When does the day start? Years of awaking around 3 a.m. may have distorted my perceptions a bit, I suppose. Here in the mid-Atlantic states, the sun is never up that early. Year round I get out of bed when it’s still dark. I’m not complaining—this is generally a peaceful time, a rarity in New Jersey. If the bus didn’t come so early I’d get an awful lot done in a day. But when does the day really begin? I rise early to write. Computers have changed my writing style quite a bit. I used to write everything by hand. Even as a kid with a second-hand typewriter, I preferred longhand first. I still do, truth be told. It’s slow, though, morning’d gone before I got too far.
So I get up and boot up. I’m not sure that I’m crazy about my computer knowing so much about my personal life, but one thing it simply can’t understand is that I’m an early riser. Many days my laptop will condescendingly ask me if I mind if it reboots—it’s been updating software when it thinks I’m asleep. For the computer, day doesn’t begin this early. Sometimes I worry that my blog doesn’t get readers because the new posts come up around 5 a.m., before I jump in the shower and head for the bus. If things don’t appear in the feed at the top of the page, well, they’re old news. I admit to being guilty of that myself; yet knowing when it’s day has consequences. Maybe I should be posting a bit later?
For some reason my computer likes to send me notices. Like I’m not already paying attention. I’m sure there a setting someplace I could change, but I’m busy most of the time and figuring that sort of thing out takes longer than I have time for. Birthday notices for complete strangers—maybe they’re connected on LinkedIn?—appear, at 9:00 a.m. I’m at work already by then. I think this is my devices’ way of letting me know that it’s a nine-to-five world. As an erstwhile academic I never cottoned onto that. I started getting out of bed at 4 a.m. when I was teaching so I would have time to write before daily chapel. I also taught classes that ran from six-to-ten (p.m.) while at Rutgers. When does the day start? When does it end? The decision’s not mine, as my laptop’s only too happy to remind me.
Posted in Consciousness, Just for Fun, Memoirs, Posts
Tagged internet privacy, LinkedIn, longhand writing, Nashotah House, New Jersey, Rutgers University, sunrise, technology
Among the uber-wealthy families that America has produced were the Dukes. Most famous for the university that bears the family name, they made their money in tobacco and then electricity. And what a lot of money it was! Although many people can point to North Carolina as the home of Duke University, many don’t realize that they liked to vacation in New Jersey. A large property, regally landscaped, rests just outside the unlikely town of Hillsborough. When the last Duke heir died, the foundation opened the property to the public, taking Green initiatives to heart. It’s good to see money with a conscience once in a while. Since we’re not far from Hillsborough, when cabin fever sets in and there’s actually sunshine on a late winter weekend, Duke Farms is a convenient getaway for a few hours.
Surrounded by a rock wall, the main property once housed luxury that most people will never experience. Ancient sycamores line one avenue that leads to a coach barn far nicer than the houses hoi polloi live in. Although we’ve visited the grounds many times, we haven’t seen all of it by a long stretch. Over the weekend we came across a gravel trail we’d never taken. The main avenues are wide, blacktop, pedestrianized boulevards that lead past aging structures, fountains, ponds, statues, and quaint bridges. The gravel trail meanders back and forth through small hills and glens, and it’s easy to believe you’re in the middle of the woods from time to time. At the top of one of these hills we came to the pet cemetery, amid the leafless trees.
We can all understand the emotional attachment to pets. Even the wealthy feel it. The cemetery was large for non-humans, with stones going back to 1953. Even a pair of camels were buried there. I can’t visit a pet cemetery, however, without thinking of Stephen King. It was a blustery, chilly day. We were alone on this remote trail we’d just discovered, and thoughts of resurrection didn’t seem that far fetched. The rich, after all, can do anything they please. Nevertheless, there was a pathos here. We were being given a glimpse into private lives. The names of other people’s pets, and sometimes their species. The things that had touched the monied class deeply. I’ve buried a few pets in my time, and it is always a solemn activity. One from which not even wealth can protect anyone. And here was another testament to the power of literature. Groping for a way to understand this place, a favorite horror novel seemed just about right.
Posted in Animals, Consciousness, Literature, Memoirs, Popular Culture, Posts, Travel
Tagged Duke Farms, Duke University, Hillsborough, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pet Sematary, Stephen King
Sneaking in a grocery run to Wegmans before church one Sunday awhile back, I was in line behind a distinguished looking gentleman. “I’m sorry,” the clerk told him, “we can’t sell alcohol before 11 a.m.” She set aside an expensive looking bottle of Glenlivet as he nodded solemnly. From behind me a woman called out, “Is that true, I can’t buy my wine?” Like Paul Masson, it seems, in New Jersey they will sell no wine before its time. Many, I suspect, have supposed that blue laws would’ve lapsed by now. What most people probably don’t realize is that this is yet another instance of how the Bible continually impacts our lives. Although the weekend has become enshrined as relief from jobs that most of us find tedious, blue laws were biblically based to keep us in line.
The Puritans did all within their power to enforce their views onto larger society. Sunday was not only “the sabbath,” it was a time for no fun—read Laura Ingalls Wilder for getting a sense of what this was like even on the frontier—and church attendance. Nothing potentially more attractive than church was to be on offer on Sunday morning. Here in over-populated, wonderfully diverse, secular New Jersey, those doing their weekly grocery shopping were learning the Bible has a very long reach indeed. Even if many people don’t realize that the Good Book’s behind it, they must abide by Puritan standards. I suspect many have no idea why blue laws remain in force. The Bible doesn’t loosen its grip easily.
As we pushed our cart past the ends of the other check-out lanes I noticed that several of them had bottles purloined at the point of egress. I suspect that most of the would-be buyers weren’t hurrying home to get ready for church. Instead, they were probably annoyed that they’d have to go out again later to continue their purchases. The Supreme Court has upheld blue laws on the basis of giving time off to those of certain professions that work by the hour. Those of us who don’t punch the clock are, according to the logic of such a decision, given exemption from the law of the land (but not to make immoral Sunday morning purchases. Indeed, in some professions attendance at church is part of the job expectation). It is perhaps bewildering for those raised in different religions. The idea of time off, although it probably wasn’t intended for humanitarian reasons, has also become one of the hidden blessings of the Bible. Without the sabbath, our weekends would also be an opportunity for others to make more money by the usufruct of our precious time. Holding off a few hours to buy alcohol seems like a small price to pay, in comparison. The Bible giveth, and the Bible taketh away.
Posted in American Religion, Bible, Just for Fun, Posts, Religious Origins, Sects
Tagged alcohol, Bible, blue laws, New Jersey, Puritans, Sunday