Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Tempus certainly does fugit, irrespective of whether you're having fun

Today is our oldest son's birthday. He's 52.

Impossible. I myself am only 38.

Isotopes have half lives. Why can't we?

I'm hoping my half life will have been around 57, but that is neither here nor there.

Here is a photo of my son and his wife taken this past June at Panama City Beach in Florida. The water behind them is the Gulf of Mexico.

And here I am two months before my 38th birthday. If you must know, the year was 1969. This photo was made for the first passport I ever obtained, and despite what they say about passport photos, I consider it to be the best photo ever made of moi.

If all goes well and I keep breathing, I will turn 76 in March.

Tempus fugit, indeed.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Tri-weekly, try weekly, try weakly

I am blogging less lately but enjoying it more -- wait, that's not really true. I am blogging less than I used to, and I suppose my advancing age has something to do with it. I am now somewhere between "beginning to slow down" and being overtaken by the "general malaise" that President Jimmy Carter used to talk about back in the '70s. Since I am also in my 70s now -- halfway through them, in fact -- I cannot claim to be the man I once was. Take my hair, for instance. Too late. Most of it is already gone. And my skin, my skin, the largest organ in my body and also in yours, has morphed into something unrecognizable. I am reminded of the old joke about the old man who decided to streak through his neighborhood and as he passed the bus stop one old woman said, "What was that?" and another old woman said, "I don't know, but it definitely needed ironing."

Where was I?

Oh, yes. Wondering whether I am enjoying things more now that I am doing them less. Some fellow once said, "Burt Reynolds puts his pants on the same way I do, one leg at a time" and some other fellow said, "That may be true, but he gets to do it more often." If you substitute the name of the hunk du jour for Burt Reynolds you will undoubtedly agree that the second man was a truth-teller.

Digressing seems to be what I do best.

I do think that I enjoy blogging as much as ever, but I just don't seem to get around to doing it as often as when I was in my prime had more energy could actually remember that a fair amount of time had passed since my last post.

So I'm blogging today, more because it fills up time and space than that I have something scintillating to say.

The truly cruel among my readership will now say, "It has been ever thus."

Until next time, I remain
Yr intrepid reporter,

Rhymes With Plague

Friday, September 2, 2016

A still photograph tells you very little, really

The blue dot is me, or rather, it is where I live. See it there, just above Atlanta?

The storm system is Hurricane Hermine, the first tropical hurricane to make landfall in Florida in eleven years. In 2005 we had Dennis, Katrina, Wilma, and Rita. The year before that we had Charley, Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne. You may not remember most of them, but surely Katrina rings a bell. Then, for eleven years, nothing. Well, there was "Super Storm Sandy" in 2012 that caused major damage in New Jersey and New York but its eye stayed at sea for most of its existence.

As a result, the weather people on television were going bonkers last night, way too bonkers, over a tropical storm that didn't even achieve hurricane status (sustained winds of 74 mph) until a few hours before it hit the mainland. Hermine is a Category 1 hurricane. By way of comparison, Katrina was a Category 5 hurricane.

Here are the categories of hurricanes:

Still, winds of 74-95 mph are nothing to sneeze at.

Last night Hermine came ashore. I took the photo of the Doppler radar this morning.

The first thing I noticed, being a resident of the southeastern U.S. and fairly familiar with hurricanes, is how small the eye of the hurricane has become, which usually means the storm is dissipating and on its way to becoming merely a tropical storm again.

But am I in danger? Is Atlanta about to get soaked? Do I need to batten down the hatches in anticipation of some high winds?

The answer is: It depends on which way the storm is moving, and you can't determine that from a still photograph.

