Sunday, March 13, 2011

Pledging My Time

By Peter Rodman

"Time keeps on tickin', tickin', tickin', into the future..." --Steve Miller

I don’t know exactly when it was that I began to accumulate so many clocks. Years ago, I had only four or five clocks to change, when Spring would ‘spring forward,’ and Fall would "fall back."
Now, I find myself scurrying around the house, in a stress-filled ritual that takes an hour of its own, merely to rediscover the many clocks which, tonight, demanded my time.
The clocks, they are a-changin'--but in this house, when 'times change,' it takes a lot more time, than it used to.
One thing I do, that I'm not sure everybody does, is that I have certain clocks set 'faster' than others.  Alarm clocks, ten to fifteen minutes.  Office clocks, likewise.  But I always keep my kitchen clocks and my watches as accurate as possible, so the last thing I see, going out the door, is the reality of my dilemna.  Hey...time is short.
If you're not careful, even that car clock could throw you off, today.
It always amuses me, when otherwise intellegent people panic on airplanes, thinking they're going to miss their connections, simply because they refuse to change their watches, after takeoff. 
"I always leave my watch set for home!" they'll boast, as if staying in the wrong time-zone is something to be proud of. 
Honestly, does that approach ever really work, for anybody?
I subscribe to the old hippie adage:
"Be here now."
And change your freakin' watch to where you are, Einstein!

Got a sec?
I must say, I liked the old 'Daylight Savings Time' routine, much better. 
These days, it's March-and-November, when we jump back and forth (or forth and back, in truth) but I liked it much better, when it was in April-and-October.  Congress somehow became convinced that we'd all save lots of money, if the sun was up more often, when we were driving home...or something. 
Maybe it's just me, but as time goes by, I'm more and more resistant to change.
I'd like to know who 'took the minutes' at that hearing.

My kitchen clock is a pretty reasonable facsimile of the old “standard” clocks we had in elementary school, during the ‘50s. I found it in an old hardware store in Nashville--so dusty and shopworn, that the clerk couldn’t even remember whether or not it was for sale, let alone at what price!
How long had it been there?
Nobody knew; a long time.
I think they finally decided to charge me around $8 for it. 
This is the kitchen clock,
which reminds me of the
pilfered courthouse clock,
which reminded me of all
the clocks in grade school. 

In truth, this clock replicates yet another clock I had, just like it, back in Colorado--going back decades, now.
It, too, was a replica of that same old ‘school clock’ we all knew and loved/hated, but I am going to take a huge risk here, and confess to you that in procuring it, I may actually have committed a crime--and quite possibly, a  federal crime:
I stole it.
That’s right, I took it.
I’m not proud of this, either...

