Sunday, April 9, 2017


REVISED 9/10/2016 - My wife, Marietta, a Master Gardener, told me I was misspelling "Ficus" when I first showed her a draft of this post. I explained that Microsoft Word, with which this was written, did not accept the spelling "f-i-c-u-s", and kept substituting "f-i-c-h-u-s". She said that was "unfortunate".  I also told her that the Microsoft vocabulary did not have the Texas word "thang" and kept substituting "thong". She said that was probably "fortunate".

I have a “gift”. Okay, I actually have several “gifts”, but I do have a “gift” of spatial perception. For example, I can look at a jumble of stuff and tell if I can pack it all into an assigned fixed space or not, right down to the tiniest item in the littlest place.  Like, loading boxes, trunks, appliances, packages, and so forth into the back of a truck. Or a trailer. Or the trunk of a car or a self-storage unit. I discovered I had this gift, when as a young man quit a newspaper job and got a job loading trailers at United Freight Service (UFS) on the “Midnight Sort”. I was a “Loader” and that was my official UFS / Teamster job title.

   Some think that people who load trucks are desperate immigrants or unskilled half-wits. We had those, but we also had people who had fallen on hard times, like myself  (who pushed himself into hard times), a Summa Cum Laude attorney whose firm had lost a major client, a former MD who apparently specialized in malpractice, and Gary who laughed out loud at the movies he made in his mind. We did not “bond” because we hardly saw one another and we each had one or more trailers to load during our shift. But, we did go out after work to a strip club once or twice.

     This capacity for spatial perception has been a great gift to have because we have moved a lot over the years. One of my favorite moves which has now gone down into family legend has been the move from Pennsylvania to Michigan, or as we call it, “The Ficus Move.”

     I had perfectly loaded, and I mean perfectly loaded a 26-foot Ryder rental truck, the one with a “Grandma’s Closet” (the little space over the cab) with our family’s belongings. That included bicycles, appliances, aquariums, books, boxes, wardrobes, tools, the lot. Now, when a loader says “perfectly loaded”, that means tight. Pardon me while I take a narrative side-road to explain the technical term “tight” for you lay-people, but I assure you it’s integral for your understanding of the Ficus Move story.

     “Tight” was a technical term which my loading colleagues and I researched because our boss commanded us to ‘”packed it tight”.  “Que?” said one. “Is there a case law definition of tight?” asked another. Gary giggled. We retired to the Spotlight Strip Club to conduct careful, scientific observations using spatial perception over many data gathering sessions and held lengthy debates. Given our weird constellation, and the Spotlight Strip Club as our research lab, it was not surprising we argued intensely over Catholic and Mexican cultural, legal, mathematic and physiological factors which Gary turned into a movie and giggled about.  Our research concluded scientifically that “tight” means there is less “wiggle room” (or free space for movement) between packed items in our loads compared to the space between the fanny-flesh and the thong of “Miss Easy Evil” at the Spotlight Strip Club. We are sure because the MD suggested we used the well-known “Three Bears” statistical methodology which he used in all his research. So, for control purposes, the MD helped us gather comparative anatomical data on “Miss Toothpick Annie” (‘She ain’t got no fanny!’) and “Miss Judy Booty” (‘That girl’s got a bonus booty!’). And then he said, “Come to Poppa, ‘Miss Easy Evil’ you is just right as the operational definition of tight!” If this scientific definition has been something you have been worrying about, I am glad to have helped.

     Now, back to the Ficus Move story. My Ryder rental truck load was “tight”, so tight I wanted to take a snapshot of the full load because the overhead trailer door would just barely clear the last few items. I mean it was a mover’s dream. Tight and perfect.

     Then I heard my wife, coming around the corner of the house calling out “Can you get in the Ficus?” And there she came with my eldest teenage son, a 6’3” lad who could probably press and easy 200#, dragging a 3-gallon terracotta pot with a 5-foot Ficus tree which had been sitting in the corner of our living room.

     A brief moment of panic. Was this something I forgot? Maybe. My gift is spatial perception, not house plant detection.

     Now, if the question had been, “Is there room for the Ficus?” The answer would have been “No!” because the load was perfect and tight. If the question had been “Am I too late to get the Ficus in?” The answer would have been “Yes!” because I had been loading all day, just pulled the door down.

     “Can you get in the Ficus?” she repeated, and here they come dragging that dang Ficus. I raised the overhead door and looked over at the Ficus. That thing was big! Did I mention this load was tight?

    My wife had worked in mental health, psychiatry specifically, for decades by this point in our marriage. So, the question “Can you get in the Ficus?” may have been a clever intra-spousal psycho-analytic challenge aimed at some deep-seated Freudian masculinity thingy. That would have pissed me off.  But since she’s a Jungian, I doubted it, so I didn’t get angry. My guess was that the question was a lucky, off-the-board, 3-seconds left in the game “Hail Mary” half-court shot by an indoor garden fanatic.  Can you? Can you?  It swished in.

