Thursday, November 23, 2017
Friends, it's Thanksgiving! Raise a glass with me, and let us propose a toast ... to Mama, the Dearest on Earth to Us. You may be a perfect stranger to me every other day of the year. But please join in, for on Thanksgiving we're all family. Eh? Are you raising your glass? Raise it! And let us toast Dear Mama, just like we did way back when, on the very day they told us, "This is Thanksgiving, not Mother's Day."
It was actually a revelation -- however unwelcome it seemed at the time -- since we were admittedly a bit carried away honoring Mama. And ignoring the bird spread naked and golden brown on the ritzy dining table of that deservedly expensive hotel. They had a spread loaded with thighs, breasts, and drumsticks, and they charged an arm and a leg for it. What money? Money means nothing on Thanksgiving!
The real problem started with toasts. Most of us don't make toasts on a regular basis. Everything we know about toasts we learned from movies and TV. Which so often specialize in fictional happenings, goings-on, stories with a plot, a conflict, working through the conflict, and resolving itself in a happy ending. Meaning, if a toast doesn't sound like it sounds on TV, there's something wrong.
We went out for Thanksgiving, the whole family. Daughter, sons, their kids, Papa and of course Mama. Mama's the center of the family in most families, especially if your family is anything like ours. She makes our heart melt. We have memories of her tenderness when Papa was gruff, or whatever. We nursed off her, literally, giving us the step-up in life we needed when other kids were bottle-feeding or seeking nutritional refuge in the arms of a goat or something worse.
So when we went out for Thanksgiving at the best place in town -- Expensive! So expensive it's like throwing money down the drain -- it really meant something. We were very sensitive about the experience. Usually we pinched pennies, now we were living it up, like the Rockefellers or the Gettys. Papa had his money withdrawn, it was big-bucks time at Thanksgiving! Every plate was expensive, crazy expensive. So much you could've eaten five times somewhere else and had money leftovers.
It's the same feeling you get at other holidays when the expectation is to go beyond your ordinary means. Christmas is the biggest example, but each person's individual birthday is a mini version of the same thing. Or New Year's, when Papa came home with eggnog and salami and chocolates and candles. You're wondering if it's the same guy who's always so tight. Papa's family went through the Depression. They had to scrape for everything they could scrape together.
OK, so there we were at this hugely expensive place. And naturally, with the money buying us the biggest, best Thanksgiving meal, our tender thoughts turned to Mama. Who was spared cooking the big meal for a change. But would've gladly done it if we hadn't gone out. She would've come up with a turkey, cooked it, carved it, made dressing, made pies, all the fixins, bread by the bushel, and drinks.
I took my drink and lifted it by way of a toast, and the rest of the family immediately joined in. "To Mama, the center of our family, our life, our common love, our heart, our soul." "Here, here," the others said. Then my next brother, not to be outdone, lifted a glass and cleared his throat: "To Mama, who binds us together as one, not just our life but our everything, the best Mama we could've ever hoped for." Then my next brother (3), who of all the siblings saw Mama over the years more than those of us who'd moved away, had a tear in his eye. He lifted a glass and toasted her: "We should probably be toasting Papa," he started to chuckles, "because Papa is the one who found Mama. She was a natural beauty, although, as we've all heard, she was 'a diamond in the rough.' But she had the upbringing in her own family and saw the example of her own parents, and now has exceeded them, which I say not to question the merits of Grandma... Family, raise a glass to Mama!" The fourth brother had a decent toast, and the daughter (5) and the last son, last but not least. His toast was a tearjerker, because when you're Number 6 you're just happy to be alive. Statistically, Number 6s are rare, and reflection on that gives you a keen ability to make good toasts.
When all was said and done, I led the way for everyone, including Papa -- barely able to walk even with a cane -- to get up and go over to pat Mama on the back and give her his own personal plaudits. She was trying to wave us off -- her wonderful modesty and self-effacing nature, further reasons to love her so much. But we went on anyway, patting her, giving her kisses, hugging her. True, the food was getting cold, but that's OK. Thanksgiving comes but once a year, whether or not you have a Mama, and we knew someday we'd lose her. But it wasn't that day! That day she felt the fullness of our love. Even though she tried to wave us off, that was her day!
