy family pet didn’t add everyday effervescence to childlike dreams.

So what’s with the smirk on this guy’s face, anyway? I know traffic can be a boresome four-laner – especially the highway on which he was traveling. I’d probably have the same look out my driver’s side window at a car whizzing passing me on the left … if that would be possible considering that lane would probably have construction cones, or massive craters – like the ones created by the meteors that interrupted his ancestor’s dinner millions of years ago. Our roads are, well, good for whack-a-mole with any tire of your choice this time of the year. Suspensions are on their last nerve, axles play chicken with every upcoming dippidy-do-dah in the road, and tires hold their breath when drivers speed up in an attempt to Evel Knievel their way over pot holes. As a result, that look above is appropriate for deserved car repair bills as well. So I kinda get it.

I want to know what this guy is made of and how much he weighs. Also, I am assuming “it” is a male and have no way to prove this, either. Just some random questions in my mind never to be answered. Disappointed my friend didn’t get out of her car on a very busy interstate to ask those questions, I am. I mean, after all, it isn’t every day one sees a dinosaur on a trailer being transported to places unknown. As I type, that smirkish look is on my face wondering why I have to spend the rest of my life without answers to those questions. Also, I am keenly aware she reads this blog and that look, quite possibly, will be dismissed off my face post haste – through a friendly gesture, of course.

I love pictures like this. Most are mine, though some come in from friends. Ordinary objects like this guy (or gal) help me exit the grind of drudgery. That’s overstating it a bit. Sorry. My life, like yours, isn’t really a grind. It is a normal sightseeing of sameness. Friends, family, coffee, places, traffic, and work all seem to weave a blanket of comfort around us – which is nice – but we get used to the usualness of it all. Right?

Look for the dinosaurs in your day if you can. If you find one, share it. If not a sniggering green Brontosaurus, look for a treasured trinket that falls across your field of vision that wasn’t there minutes prior. Appreciate the shape, color, and size of that funny little favor in your life, and then go about your day.

Sure, it’s probably not going to bring you wealth or help you realize lofty dreams from your childhood, but it could give you a few minutes of needed rest in the midst of a busy, normal day. I know that silly picture, at 12:58 p.m. today, gave me the chuckles for a minute when I was really too busy for my own good.

I hope this guy found his way home. Wherever home is, I’m sure he’ll be welcomed. He’ll never know what joy he gave to fellow travelers along the way as I’m sure my words are not the only ones written or spoken about his journey. This happened today. So glad it did.