     Can I? I looked at the perfectly packed, tight load. I looked at my wife. I looked at the Ficus again. I looked at my teenage son, he smirked. He knew daddy’s “spatial perception” was caught. I knew what sleeping on the couch meant. I looked at the Ficus and considered its 3-gallon pot, its broomstick shaped trunk, and its weird leaves. Then my spatial perception “gift” kicked in, and I began mentally re-arranging the load. 

     It was not easy. It was not pretty. Let’s just say I had to violate good loading protocol and exceed the laws of physics to get that Fichus loaded. It should not have been physically possible to cram in that 3-gallon pot and Fichus into that “tight” load any more than it was possible for “Miss Judy Booty” at the Spotlight Strip Club to load that much fanny-flesh around her thong. But, I was there for the foundational research: I saw her bonus booty and it was moving. I regretted seeing both. Such is the stuff of movers’ nightmares. I must admit that I used a few loader 4-letter incantations, and applied leverage, and I got the Ficus loaded.

     Since then I won’t attempt spatial perception or loading anything without looking over my shoulder and asking my wife well in advance, “Ficus?”

     She just laughs.

P.S. - The Ficus survived the legendary move and to this day sits in our living room in a 4-gallon pot. It now has two additional limbs. Those are weird leaves.

Brainz version- September 25, 2016

© Copyright 2016, Jean W. Yeager / All Rights Reserved

Originally published 9/6/2016.

Friday, April 7, 2017


            This is a phrase which Tennessee Williams used to describe Margo Jones, the dynamic theatre visionary and producer who elsewhere was called “The Sweet Tornado.” Jones, indeed, made a lasting impact on theatre, but Williams’s  trilogy is so powerful, I thought move away from her as a person and take a shot at re-stating these three it in hopes they will be revived and offer as inspiration for us all. It does to me!
            Joan of Arc – A visionary who was led by her Angelic, spiritual inspirers to do battle with the forces seeking to dominate and control the free human being. We all need a vision for our lives and our communities and freedom. We need courage. To have courage means we, like Joan, need those imaginative sources and resources, those ideals backed by the good Angels to which we can reliably turn, without doubt, without worry, when life gets tough, because life will get tough. Probably tougher than it is when you start out. Anytime you try to change your world, or yourself, counter forces will arise to attempt to destroy your vision, cause doubt, fear, anger. The bigger your vision, the bigger the counter forces. You need Joan of Arc-sized spiritual inspiration.
            Gene Autry – The original “straight shooting” cowboy star of radio, television and film. Autry created “The Cowboy Code” for the “young” (or old) listeners of his radio program:
1.         The Cowboy must never shoot first, hit a smaller man, or take unfair advantage.
2.         He must never go back on his word, or a trust confided in him.
3.         He must always tell the truth.
4.         He must be gentle with children, the elderly, and animals.
5.         He must not advocate or possess racially or religiously intolerant ideas.
6.         He must help people in distress.
7.         He must be a good worker.
8.         He must keep himself clean in thought, speech, action, and personal habits.
9.         He must respect women, parents, and his nation's laws.
10.       The Cowboy is a patriot.[1]
            The Cowboy Path is a path of self-directed moral behavior which we can use to guide our vision, our inspiration. This is the kind of thing Aristotle would have suggested to young Athenian “cowboys” with his admonition, to “Be Good, Do Good.” This also rolls along side the “12 Steps” program or other moral anti-addiction programs practiced today.
            Nitroglycerine -  Invented in 1847, nitroglycerine has been an active agent in the manufacture of explosives since that time. Highly unstable, it was terribly dangerous when first compounded and caused hundreds of deaths before controlled. For a while, it was banned in some parts of the world. When mixed with organic substances, it can be more easily handled and used in munitions as a propellant. This is one aspect of one form of nitroglycerine –explosive, unstable, needs to be handled with care.
But still, if required, nitroglycerine is what you need for blasting the fixed, the stuck, the things which are in the way and need to be removed. “Moralic Nitro” for destroying the large stoppers in life.
            Another aspect is that for over 130 years, nitroglycerine has been used as a vasodialator to treat heart conditions, angina pectoris and chronic cardiac failure.  It modulates the out of control rhythms of the heart.
            So what in one place is useful for blasting and destroying and may lead to tragedy and death if misused; in another place, in a smaller dose, may lead to strength and health.  We all need the capacity for maximum force, on occasion; and, on other occasions, we nee (dare I mention another cardiac function) the ability to be tender - to love?
            Joan of Arc, Gene Autry, nitroglycerine – thank you, Margo Jones for inspiring Tennessee Williams! Take these qualities to heart and we all will be inspired, straight shooting firecrackers!  Yee hah!

© Copyright 2017 – Jean W. Yeager – All Rights Reserved.