We were laughing, praising Mama, and outdoing one another something fierce. "This turkey is probably the most expensive turkey in the world, since the meal is so outrageously expensive at this fancy-schmancy place, but it's nothing compared to the turkey Mama could've made!" Similar sentiments were shared. Praising the different aspects of the meal, but discounting it compared to what Mama could've done. When the waiter, obviously at the beck and call of the head cook -- who probably should've been demoted to assistant chief bottle-washer for the remark -- came out and scolded us, saying, "Folks, we'd like to remind you, This is Thanksgiving, not Mother's Day," our table became stone quiet. I looked at my brother like, "What the fu-?"
We might've rioted -- I was personally that close to gutting that particular waiter, and Brother 3, with his greater familiarity with Mama and the over-protective nature he'd nurtured, looked like he was daydreaming of a noose for the head cook. We would've hung him high right there over that very table had Mama not stepped in, saying, "The waiter is only doing his job, beloved family. And he's right. You started in praising me, your Mama, and of course I appreciate and love each one of you always, but in the sentiment of the moment we were all carried away. So let us get back to our meal, dear ones, because as he said, and he was right, "This is Thanksgiving, not Mother's Day."
Sunday, November 12, 2017
It is beyond all debate, there is nothing more beautiful in all creation than the sight of a full sorghum jar. You see it, jam-packed with delicious, shining, brown sorghum. God bless anyone who agrees with me thus far. And shame on you, if -- the very thought of it is unimaginable -- you happen to disagree. Shame! Shame! Shame!
That is to say, I like it. And perhaps I've gone beyond liking sorghum, to the point of loving it. One night a guy I know who works at the store called me, prefacing his remarks with, "You didn't hear it from me," then he proceeded to tell me the new sorghum would be in around 10:00 a.m. I was glad to get the heads up, and -- this is important -- managed to be in line before nearly every other sorghum hawk in town. Somehow there was a couple who obviously knew higher-ups in the system, if not the delivery guy's family. Because there they were, looking like the cat that ate the canary. Foiled me again, scourges of the earth.
OK, the flip side of the argument -- that there's nothing more beautiful in all creation than the sight of a full sorghum jar -- is the exact opposite: There's nothing less beautiful, or more ugly, uglier, than the sight of a sorghum jar that's spent, empty, down to the nubbins, stripped bare of its payload. Snuff films paint a prettier picture. (For the above photo I tried to downplay the hideousness of it all with an attractive background.)
What good are empty sorghum jars? This is a true fact: I save each and every used sorghum jar. I have a theory, and I've heard from friends that "It's not a bad theory," that the essence of sorghum is still present in empties. And that someday, perhaps, hopefully, scientists will be able to produce a full jar of sorghum from nothing more than its microscopic essence. When that happens, if indeed it turns out to be true, one entire wall of my cellar's going to be well-stocked with sorghum!
I'm about done, but I want to get a jab in on the other sorghum hawks. (Most of them already know what I did, but I'm going to brag on myself for the few of you out there who still haven't heard it.) It was the year 2000. With me so far? When an inside source gave me the incredible scoop, that the Maasdam Sorghum Mills was going to open its gates and barns for a rare tour. This gets good! I didn't say a word to anyone till I nearly reached rural Lynnville, Iowa. Then I told my dad. We were riding together, him and mom and me. Dad was all like, "Where we going?" And finally I told him.
The bad thing here is that Dad had just found out he had cancer. But when I told him we were going to the sorghum plant, he was happy as a kid. That was a bright spot in an otherwise devastating time. He perked right up, and my mom was happy too just looking at the two of us laughing. He couldn't believe it. But it was true! We found the place, out in the country, and headed for the barn, pumping fists. He wasn't thinking of cancer for that day anyway! They showed us around, showed us how they bring the sorghum plants in, how they stack it, etc., etc., and with an old huffing/puffing machine with conveyor belts and all the rest, are able to put out big containers of sorghum.
One of the real treats was we got to see alive the guy who started the place! He's no doubt since passed on, like my mom and dad have, since he was practically 100 at the time. He was sitting in a chair, looking around, a nice looking guy. That's enough. I'm getting emotional. It's terrible to recall my dad's failing health and that whole terrible time. And the fact that that tour had to come to an end, and the founder being passed on, etc. If I had a jar of sorghum right this minute, I know I'd overdose and I'm not going to say what would probably happen to me, except I'd no doubt go to Heaven.
Monday, October 30, 2017
Every once in a while I like to publicly profess my love for dogs. You know how it goes, nothing softens your image and puts you in the good graces of others than your love for dogs and showing a soft spot for their cute antics.
