Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Ostrich

The Unknown Ostrich: From the dates of approx Jan . 1989 to 1991.…….
If I’m going to bring up any sort of memories of the fire department, the ostrich would have to be included. It’s now September of 2007 and I still get occasional comments and questions about it. Somewhere in a filing cabinet in the garage or behind a pile of books in the house is a small brief case which contains all I have left of the first and only underground newspaper published by and for the sanity of the Conyers Fire Department personnel.
I worked on shift with Marcus Hill, David Rhodes, Bob Cooley and Bucky Everson at the beginning of the ostrich publishing and , although we had plenty of problems and inequities in our department, we also had a lot to be thankful for. The guys on my shift were a unique blend of personalities. Bob, Bucky and I were old timers, relatively speaking, with Conyers. David and Marcus were new. I was the mediator between the two groups and usually the peacemaker as well, when I wasn’t stirring things up and making it worse! It was a pretty productive time for me career wise because I had just finished graduate school and my options and possibilities were expanded. I had started working part time for the Longfellow’s and was all ready seeing long term possibilities with them and I suppose I just felt less trapped in the fire department than maybe I had in the past. I suppose that gave me confidence and made me a little more bold in my criticism of problems in the department. As I wrote that, though, I realize that I was always pretty outspoken when it came to department politics. I was at the time exploring possible ways I could stay with the city of Conyers fire department and yet advance into some new areas which utilized my degree in counseling. I wrote a proposal and spoke with the city manager about employee assistance programs and I was thinking about a PhD,. program as well. But back to the fire department.
I remember sitting around the table in the bay area some time after lunch on a week day shift. I honestly don’t remember the specific gripe we had but it involved something to do with a decision we felt the Chief either had not made or made poorly. We had gotten wind of the possible end of the city of Conyers department and a merger into the Rockdale county department so we were all a little insecure about our future and morale was low. Its funny how we are all different when it comes to the information we process in our brain. Some of us can file away dates , and details, others emotional memories, others trivia, etc. I’m not much on the actual sequence of events which I am writing about. To be historically correct I would need to get several of us together and get others ideas on these things. Since that may never happen, I’m trying to capture the ‘spirit of the times’ if not the exact sequence of events. I just remember feeling injustice, anxiety, anger, loss of control………..I could go on. This fire department had gone through a lot over the years and we really had a brotherhood and now it looked like with a little discussed agreement, the county would take us over and assimilate our men and equipment into their department. It was described as a merger but we could see the handwriting on the wall. They were the bigger department, we were one station. We would have nothing to say about the situation. It was a kick in the rear because we had been part of a planned expansion of our department with a new station in the planning stages which would mean new men and equipment, etc. right or wrong most of us with the city felt superior to the county I think I know most of us did not want the merger and would have been happy to be left alone. We felt our work schedule was better than the county, our equipment, our shift strength (the number of men on a truck was a lot larger than the county, which is important. With 5 men arriving on a truck it‘s much safer and more effective in the initial attack of the fire; clean up, etc, is also spread to more people). Not wanting to offend any of the county boys because I have known some of them for years as well, I just felt that on average, the city people were a cut above the county on pretty much everything from IQ to education, to personality, etc…… And now they were going to be our bosses and we felt no one was looking out for us in this whole deal.
Our chief was Jerry Norton. I had known him for years, got along with him, considered him a friend in some respects more than a boss but I was also well aware of his shortcomings. We all have shortcomings and st this department we were generally good at overlooking them, just like a family does/ Jerry’s got a little difficult to overlook after he became chief from his long time assistant chiefs job. He was not the most assertive, dynamic chief one could have………He was a shelf sitter, who would pass responsibility on to others and become expert at avoidance techniques and indecisive. He could sit with a problem for years rather than make a decision on it . All this made our situation even worse for, again, we felt like Jerry was sitting in his office ‘fiddling’ while Conyers burned (Rome) Did I mention feeling helpless?
Back to the table in the bay. I was doodling on a scrape sheet of paper when the idea struck me; draw up a patch for a new fire department. We were talking about us and more specifically Jerry Norton having his head in the sand like an ostrich , not seeing what was getting ready to happen to us. If his head was not in the sand it was in another less desirable place, I know that for a fact! Well I drew a patch with a firemen upside down with his head in the sand, feet sticking up in the air and the ‘In the Sand logo around the perimeter of the patch. It got a laugh and other guys who came by there the rest of the day were shown the drawing as well. Next thing you know we were starting to let our imaginations run wild and we were writing ‘underground’ articles in which we changed names just enough to make them recognizable, i.e. Roland Vaughn, the city manager became Rolling Fawn, etc. Our method of writing was sharp, biting, satire and sarcasm! David Rhodes was my young assistant and he wrote some of the articles but I did most of them. It was inspired! We had lost much of our motivation since we had found we were being sold out but for this we definitely had motivation! We wrote night and day. We even created a hidden office for our typewriter and Ostrich meetings; on top of the supply closet in the truck bay. We could fake some cleaning job and see anyone long before they could see us. We had the high ground both morally and literally. Initially, we were just passing the articles around but we were soon doing art work and newspaper layout in the form of the Ostrich , done on cut out and real paste ups of the local newspaper headings. We compiled a whole newspaper and did articles on everything from sports to crime, education and school board meetings, taking the story ideas from real articles and satirizing them along with changing the names. Even the ads were biting: i.e. New Fiber-Fawn (remember Fawn was derived from the city managers name Vaughn), the gentle laxative…………etc. We were putting together complete newspapers, taking them out to make copies and distributing them around very mysteriously; no one knew the identities of the primary editors , especially the top dog…………the Unknown Ostrich” Of course the UO was me and I now admit it freely . I think most people could have guessed it was me and David who were the primary ones behind all of it but it was never admitted. Our circulation grew and eventually some copies got to the county department and we even got a copy to the real newspaper, the Rockdale citizen. They even mentioned our paper in print one time, playing in to the secrecy we had developed.
I found that brief case with the Ostrich materials in it the other day. It’s funny. I was the principle contributor and conspirator and I hardly have any of the articles and papers left! Most of this brief cases was my originals and art work, etc. I am going to attempt to get some of them copied for posterity
To be continued