If the storm came ashore from the Atlantic and is moving to the northwest (the upper left corner of the photo. for the geographically challenged), Atlanta and environs could be in for some very bad weather. Fortunately for us, however, the storm came ashore from the Gulf of Mexico, near Tallahassee, and has been moving to the northeast (the upper right corner of the photo). Therefore, kiddies, it is not Atlanta but the eastern coast of the U.S. that may receive lots of water and wind soon. Another possibility is that the storm will go back over water and strengthen again in the Atlantic. Where it may go then is anyone's guess. It is enough to make the most seasoned weather forecaster go bonkers.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

There's always time for football, I mean soccer, I mean football, or Hull City, eat your heart out

Atlanta is an alphabet soup kind of town. We are home to NFL*, MLB**, MiLB,*** NBA****, WNBA***** and MLL******teams, not to mention PGA******* and LPGA******** events. Twice we have been home to NHL********* teams as well, but the Flames left us to go to Calgary and the Thrashers moved to Winnipeg and changed their name to the Jets. Not enough ice here, I suppose.

*National Football League
**Major League Baseball
***Minor League Baseball
****National Basketball Association
*****Women's National Basketball Association
******Major League Lacrosse
*******Professional Golfers Association
********Ladies Professional Golf Association
*********National Hockey League

But now, in addition to all of those, we will become in 2017 a MLS********* town as well.

**********Major League Soccer

Yes, it's true! The team is called Atlanta United -- do I hear echoes of Manchester? -- and here is its emblem:
I left the pièce de résistance until last -- a three minute and 22 seconds fly-through of the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, currently under construction, which the Atlanta United Football Club (soccer) will share with the Atlanta Falcons of the National Football League.

Monday, August 22, 2016

One solitary life

This post has been one hundred ten years in the making. It's about my Dad, who was born in 1906 and died in 1967. When I say "Dad" please do not make the mistake of thinking that I am referring to my biological father, about whom I know very little, only his name, his place and year of birth, and his place and year of death. Other than those few facts, my biological father has always been a non-entity to me, what our old blogging friend Putz used to call "an ignoble enigma."

No, this post is about the man who married my mother when I was five and raised me from then on. He was my Dad. Sometimes I loved him, sometimes I hated him, sometimes I feared him, but at long last I have come to respect him as a man who tried to do the best he could in spite of his many flaws. The reason is simple: I have a few of those too.

I apologize (British: apologise) in advance for the orientation of a couple of the photographs. I have worked diligently to get them to cooperate but to no avail, alas. If you are reading this post on a smart phone or an iPad you should be able to manage the problem simply by rotating the device, but if you are reading this post on a desktop computer it might prove a bit more difficult unless you stand on your head.

I'm not sure, but I think this may be Dad as an infant in Tomah, Wisconsin, in 1906. This picture was made available by my cousin Barbara Brague Bradley who lives in Arizona, so it might be her father (my uncle Art) instead, but it looks so much like another photo I used to have (but have misplaced) of my Dad in his christening gown that I'm keeping my fingers crossed. Dad was always the blondest of the Bragues.

Dad was the youngest of five boys. There was also a baby sister, but she died in infancy. Here are all the brothers after the family had moved from Tomah to La Crosse, Wisconsin, on the Mississippi River. If you start at the top left and go clockwise, the brothers are arranged in order by age: Art (the oldest), John, Leo, Dan, and my dad, who went by his middle name, Ray, but was sometimes called Ted. Because my uncle Art is wearing his Army uniform and served in France, this photo must have been made around 1917 or 1918. My dad would have been 11 or 12 at the time. Dad's real name was Clifford R. Brague but when he was young he signed his name Ray C. Brague, inverting his first and middle names, and most people knew him as Ray. I never heard him called Ray. By the time he came into my life he was always called Ted.

I forgot to tell you that I don't know how to crop photos either. If you look closely, you can see my cousin Barbara's fingertips, out of focus, at the upper right.

In the next photo, made a couple of years later, the brothers are joined by their parents (my paternal grandparents), Edith Lillian (Johnson) Brague (1877 - 1938) and Elmer Ellsworth Brague (1866 - 1949). They are still at the house in La Crosse, but Art was no longer in the Army and Leo had enlisted in the Navy.

Around 1921 the Brague family moved to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where they remained for many years. My grandparents and all of my uncles are buried there. Most of the grandchildren, though, have scattered to the four winds.

