Leave well enough alone

Windmills. Don Quixote saw windmills. He fought windmills. He lost to windmills. What would it be like to live under a windmill? It wouldn’t be quiet. Every time the wind blows there would be a constant whirling. Yet Jasmine wanted a windmill.

Chris tried to talk her out of it. Nope. There was no talking her out of it.

“Why do you want a windmill?” he asked her.

“I had a dream when I was a kid.”

“There you go. You and your dreams.”

Time and time again she brought up her dreams. When they first met, she had dreamed she was going to marry an engineer. Chris was an engineer.

They bought cars based on her dreams. They went on vacations to places that appeared in her dreams. One time they even had sex based on a dream. It was a position she saw in the dream.

Now this. They were going to spend a fortune for a house underneath a windmill. And it wasn’t even that good of a windmill. There were parts of it falling down. One blade rested vertically in the ground. It was older than the house. An older house had been torn down and replaced by the current house.

That night Chris had a dream. And it scared the hell out of him. Initially he had chalked the dream up to worry. But it came back three, four times. As long as Jasmine wanted that house, he knew the nightmares would not go away.

He told her his dreams. She just laughed. “I’m the dreamer in this family,” she said.

“Well, I’ll buy the house. But I’m not living there.”

“You have to,” Jasmine insisted. When she insisted, she usually got her way.

So Chris bought the house. That first month, no dreams for Chris. Nothing happened in the house. Then Chris began work on the windmill while Jasmine worked on the house. Chris took six months off from his job to do the work. He hired an architect, a contractor and several men to do the work as he oversaw things.

The blade stuck deep in the dirt needed to be pulled out and remounted. Chris wasn’t sure how that the blade had ended a third deep into the ground. It must have been a strong force that plunged that blade into the earth.

The architect, the contractor and Chris sat over plans for several days, discussing ways of getting that blade out. They brought out a bulldozer and mounted a chain to the blade. The blade would not move.

Jasmine came out to where the men worked. She took one look at the chain and the bulldozer. She took Chris aside. “Don’t,” she said.

“Don’t what?”

“Leave the blade alone,”

“Leave the blade alone?”

“Yes,” Jasmine said.

“But it’s got to go. Without a new blade, the windmill will not rotate properly.”

“I don’t care,” she said.

Chris went back to the others. “Okay, guys. Leave the blade be.”

The work continued on the windmill for another month. But Chris was continued to be concerned about the blades.

One morning, over coffee, Jasmine said, “My mother’s sick.”

“Is it serious?”

“I have to go and see her. The doctor says she only has weeks to live.”

“Then you should go.”

Chris watched his wife drive away. Then he went back to the windmill. The stairs and the floor were almost done. For the next three days, the work went well. Chris worked from sun-up to sunset. Each night before he went to bed, he talked to Jasmime about  the windmill, telling her of the progress he was making.

The morning of the third day, he looked at the blade in the ground. He decided the blade had to come out. The next day the contractor brought in the bulldozer and a pulley. The first time they tried, the chain snapped. The second time, the blade moved, then a second chain snapped. Finally, the third chain held and the blade gradually pulled loose.

When Jasmine had not heard from Chris for three days, she began to worry. Her phone calls were not answered. Then it hit her. He had gone ahead and pulled the blade loose.

“Oh, no,” she said. “He let them out.”

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Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Creator: Zero Mostel

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. This week’s Spotlight is Zero Mostel:

Before there was Steve Martin and George Carlin, before there was Kevin Hart and Steve Carell, there was Zero Mostel (1915 – 1977). Mostel  was one of the great comedic actors of the twentieth century. And what a performer he was. He played each role handed him like his life depended on it. Here he is with Gene Wilder in Mel Brooks’ insanely funny “The Producers”:

He originated the role of Teyve in “Fiddler on the Roof”.

And here’s another great performance in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum”.

And his appearance on “The Muppet Show”.

 

 

Near 500 words: Frank’s Day

Frank was excited. His mother was taking him to the fair. He was seven years old and he had heard a lot about the fair from his friend Gina. His friend, Roger, too. Now it was his turn. His mother was excited for him as well.

The first thing Frank discovered about the fair. It was alive with noises, and they were happiness noises. Then there were the colors that filled his eyes with brightness and variety. And the smells of popcorn.

Gina told him about the horses and he just knew he wanted to ride them and there they were, on the carousel. And they made music. Frank loved the music.

He pulled at his mother’s dress. “Can I? Can I?”

“We have to buy a ticket,” his mother answered him.

He could hardly wait. He was so excited. It was like the times he needed to piss in his pants and thought he would die if he had to wait. Of course, he didn’t die, and he didn’t die waiting on the ticket.

His mother lifted him onto the white stallion and she got on the black mare beside him. Then the carousel took off. Up and down it went. And it went up and down some more. And the music played. Frank was in heaven. But like most things Frank loved, such as chocolate cake and hot cocoa, heaven came to an end.

It was such a short ride. Frank wanted to ride for a thousand miles like Genghis Khan and his mongol hordes he had read about. But his mother insisted they try something else.

She insisted, “You’re going to love cotton candy as much as I do.”

He did love cotton candy as soon as he had some. It was like eating a cloud.

“Now we’re going to ride the ducks,” his mother said, as she grabbed her son’s hand.

“You can ride ducks?” Frank asked. Then he saw it. Giant white ducks at the pier of a lake.

And then it was the biggest surprise of his birthday. Gina and Roger ran past him, yelling, “Frank, Frank.”

Frank joined his two best friends in one of the ducks. The moms of Gina and Roger joined Frank’s mother and got into the duck with their kids. The gondolier guided the duck away from the dock as his passengers jabbered away. Then he sang at the top of his lungs “The Quack Song”. Soon his passengers joined him with their singing.

