Saturday, March 31, 2012

Island Girl

IslandI’m not sure what my dealio is lately, but I’ve been in serious solitary mode.

I’ve written about this before, about how I’m very much an introvert, and that I feel most relaxed when alone or with just Ken, or a few good friends. (Thank goodness Ken is similar in that regard...neither of us is the clingy type, and I don’t feel neglected because he works long hours. Some people can’t handle that, but it’s cool with me.)

I’ve been feeling a self-imposed isolation more acutely lately, though. I find myself just completely immersed in reading, whether it’s news stories online or books. I’m kind of burnt out on the Republican primaries (honestly, I can only take so much vomit-inducing—to borrow Santorum’s imagery—rhetoric, and this primary has it in abundance), but I’ve been reading a lot about the Supreme Court arguments on the Affordable Care Act. I really don’t know how it’s going to go down, and just like everyone else, I’ll have to wait until late June to hear the ruling.

I’ve been tearing it up when it comes to books, and I’m making very good progress on the book club list. I mix those on the list up with other books, ones about politics, science, atheism/religion, and some just for fun. I’m not sure what this sense of urgency is that I’m feeling, but maybe it’s a matter of there just being so much that I want to read. I’ve been doing well on my workouts, an hour a day six Isolationdays a week (I rest on Sunday, haha), enjoying lots of cool new music I’ve been finding while I work out, and when it’s nice out, I sit out on the deck and...well, read. I find myself backing away from confrontation in discussions on Facebook, and I’m not sure what is causing that. I sometimes enjoy a good debate, but I find that online debates do little to further the discussion; there are some people who are able to rationally and reasonably discuss things, and I enjoy exchanging ideas with them. There are others who just kind of flip out and start attacking people (I’m still laughing over a friend of a friend calling me ‘lil gal’), and I’ve found that I can either go ballistic back and let them harsh my mellow, or I can walk away. I’ve been choosing the latter, because I just don’t like getting that upset—and my blood pressure doesn’t like it, either!

So I can honestly say that I feel very content and happy, while at the same time realizing that I need to be careful about not being too isolated. I’m not overly worried about myself, because I still have a great time getting together with Shane and Matt, or with many other family members and friends. It’s very easy for me to be insular, so I have to work at it to make sure I don’t isolate myself too
much. It would be way too easy for me to turn into a crazy hoarding cat lady. Or even a cat hoarding crazy lady.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Beth’s Retro Reflections: “WarGames”

Beth's Retro ReflectionsIt’s a new feature, y’all, and I LIKE GRITS!

Last night, there wasn’t really much on TV, and we recently finished Season Five of “Dexter” but haven’t yet started on Seasons 1-4 of “Mad Men,” so Ken was looking to see what was on, and he said, “How about ‘WarGames?’ It’s on AMC.” I’m not sure why, but that sounded just about perfect. I haven’t seen it for some time, and I remembered liking it a lot, so that’s what we watched. (Although Ken conked out part of the way through...gee, you’d think the guy was working long hours or something. Pfft.) I enjoyed it so much that I wanted to write about it, and thought it might be fun to create a “retro” feature on occasion, along the lines of Beth’s Music Moment, but about stuff other than, you A big thanks to Cousin Shane for coming up with the title. I was kind of stuck on what to call it, although I wanted “retro” in there, and he came up with several great suggestions. “Retro Reflections” struck me as just right, so a big saaaa-LUTE! to Cousin Shane!

Ken and I were chuckling about quite a few things in this movie, because so much of it is outdated, but we remember much of it. (Believe me, the irony that I’m calling a 1983 movie ‘retro’ isn’t lost on me.) There were floppy disks...the 5¼ inch ones! The modem was a device you set the phone handset on (although I never had one like that...mine was built in, with a blazing fast 28,800 bps, sometimes 14,400 on a bad day). It was the days of DOS, pre-Windows. They were drinking Tab. I loved Tab! It’s kind of an odd thing to see something that is so outdated by today’s standards and realize that you lived it and remember it well. Yikes. My first computer was an Amstrad, and it was before Windows. I still remember how cool it was to be able to type up a document for work and print it out. WOW!

The bureaucrats and military brass in this movie were the cliché bad guys, including the tobacky-chewing, cigar-smoking four-star general. It was also fun to see a very young and very adorable Matthew Broderick. I still think the guy is adorable, but oh my, was he ever young in this movie! But then we once were, too, weren’t we?

