Top of Piedmont: To Watch, Listen and Ponder — Then Write!

August 2013Monthly Archives


When children grow to adulthood, they leave many things behind, unfinished Spaghettios, mac and cheese, little plastic figures from Saturday morning TV superheroes, and piles of unwashed clothes. If we are lucky, they also leave behind self-absorption.

Narcissism serves for a time. A self-image based on shape and size, be it breasts, legs or muscle mass is the shallowest articulation. Intellectual gifts that culminate in a stratospheric GPA help too. For others, an ability to get invited to every party is part of identity formation. We experiment, try new things and discard elements of personality that don’t get a payoff.  However, some people get stuck and take buns of steel, a magna cum laude or crammed social calendar as a measure of worth.

You know the type. A conversation begins in the back yard while you’re out raking leaves on a fall morning, and after an exchange of pleasantries, you listen to them talk  . . . about themselves . . . unceasingly. Some of what they say may be interesting or entertaining. Maybe you even give them a little more attention because they are bright or good-looking. Eventually, after they leave, you pause … you feel empty. You were just a mirror for their projections.

Some adolescents are expert at smug self-assurance or indifference. For the most part being “cool” is a defense for not having a clue how to act or feel. This is part of growing into adulthood. Most adults find it a pain, but to the young person it is a way of testing waters and retreating to safety without commitment.

For others, the smug, arrogant cockiness remains and becomes a way of dealing with life. The self-focusing needed to find out who we are, never reaches fruition.

A challenged narcissist is a wonder to behold. There is injury, a wound very deep, that nothing can heel. Their experience of life is unique. It has never been experienced by anyone else. Thus the injury they endure, real or perceived, denies a common history as a human being. Their life may be remarkable, but not that astonishing.

Unfortunately, a narcissistic personality linked to personal charisma frequently moves into the public arena. Then these traits articulate themselves in public policy we must endure. Frequently, it’s characterized by greed, corruption and an inability to listen to the real concerns of real people. In politics as usual, no matter what party – the privileged become favored and those without, oppressed.

A self-absorbed attitude in a young person may be tolerable because we know it is
a “phase” or “stage” that will give way to a matured perspective. A narcissistic orientation in an adult is at best annoying, at worst sad. When it trickles into public policy, we are at risk.


Scoured wind-seared granite

Americas Pacific portal


8/18/2013- Lake Michigan Haiku

White cloud curls skyward

Flattened on summer’s anvil

Steel blue light morning

Fishing Trip

They stand around gas pumps. They’re usually male, a little long in the tooth, but occasionally there are younger men also, sucking on “Mountain Dews’ and munching bags of “Skittles” or “Doritos”.

They caravan. It’s made up of at least two pick-ups and a sport utility vehicle. As one truck finishes refueling, the next one moves forward. The men lean over hitches, making sure trailers are secured and cup their hand over wheel hubs and check for overheated bearings. No, it’s not Hannibal heading for the Alps, just the guys headed north on a fishing trip.

Our lives are peppered with rituals, daily, weekly and yearly. The protocols of the annual adventure up north for our fishing crew must be observed.

Discussion begins about the first week in February during the “Super Bowl” game. Instead of watching Mickey Mouse and his ears, Beyoncé’s butt or Madonna’s cleavage during the half time show, last summers’ trip video is reviewed – – – with editorial comment. Wives roll their eyes.

To accommodate feminine sensitivities regarding colorful expletives on a catch or heaven forbid miss – (NBR – Near Boat Release or RBR – Remote from Boat Release), a sanitized version of the tape is displayed, expletives deleted. This trip down memory lane gets adrenalin pumping and some discussion ensues about when the next trip will be. The postcard size calendar from Frog Rapids Camp has arrived a week before, so the discussion is timely. A date is set, money committed and phone call made.

About mid-July, thoughts of a Canadian getaway arise. A “Strategic Nuclear Planning Session” is called.  Lunch at a local restaurant provides a venue for a caucus on logistics. It’s not all that complicated. After years of doing the planning, the whole process is pretty pro-forma. How to split costs is clear now. There is even a designated accountant. We still haven’t figured out how to make the trip tax deductible. I suppose we’ll have to invite a lawyer some year to figure that out.

Those that bring boats have a more complicated role. Everything needs to work. Between the mechanical and the electronic, you never know! One year, the very last day of the trip, a lower unit took a hit on a reef, a depth finder kept showing at least 10,000 fish marching in neat little rows – – – in the marina, and a SUV had a blowout. Some days it’d seem easier to go to the locker plant and buy the “Catch of the Day.”

Another aspect of the ritual is naming of fishing spots. “Donnies Bar” is not a local 3.2 establishment, but a reef extending from an island tip out into the middle of a lake. It got its name one night when a local stopped by to ask us if we had seen Donnie? We were clueless about Donnie or his whereabouts, but the name stuck. “Bali Hai”, a few miles down the lake is not a south sea isle with maidens beckoning from shore, but a whimsical (wishful?) name applied to a pine-strewn island.

To the uninformed, the guys standing around gas pumps next to pickups, sport utility vehicles and boats appear to be aimless. Nothing could be further from the truth. They are on a mission. Whether it falls into the impossible category remains to be seen.

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