Friday, January 27, 2017


There are people among us that stand out.  Others gravitate to them, value their friendship, and celebrate who they are.  We feel we know these people like no other, and when in the company of others that also know them our common familiarity is like a meal shared among friends.  We count on them and they don’t let us down.  They openly and loudly stand for things we quietly believe in.  If this person is your boss you keep your job.  We admire these people.  They are bolder than us, sometimes braver.  Certain phrases are used about them repeatedly.  Something memorable one such man said, a quip or a quote overheard and remembered, is recalled and retold to a mutual friend that was not there to hear it.  The friend who hears the story shakes his head and smiles
“Oh God, that’s just like him to say that.” 

He says things we wish we had said.

We hold these people up.  We expect them to be strong and they are.  We look to them to provide an example and they do.  It may be terribly unfair of us to lean on them so.  They come to realize the role they play in the life of a group of people, even a community, and they play it out.  For us perhaps.  We rely on them, look to them to be consistent, on the right side of the issues.  We want to know what they think.  We sometimes watch where they go so we can follow.  It must be a burden being strong, leaned on, and looked up to.  But those people wear it well.  It looks as if it comes easily.

No one can be strong all the time.  Well, maybe on the outside.  Everyone has a persona, an outside face, a set of expectations they try to meet, but they have to be vulnerable inside don’t they?  I’m guessing because the very strong never show us anything else.  They never let us inside.  We put so much on these people.  If it wears on them they don’t let us see.  But then again we don’t want to see.  We just want them close.  We want their approval, their smile, their company.  They make a difference in our lives and the lives of others.  They are the glue which holds us together.

We don’t want them to change, so we don’t notice when they do, and if by chance we would we certainly don’t acknowledge it.  We consider them rocks.  But even rocks age.   Age is the great agent of change.  None of us want to acknowledge the frailty of our minds and bodies as the years pass.  We do all we can to deny our slow mutual erosion.  To admit our diminishment, and the slow ebbing of those we love would be to accept change and even death.  It is their strength and consistency we value, and we refuse to see them, or ourselves, otherwise.  And death?  We don’t want to talk about it.

Until we can no longer deny it.  Until we find ourselves and our friends weeping at the passing of a shared hero.  How can it be?  What will become of us now that one who held us together is gone?  He was the focus, the center, the one.  To be in a world where he no longer lives is a shock.  What happens now?

We forget, or we have not yet realized, that the dead live on within us.  Not just in memory, but in spirit.  Our spirits.  Or could that be our souls?  We all give things to others, hopefully more than we take, and the strong, the special give us more than we ever expected.  We have to hold that up.  We have to make it our own and pass it on to others as they did to us.  Like lighting a candle off another, one lit, another waiting to flame, we need to cup our hands around it till it flares and burns bright.

He was part of our old guy’s weekly golf group.  That group we had imagined for years as we neared the end of our working lives. Summer weekdays warm in the sun, nothing to do all afternoon, cheering the good shots, ignoring the bad, unless of course either shot or swing is so stupendously awful it is impossible not to mock, then beers at the end of the day before going home for supper.  The enjoyment of spending a day with friends.  I like to think he looked forward to those days.  We looked forward to being with him.

And then he couldn’t golf any longer, and the news of his illness began to filter out and he became very private and guarded.  I assumed he was dying.  There was nothing I could do.  We’re all powerless in the face of it.

And then he asked me to lunch.  He looked good and seemed happy.  We caught up.  I thanked him for helping me over the years.  We talked about our kids, our wives.  It was almost normal, and it felt so good.

At the end, the conversation turned to his illness and I tiptoed around it, not knowing what or how much he was comfortable in revealing.  He was fairly matter of fact.  He talked about his oncologist, how much he liked her, his prognosis, his future which he accepted.  I hardly knew what to say.

Across the Formica in the booth, between loud inquiries from the guy who walks around with the coffee pot asking if we want a warm up, I looked at him and risk asking what I have only recently tried to imagine.  It’s the elephant that lives more or less permanently in every room old people occupy.

“How does it feel?”

I could see by his face he knew exactly what I meant.  He gave me a big smile along with that devilish look.  I knew he was going to give me one of those unforgettable lines, and that he wasn’t about to go there.

“I’m not impressed.  Not at all.”

