Ralph

Ralph is the inspiration for Cantankerous Old Coots and is our Grand Duke of Cantankerousness

Up With – Hood Ornaments

 Posted by at 11:03  Up With
Feb 232015
 
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“Hood ornaments. They were just lovely, and they gave a sense of respect. And they took ’em away because if you can save one human life- that’s always the argument- it’s worth it, if you can save one human life. Actually, I’d be willing to trade maybe a dozen human lives for a nice hood ornament. I imagine those things really did tend to stick in bicyclists.” Michael O’Donoghue

It is comforting to be a Cantankerous OLD Coot because when you look around at the trivial cultural wasteland of modern day America, you, at least, have the memories of better times. Sick of ugly, look-alike cars? Remember hood ornaments! Back when you used to be able to tell one car from another and all cars weren’t ugly, hood ornaments were totally useless sculptures found on the hood of every car no matter the price or cache. These were not trivial junk but carefully crafted works of art designed to reflect the unique image for the car make itself and quite often the specific model. The hood ornament was just one more way to make a car distinctive. Today most of us will remember the Flying Lady for Rolls Royce or the Mercedes Star because those two manufacturers held out the longest before abandoning hood ornaments. It may have been safety that precipitated the end for hood ornaments but in the long run I think the big reason was cost. Popular priced cars after the onslaught of government regulation in the 60’s couldn’t afford hood ornaments and as hood ornaments became rare, the few remaining became collectors items causing Rolls to go to outlandish length to protect theirs before giving up.

We at Cantankerous Old Coots want to propose a solution to the ugly car problem. We say bring back the hood ornament! Wouldn’t it be wonderful to make your car distinctive again? Now that you can’t tell a Toyota from a Lexis from a KIA and all cars look like a cross-over, think what a hood ornament could do to make your car distinctive. Finally you could stop having to click your key fob and wait for the lights to flash to know which car is yours. Look for the one with your special hood ornament,

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Ralph

Ralph is the inspiration for Cantankerous Old Coots and is our Grand Duke of Cantankerousness

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Up with Fall

 Posted by at 11:03  Up With
Feb 232015
 
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“Let’s drive up to New England and watch the leaves die.” Bruce Eric Kaplan

 

Maple leaves

Maple leaves (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I grew up in the mid-west where four seasons were the norm. I never gave much thought to what what life might be like in warmer climes or somewhere without seasons altogether. I accepted Spring showers, Winter snows, Summer humidity and the leaves falling in Autumn. It was the natural order and the way things are supposed to be.

Then after college when I had to decide where I wanted to live and work, I chose California and everything I thought I knew about the seasons changed. In Southern California where I lived for over 30 years, Winter can be the best season. In Winter you get the full gamut of possibilities; rain, sun fog, even enough chill to make a fire feel good, once in a while. There is a lot of sun but it is never too hot. Flowers bloom all year round and it stays green- or at least the gray-green shade that you learn to accept as green in arid regions- all year round.

 What’s not to like about SoCal?

From day one, I loved the weather. I learned to understand June gloom and look forward to the Winter rains. I loved forgetting that there was something called humidity. I never noticed how Fall just disappeared because the leaves just don’t turn in Southern California.

I truthfully didn’t miss the fall color at all. I remember that I kept wondering why anyone in SoCal would even plant a deciduous tree, I couldn’t see any appeal to a bare tree when you could have a green one all year round. There were deciduous trees in So Cal but because the weather was too mild, they didn’t get bright colors in the Fall. They just die, turned brown and fall off. How boring!

NoCal is different!

In the mountains and even some parts of Northern California, the air gets more chill and some selected varieties of deciduous trees will color. Now that I am 100 miles from the Pacific and 1,000 feet above sea level in the Sierra foothills, we get a faint shadow of the seasons I knew back in the mid-west. Just this week, the weather turned and the nights became cool. Our maple leaves are starting to dry but it is too early to tell if we will get color this year. It’s never a sure thing.

The sycamores lining the parkway started browning in August. By now they are totally brown and shriveled but still on the trees. Any day now they will drop and cover the ground. They are really ugly. I always wonder why our city planner selected them. They aren’t particularly lovely. They don’t color in the fall or have flowers in the Spring- only some nasty pollen, followed by silky seeds. I think their only charm is that they are native to the area which seems like a poor excuse to me. What I loved about California was the great variety of plants from all over the world that can grow here. I loved the groves of Eucalyptus trees all over the state and particularly the ones leading to our home in SoCal where you would know that you were almost home just from the smell of the leaves. Nobody plants eucalyptus anymore. They aren’t cool because they aren’t native.

Aging makes you reflective.