Which I don't say cynically; it's just a side benefit deriving from My True Feelings about those great, human-like (without all the bad parts) creatures. Do I love every dog there is? I haven't met every dog and I know there are some that aren't great. There used to be a dog in my neighborhood named Sarge. He was so mean they sent him to Vietnam. He was tough to like, one of the reasons he went to war.
OK, as old as I'm getting, nearly 65(!), of course I'm thinking more and more about my future. Which is relatively limited in this life. I could do a whole thing just on that subject. I'm forever figuring up what percentage is left based on ideal factors. 100 is reasonable, but not likely. Some of my male forebears didn't do so well. Anyway, today I want to write about dogs AND the afterlife. In Heaven.
I enter the Glorious Gates, and my dogs from the years come walking in a group toward me, greeting me. I won't mention each one. Just one representative from my childhood and one from adulthood. From childhood is my first dog, Eggard. And from adulthood is Fritz. Eggard I had probably under three years, and Fritz died a week after I got him.
Here they come! Eggard I can barely remember what he looked like. His mom was a Collie and his dad was something else. Fritz had generally a German Shepherd look without being precisely a G.S. So here they come! Welcoming me to my heavenly home, eternal life. They're joyous as they watch the look of amazement on my face at all the beauty in that great place. I haven't seen anything this impressive since the home shows of the '60s, when they showed us the All Electric Homes of the Future!
I can barely take in the glory. I've been overwhelmed before, but this is the entire panoply of wonders. If you can picture the amazement and activity of the State Fair but it's made of glass and diamonds, you'll have a good idea of the beauty. But the true glory is to bend down and become reacquainted with Eggard. Eggard! What a great name for a great dog! "You were so little when Poohie had you! And look at you now!" Even though my memories are limited, they come flooding back in my mind's expansion.
Eggard knows it's me, even though of course I've grown. Was I too rough with him in life? I don't think so. I surely was gentle. I was very proud of his name, Eggard. My brother and I used to laugh. His dog's name was a plain old name, Rats. But mine had an elegant name, Eggard! What a pair of brothers we were. Then Rats ran away. And Eggard at some point died and I personally buried him by the fence. I can't drive by that old house without thinking of his grave somewhere down there.
Here comes another dog in glory, the already-mentioned Fritz. They say there's no tears in heaven, but I'm crying when I see Fritz. I was crying when we parted. I had gotten Fritz at a pound, a rescue place where they had unwanted dogs. And it turned out his health was bad. I had Fritz only a week, when he crawled under the back stairs and died. I brought him out and carried him across my arms to a grave, like a hero in an opera. I was crying like a baby.
In the years since Fritz, I've used his story lots of times to express my own philosophy that death ought to be like that. When you sense it's time for your death -- and with humans it'd mean you know in your core that this is it, say you had late stage cancer -- you simply crawl under something and die. It's admirable. Whether I could actually do it, that is the question.
Fritz jumps up on me (back in Heaven here), as if to say he also remembers that day. How do dogs say goodbye? With Fritz, it was like in the song, "I'm late, I'm late, for a very important date. No time to say hello, goodbye! I'm late." Such an admirable act at the end -- instinct is beautiful -- to crawl under the stairs and simply die! I've never gotten over the act of that. It impressed me beyond anything any other dog's ever done.
So we have a nice reunion in Glory. His worms are all gone, his heart is good, he's shaken off the dirt of the grave, he's radiant. And he was an unwanted dog at the time, too!
OK, beyond that, the other dogs showed up, though I won't mention each by name. Eggard said, "I was his first." My current dog said, "I was his last." Which got old, since they were repeating it over and over. I finally get fed up with it and say, "There's room and time for all at my glorious table!"
"Gather with me, my fantastic dogs, and let us sup!" So there we are, like in the Last Supper, me in the middle, surrounded by dogs. As all this is going on, my great relatives (humans) start filing in. They welcome me, and I'm friendly, but I have to ask them to come back later. "As you can see, my dear family, I'm still dealing with my dogs."
Friday, October 13, 2017
Anyone remember The Crumpled Bird? And how I so wonderfully vowed to Take the Plunge and do it, appear to those who were waiting and faithful. Well, it's still a thing. I had a little secret strategy in not mentioning it much, trying to sift the gold from the chaff. Not expecting, frankly, everyone to be chaff and no one gold.