The larger message here, though, was an anti-war message, especially against a nuclear war. It struck me that there is a fairly narrow window of those of us who grew up under the shadow of a possible nuclear holocaust. Of course, we still worry about a nation like Iran getting a nuclear weapon, but the immediate threat of nuclear annihilation is gone. I’m not sure I could convey to a young person who did not grow up being afraid of such a possibility how very real and pervasive that fear was. We really thought that we might get nuked by Russia, and that we might not survive as a country and as a people.

In the final scene, when Joshua/WOPR plays out all the possible nuclear strike scenarios, the lights of the computer-generated flashes flicker in the darkened room. The slaughter is relentless as Joshua “plays the game” over and over, and they all watch silently to see what will happen. I found it as powerful a moment as I did years ago, and when Joshua finally stops and says, “A strange game. The only winning move is not to play,” I found myself crying. It is a simple statement, but it is nothing less than the stone cold truth.

The anachronisms in the movie might be worthy of some laughs, but the basic message of the movie is not. I was happy to see that it held up thirty years later as a powerful statement against mutual annihilation and mass destruction. Just like in tic-tac-toe,
no one wins.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Head out to the highway

Route 66At long last, the time approaches for our Route 66 trip!

We’ve been talking about it for many years now, pretty much since we met! Shortly after Ken and I met, Cousin Shane and I went on a trip we’d been planning for a while, where we went from Chicago to a little past St. Louis on Route 66. I’ve also been on the Road in a few other spots in Missouri, but it’s always been a goal to do the whole thing. (If I actually had a bucket list, this trip would be on it.) We had tentatively planned it a couple of times, but for various reasons, it didn’t work out...but THIS is the year!

Our good friend Andy will be graduating from Cal Tech with his Ph.D. (him smart) in June, he asked us to be there for his graduation, and we are honored to be invited. That will work out perfectly, and we timed our trip so that we could drive out on Route 66 and be in Pasadena for his graduation (we’ll rent a car—a convertible, of course!—then
fly back). Our friends Kim and Steve are planning a trip to Hawaii at that time, and we’re hoping that they’ll be able to fly out of LA so that we can spend the weekend with them. We also hope to hook up with other family members, although our time will be limited. Paths are converging! Planets are aligning! Dogs and cats are living together!

Today I started some early planning. The goal is to average 150 miles per day (there’s a lot to see along the road...Shane and I took a week to go from Chicago to St. Louis and back...normally about a five hour trip), and Ken suggested breaking it down into about four blocks, and then breaking it down further from there. That worked well, and I have a general idea of where we want to get to each night. That could change, and I still need to do lots more research for the stops and side trips. Meramec Caverns is a must, the Petrified Forest will warrant much of a day, and there will be a stop our friend Laurel’s Afton Station and hopefully dinner with her that evening...and there are so many more stops to make and things to see! We also hope to stay at the Munger Moss Motel in Lebanon, Missouri, the Blue Swallow in Tucumcari, New Mexico, and the Wigwam Motel in Holbrook, Arizona. (A teepee motel is a must for this trip.) Laurel has been a wonderful resource, and she recommended Jerry McClanahan’s EZ 66 Guide, which I’ll be studying over the next few weeks. I have several other guidebooks, as well as a ‘50s-era road atlas from when Route 66 was still a commissioned highway.

Route 66 pavementCan you tell I’m getting excited? This blog will probably turn into a travelogue during that time, and I hope to update almost every evening. We really won’t be doing much night driving, because that would kind of defeat the purpose, wouldn’t it? I’m looking forward to all of it, but I’m especially looking forward to driving through the Southwest. I’ve traveled quite a bit, but I’ve spent very little time there, and it has a unique beauty. I know Shane loves it there, and I can see why. There are also quite a few towns along the Road that, if not exactly ghost towns, are somewhat desolate and a little spooky. Shane tells me that Glenrio, which straddles the Texas/New Mexico border, is such a town. You know how I love abandoned places!

Anyway, it’s going to be a fun trip. We’ve got a couple more months to nail down our plans, and then we’ll hit the road! I hope you’ll enjoy my tales of the things we see and the people we meet. I think it’s really going to be one of those “trip of a lifetime” kind of deals. Every trip is fun, but this one is going to be something special!