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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Friday, January 08, 2010

"Unsettled" Chapter 48-A

Saturday, Sawdust, and Cereal

The sound Dad’s Delta Radial arm-saw made when he first turned it was an eerie gyroscopic modulation like a flying saucer taking off in some Martian movie. The low drone of the spinning blade got higher and higher until it reached a dog-whistle pitch. Then the blade was pulled through the soft waiting wood with a whirling ring that hung in the air as the saw was turned off and the flying-saucer-drone soared off into silence. I’d grown up hearing the song of that saw. In the decades since, in my "handy-man" hours, I’ve made thousands of cuts with a hand-held Black & Decker skill saw, but that loud whine is nothing like the ominous sound of Dad’s Delta.

That was the sound I woke to on that Saturday morning after skating with Mom and Dad on the creek. It was coming through the floor directly over my upper bunk in our make-shift Celotex bedroom in the basement.

I looked below me and saw Dave’s head buried under his pillow. Paul’s bed was empty. He had to work that Saturday at the nursing home in order to have Christmas Day off. The saw was turned on again and again the flying-saucer drone whirling ring of steel and wood pierced the air. .
“I guess it’s time to get up,” I said without getting up.

“I know,” Dave moaned into his mattress. “I used to think the sound of his alarm clock was the worst noise possible on a Saturday morning, but his saw tops it.”

“Do you want to skate out to the lake today?” I asked.

“I knew we’d never make it last night with Mom,” he said. “She hit that last tree pretty good.”

“You mean that last loud thud? That was me. Mom was the thud before the last. I had just helped her up. She was laughing. Dad had skated ahead to check the ice. He came back and warned us about a low tree ahead. So I took off looking around the bend, glided under a low leaning tree, then straightened up just in time to get clothes-lined by an even-lower tree—knocked the wind out of me.

"I know the place you mean. I went under it like I was sliding into second, popped back up and just kept going."

"I'll do that next time—once we see all that stuff in the daylight it's easier to navigate at night."

“I think we better go upstairs and help Dad,” Dave suggested.

“Yeah. We can do that first, but I mean later, after that, maybe we can skate to the lake.”

“We’ll see. Depends on what he’ doin’ up there.”

The saw again broke the silence and the faint scent of cut wood sifted through the floor. Then Dave changed the subject. [Before reading on, it may help to know that Dave had been dating a fellow student from Florida since his freshmen year. I was dating a girl from Maryland but for a shorter period of time.]

“I still gotta figure out how I’m going to tell Mom and Dad about Florida.”

“I thought you weren’t sure you were goin'.” I whispered.

“Well, I wasn't sure when I first told you, but then I bought the ticket at the campus travel office the day before we came home.”

“Oh..." I was sort of surprised, "So when do you fly out?”

“The Monday after Christmas—I’m only missing five days at home.”

"What do you think Mom and Dad will say?"

"I told them last summer I might do it, and they said 'we'll see' so they kind of know."

"Where'd ya get the money for the ticket?"

"I've been working off campus for like four weeks in a row. I've got the money. So it shouldn't be a big deal."

“I wonder how much it costs to fly to Maryland?”

"Check it out. I bet it's only about fifty bucks, but whatever you do, don’t bring it up before I leave.”

“I don’t have any money so it doesn’t matter.” I said, hopping down to the cold floor.
Saturday was the one day that Mom did not get up to make a breakfast we all sat down and ate at the same time. As little kids, this worked out well, because Kathy, Mom, and Dad slept in while we boys got up to watch Saturday cartoons.

Through the first four decades of television, cartoons were aired almost exclusively on Saturday mornings. There were exceptions to this rule. For instances, The Flintstones and its chronological opposite The Jetsons aired weeknights in prime time, but that was because they were geared to the whole family, which explains why it was considered okay for Fred Flintstone to advertise Winston cigarettes during commercial breaks.

That commercial would not have aired on a Saturday morning when virtually every commercial was aimed at kids sitting alone in the living room while their parents were still in bed. Tons of breakfast cereal was pitched by cartoon characters in recurring storylines: Tony the Tiger, Cap'n Crunch, Sugar Bear, Toucan Sam, Silly Rabbit, the Cheerios Kid, an annoying leprechaun. But our favorite was the three Rice Crispies brothers Snap, Crackle, and Pop. They had a cool song that the three of us would get up and sing right along with the animated trio.

Ten short years before that Christmas of '75, Saturday morning cartoons were still a ritual in Dave's and my life, part of that rhythm I talked about before. And as I said, we didn't sit down to breakfast on Saturdays; we just grabbed a bowl of cold cereal and chowed down in front of the TV.

That changed when Dad bought the property, and we typically got up so early that every channel on TV was showing only the test pattern. Yes, young readers, there was a time when all TV stations ended their broadcasts late at night by playing the National Anthem, at which time a static test pattern came on the screen until the broadcasts resumed before the early morning commute. It was a time when there was an assumed rhythm of "bed time" for each time-zone from coast to coast. Now, of course, cable, satellite TV, video recording, and TiVo have changed all that. People can watch what they want, whenever they want, for as long as they want.

In the early 90s, children's stations like Cartoon Network made it Saturday morning every hour of every day. As a kid, I would have thought that was cool, but as Thomas Paine said of freedom: "What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value...." It's true of freedom, commodities, entertainment, even intimacy. Things obtained too easily lose their intended value. As a kid, I never would have imagined that having hundreds of TV channels airing non-stop, day and night, 365 days a year, watched independently on multiple TVs under one roof would contribute in a small way to a loss of the shared time and rhythms of the home.

There is such a thing as too many choices; there is value in collectively doing one thing at the same time as a family. We now witness a world separated by the very technology intended to bring us together. The Berlin Wall came down a decade before the "ear buds" went in. And text- messaging teens! Don't get me started. In our effort to broaden our horizons, open our minds, keep in touch, and, yes, to "think globally," we have inadvertently let go of closer things, the things that drew families and communities together at the most basic levels needed to sustain a culture. A family, cuddled up under blankets on a couch, watching The Wizard of Oz or Andy Griffith reruns is not the answer to all of society's ills, but it wouldn't be a bad start.

Wow!.... Sorry about that rabbit trail… I hadn’t planned on going there. I simply meant to say....

I hopped down from my top bunk to the cold floor and got dressed for the day. Mom was still sleeping; Jimmy was up and watching Saturday cartoons; and Dave and I poured ourselves a bowl of cold cereal like we did when we were kids. We ate and talked and watched some toons with Jimmy. Then we heard Dad’s radial arm saw make another cut, drank the milk left in the bowl, and went upstairs to see if we could be of help.

To be continued…


Blogger patterns of ink said...

Dear Anon,
Acording to babelfish translator, you said, "The life biggest glory, is not never defeats, but repeatedly servant repeatedly" which I take to mean: "Life's greatest glory comes not from alwas winning but from always serving." And I thank you for stopping by and sharing.

9/1/10 6:18 PM  

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