It was 35 years ago. I’d been summoned to the Federal Courthouse in downtown Denver, sometime during the mid ‘70s, and I only remember that I had to wear a tie, and that is all I remember. No, I wasn’t a witness; nor a defendant, or a job applicant…but I’ll be darned if I can remember exactly why I was there!
I just remember that I had to show up, and that they completely wasted my day.
Could it have been to obtain (or renew) my FCC broadcasting license?
Quite possible--back in those days, they were a lot more discriminating about who got on the air.
(Well...not that discriminating:  I got on!)
I honestly can’t remember what it was about, but it was some sort of meaningless legal exercise, I remember that much..
Anyway, long story short, I’d moved my car several times,  to avoid getting any parking tickets, because whatever it was took most of the day, and my time kept running out, on the meters.
While jumping in and out of the building, I began to notice that each time I entered and left, there remained a forelorn pile of junk, near the courthouse door--rusty nails on broken lumber, empty paint cans, and a clock laying there near the top, its wire carelessly tangled throughout the mess--next to an overstuffed garbage can, all of it, obviously,  headed out into certain oblivion.
On about my fifth trip back and forth, I noticed that they’d “updated” all of the other working clocks in the courthouse building, but this one--with its nearly ‘art deco’ numbers from what looked like the late '30s, was decidedly the 'odd man out'--and set to be discarded, for sure. 
You might say its time had come and gone.
So, I like to think I 'rescued' it.
If that's true, I actually saved time, down at the Courthouse that day.
No wonder I found that clock fascinating... 
I'd stared at one just like it--all day, every day--throughout my 'single-digit years' on this planet...just willing the time to go faster, in class.
And no wonder everyone looked at me like I was crazy, when I expressed an interest in it.
This was 1975. 
The last thing on anybody else's mind, was summoning up some sort of  'nostalgia,' for an institutional-looking clock which recalled nothing, if not a repressive time in America we'd only recently escaped, during the '60s.
Anyway, as the shadows grew longer and my tie got loosened, I finally got up the courage (read: bad judgment) to first pick up the clock and look it over, then ask a few office people in the hallway if they knew what was up with it, and finally, yes…I just took it. Nobody thought that was a bad idea. (Then too, the guys I had decided not to ask all had uniforms on.)
In retrospect, I kinda wish I hadn't...but hey, it was garbage to them!'s one of those moments you just can't take back.
I sincerely hope enough time has passed, that my 'federal crime' is no longer prosecutable.
If they do come after me, I can only hope they'll give me 'time served.'
After all, would that clock have been any better served, in a Denver landfill? 
And what is life, if not a series of stolen moments? 
(Okay...I'll stop now.)

Alas, the statute of limitations on the clock itself was only a couple of years, on my Boulder kitchen wall. I would like to add that I would not do that, today. It was wrong; but, hey...nice clock!
Under the kitchen replica of the courthouse replica of the school clocks, hangs a hand-painted, wooden piece of pie, given to me by my octogenarian Aunt and Uncle, a few years back. It says,
My uncle has since passed away--but it makes me smile, to know that he felt that way, even 88 years into this adventure.
A wiser statement about time could hardly be found. 
Never "save it for later."

People use time as an excuse all the time.  "I ran out of time." 
"The time got away from me." 
I remember when George W. Bush was in office, we were constantly told, "Now is not the time" to question things, and "there'll be time for that, later on." Now, those same people are telling us, "Time is running out! We have to act now, before it's too late!"

During the ‘60s, I had an inordinate fascination with ‘clock-radios.’
These represented the cheapest way to A.) feel like a real teenager, even if you were only ten; B.) gain freedom from your parents, by staying in your room with something really cool to do, like listen to the radio all night; C.) buy something ‘ultra-modern’ looking and sleek, every year or two, that instantly became the sleekest, most ‘ultra-modern’ looking thing in your room; and oh, yeah…D.) to help wake you up for school.
When all the clock-radios finally went digital, I lost my fascination for them. My last clock-radio now resides in the guest room, here. It’s one of those ‘80s Sony “Dream Machine” cube thingys, and it may well be the last digital thing I truly DO know how to 'program.' (When they took the next step and put two clocks to program in each “Dream Machine,” that’s when they finally lost me.) 
But if they ever bring back those Jetsons-like 60s clock-radios, I’m in!

There’s a large 'Beatles' clock on the wall in my office; you can’t miss it. But I almost did last night, when re-setting all the clocks. Fact is, I never really look over that way, because it’s surrounded by the floor-to-ceiling photographs and memorabilia from my life, hung mostly to amuse any guests I might have, though I rarely do. I simply ignore it all.
A few people have bought me “CD clocks” or "record clocks," over the years. There are a couple of those, still around.

