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“You know the difference between old men and young men?” my Dad asked me.

We were driving down a small street in Siofok (it’s actually Siófok with an accent on the first O, but perhaps your e-mail program won’t do that) in a rented car in November of 1999.

“I don’t know, what?” I asked, expecting this to be perhaps one of those great conversations, the kind I’d pass on to my (Heaven forfend) children, and they to theirs.

“Young men rake leaves, old men burn them.”

“Really?” I said.

“Yep.”

Guess it wasn’t one.

But as non sequiturs go, this wasn’t so bad.  Siofok is a town on the edge of Lake Balaton, a vacation spot that was once a reward for Communist Party apparatchiks and is now the location of a summer-long party zone for young folk with too much money.

The leaves around us were a bright yellow, and the streets had those huge concrete gutters some small towns have (like the one I almost drowned it, but that’s another story).  In various spots along the street, old men were watching damp piles of leaves spit smoke from the concrete culverts. The smell of burning detritus filled the air.

At other house, lawns stood clean with piles of leaves in the middle, ready to be jumped in by small children or rabid rodents.  Stacks of dark green garbage bags stood by the gate for trash collectors.

“Why is that, Dad?” I asked.

“Don’t know, really, we just do. Let me tell you a story.”

“Sure.”

“Well, I was down at the cabin, resting at the bar after a busy day, and another fellow comes in and sits down.  He looks a little bit flummoxed.  I asked him how his day was.  He says, ‘Well, let me tell you, Bill.’  He says he was cleaning the yard of his place up before the first snowfall.  He’d raked all the leaves into a big pile, lots of leaves this year, cause the cold had come suddenly.  He said he’d probably gathered a pile about 1-2 feet high, about 4 feet across.  Lot of work.

“Now it also happened that he’d already brought in his boat for the year, and had taken the boat motor up to the shed, and there was some fuel left in the gas tank.  It was a mix of gasoline and motor oil for his outboard, and he didn’t want it to sit all winter and get skunky.

“So he thought he’d just pour the fuel on the leaves and use that to start the leaves burning.  He must have figured the oil and gas would be pretty much like diesel, and would burn heavy and slow.  So he poured out the tank onto the pile of leaves, and kneeled to light it.  There was a whoomp, he said, and next thing he knew he was looking up at the sky.

“He figured it was a little like a nuclear bomb. The leaves were scattered all over, but weren’t really burning much.  He’d have to rake them all up again though, and maybe bag them this time instead.”

“Well, sometimes that’s the best way, eh, Dad?” I said.

“Yep.”

Overheard

“The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.”

...who said it?

“Almost every American I know does trade large portions of his life for entertainment, hour by weeknight hour, binge by Saturday binge, Facebook check by Facebook check. I’m one of them. In the course of writing this I’ve watched all 13 episodes of House of Cards and who knows how many more West Wing episodes, and I’ve spent any number of blurred hours falling down internet rabbit holes. All instead of reading, or writing, or working, or spending real time with people I love.”

...who said it?

“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”

...who said it?

“I play with variables constantly.”

...who said it?

“Only the person who has learned Continual Love coming from a heart of Gratitude/Worship can effectively deal with the problem of loneliness.”

...who said it?

Comments

 

 

 

 

 

hiya i think old men are realy nice i am 12 i like men wot are about 60 yum yum

 

Posted by sam
  at 10:33 am on Jul. 3, 2005

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