Monthly Archives: May 2013

Knuckling Down

Knuckles

Knuckles

I was fixing something in the microwave a few days ago, I don’t remember what since all my signature dishes are made in the microwave, and I had something from the food on the tips of my fingers. Not wanting to mess up the pads with my ingredients, I used the knuckle to my index finger to set the oven. It occurred to me then that knuckles are fairly useful and perhaps underappreciated.
Anatomically, of course, we have three knuckles on each finger (although the one next to the finger tip isn’t used for much except light rapping) and two on the thumb. Without our finger and thumb joints we wouldn’t be able to manage such hallmarks of civilization as holding a baseball bat. We might as well have a couple of paddles at the ends of our arms. Good for table tennis, maybe but not so useful for holding a pen or playing the guitar.
Our language reflects the importance of our knuckles. When we become serious about doing something, we knuckle down to it. This expression most likely came from the game of marbles when the player was ready to put his marble in play by literally putting his knuckle down on the ground. The bunch of kids I hung with never played marbles although I grew up in the long–ago days before video games. There are a number of variations to marbles and even different terms for different types of marbles, but you’ll have to look elsewhere for an explanation. I’m about as clueless about marbles as I am about cricket.
There are number of other expressions involving the knuckles. I learned about one of them in a very direct fashion. When I was in fifth grade and in fact for much of elementary school I had a smart mouth (Faithful Readers will be astonished to learn this, I know). I kept shooting off my mouth to the resident gang of juvenile delinquents who were all about sixteen years old in the fifth grade. One day at recess I said something smart to one of them and he asked me if I wanted a knuckle sandwich. Any sort of sandwich sounded good to me and I said, “Sure” and he popped my in the mouth with his fist. I think I was so surprised that I didn’t even feel it, but from that time on I knew for certain what a knuckle sandwich was. You could also say I knuckled under.
In sports, there was once bare knuckle boxing, and the phrase has come to mean going at a particular task without much equipment or preparation, like playing football without a helmet. Then there is the knuckle ball, a pitch in baseball thrown with the knuckles which moves in unusual ways. Catchers who caught knuckleballers had to develop special oversized gloves to handle the erratic way the pitches moved.
In general, “white knuckled” has come to describe a terrifying ride generally either in a car or an airplane. And then there’s the expression “knuckle head” which we don’t’ hear much any more, It was my favorite uncle’s fond nickname for me when I was growing up.
“Knuckle” is also applied metaphorically to objects that look like knuckles. Couplers on railroad cars are called knuckle couplers. They replaced the earlier link and pin couplers which caused a lot of injuries.
Certain animals also have knuckles, and primates engage in what is called knuckle walking. They also do finger walking (literally, not through the Yellow Pages) and hand walking. Of course, they don’t have opposable thumbs so they can’t throw a knuckle ball. Pigs are said to have knuckles although that part of the ham is more properly their feet. Their knuckles are not like ours since they don’t have fingers. There is a reference to pickled pig knuckles in the last part of To Kill a Mockingbird. And everyone told me a degree in English was useless.
As Bubba Gump said about shrimp, “that’s about all I know about knuckles.” Maybe you know some more and you can share that knowledge with your friends.

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Picture Pages: Manassas Regional Airport Air Show 2013

Here are a few pictures I took during the Manassas Airport Air Show Saturday. Enjoy!

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Poem of the Week: A Boy’s Wish

Sailboat

A Boy’s Wish

I want to live on a tidy sailing ship
Painted blue with sails of white
Not too big but just the right size
I’d call it the Mighty Mite.

I’d not go sailing on my boat
But live in it like a house
And I’d have some pets, maybe a cat
In case I had a mouse.

My boat would be so neat and trim
With everything in its place
A little kitchen and stove and all
Tucked in to save some space.

And in the night when it was dark
I’d read by lantern light
And go to sleep in my little boat’s bed
And snore all through the night.