These days I miss the dramatic season changes from my youth. I think about driving into the mountains in the Fall to see the brilliantly colored aspens and closer to home look for the odd tree in my neighborhood with real fall color. At this point, I probably will never be willing to move back to someplace with four real seasons. I just don’t want the extremes of hot, humid summers and cold, snowy winters. I have become more appreciative of deciduous trees however and the beauty of bare branches against the winter sky; the colors of the leaves in the Fall and the soft green of the Spring buds.

It’s been a long time since I first came to California and in that time both I and the state have come a long way. Maybe it is just that I’m getting older but these days, I really appreciate the dramatic show of color before the leaves die. I can understand making a grand statement and going out with a flourish. It inspires me to have a few more adventures before I finally concede that my life is over. I can learn something from the leaves of Autumn.

 

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Ralph

Ralph is the inspiration for Cantankerous Old Coots and is our Grand Duke of Cantankerousness

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Down with Spring

 Posted by at 11:03  Uncategorized
Feb 232015
 
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lkjlkj

Spring is over rated.

You dream about it all Winter long and then when it gets here, all it means is more work.

Those long, cold winter months are a real trial.  Each day, it seems that the Sun just gets above horizon and it is already setting. You eat breakfast in the dark and it is already night time when you have supper. There are only a few hours of sunlight each day. Then with the Winter storms, you often don’t even get that. All through the Winter, you dream about those first Spring days, the warm breezes, the flowers. It’s barely enough to keep you sane.

Spring is a tease.

She doesn’t just appear. She comes and goes. Maybe you will see a string of warm sunny days early on, catching the early Spring flowers and highlighting their beauty. But then, just as quickly she will disappear . You turn the furnace back on and wonder if Winter will ever go away. And the pattern continues. You think each patch of warm weather will mean no more Winter. Each time, there are a few more flowers, but it is still a day to day thing. Winter holds on tight and the fact that they days are longer only serves to increase the frustration that it’s not warm yet.

Eventually, though, the day begin to stay warm. Buds are popping all over the place. The leaves break out on the trees and flowers are everywhere. Finally you can shut off the furnace and thankfully, it’s not yet time to turn on the air conditioner. Spring is finally here.

Not so fast.

Spring is a devious lass, full of mischief. All the while, she is teasing us with the promise of her charms, she holds back so that we never really get to indulge in the pleasures of warm weather. We get out briefly and then scurry back to the warmth of home when she lets Winter return. So this means that while the plants are gearing up their show, we never get the opportunity to clean up the winter damage and neglect. All those months indoors have left a lot of work to do putting the yard in condition.

So when Sprint finally is here instead of being able to enjoy it, we don’t get to sit around and smell the flowers. That patio furniture sit lonely and unoccupied. Now that the weather is finally nice, there is a big backlog of yard work. It’s going to be Summer before I get caught up.

 

Ralph

Ralph is the inspiration for Cantankerous Old Coots and is our Grand Duke of Cantankerousness

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Down with Spring

 Posted by at 11:03  Down with
Feb 232015
 
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It’s no big deal!

People make a big deal out of Spring but I‘ve decided it’s nothing special.  There is no perfect season.  I should know after all these years. The delights of Spring exist mainly in the imagination just like most all the other good things.  Our fantasies are generally wishful thinking about the next season after putting up with the worst of the current season.  We long for warm sunny days after the chill of winter.  After Summer’s inferno, even winter cold seems appealing.

Then too, modern life makes weather largely irrelevant.  With the exception of the occasional blizzard or hurricane, we can pretty much ignore weather.   Still, we dream about the perfect Spring day hyped by newspapers, TV and radio.  Even when the weather is perfect, we hardly notice.  We live in a bubble these days, moving rapidly from one artificial environment to another enduring the brief exposure to nature with mild annoyance.

Sure sign of Spring - Robin - Bird

Sure sign of Spring – Robin – Bird (Photo credit: blmiers2)

Real weather is so lame!  Each delight is burdened by some annoying reality.  Breathe in the balmy, fragrant Spring air and spend the rest of the day stuffed up with allergies.  Lounge on the soft Spring grass and end up with hundreds of bug bites.  Take off your shirt to let the pleasant  Spring sun warm your skin and end up with your first sunburn of the season.  Imagination is much more comfortable than reality.

I prefer fantasy.

We ignore the reality and indulge the ideal.  We remember  those special days that reflect the best each season offers-  the cool summer day after a rainstorm, the first day the daffodils begin to bloom,  that Saturday when the leaves show their most brilliant color, the first snow on the mountains.  Each of those days is special and makes a statement about the best each season can offer.  Unfortunately there are very few of those days- some years not even one- and the rest are a disappointing mixed bag.