It was so like him to say that.  I miss him terribly.  But I’m going to do what I can to pick up where he left off.   He showed us how.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Dago red

My Dad talked so seldom about his past that when I found him in a mood to revisit his younger days I slipped in saved up questions.  Once in the winter, before I could drive, we were finishing up the chores.  All we had to do was bed down the cows, shake straw under them in their stanchions to give them a nice dry bed for the night.  We each had a pitchfork and there were two bales of straw waiting for us.  But instead of cutting the twine and getting started, Dad sat down on his bale to have a Camel cigarette.  I sat down with him, to see if I could get him to talk.

“What about the Italian guy in Chicago you used to visit with Uncle Harry?  Spent evenings in his basement?”

“Who told you about that?”

“Aunt Dot.”

“Well, she should be more careful who she’s telling stories to.”

“She didn’t tell me a story about it.  She told me to ask you.”

“Oh she did, did she?"

I thought he wasn’t going to tell me anything.  He looked down at his feet for a minute, then smiled and looked up.

“Well you don’t know anything about prohibition but it didn’t stop people from drinking, it just changed how they did it.  I didn’t drink much, but Uncle Harry missed it quite a bit.  He knew a guy who knew this Italian fella had a house on the west side in the city within walking distance of where we were living in Oak Park.  We’d go there once in a while if we had money when he was dating your Aunt Dorothy.  Aunt Dorothy and Irene, sometimes Aunt Fern, would do things together, sew and stuff, or bake, and the two of us, Uncle Vic once in a while but mostly just Uncle Harry and I,   We’d say we were taking a long walk and we’d go see our Italian friend.”

“What’s wrong with that?”

“Well he made wine, a lot of wine, and this stuff called grappa.  We’d walk down his alley, go to his back door, knock, and he’d look out through the curtain.   Seeing it was us, he’d take us on down to his basement.  He had four little tables down there with tablecloths.  We’d sit down and before you know it he would bring out a big pitcher of red wine and glasses for each of us.  And that was it.  We’d drink that pitcher of wine and if we thought we could handle it we’d drink another.”

I loved to hear him talk about the city.

“God it was good.  We called it Dago red.  Usually, his wife would bring down something to eat, bread with olive oil or tomato sauce or some such thing.  Cheese maybe, with olives and hard salami.  When we were ready to go we just paid for the pitchers. We’d walk home happy like we were big spenders who had just been at a big time downtown speakeasy.”

He laughed.

“Tell you the truth I’d rather have been there than all the fancy places in Chicago that were serving liquor back then.  Closest I ever felt to being back home was in that family’s basement.  We went once around Christmas and he brought out his accordion and sang songs in Italian.  Even though his English was bad we felt like he was a friend.  Then we’d get talking to the people at the other tables, telling stories, rehashing politics.  It was great.  Except for the drinking, I felt close to people like I did in Danvers.  It was the best.  Every time I’m in an Italian restaurant and have a glass of Chianti I think of that fella’s Dago red.”

“What are city people like Dad?”

“They’re like everybody else.  Don’t think because you live in a small town and they’re from the city they’re somehow different."

"Here’s the thing, though.  Here we live and work and lead our whole lives with one community.  Up there it’s different.  I’d ride the L downtown to work, spend all week with a good group of people, people I really liked, but when Friday came we all scattered.  I didn’t know where they lived, didn’t know anything about the rest of their lives really, and they knew just as little about me.  When I went home I had my family, of course, neighbors, and people at church, but they knew nothing about my work or those other people at work.  It’s not like Danvers. Up there it’s like living in two worlds, three really.  Because in between, on the train and on the street, you find yourself in a place where nobody knows you at all.  It’s an odd feeling when you're a complete nobody.”

I’d thought about that place already, where nobody knows your name.  I wanted that feeling.  I thought it would be wonderful and free. 
“What about the grappa?  What’s that?”

“I never knew, but close as I can figure its Italian moonshine.  White liquor, not much taste, and potent as all get out.  We didn’t drink his grappa often, and when we did we tried not to drink much of it, because it packed a punch that grappa, and we had a ways to walk home.  I’d rather had whiskey, but hey it was prohibition.  You took what you could get and hoped whatever you drank wouldn’t make you go blind.”

“Did people really go blind from drinking rotgut stuff like they say?”

