I’ve got one drawer in particular that is nothing but a catch-all drawer. A place to put something that does not have a regular place and probably should be tossed but for some undefined reason begs to be kept a little while longer. That little while longer usually turns into years on end.

Now and then while looking for something and reaching the desperation stage of the search, I remember the catch-all drawer and I go there knowing what I will find yet always finding something I had forgotten – but never the item I am looking for. What should be said here is that I could just empty the contents in next week’s garbage bag and never miss a thing that’s there. At least I think that’s true.

Once that drawer is opened, it’s a lost cause. It’s a rule of life that at that point you are duty bound to pick up each item and remember everything about it. Every single maudlin memory-jogging thing.

The first thing to surface is an ancient roach clip. It’s a string of beads, about the size of a pinto bean, threaded on a piece of blue yarn and ending in a little silver rattle on one end and an alligator clip on the other end. The memories that are drug up at the sight and feel of that little appliance are mostly good but also full of some of the dumbest stuff I ever did. I’m lucky to get out of that period of my life alive.

There is a stack of unrelated photos. I don’t maintain albums. So the photos that come my way end up in a photo box. These pictures are set aside to be “filled” in the photo box later. Hey, a constructive task has emerged from my catch-all drawer episode.

By now, I have forgotten altogether what I was looking for initially and pick up an address book section from an old calendar folder from back in the 80’s. I make a critical error at this point: I began going through the thing page by page, starting at the A’s, naturally.

You already know what’s coming. So many people, once a part of my speed dial community, are now only entries in an old irrelevant address book. At best it’s an historical document that somehow fits into my personal history, and which will obviously become important primary data for my biographer. At it’s moist poignant, it is a reminder of one of life’s most difficult lessons: you can’t maintain every relationship you ever have over a long period of time.

There are a few entries that don’t ring any bells at all. Ah sweet memory lapses. There are a few names that I am quite happy not to have in my life anymore. This tells me that I have indeed learned from my experiences. I am reminded, as I read some of the names that I really should get in touch with them again. I promise to do that soon. There is the listing for the wonderful doctor who fixed both of my cataract clouded eyes and gave me sight again. What a guy. He volunteered to activate his army commission and move to Germany to work on GIs returning from war with damaged eyes. I’m honored to have known him.

By the time I get to the Z’s I am emotionally drained and find that I regret that it is still several hours until cocktail time. I still don’t know what I was looking for.

I wonder if I really could pitch that drawer on the burn pile. Maybe I am not as secure as I thought I was.

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January Thaw (mp3)

Recently, I conducted a test. Nobody even noticed. That was an unexpected bit of data. Perhaps I should avoid such foolishness in the future.

I decided to avoid Twitter and FaceBook for a week. Much to my surprise, the system did not crash and neither did my email inbox get over loaded with inquiries of concern.

It is apparently true that if you stick your hand in a bucket of water and pull it out it doesn’t leave a hole.  Actually, I know it’s not supposed to do that, but you get the point.  You kind of hope you will leave a footprint or something when you pass by.

I think this is what drives politicians. They want to make a difference and affect changes for millions of people. They want to leave a big footprint. Wait a minute: maybe this drives more of us than we realize. Maybe we all want to leave a footprint. 

Here’s the thing: I ran into a friend in the market today.  It was a real contact.  We chatted for a few minutes and passed on.  It was an actual human face to face encounter.  We didn’t even use a computer. OK, I did have my iPhone but it was in my pocket.  We talked about the cold and living in Florida.  Hmm, is there a message there?  If there are footprints, that was one.

I am happy that you are all there. I am happy that from time to time we connect. I am not happy about a lot, but I am happy about that. I think that’s a footprint.

I get these emails all the time containing everything from great humor to bad porn. Most of it I just delete. Some of it, however, I pass along. What I have noticed is that I edit the mailing list severely. For whatever it means, I have friends whom I value who span the universe in their orientation. That is, there are some who are worldly, some who are provincial. Some who are vain, some who are humble. Some who are deeply spiritual, some who are unreasonably religious. Some who are political nut cases, and some who seem oblivious to the passing parade. All of them do not get all of these pass-ons and most are quite happy about that, I am sure.

Regarding nonsense emails, I once became so tired of it that I sent a letter to my entire mailing list demanding that they cease and desist. Send me a real communication or just don’t send anything. I was in one of my self-righteous phases. I got a few comments and the garbage traffic slowed down a bit but soon ratcheted up to an even greater volume.

So I realized that for many people this must be their way of actually saying hello. I have come to a place where I can appreciate the knowledge that someone I know has me on a mailing list and wants to share something they feel is funny with me. I think I’m pretty secure, but I know I’m not so secure that I can tell anyone with a sense of humor to buzz off.