The promise was, I would put up the Sign of the Crumpled Bird. Then overcome my general introversion and even disdain for being with people all-that-much. I would appear in public, to greet those who were faithful, watching the Sign for my appearing. And when I said I would "Take the Plunge," that's exactly what I intended to do, barring any change of mind or outright psychological refusal -- a complete shutdown -- that would prevent me.
Well, I had a plan. I would put the Sign of the Crumpled Bird up, then test everyone's resolve -- sifting, sifting, ever sifting -- I've been there more than a few times without revealing myself as the crowds looked at the Sign and wondered aloud about it. "Will he appear?" they asked, even asking me personally. Thinking, apparently, that I was a wise person who might know. I had a scarf up and covering the lower half of my face, looking very mysterious. Not a disguise, I should say, since no one knows what I look like. I've been careful to keep pictures of myself off the blog; I'm so mysterious, when I look in the mirror to comb my hair, I have to look twice to make sure it's me!
OK, so one day a few weeks ago, I put up the Sign, then got the hell out of there. I went around a couple blocks and came up as the crowds were looking at it. "Will he appear?" "He said he would." "I'd love to see the guy," one adoring hippie-chick said, a little young for me by about four decades. Still, my heart fluttered and I felt 18 for a couple seconds, before fainting and falling into a huge planter. They gathered around to see if I was OK. I waved them off. I pointed to the distance, and asked loudly, "Is that him!?" A guy was moving behind a car, and if I didn't know better, it could've been me. They took off that way and I ducked out the other way.
As days went on, the crowds thinned and interest seemed to wane; it definitely waned. We had a cold spell, and that kept them away. Then it rained, and no one wanted to come out. Then it actually got hot again, and more people were out, but by now the Sign of the Crumpled Bird was very weathered. Torn at the edges from the wind, holes in it from repeated flapping, the ink was fading from the rain and the sun, really looking like hell. Not the pristine poster I first printed on my printer, wasting, as it turned out, about $8 of precious toner.
I decided to leave it up. By now, though, it was simply out of defiance. You all haven't got the patience to wait for me, to gather around my sign and wait a few stinking weeks!? What's the world coming to? When I was a kid we used to wait forever; it was like a hobby, waiting, tarrying, abiding, watching the signs, watching the skies, really looking desperately for any sign that something somewhere might happen, which it never did. But did I give up? Not for a second!
Seriously, friends, it's no skin off my ass -- either cheek -- if you wait or don't wait. And I really blame modern conveniences like Google and whatnot. If you google "signs obscure writers heroes demigods," it seems like guys like me are a dime-a-dozen. We think we're Big Shit for having influential blogs and that anyone really cares. Well, a few do care. Like that hippie chick, whom I never saw again, although the whiff of patchouli I got from her hair that night sustains me. Yeah, we think we're Das Shitz, Megaturd, but the public is fickle.
Another week went by. They had hurricanes throughout the world, but none where I live. And the Sign remained up, although it had flapped in the breeze so much, it was hopelessly tattered, as you see in the photo. No one anywhere by then had confidence that I would show up. That old guy in the heavy coat, shifting from foot to foot in the cold, having to pee, that wasn't him, they thought. Just a guy waiting for him, when it was me. Awesome phenomenon, huh? The waitress across the road could be Christ and to us all she's good for is scooping pie.
I was bemused by the indignity I was suffering from lack of interest, then it rolled over into an actual angry fit. The town had some old wooden posts that held up a decaying shed behind one particular building. It was 4 in the morning one night and I went back there and kicked the posts so the shed collapsed, then I got the hell out of there. I came back the next day and the posts were cleaned up and everyone had moved on.
The Sign of the Crumpled Bird remained, very very crumpled, sad and sorry. And none of these bastard ingrates came out to see me! How you like that?
Saturday, October 7, 2017
This is a thought piece on what a good idea is and whether you should act on it. Probably the key thing to most decisions is: Is it a good idea? Do I think it's a good idea? Is my thinking generally in line with what is socially accepted as yielding good ideas? (Not that I care all that much about social acceptance, but it's the same standard they use in deciding whether you go to prison or not.)
When we get done here, let me assure you, we will have a wonderful result, something vague enough that I can leave the decision up to you, thereby keeping me from complicity in any crimes you choose to commit based on what you read here about something being a good idea or not. To read further is to hold me free and harmless of complicity in any misuse of this teaching that you may be guilty of, now or in the future, world without end, Amen. Please keep reading, though, because maybe there'll be a mention of sex.