A further problem is that Spring is a transition between the cold of Winter and the heat of Summer, it a constant state of flux.  What I always want in Spring is just enough warmth so that I enjoy being outdoors.  It’s beautiful when the buds are bursting and the spring flowers popping but what I dream of is the balmy temperatures, 90 days of 70 degree days would be perfect.  Ideally, Spring would arrive promptly in the early weeks of March with pleasant warmth and last until the end of May.  Rain is ok so long as it comes at night leaving the buds and blossoms dewy and fragrant and the days sunny.

Of course, that’s not how it works.  We don’t get 90 days of perfect weather.  Spring begins with snow and ends with an inferno.   At first, it is a tease.  Glimmers of warmth, swept away by Winter cold fighting to retain dominance.  Showers and sometimes even real thunderstorms come and stay for days at a time. Those perfect days are hard to come by.  Then it gets worse.

Winter loses its hold but just when it seems that Spring can finally dominate, Summer engages.  We start to get warm or even hot temperatures breaking into those balmy Spring days and as time passes, hot begins to dominate.  What ought to be a perfectly delightful period of pleasant temperatures while everything greens up and begins to bloom is a battle zone where moderation first battles cold and when it finally seems to have control is attacked by Summer.  It is a time of endless frustration.

Spring is a tease!

So I say down with Spring, that eternal tease that promises so much and gives to little.  No wonder we live our lives moving from one artificial environment to another drugged up with antihistamines.  With Winter and Summer you know you are going to get unpleasantness and discomfort.  You expect to seek refuge in the comforts of your home indulging in the best artificial environments that money can buy.  Winter and Summer are honest.  Spring, that dewy innocent appearing season which promises so much and delivers so little is a dishonest tramp.  That’s the way I see it and right now I can’t wait for the harsh realities of summer.  I don’t want any more of Spring’s empty promises.  How about you?

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Ralph

Ralph is the inspiration for Cantankerous Old Coots and is our Grand Duke of Cantankerousness

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Feb 232015
 
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Being Cantankerous is not easy.

I it not easy being a Cantankerous Old Coot. You might think that all you need to learn is how to be rude and obnoxious. You would be very wrong. It is a way of life- a way of seeing the world and when you become a master, there are many skills that come into play. One that you might never think about is your facial expressions. Sometimes a look is all that a Coot will need to establish effective communication. In every case a facial expression can add that finishing touch that signals you really mean what you say.

People don’t want straight talk

These days, so many people are superficial. They aren’t serious. Their statements are tentative or joking. People just don’t expect you to lay the truth on them. They look closely to see if you are kidding. They don’t want to deal with the truth. They don’t want to deal with you if you are telling the truth and they will go to any length to delude themselves about your intent. If they think that you are kidding, then they can shrug away your statement and move on, skating away from a confrontation either with you or the truth you have just laid on them. Don’t make it easy for them. You fail as a cantankerous old coot if you let this happen. Your facial expression is the clincher.

Lets Review the Lessons so far

Lets take a minute and review the lessons so far. In Lesson 1, we learned to let your feelings out freeing you to be real. Lesson 2 reminded us all that what other people think is unimportant. You don’t have time for worrying about whatever silliness is keeping them awake at night. Lesson 3 reminded us that polite is just an excuse for lying. Finally Lesson 4 emphasized that immediate response is important. Don’t hold back or reserve your first thoughts. Just let her rip. The importance for Lesson 5, Let your Face show you mean it is that unless you get Lesson 5, you can blow off all the other lessons. Your words may tell the world what you really think and blow away any pretensions from your companions but if you don’t reinforce this with your facial expression, everything you worked for is lost. Break a smile and people will think you are kidding or being playful. Keep your expression neutral and they can interpret your statement as a misstatement.

This brings us to Lesson 5

Lesson 5 is vital because your expression must support and reinforce everything you have learned so far. It must be stern and serious. It can run the gamut of emotions from scowl to downright contempt. It must take no prisoners, leave no stone unturned and be so controlled that no one can have any doubt that you mean exactly what you are saying. Lesson 5 is the hardest lesson because no matter how well you learn the other lessons, we are so controlled by the urge to be nice that almost without thinking our facial expressions will try to make nice. As with most every thing in life, practice makes perfect so observe yourself in the mirror and find your weaknesses. Maybe your eyes twinkle or your mouth just can’t help curling up in a Mona Lisa smile. Whatever they are, find them and get them under control.

Ralph

Ralph is the inspiration for Cantankerous Old Coots and is our Grand Duke of Cantankerousness

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