Author: Judd, Brooks

Express Lane--Ten Items or Less Ikiru- Vassar-Monet-Sisyphus-Kurasowa

Item 1: It was the best of times: Autumn is fading into winter in our little hamlet of Turlock. I love this time of year. Baseball has come and gone, concluding with the pinstriped lads from Gotham winning the Fall Classic. Saturdays and Sundays are now filled with college and professional football. Halloween and Thanksgiving have come and gone and Christmas and New Years are peeking around the corner waiting to make a joyful entrance into what has been, to put it mildly, not a very good year for our country.

Taking my daily 4-5 mile walk around the neighborhood this time of year is a special treat. My short stubby legs pound the pavement while my walking stick taps a cadence upon the cracked sidewalks. Autumn displays its magic on the thousands of trees that line my walking route, morphing their leaves into various shades of browns, yellows, and vibrant reds turning the city streets into a virtual canvas of a Monet painting. For some reason the air has an eerie silence this time of year. Leaves silently float softly upon the city streets cushioning my well worn walking shoes. I take a deep breath of crisp autumn air and realize once again why life is so precious and to be lived. The Japanese have a word for it, “IKIRU.” *

Item 2: We recently had yet another bout of wild windy weather. I love the wind. I don’t love what the wind does to our pool or more exactly how the wind pulls leafs from every tree from every home on our court and deposits them directly into our swimming pool .My own carefully trimmed trees joined in the carnage as they too shed their greenery into my once clean pool. Toss in pounds of dirt, dust and debris into the pool and there you have it. Those of you who have pools know the drill. Get the pool broom and sweep the pool, then grab the leaf skimmer and begin skimming the pool knowing full well, like Sisyphus, you will be performing the same task again tomorrow and the next day and the next. Americans have a word for this activity: “*##**#*!*”.

Item 3: Speaking of trees. Call me a curmudgeon but what do palm trees bring to the table? Can you think of anything?…… I walk past a row of six 50-75 foot palm trees on my daily walk and for the life of me they all look like Olive Oyl with a perm.
Item 4: Sitting on our patio near our pool I have a little three drawer bamboo case that holds, CD’s, sun block, goggles, etc. I was emptying it out when I found the first Old and in the Way CD in one of the drawers. I thought I had lost this very enjoyable slice of Americana. I promptly placed the CD in my Toyota Matrix and began running errands around town. I’ve always loved Peter Rowan’s, “Midnight,Moonlight” especially Jerry Garcia’s break in it. But listening to the CD again I was amazed by the excellent fiddle playing of Vassar Clements, the Kissimmee Kid. I don’t know much about fiddling but I know that Vassar’s playing is somewhere in the ozone on this particular cut of Midnight, Moonlight. Taste is subjective and I am glad my buds respond to Vassar’s fiddle licks. Wherever you are Vassar thanks for the memorable music you have left us.

Item 5: Say What? : (Fat Chance--- Slim Chance): Well?

Item 6: English language: Is it tough? You be the judge… ( rough-bough-dough)----(rough-stuff:) (bough-bow): (dough-doe): (gnu-knew-new) (since-cents)--- (do –dew-lieu)

Item 7: Unclear of the Concept: A while back I was teaching a first grade class. One young boy was having a hard time sitting still (as do many youngsters) and after several warnings I had to dole out some punishment. He was sentenced to 5 minutes against the wall at break time. Most all the schools in Turlock utilize this non-corporal punishment. Students will either just stand or sit against the wall doing their school work until their “penalty time” is up.

I walked my first graders out to the playground with the other 1-3 graders and pointed out the wall to my youthful offender and told him he needed to spend five minutes against the wall. I began chatting with two of the other first grade teachers when out of the corner of my eye I saw my young man scooting along the ground towards the playground. When he had scooted about ten feet from the wall and nearer to the playground I excused my self from my conversation and walked over to my student. I stared down at him and gave him my “serious” look and said, “What are you doing way out here? You’re supposed to be against the wall.” He looked up at me stood up turned around and began walking back toward the wall. As he walked away I heard him muttering rather loudly under his breath. I raised my voice and said, “Young man, come back here. Just exactly WHAT DID YOU SAY?”He looked me right in the eye and said, “When you said the wall I didn’t think you meant it literally.”With the help of the other two teachers I was able to lift my lower jaw off the playground. I gave my offending student a pat on top of the head and told him his five minutes were up. We both had wide grins on our faces as he galloped off to be with his classmates.

Item 8: It was the worst of times: On my daily walk within 3 blocks from my house I see:

A vacated empty Mervyn’s store with an emptier parking lot looking and feeling a lot like a grassless cemented cemetery without headstones.

Two of four newly built houses on a lot that have been empty now for over two years.

Three beautiful homes that the bank has “taken back” and has replaced the families with a “For Rent” sign on each lawn.

Daily from 8-5 a long line of people stretches around our DMV, waiting patiently to get inside the double glass doors to conduct their business. Why the long line? The DMV is now open only four days a week.

In the shadowy distance the Joads can been seen in a beat up old jalopy crammed with mattresses and chairs etc. chugging down Highway 99 south bound in search of fields to pick.

Item 9: More signage: Recently I was driving from San Jose northbound on Highway 17 and I saw this huge sign by one of the off ramps. HIGHWAY WILL BE CLOSED FROM 1 A.M.-6 A.M. OCT.15--OCT.27 BE PREPARED FOR POSSIBLE DELAYS….. SOOOO, the highway will be closed, as in shut down, for 5 hours a day and motorists should expect Possible delays?…. I would certainly think so. Thank you CAL TRANS….

Item 10: “IKIRU” *: An absolutely amazing movie directed by the award winning Japanese film maker, Akira Kurosawa in 1952. This is a tiny portion of what Roger Ebert, noted film critic said of it: “Over the years I have seen “IKIRU” every 5 years or so, and each time it has moved me, and made me think. And the older I get, the less Watananabe (the main character in the movie) seems like a pathetic old man, and the more he seems like every one of us.” This is an excellent movie. I recommend it.

Have an especially nice Christmas with your family and friends. Enjoy the New Year (This year will be better), read a book, pet a dog, make someone laugh, and call an old friend.

Posted:  12/4/2009

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