So when I sit down to forward some of this stuff that comes in I find myself thinking about who would be the appropriate person to get this in his or her in-box. I don’t want to offend, you see. You can’t, for example, send left wing stuff to right wingers. If it’s truly funny they won’t understand it anyway. Furthermore what they call funny is usually crudely disguised racism, misogyny or pure redneckism. I dump that stuff as soon as it comes in. There are limits.

So here I am getting some kind of humor on an almost daily schedule and deciding what happens to it.  As I said, most of it goes into the trash but should there be the slightest value in it I begin the editing process of deciding who should or would appreciate it. I’ve been told that it doesn’t matter. That’s probably true. I’ve been told that one’s most valued friends are the purveyors of this garbage and therefore would love to get it back. I’ve been told that such communications are, as I have mentioned, an effort at maintaining a connection.

Well, if that’s so, we are back to thinking that all these jokes, zingers, videos and web links are actually coded messages that say, “Hello, how are you? I’ve been thinking of you. I hope you are well”.

OK.

Well, then, I am doing very well, thank you. I hope you are well and enjoying a measure of happiness in your life. Let me hear from you again soon.

Sincerely:

Jerry H

Or, I could just pass along a good joke.

I would be the first person to say, the internet is great! I have not had so much fun – ever! I also would be one of the multitude who would say that trying to talk to or communicate to someone out there about problem is like trying to put a sock on a snake.

First there are the endless menus that are supposed to magically “pinpoint” your issue and give you this overwhelming sense of security. Only, they don’t. There may be a category out there that in some remote sense possibly, on a cloudless day in May remind you of your issue which, by now, you don’t seem to be able to remember, and you start all over again.

All the while this is going on you are keeping a wary eye out for the odd email address, phone number or a place – God forbid – that you can just write your concern ( a text box comes to mind ) complaint or compliment that would be sent to a sincerely concerned expert automatically in the background without you having to lift the right rock to discover the person’s address or phone number.

OK, let’s say you do find a phone number and you dial it up. Don’t forget your picnic lunch and perhaps a tall cocktail. Put your feet up and lean back in your favorite easy chair and then, only then, begin climbing the phone tree.

We are so happy you called us. Your call is important to us. We didn’t think you’d ever find our number, but since you did, we would like to say that we may record your call for quality purposes . . . Bullshit! It’s HomeLandSecurity.

Press “1” if you want to buy something. 8401 operators are standing by to take your money.

Press “2” if you want to remind us of the good job we are doing. We don’t understand why nobody ever presses “2”.

Press “3” if you are a physician and want to speak to another physician for some reason.

Press “4”, “5”, “6” and so on for the next 15 minutes and then finally . . . .

Press “94” if you need some help. We have 3 Pakistanis standing by for whom English is their 3rd language, after Urdu and Swahili, which they are anxious to practice on you.

Get the picture? Sometimes I don’t call for help just for the fun of NOT doing it. My advise is to figure it out on your own, or insist on speaking to the president of the company, not always much help, or someone in their Atlanta office. I still speak and understand Southern. That always works for me.

Pretty raw outside this morning.  Didn’t get much better throughout the day.  Low single numbers early and around 20 for the sweltering high.

It was the first time I felt the cold getting “next” to me this season.  Walking through the connecting “el” between my place and the big house feels like I had just stepped out onto the polar icecap – if it is still there.  Thankfully, my little Waterford box heats this place up to a toasty level quickly.  

Got a few errands to run today, and maybe a visit to my barber for my monthly trim.  He is so much better at it than I am. 

CA just logged onto Jet Blue’s site to get her tickets to Florida in March and I shall do the same thing on Amtrak soon.  It seems that this will allow me to see old friends who live near in the central Florida area – my terminus being Orlando.

Riding the train is an unknown to me.  I did it probably 50 years ago – Baton Rouge to Fort Worth.  I remember sitting in a switching yard in Shreveport for what seemed like half a day.  Funny how that is the only thing I remember clearly about that trip.  I hope this is different.  I am told it is.  It is a long trip but there are some amenities – like a dining car and a bar.  And I can make it with only one change.  Boston to NYC Penn. and then from there to Orlando.  I’ll take the bus to Boston and be picked up in Orlando. The second leg is the long one, overnight.  I looked into a roomette.  I could stay at the Ritz for that much.  Maybe some other time.  The short story is: I am kind off excited about the whole thing.

I’m even having some fun thinking of packing really light and over the week washing a couple of things.  So, what shall it be?  A small soft bag and laptop shoulder bag?  Or a backpack that would hold my computer and some unmentionables and a small shoulder bag for the rest?  Right now, I favor the second option.  Definitely not a suitcase.

I wonder – – – could I do it with only the backpack?  Hmm.  The challenge is invigorating.  It could be a world class growth experience.  Mercy, I thought I was done with that stuff.  But if it makes me a better person – Hmm.  

Hmm, I say.

There are so many good things that could be said in these first few minutes of a new year. They all boil down to the quintessential wish for a happy year. Kindness, compassion – the underpinnings of love – could possibly make it happen for us all.

Happy New Year