“No that's just something we used to say.  I never knew anybody that went blind from drinking.  They got sick but those were mostly hangovers.  They talked about bad bathtub gin but I think those stories were Methodist propaganda.  Drinking’s like anything else, too much of it is almost always a bad thing.  But a little of its OK.”

He paused and looked at me closer.

“You’re not drinking are you?”


“Well, I hope that’s true because you are too young.  But you probably will.  Be careful when you do.”

My Dad never tried to steer me into a career, a course of study, or a way of life.  He gave his advice on the sly.  You had to listen closely.  Mom would tell me, sometimes loudly, when she thought I was doing wrong but Dad rarely did.  I believe he thought I could learn how to best live by living.  Somehow I felt he always believed in me, and that my life would turn out all right. I think somehow he created that feeling.  I don’t know how.  He could have been so different.  I gave him plenty of opportunities to doubt that approach, but he stayed the course.   I loved him for that.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Beyond Words

Whenever we, I refer to the big we, human beings on the planet graced with language and the means to communicate now so easily with one another, find ourselves in or even close to a moment so beautiful, so striking, which so captures our attention and fills our senses that the phrase “beautiful beyond words” springs to mind; we should take notes.  We have to first find, then share those words if we possibly can.  When those moments happen we are living the very best parts of our lives.  They should not go unreported.

Monday night it was cold.  The weather was changing and the wind, which blew hard from the southwest, cut through my jeans as I walked to the shack.  I worked quickly to build a fire.  The urgency of a fire eases greatly when the temperature rises above freezing.  Today it is 43 degrees and rainy.  Not a flake of snow in sight, although the creek at the bottom of the ravine is still a crooked ribbon of ice.

Last night it was in the low 20’s and snow covered the ground.  In the shack I concentrated on my computer screen.  I am trying to blend three previous pieces of writing about my Dad into one.  It’s a challenge.  I put in about three hours and then turned the computer off, poured myself a whiskey, and laid down on the futon.  My day was drawing to a close.  I concentrated on the music coming from the shack’s speakers.

I’d been on a long classical music jag and had just changed the CD’s in my 5 disc changer to jazz.  From Bach, Vivaldi, and Sibelius to pure Pat Metheny*.  I was lucky to have inherited great jazz CD’s from a friend who relocated and was forced to downsize his music collection.  He did so by giving them away to friends.  As one of the lucky recipients I greatly expanded my store of Pat Metheny songs.  In addition to Metheny CD’s I had a couple of old vinyl recordings, somewhere, from the old days.  I wasn’t quite sure where they were.

Despite the wind and the cold the shack was toasty.  As I sipped whiskey I listened again to Secret Story, going to track 8, Always and Forever.  It’s captivating.  Metheny recorded that album with the usual suspects; Lyle Mays, Nana Vasconcelos, Charlie Haden and others but also the Choir of the Royal Cambodian Palace and members of the London Orchestra.  His music is unique and fresh, always surprising.  I know I heard Antonia, that beautiful 11th track, but fell asleep before the end. My last waking act was to carefully place my drink on the desk.

When I woke up it was quiet.  You know how a short nap can completely change your mood or your outlook?  That’s what happened to me.  Either it was the beautiful music playing as I slept, or perhaps a pleasant dream, but I woke up feeling wonderful.  Everything looked so bright.

Maybe the wind blew the clouds away, or perhaps the moon rose above the trees.  Whatever happened, the moonlight on the snow was brilliant.  I had but one light on and it was reflecting in the sliding patio door glass that makes up the east wall of my little shack, spoiling the view.  I turned it off.  It was so quiet.  I sat still in the dark and looked out at the woods. 

There are times, sometimes full days, but often just moments, when life is wonderful.  Although it was freezing outside heat from the wood stove warmed me.  I didn’t know how long I’d slept but the stove would need more wood.  I stepped over to it, opened the lid, and plopped two little chunks of oak and some cobs on the red coals before closing it.  Within second I could hear it crackle.  That was the only sound. 

I thought of my wife and kids.  I thought of when we were newly married and our kids were being born and how excited and yet scared I was at the prospect of my life changing.  I didn’t know then how well it would turn out.  Sometimes when I couldn’t sleep I’d come downstairs from the bedroom, sit on the living room floor and silently listen to albums, big padded headphones clamped to my head and connected to the receiver by a long coiled cord.  Just me alone in the dark with the music thinking of the future.