Here is my Dad at around thirty years of age with his parents in Cedar Rapids. By this time Art had four children of his eventual six (Dick, Shirley, Peggy, Isabel, Sandra, and Barbara), and John had three daughters (Trudy, Elaine, and Daveen). Leo married but never had children. Dan, father of two small children (Donald and Evelyn), died of a brain tumor in 1936 and my grandmother died in 1938. My dad enlisted in the Navy when America entered World War II and left Iowa behind forever.

This post is getting a bit long so I have decided to split it into two parts. Perhaps I will have solved the upside-down photo problem by the time Part Two is published. Hope springs eternal in the human breast. For now, you don't have to stand on your head (unless you really want to, of course).

Thank God for small favors.

Friday, August 12, 2016

A Tale of Two Billys

If there is anything people are less interested in than poetry, it's probably poetry about poetry. (The alliteration in the previous sentence is -- wait for it -- palpable.) Nevertheless, this post contains five poems about poetry by two poets, both named Billy, who were born four days apart 75 years ago. One is famous and one is not famous at all except in a very small circle of bloggers. At the end of the post their identities will be revealed.

1. The Trouble with Poetry

The trouble with poetry, I realized
as I walked along a beach one night --
cold Florida sand under my bare feet,
a show of stars in the sky --

the trouble with poetry is
that it encourages the writing of more poetry,
more guppies crowding the fish tank,
more baby rabbits
hopping out of their mothers into the dewy grass.

And how will it ever end?
unless the day finally arrives
when we have compared everything in the world
to everything else in the world,

and there is nothing left to do
but quietly close our notebooks
and sit with our hands folded on our desks.

Poetry fills me with joy
and I rise like a feather in the wind.
Poetry fills me with sorrow
and I sink like a chain flung from a bridge.

But mostly poetry fills me
with the urge to write poetry,
to sit in the dark and wait for a little flame
to appear at the tip of my pencil.

And along with that, the longing to steal,
to break into the poems of others
with a flashlight and a ski mask.

And what an unmerry band of thieves we are,
cut-purses, common shoplifters,
I thought to myself
as a cold wave swirled around my feet
and the lighthouse moved its megaphone over the sea,
which is an image I stole directly
from Lawrence Ferlinghetti --

to be perfectly honest for a moment --

the bicycling poet of San Francisco
whose little amusement park of a book
I carried in a side pocket of my uniform
up and down the treacherous halls of high school.

2. Introduction to Poetry

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,
or walk inside the poem's room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author's name on the shore.
But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

3. The Thing About His Poetry Is

The thing about his poetry is
it just lies there, flat as the proverbial
pancake, it doesn’t lift off the page
like a rocket bound for some distant
world, it doesn’t make your brain want to
soar into the blue. The herons are

never flying in his poetry and no stars
are ever mentioned; he wouldn’t recognize
a constellation if one hit him square
in the face. Your heart with rapture
never fills, there are no fields of
daffodils with which it can dance, in fact

dancing itself is pretty much
frowned upon in his economy,
it’s all business with him, cut and dried.
If his poetry were the financial section
of the newspaper there would always be
a bear market without the slightest hint

of hope, and in spite of all this
the public can’t get enough of him,
his books are all best sellers and
he’s making money hand over fist
even though the thing about his poetry is
it just lies there, flat as the proverbial


4. Poem, Untitled

The page is blank, like my life.
All sorts of subjects flit through my mind
On the way to somewhere else
But not one settles down, makes itself
Comfortable, takes root, or starts to grow
Upward toward the light that arches
High above, beckoning all things to
Itself, not a single one.

The page is empty, like my brain.
I want to write a poem
But nothing comes to mind,
Only a formless maelstrom,
Swirling like one of the
Hundred million galaxies
Out there in the cosmos,
Moving toward the light.

..................................5. The Writer

....................With words alone, he paints
....................from the palette of his mind,
.........................hues and tints
....................until he sees the exact shade
....................he wants.

....................With words alone, she chips away
....................rough edges of meaning,
..............................the solid rock
....................until the long-sought shape

....................With words alone, she pins and drapes
....................original ideas
....................over the naked manikin page,
.........................tucking in a bit of material
....................snipping off
....................a dangling thread
....................dropping thoughts
....................as easily as hemlines.

