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Unpopular Ideas

Ramblings and Digressions from out of left field, and beyond....

Location: Piedmont of Virginia, United States

All human history, and just about everything else as well, consists of a never-ending struggle against ignorance.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Life Just ...Is

When I was five or so and the nation was locked in the depths of the Great Depression, my father, who worked as a chauffeur for the National Geographic Society, moved my mother, my even younger sister, and me to a small house up on a slope in the Northeast quadrant of Washington, D.C., in a neighborhood that was and still is called Capitol View. Located right on the Maryland border, it was as far out in D.C. as it was possible to get and still be in the city. I suppose that from somewhere in that neighborhood it was possible to see some part of the U.S. Capitol building, which was miles away, but if I was ever able to do so I don't recall it, and that would've been of little interest to me anyway, unless someone were to say it was important, which no one ever did.

The main view I remember was the one that I was able to see from our kitchen table, down the hill to where they were building a long row of duplexes on East Capitol Street, a boulevard that ran straight as an arrow, or almost so, to the Capitol. I remember the smoke and glow of pitch pots burning there, curing the freshly poured concrete I guess.

A short time later, in one of those houses there lived a boy about my age, who, because of a terrible illness of some kind, was strictly confined to his room up on the second floor. So I would go there quite often, maybe every day, to play with him from my position on the ground, as I was never allowed to go into his house.

I don't recall that boy's name or anything else much about him, except that pretty soon he didn't answer from up there anymore, and I was told that he had died.

I am glad to report that some years later, when I began to write seriously, maybe in college, one of my first short stories was about that experience. I titled it "His Last Dreams Will Be of You."

I know where that story is, in one of the several boxes that contain all my numerous unpublished short stories, and, because I wrote it so much closer in time to the Capitol View days, maybe it contains more details. But I am reluctant about digging out that story and reading it, because in this latter stage of my life I have a lot of reservations about dredging up the past.

But I've never forgotten that boy and how we played at something or another while he called down to me from his sickroom window, and I suppose his family was glad that he had a playmate, as I don't remember any other kids in the neighborhood doing that.

How daunting it is to realize that that was over 70 years ago, and I'm still here with all my parts still reasonably intact, while that boy who was my age has been gone all that time. Yet he was at least as virtuous as I could've been, yet the fates decreed that from the last day I talked with him, I should've been afforded all these added days on the planet while he was given none at all.

I am suspicious of the widely popular saying that life is unfair. That sounds as bogus to me as weather people saying -- as they so love to do in the interest of pumping drama into their normally dry deliveries -- that a hurricane is "unleashing its fury" or some such. Life is neither fair nor unfair. It just ...is, I think, and hurricanes just ...are. Unlike us they don't have policies or emotions. It is only people that act unfairly and wallow in the state of stupidity called anger, and it's ridiculous to think that elemental forces share any of our motives.


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