Maybe I could find that Pat Metheney album.  I could picture the cover; a black and white photo of a flat empty horizon, one set of headlights on a road, a utility pole, a hand holding a telephone receiver and in red letters the title:  As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls.

Like his song titles, Pat Metheny’s album names explain little about their content.  He produces pure music with few if any voices.  When they are used they are more often instruments rather than lyrics with meaning.  Beautiful guitar and keyboards, great percussion. Moving. Inspirational.  I thought there was a chance that old album was in a box under the futon.  I raised the hinged top of the small bed, propped it open with a stick, and hauled out a wooden crate.  So as not to break the spell I used my phone as a flashlight and scanned the albums as I flipped them.  There it was.

I put side two on the turntable.  The song I remembered from back then was “Ozark.”  As the tone arm dropped onto the vinyl and the long coil of grooves began pulling the needle on its slow path toward the center that song from my past filled the shack.  I turned it up.  Standing in the dark I looked outside.

If anything the woods outside the shack were brighter.  As the wind blew the trees, shadows of their branches moved back and forth over the white snow.  Looking up I saw the perfect arc of the moon. As the music played I raised my glass to toast the beauty of the world outside my shack and beyond.  I took a drink and closed my eyes.

From those days when the kids were being born, when I began that phase of my life and found that song, my life has been so full.  I’ve been fortunate.  It was not a straight line from here to there by any means.  It was complicated.  But all along the way I was graced by so many moments of beauty and joy.  My life has been filled with love in many ways.  Likely much more than I deserved.  As I swallowed the whiskey and it warmed me, along with the wood stove, I felt so fortunate to have lived so long to have found this space, this place in the world. 

There you go.     

*Playing Monday night as I wrote were: Letters From Home, Bright Size Life, New Chautauqua, Secret Story, and Still Life Talking.  Waiting in the wings was OffRamp.    

Friday, January 6, 2017

Burning in the New Year

I started out the 2017 shack year by burning the chair above, seen there in summer.  I’d considering burning it for some time.  I have not read, but heard many people talk about, a Japanese woman’s book about decluttering your life.  Her system involves, from what I hear, focusing on a single object, looking at it, holding it in your hand, and carefully considering if it brings joy and utility to your life.  If it doesn’t, you pitch it.

I didn’t do that with the chair.  I bought it at a neighbor’s garage sale.  As you can see it was a pretty nice looking all wood chair on casters.  Here it is a little closer up.

It was on a 4 legged platform, which is no longer recommended because you can tip forward or back in them, if you’re really clumsy, and hurt yourself.  One year the Worker’s Comp consultant at YSB urged us to get rid of any and all of those chairs still in use which I ignored. I did go around and tell the people still sitting in them to be careful, and showed them how they could go wrong.  In the end we threw them out fairly early in the long life cycle of chairs at YSB, mostly donated.  We had chairs donated from State Farm that defied wearing out, good Steelcase stuff we would have never bought new.  We think they gave us to them because they were the wrong color.  I couldn’t have cared less about the color.  We were a not for profit after all, with more important things worry about than chairs.  But as far as I know no one hurt themselves from the dangerous four legged roller platform chairs like the one I carried to the shack.  I certainly wasn’t afraid of it.

I should have looked closer at this chair but heck it was my neighbor’s kids, clearing things out after their last parent passed away.  As soon as I showed an interest in the chair, with a price tag of $20, they cut the price in half.  They even threw in this nice wooden shelf I idly picked up off a table crowded with junk which now serves as the perfect companion for my prized 2015 Rookie of the Year and 2016 Most Valuable Player bobble head doll.

All for $10?  You have to be a jerk to not take a deal like that from your neighbor.  It was just across the street, late in the afternoon, and they had stuff to get rid of.  Maybe it was a moment of weakness. Before I knew it I was lugging a new chair into the shack along with the shelf.

Not that there was anything wrong with my old chair.  It’s a chair we had on the farm since before I can remember, pretty well made, crude in a way, but a proven performer. Could be walnut, but whatever it is it is most probably older than me.  It used to sit on the back porch.  We’d bring it out when we ran out of chairs in the kitchen.  Occasionally we’d stand on it when we changed a light bulb or something.  Plain, simple old chair.