I’d go to school like a regular kid
And they’d all envy me
And ask if they could visit
And I’d say, “Yes—just two or three.”

A sailor’s life is not for me
But I like to be afloat
With calm waters rocking gently
My pretty little boat.

So come on down and join me there
You can live on one as well!
There’ll be two of us then, you know,
And we’ll have lots to do and tell.

We’ll play pirates or pilots or adventurers
And pretend we’re not afloat
And then settle down and read some books
In my happy little boat.

–Dan Verner April 29, 2013

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Looking Back

the heavens

It was about a year ago that I had eyelid surgery to correct what is technically called “droopy eyelids.” As my optometrist said when I checked with her a year ago in September, “It’s no wonder you can’t see—your eyelid is drooping halfway over your pupil.”
I haven’t said didn’t say a whole lot about this surgery because I don’t like to call a lot of attention to myself, although my appearance certainly did afterward. I looked like I had gone about three rounds with Muhammad Ali–and lost.
I experienced my drooping eyelids as not having enough light to see. If I held my eyelid up, there was much more light, but I looked funny walking around holding them up. Same thing with holding them in place with duct tape as some people do. I chose surgery, and it took six months from the time I saw the optometrist to the day of surgery.
Becky drove me over to a well-appointed surgery center in Chevy Chase last May where I was promptly taken back and prepped for surgery. I won’t go into too many details except to say I was given a “twilight sleep” sedation so I could follow commands. It worked: I was awake but didn’t care what happened to me. I had my eyes closed as the surgeon worked and as he finished, he said, “Open your eyes.”
The room seemed flooded with light. “There’s so much light,” I said, and there was, especially since it was an O.R. with O.R. lights. The surgery crew laughed at what I said.
After a short time in recovery, Becky drove me back home where we arrived about 2 PM. I was to spend the rest of that day and the next flat on my back with frozen peas or lima beans on my eyes to keep down swelling and bruising.
I found it hard to keep still and lie down. Becky kept reminding me, sometimes forcefully, how important it was to do just that. I eventually settled down, and in the next day and a half discovered some things to do while lying on your back unable to see because you have gauze pads and iced vegetables on your eyes. So, here is what I did:
I listened to the radio, particularly news, traffic and weather from the glass-enclosed nerve center of WTOP. Their frequent times checks made it easy to tell when it was time to switch the somewhat thawed peas for a freshly frozen pack. By the way, it you want to thaw about a quarter pound of peas or lima beans, hold them on your head for about half an hour. That’ll do the trick.
I listened to Pandora, the internet music service, grooving (but not too much) to the likes of Dan Fogelberg, Gordon Lightfoot, Art Garfunkel and Jim Croce. I found that I could add percussion by tapping on the wall as well.
I listen to several televised baseball games and finally switched to radio broadcasts where the descriptions were more complete.
I did some gentle yoga exercises to keep from getting stiff from lying around.
And I talked on the telephone with anyone who called, except for solicitors.
I was able to get up to go to the bathroom and eat, and then promptly go back and lie down with my iced eyeballs.
I decided after trying to make my way around the upper floor where I am familiar with what’s there that I would not make a good blind person. I kept running into things and was afraid of falling down the stairs and setting back my recovery. Vision is truly a gift. I did try playing guitar, thinking that some famous musicians like Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, Doc Watson and Blind Lemon Jefferson were blind. I could barely play my guitar by holding it on my chest but I didn’t find songs by these artists such as “Deep River Blues” and “See that my Grave Is Kept Clean” much help in healing. I gave that up very quickly.
With my eyelids lifted, I have had more light coming into my pupils. With more light, I also see details better. I also gained 30 additional degrees of upward peripheral vision through this procedure. I hadn’t thought about this until I was walking into the church one afternoon a couple of weeks after surgery and I thought, hey! there’s a whole sky—a whole heaven up there and I didn’t even have to raise my head to see it.

My eyes have been opened and I have seen the light.

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