....................With words alone, he composes
....................irresistible music,
.........................seducing the ear,
.........................searching for a particular chord,
....................the one right sound his words must make
....................for echoes
.........................to linger.

(1) Billy Collins*, from The Trouble with Poetry and Other Poems, Random House, 2007.
(2) Billy Collins*, from The Apple that Astonished Paris, University of Arkansas Press, 1996.
(3) Billy Ray Barnwell**, from Chapter 33 of Billy Ray Barnwell Here blog.
(4) Billy Ray Barnwell**, from Chapter 33 of Billy Ray Barnwell Here blog.
(5) Billy Ray Barnwell**, from Chapter 33 of Billy Ray Barnwell Here blog.

*William James Collins, born March 22, 1941, poet laureate of the United States, 2001-2003.

**nom de plume of blogger Robert Henry Brague, born March 18, 1941. These three poems were not written in the style of Billy Collins. At the time I composed them, several years ago, I had never read anything by him.

I suppose a case could be made that by juxtaposing three of my poems with two by Mr. Collins I have reached new heights in insolence, impudence, and arrogance, not to mention downright chutzpah.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Fine, thanks, and you?

Lots of words today but no pictures.

My back went out (translation: into muscular spasms) about a week ago and recovery has been slow (translation: virtually non-existent). For the first time in our married life except for the times when I happened to be away on business trips I slept in a different bed from Mrs. RWP last night. It finally dawned on us that the mattress in one of our other bedrooms is firmer than the one in our room. Getting out of bed or even just turning over has been excruciating. For the record, changing beds didn't seem to help. Our chiropractor, who used to say "Ice is nice" for lower back pain, has changed his tune and is now telling us that recent studies recommend using cold for crisis pain and heat for chronic pain. Accordingly, not knowing whether mine is chronic or crisis and not knowing exactly what to do, I have been alternating between 15-20 minutes of ice pack and 15-20 minutes of heating pad. Some days it helps and some days it doesn't. Maybe I'm just making things worse.

It has now been about four months since the surgery on Mrs. RWP's left eye and two months since the surgery on her right eye. Her vision continues to fluctuate, probably because the eyes are at different stages of healing. The surgeon said this would happen, but Mrs. RWP finds it a bit disconcerting. Ever since April 15th I have been putting various kinds of drops into first one, then both, of her eyes. These have included Prednisolone 1% ophthalmic solution (a steroid), Vigamox, Oasis Tears Plus (non-prescription), and strangest of all, serum teardrops made from her own blood. Three times now we have made the trek into Atlanta so that the nice people can extract seven or eight vials of of her blood at a time and centrifuge the bejeebers out of it in order to separate the red blood cells from the serum. After a couple of hours they then give the clear stuff back to us in ten or eleven little bottles. The surgeon said using this stuff will help Mrs. RWP's eyes recover faster because it contains her very own antibodies. Each time we go, the bill is $200.00 and it is not covered by Medicare Part D since the drops do not contain any pharmaceuticals.

Today my grandson Matthew leaves Kenya for home after an eleven-week stay. His dad tells me it will involve about 18 hours of flying and 30 hours of travel overall. He will be home for one week and then depart again for his second year at university. He is one busy fellow. I may have mentioned this before -- I can't remember -- but I find it interesting that our three visitors to Kenya this summer -- Matthew, Noah, and Nicholas -- have had completely different itineraries. One flew from Atlanta to New York to Dubai to Nairobi. One flew from Atlanta to Amsterdam to Nairobi. And one flew from Atlanta to London to Johannesburg to Nairobi. And boy, are their arms tired.

Yesterday, as we were sitting in the wing chairs in the sitting area of our bedroom and talking on speakerphone to a friend from church, suddenly a mama deer and a little spotted fawn came into our back yard and stopped not ten feet from our bedroom window. After a few seconds of "freeze time" during which we exclaimed our "oohs" and "ahs" and pondered getting a camera, they turned and left the same way they came. We live in the middle of a large housing development and I have never seen deer in our subdivision before, let alone at our window. It was a moment to remember.

This post is all discombobulated, but it cannot be helped.