Thursday, June 23, 2016

A Young Man Folds Paper Cranes in Muskegon Without Knowing Why Folding Paper Cranes is an Honorable Act.

May 22, 2016 9:22 AM

I've always liked origami. I've never been been good at it although I loved to fold up paper airplanes. I knew how to fold up two different kinds, but never learned the circular one that flew the farthest. I knew a guy called "Dollar Bill" and he did origami at the coffee house at fourth and main in Royal Oak. He specialized in folding up dollar bills into bowties. I gave him two dollars and he gave me a dollar bowtie back. I gave it to my daughter, who was sitting beside me at the coffee house. And then I left for three months to work for Seven-Eleven in Dallas.

So I saw a young man of eleven folding up a flower, I thought I would encourage him. Airbags are a practical kind of origami and engineers consulted with origami masters to learn what the masters knew about folding. So I shared that with him. He folded me a paper frog. It was snatched away while I wasn't looking, so it was that nice. Nice enough to be coveted. I asked if he had ever folded paper cranes.

May 22, 2016 9:34 AM

I asked if he had ever folded paper cranes. He promised to look up designs on the internet. I kept back the story why it was honorable to fold many paper cranes. I cringed inside. Here was a young man who probably didn't know about the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. My mother told me the story, pulling out a black and white Life magazine to show her children, opening the magazine on the kitchen table, letting us see images of the aftermath. Humanity will be folding cranes for thousands of years to expatiate for these megadeaths. I didn't tell him that. I just said, "It is honorable to fold crane after crane and give them away". In saying so, I had honored the obligation to pure conversation, to say what is to be said as if the zeitgeist had scripted my words. I think about that Life magazine photographic tale .....

May 22, 2016 9:50 AM

I think about that Life magazine photographic tale. I remember one of my humanities professors at Michigan State. I have no idea why it happed, but I once had to sit his office and watch him read. Oh yes, he was proctoring me as I took a make up examination. My father needed immediate help pulling and replacing a well point one day. So I skipped, forgetting about the midterm. He glanced at my essays and said, "Okay", and pelted me with ideas. "Classics. Cut your teeth on the classics. Joe Walsh. You know Joe Walsh who sang 'Rocky Mountain Way'? His mother made him learn classical piano and composition. I thought about that every time I heard 'Rocky Mountain Way' or heard about rocky mountain oysters. Ate a pair outside of Missoula. As I left the professor's office he said, "Read history ...

May 22, 2016 10:05 AM

As I left the professor's office he said, "Read history on the monographic level". "Yes, sir", I said. And I left. I have yet to read history any deeper than the Wikipedia and Find-A-Grave. It keeps me occupied. I use the Wikipedia to write stories. I introduce myself as a folklorist rather than a historical writer.

I like seeing historical artifacts, which speak endlessly like a good monograph. Saw the court papers remanding the Sundance Kid to the Calaboose in Sundance Wyoming. Saw the Golden Spike at a museum at Stanford, the silver and copper and steel spikes too. Stood at the cliff side grave of Kenneth Rexroth, a cliff in Santa Barbara overlooking the Pacific. Years later, I went to visit that professor at his house. Enjoying his retirement, he was working in his garden and gave me a bouquet of chrysanthemums.

Picture Credit

By Mike Souza - originally posted to Flickr as Red-crowned cranes and chick, CC BY-SA 2.0,

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