Across the lake the duck and its gondolier carried the six. As they pulled up to the dock, a young man grabbed each of their hands and said, “Welcome to the Land of the Unicorns”.

The six stepped onto the dock. The kids were all excited. “Unicorns, unicorns,” they sang in unison. Into a large tent they went. On the sides of the tent, a movie projected. It was the Unicorn Story. Everybody went “ahhhh” when they saw the giant white creatures with their large orange horn running like the great steeds they were once upon a time.

When the day was done, Frank kneeled at the side of his bed. His dad kneeling on one side and his mom on the other. Frank prayed, “Thank you, God, for the best day ever.”

His parents tucked their son into bed and snapped off the light and said, “Good night, Son. We love you.”

That night Frank dreamed of friends and unicorns and horses and giant ducks with gondoliers singing “The Quack Song”.

A Halloween Tale

It’s October, and you know what that means. It’s harvest time. It’s time the leaves on the trees are red and gold and orange. Seems the trees make an extra-special effort this time of year. The birds take off for their southward journeys. The squirrels make a last minute snatch, gathering up a few more nuts for the coming chilly days of winter. It’s October, and Halloween’s a-coming.

Already carved pumpkins are showing up in folks’ windows and on their lawns. They’re letting us know that the show is coming soon. That show being costumes and trick-or-treating galore.

Yet, over the years, Halloween’s been the runt of the holidays. Unlike Independence Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter, Halloween didn’t start showing up in the national consciousness till the twentieth century. And it didn’t even have its own story. Until “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” and Ray Bradbury’s The Halloween Tree.

All great stories invite the reader in with an invitation. Here’s the invitation from The Halloween Tree:

It was a small town by a small river and a small lake in a small norther part of a Midwest state. There wasn’t so much wilderness around you couldn’t see the town. But on the other hand there wasn’t so much town you couldn’t see and feel and touch the wilderness. The town was full of trees. And dry grass and dead flowers now that autumn was here. And full of fences to walk on and sidewalks to skate on and a large ravine to tumble in and yell across. And the town was full of…

Boys.

And it was the afternoon of Halloween.

Eight boys show up for trick-or-treating in a variety of costumes. Tom Skelton is dressed in skeleton bones. There’s a witch, a mummy, an apeman, a gargoyle, a beggar, a ghost and Death himself with his scythe. There’s only one boy missing. And that’s Joe Pipkin.

Joe Pipkin was the greatest boy who ever lived. The grandest boy who ever fell out of a tree and laughed at the joke. The finest boy who ever raced around the track, winning, and then, seeing his friends a mile back somewhere, stumbled and fell, waited for them to catch up, and joined, breast and breast, breaking the winner’s tape. The jolliest boy who ever hunted out all the haunted houses in town, which are hard to find, and came back to report on them and take all the kids to ramble through the basements and scramble up the ivy outside-bricks and shout down the chimneys and make water off the roofs, hooting and chimpanzee-dancing and ape-bellowing. The day Joe Pipkin was born all the Orange Crush and Nehi soda bottles in the world fizzed over, and joyful bees swarmed countrysides to sting maiden ladies. On his birthdays, the lake pulled out from the shore in midsummer and ran back with a tidal wave of boys, a big leap of bodies and a downcrash of laughs.

In other words, this Joe Pipkin was a mighty fine fellow. And the other eight boys waited in anticipation to see what he would be dressed as. But poor Joe is whisked away on a journey of life or death.

With the help of a creature named Moundshroud, the eight follow Pipkin to the celebrations of the origins of Halloween by the ancient Druids. They find themselves among the mummies of Ancient Egypt, the ceremonies for the dead by the Greeks and the Romans, the gargoyles of Notre Dame in Medieval France and the Day of the Dead in Mexico. Each ceremony has a jack-o-lantern on the Halloween Tree.

Are the boys able to rescue their friend, Joe Pipkin? And, if they do, what will it cost? Only by reading The Halloween Tree will you be able to discover the answer.

Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Movie: A champion

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. This week’s Spotlight Movie is the documentary “Harry & Snowman”:

We know who Seabiscuit was. We know who Secretariat was. We know who Trigger was. One horse that captured the imagination of the American public in the 1950s has almost been forgotten. Now director Ron Davis has reminded us of one of the greatest horses of the twentieth century, Snowman, with his documentary.

The documentary begins with a voice-over by Snowman’s owner, a man with a Dutch accent. “My name is Harry DeLeyer and I’ve spent my whole life with horses. I connect with them and they connect with me…I still love to be in the morning with my horses. I got many wonderful horses in my life. But Snowman was the most wonderful to me.”

Harry saved Snowman from the slaughterhouse. When Harry looked the horse in the eye and the horse looked Harry in the eye, there was a connection between the two that would last for the rest of the horse’s life. Harry paid $80 for a white English plow horse. The horse was filthy with only one shoe and a mark on his neck from pulling a plow.

The documentary is an American story. With hard work, commitment and talent, anything is possible. In 1958, a twelve-year-old plow horse beat the best show jumpers in the United States. By the end of the season, he won the triple crown of show jumping: the National Championship at Madison Square Garden and the year-end Jumper Championship Award, and and was named the Horse of the Year.

Harry was offered $100.000 for the horse he paid $80 for. He never sold. Snowman was too much a part of his family. At the end of his career, Snowman, “The Cinderella Horse”, took his final appearance at Madison Square Garden as one of the greatest snow jumpers of all time. He received a standing ovation.

This documentary reminds us that we never know when greatness will show its face. So let’s celebrate second chances. Just think of some of the great Second Chancers: Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Colonel Sanders, Grandma Moses. And Snowman.