The problem with the new chair, which I completely failed to consider, was that the casters were hell on my shack floor.  I put porch flooring in the shack, the kind you usually paint gray on a front porch, to go with white railings and such.  Porch floors are mostly walked across on the way somewhere else and not designed for heavy use.  This porch flooring was tongue and groove fir, not a hard wood by any stretch of the imagination.  I stained it red and gave it a coat of varnish.  It looked great.  It still does except for the area I began to roll over with this new chair.  It quickly found every imperfection, little ridge, slight crack where the boards joined, and wore the varnish off.  Not long ago it kicked a sliver out between my fir tongue and groove.  That was the death knell.  Had it been a better chair I might have scoured the internet for better wheels. Rubber tired deals, maybe with air in them, which would glide silently over the wood harming it not at all. 

But it wasn’t that good of a chair.  It was the kind of chair that would have been great in some room where it was matched with a desk at which little if any work happened.  Maybe one of those big McMansions in the suburbs where the proud woman of the house takes you for a tour and says, while opening a door with a sweep of her arm,

“And here’s Greg’s office.  He’s hoping he can work more from home soon.”

You look in and see polished wooden furniture you know hasn’t been used an hour in the last month.  This chair could have lasted twenty years in a room like that.  Especially if Greg was either small or slender.  I am neither.  And from the time I carried that chair into the shack, and took my old farm chair back to the garage, I used it nearly every day, several hours each day. I use chairs heavily. 

If chairs could pick their owners, like captains used to pick kids for pick-up kickball at recess, a chair would never select me.  It just wouldn’t happen.  Imagine this impossibility.

The chair surveys a small group of anxious humans, hoping to select the perfect owner, one that will use him sparingly and treat him kindly throughout his life.  After careful consideration the chair says

“Give me the big guy with the bad leg that sits six hours a day and does everything possible to avoid getting up.”

Pure fantasy.  I’m hard on chairs, especially the main chair in the shack.

This chair wasn’t up to the task.  Not only were the casters destructive, its design was flawed.  You couldn’t tell by looking, but flip it over and you would have seen the metal mechanism that made it swivel and rock screwed directly into the seat.  No frame for the seat to rest on with the mechanism underneath, but wood screws holding the seat onto the deal.  The screws had obviously stripped the wood where the original holes had been, the mechanism had been shifted slightly,  the screws were reapplied to fresh wood, and were in the process of doing it all again.  I tightened the screws a couple of times while I owned it but they loosened quickly.  Someone prior to me had even drilled a hole through the back of the seat, clear through, in order to insert a bolt with a nut to better secure the seat.  It was terminally wobbly, doomed to fail.

That, combined with the damage it was doing to my floor, sealed its fate.  What to do with it was all that was left to decide.

The factors I consider when making decisions have changed over time.  I might, earlier in my life, have given the chair away to someone hoping they could figure out a fix.  Or I might have put it out by the street hoping someone would take it off my hands.  But now I think, why pass on my problems to others?

Besides that, I own a wood burning stove.  That changes everything.  It was a wooden chair I bought for $10.  For me, it had way more value as fuel than furniture.  It’s amazing how burning wood changes your perspective.  I often admire dead trees, discarded pallets, any number of things I would have never noticed previously, imagining what they could do for me if converted to BTU’s.  I especially covet corn cobs.  Lightweight, easy to handle, easily burned.  I don’t think I could ever get too many corn cobs.

But the chair?  It was at the worst pine, at best maple though I doubted it.  Most probably it was Luan, a wood from the Philippines that looks like mahogany but isn’t as good.  It had a nice shiny finish.  That’s all that counted when it was a chair.  But as fuel nothing would have beaten maple, except black locust or hedge.

I turned out all the screws, pried the casters off the legs, and voila.  The metal was separated from the wood and it was ready for demolition, cutting up, and in the end-combustion.  It didn’t take long.  Within forty minutes my former chair looked like this.

My stove is small, the round lid opening on the top accommodating five inch lengths of wood at most, so it took a while to modify the chair so it could be quickly and easily burned.  All without getting out of my new chair I might add.  When I designed the shack I was careful to put the stove within arm’s reach of the desk, so that very task could be easily performed.  I used a cleaver, a chain saw, and before you could say oxygenation my chair, instead of holding me up off the floor, was keeping me warm.