Monday, July 21, 2008

There is a God who Speaks

There is a God and He

There is a God and He Speaks

Just when was it decided that God no longer communicates
with the likes of me-
Or that somehow I had learned to make my own plans
And light my paths to see.
Where did I get the idea that God, flexed his muscles,
And created everything that needed to be-
Then took one deep breath, inflated the the earth-
and set it free!

The same God, who spoke the worlds into existence,
Suddenly has nothing to say?
meanwhile, ‘me -of- little- faith’ , disguised as a disciple and convinced I rule my world forgets to pray.
/Tom Hudgens

Bookends- two poems

Book ends

Home Coming, 1968

The siren wails and flashing lights precede
The marching bands,
And main street filled with laughing eyes
And madly waving hands.
Our lives were simple statements then,
in purple crape and gold,
And only life beyond the quad was
Rumored to grow old.

Reflections on Book Ends
I was thinking about a new poem called the Landscape of Life and I thought back to a much earlier poem written around 1967. I don’t have a title for the poem but the primary thoughts are a depiction of a homecoming parade and football game during college days.
I’m thinking of a morning in the early fall of 1967. The air smells clean and the sunshine is brilliant but the temperature and humidity made it pleasant to be outside. I am wearing new cloths which included a wool sports coat, tweed I think, with a shirt and tie. This was homecoming and we all had dates for most of the day’s activities, parade, game and dance.
The thing I am trying to get at now is the sense that time was suspended. On a day like that nothing could penetrate this little world. A line from EE Cumings’ ‘The Cambridge Ladies” comes to mind? “………..the Cambridge ladies do not care, above Cambridge if sometimes in its box of sky lavender and cornerless, the moon rattles like a fragment of angry candy……..Well, at Tennessee Tech that day the rest of the world could have blown up , starting probably in Viet Nam and it would be dealt with after the football game! My poem says that ‘only life beyond the quad is rumored to grow old. A little facetious perhaps but true, also in many respects. A line from a Randy Newman song comes to mind; ‘southern boys from Lsu, come in dumb and go out that way to.: a little harsh but some Tech men I knew would probably fit that description. Then again, we were young and in an environment which pretty much fosters that life for a short segment of ones life, so why not relax and enjoy. One thought; the line about life beyond the quad in the early poem. Even that thought I just added to the poem a couple of weeks ago. When I actually wrote the poem I doubt if I would have even been interested in the concept of growing old!
No major point here, just an interesting juxtapose between that poem and that day of endless possibilities and the poem I am currently working on 40 years later. Now my focus is on limitations, restrictions and decline on almost every front, but young person, take heart. If you don’t actually have an older human being to talk too you may not really understand that we are still the same people on the inside as our 20 year old version, It is still me in here after all these years (another song…paul simon………..still crazy, after all these years”) If the truth be told, there are some days now in my later years that could be described as like that day in September, of 67 and visa versa, I do remember days back then that were horrible ! Life usually gives us a fair number of both. Our conditioning , however, often trains us to attach the negatives ones to our older years. Ageism is alive and well.

Landscape of Life-2008

It is a strange and unsettling thing to be moving
out of the scene-
to watch as my cohorts take their places around the edges
and recesses, blurred and out of focus- 4
We have become incidental figures in our own painting.
Nameless and of no particular import,
Like the passage no one notices at first glance-
perhaps even the artist has forgotten ? 8
After all these years, only an expert can offer interpretation as
to what we meant and who we were -
We have become a historical detail or even worse,
An obscure, art-history test questions ? 12
It is dark in this corner, in shadow and undertone-
But, I say, it is only for a moment that I stay.
I look back now and see fading glimpses
Of the the landscape of my life 16
And, if I allow them in, melancholy and regret
Will be constant companions-
I take captive those thoughts, with some success, and remember that I
was created by One who lives in unapproachable light- 20
He is the painting and the Artist, the Beginning
And the end-
He is the Light and it’s source, the focal
Point where life begins. 24

And yet, knowing this my old eyes still search out lies
And how I wish I could go back-
To create worlds with my own hands and
Circumscribe their limits. 28
How can this be, that I would mourn
My failing hands and eyes
When I am close to a Kingdom now
where they both will be obsolete. 32

It is a strange, unsettling thing to venture
From the known-
To walk in light, as He is light
Yet still be in my room. 36

It’s much too late for this line of thought
And I still have brushes to clean -
I’ll leave my questions for the existentialist
Down the street- 40
He exists, I hear, so perhaps he doesn’t worry with age;
But, as for me, I can live with my questions-
pain can be good for the soul. God knows,
And , besides, joy comes in the morning. 44

R. Tom Hudgens

Friday, July 4, 2008

test two

test two for my computer-non-savvy father. :)
see world's cutest baby, right ------->


(Sam and Ella, June 2008)