Then there’s one clock I keep, specifically because it goes backwards, when the batteries get low. (I ain't kiddin'...check out the video, below.)
It reminds me of a truly weird night at my apartment in Chicago, when I awoke in the middle of the night with an awareness that a deceased friend (and as it happens, a fairly popular singer) was "right there in the room," with us, in spirit!
I remembered that this friend had told me of  Carlos Castaneda; I was more into Archie Bunker.
Anyway, I woke my new girlfriend up to tell her the great news, that my dead friend was 'right here with us!'-- and it's a measure of her devotion to me, that she wasn't out the door immediately.
Realizing this sounded insane, and not one to believe in the 'occult' at all, I decided to get up and wash my face--to rid myself of this ridiculous dream I'd had.
In the bathroom, all soaped up, I took a glance at one of those little alarm clocks you keep around, just in case you need an extra--for when you have to catch a plane, or something...and, sure enough…the little bastard was (I am not making this up) ticking backwards!
Whoa…..spooky!!!  Even my girlfriend found this impressive. 
Think I'm lyin'?
Check THIS out:
So I did the reasonable thing, by 1985 standards (not!), which was to call the deceased female singer's ‘ex’ in Hawaii, “long distance” (not cheap, back in pre-cell days) at one in the morning, their time.
“Yeah,” he said matter-of-factly, “Peter, this has been happening to everyone lately. I’m getting all kinds of calls like this, about her 'visiting' people. I believe in it; and I know she did. Now…can I go back to bed, please?”
Fact is, I don’t. Believe in 'it,' that is. Whatever 'it' is. Hey, I wasn't born yesterday!
But I still like to keep my backwards clock around anyway…and the next day, I replaced the battery, in Chicago.

"Ahh, but I was so much older then, I'm younger than that, now."--Bob Dylan

I’m happiest when it gets dark early, frankly. If it’s “5 o’Clock Somewhere” and it’s not dusk yet, you won’t find me celebrating--not even if Jimmy Buffet himself offers to buy the cocktails.
I know what you're thinking:
'When was the last time
you got your clock cleaned?'
My most reliable clock ever has been this well-worn 50 cent 'road clock' I bought in Beijing, which has always functioned like, ummm, clockwork--though it looks somewhat the worse for wear, now. 
But the truth is, one of my few inate 'talents' is my inner clock.
It never lets me down.
I can set an alarm, no matter where in the world I am, and I almost never need it. My internal clock will almost always wake me up, moments before the alarm goes off.
(I’m not saying I’m worth anything when I first get up, believe me. In fact, I'm not. It’s just that I will be up on time, without benefit of clocks at all.)
After reading this, you may think my place worthy of an episode of Hoarders, but this is only partially true. There are things I relentlessly collect--but that‘s another whole column. 
What sets clocks apart (apart from me setting them) is that my clock collection, unlike all the other collections, has grown inadvertently.
I had no idea last year that I would own more clocks this year.

On a recent visit to a local gift shop, I went in with money and came out with a bag full of novelties (read: junk that amused me), one of which was this irresistible wind-up alarm clock with actual bells on top, like something out of a retro-Bugs Bunny cartoon. I’ve yet to set the alarm, but can’t wait for the brrrrrriiiinnnggg to happen, when I finally do.
“Brrrrrring it on.”
So overnight, after changing not only the clocks, but the timers, the DVRs, DVDs, cameras, ovens, microwaves, and more than a dozen watches, I will have truly put in my time.

Well, it's time for me to go now. 
I don't know where the time has gone, do you?
Perhaps, as Yogi Berra once put it, "It got late early."
All tolled, I’m guessing thirty or more clocks and watches got changed, last night.
I don’t begrudge Daylight Savings Time, although I more or less come down on the side of the Rolling Stones, who famously sang:
Sunshine bores the daylights outta me!

I guess it's very important that we all keep moving forward each year...until the fall.
Perhaps another Dylan quote best portrays my internal conversation with all these clocks, as I change them...and they change me:

"Well, early in the mornin’
’Til late at night
I got a poison headache
But I feel all right
I’m pledging my time to you
Hopin’ you’ll come through, too."

This column and all the photographs herein are Copyright 2011 by Peter Rodman.  All Rights Reserved.

To hear Bob Dylan's "Pledging My Time," go to:
And here's Larry Cordle--a Nashville legend, performing his sublime "Lonesome Standard Time," at the fabled Station Inn:

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