The chair was made from Luan and burned really well.  It should have, after all it was dry and well seasoned.  As fate would have it the day I burned the chair it turned bitter cold, and my need for wood spiked.  Turned out it was a little more than a one chair day.  I began burning the chair at sunrise, took a break for lunch and a swim at the YMCA, and fed the last hunk of the chair into the stove at about 3:00.  When I was out of chair, I burned instead oak chunks, cobs, and a little of the chapel floor we removed from our church in September.

Talk about here today gone tomorrow. My former chair, which had greeted me solidly every morning for the past year and a half, was suddenly gone, vaporized, converted to heat (which warmed me and the stuff in the shack but briefly), and smoke from the shack’s chimney which floated over, and dispersed into, the air over the ravine never to be seen again.  The very fact that it was utterly and entirely missing struck me.  It was with me all that time, and now it isn’t someplace else, it’s simply gone.  It’s the ultimate change don’t you think?

I was reminded of a similar incident many years ago.  It was late in 1976, one November day before Jimmy Carter was elected president.  I had hitchhiked to my brother Denny’s house in Alamogordo, New Mexico on my way back home to our farm in Danvers  I had crossed the border in Nogales and made my way up through Tuscon.  That trip had started near the equator in a small town named Sua south of Esmeraldas, Ecuador.  It had been a long slog, and i felt good to be back with family.  Upon arriving at my brother’s house my sister in law did my laundry, cooked me nice meals, and put my shoes outside on the patio, believing they smelled.  She was probably right, although I had long stopped noticing.

While there for a few days I was able to visit with an old grade school friend. 

He, like my brother, was an officer in the US Air Force and rented a nice suburban house with another bachelor jet pilot or navigator.  They both flew two seater F-4’s, defended our country from its enemies, and lived a decidedly military lifestyle.

I on the other hand had not worked in ten months.  In Ecuador I lived for free in a shack on the Pacific eating papayas and bananas, crabs, oysters, and the occasional fish taken from the sea, supplemented by canned sardines and spaghetti.  We were both once Danvers farm kids leading nearly identical lives but those lives had diverged.  We had a lot of catching up to do.

I had in my backpack the means to escape reality for a short time and we used it to do so, staying up the whole night.  It was a great night.  He was living in a ranch home designed for the desert. The kitchen was big and flowed into a large dining room with a big fireplace in the corner.  I suggested lighting a fire but my friend said he had no wood.  About 2 a.m. it occurred to him that his neighbor down the block had a lot of wood and probably wouldn’t miss a little.  We struck out across the back yard fences and returned with two armfuls.  The wood must have been really dry because it was quickly used up.  As we talked and drank he warned me about the chair I was sitting on.

“Careful.  These kitchen chairs are old and crappy.  We’ve been gluing them together and should get new ones but we might get orders any day and then we’d be out of here.  We’ll let the next renters deal with them.”

As he said that I shifted my weight, felt the chair give, and heard it creak.  For no particular reason other than to be ornery I stood, picked the chair up off the floor, and slammed it back down.  The legs on that chair split apart like the front legs of a giraffe drinking from a lake.  The whole thing collapsed.  I looked at my friend, who was stunned for a moment, before he began to laugh, picked up his chair, and did the same thing.  We couldn’t stop laughing.  Long story short we busted up and burned all four chairs.  The fire didn’t go out till the sun began to come up. 

Later the next day we were on opposite sides of the table eating bowls of cereal standing up.

“I don’t know what I’m going to tell my roommate when he asks about the chairs.” 

“Well, you could tell him we burned them.”

‘I know.  That would be the honest answer.  But it sounds crazy doesn’t it?”

“No crazier than anything else really.  You fly through the air faster than sound.  I guess you can burn a few chairs if you choose.”

“Yeah  maybe.”

He had another spoonful of Wheaties and chewed.

"It’s just the absence of them.  It’s so striking.”

“Yeah.  It’s extreme all right.”

I was afraid I may have been a bad influence on my friend and his rather orderly life.  As an afterthought I added.

“Feel free to blame it on me.  You know, the crazy hitch hiking world traveler.”

I don’t think my friend and I were thinking about dramatic transformation in the same way then, when we were both 24.  But I fully realize now that one day I won’t be in the shack either.  In fact, unless I can think of a more useful purpose, chances are I’ll be burned up somewhere nearby much like my cheap garage sale chair, radiating heat, a little smoke, then nothing.  Change comes to everything.  And to every one as well, at least so far. 

I think my old farm chair, if it could experience and appreciate humor and irony when that time comes, would be chuckling loudly.