OK, there is an enemy you have. You've had it. You're fed up. You've reached your limit. You're at the breaking point. It's either him or me. Someone must die. What's this?! A butcher knife! An idea is born. I will take the butcher knife, you think, and (step-by-step thinking ensues) I will push the thing into his gut! No one will ever know! So the idea is hatched, the step-by-step thinking is through...
Here you are now with the butcher knife. Strop, strop, strop, sharpening it. There your enemy is! You creep up ... You see your opportunity ... You lift the knife ... There's a look of terror on his face ... When instead of going through with the stabbing, you drop the knife to the floor.
This is a critical juncture. Because it's still not too late. It was a good idea originally. Why not snatch up the knife and carry out the deed? You're thinking to yourself, It was a good idea to kill him 5 minutes ago, it's a good idea now.
You retrieve the dreadful butcher knife. There's no need to strop it; it's still sharp enough. Your enemy comes into view again, somehow oblivious to the noise and commotion and indecisiveness just displayed. His previous look of terror must have been gas. You can thank your lucky stars you have this opportunity to carry through with it. What a horrible enemy he's been. Anyway, you're doing him a favor, in a sense, dispatching him to his heavenly reward a little sooner than he's expecting.
Again, you creep up. You lift that terrible blade of judgment. You're strong. You're decisive. You've made your peace with the world; the enemy has to die! When -- and this is a key point -- you think back to the good idea of just 5 minutes ago, the second idea, that you would not carry through with it. Thinking to yourself, echoing the earlier decision, If not killing him was a good idea 5 minutes ago, it's still a good idea now. Good ideas are sometimes like that, what can you do?
You go home and have wild sex, the knife now at the bottom of the North Skunk River.
Saturday, September 30, 2017
Of all the activities people have come up with on Facebook -- example: Name a piece of junk food you used to eat when the teacher wasn't looking -- one I haven't seen yet is, "What are the oddest names you've ever heard of?"
So I'm a first, potentially, to do it here. Not that I want replies, for in that case any one of you might show me up, thereby decimating my ego for the foreseeable future. A big no-no that I've adopted now that we're in the Trump years. (You see Trump with his cabinet, they're either kissing ass or they're off to the labor camps!)
Anyway, my first memory of a weird name is Werner Klemperer. From Hogan's Heroes. Which one was he? Colonel Klink, I think. I think, therefore I Klink.
How you like them syllables? Wer-ner Klemp-er-er! Lots of "er"s in it, if I'm pronouncing it the way it is. And honestly I can't remember it coming up much in conversation. There was Ed McMahon, pronounced Ed McMan, you heard of all the time, so there was no mistaking that. But Werner Klemperer, I don't know that I ever heard it in conversation.
There wasn't a Werner Klemperer fan club anywhere near me back in the pre-Google days, so it was hard to know, not only how to pronounce his name but anything else about him. Nothing, in fact. He was on TV, we watched him, we turned off the TV, we forgot him. But as for me, I silently warehoused his name, always saying to myself, "Wer-ner Klemp-er-er." He not only Klempered, but Klemperered! Whatev-er the motivat-er or fact-er fer his heirs, er, ers, they did it er-right. For, to err is human, to er divine.
Note: If your name happens to be Klemperer, or Werner Klemperer (it could happen), or even Werner Klemperer, Jr. (Juni-er?), please don't take offense. It's just a little fun and frolic at your silly name's expense.
Saturday, September 16, 2017
I'm getting very old, friends. I'm coming up on 65 as soon as my birthday rolls around, which in 2018 will be January 17. The older you get, if you're me, the more sentimental you get, and even weepy. I've heard of old guys going sentimentally crazy, and maybe I've thought that over so much I'm bringing it on subconsciously.
It doesn't help when people you know die. Just lost a cousin in the last week or so. And of course Mom and Dad, my grandparents, various friends, classmates, and pets have died over the years. It could be that I will live till 90. But will that be good? My life insurance guy called a couple months ago and assured me that he has my finances planned so I will have income till I'm 90. How about that? But since that's only 25 years from January, I have all new worries! Since the older you get, the faster time goes, 25 years in those terms is about a week and half. So in two measly weeks I'll be broke!
I've heard a lot of people on the internet say they don't appreciate hearing about religion. Frankly, I'm one of them, most of the time. The whole overly-sentimental approach to religion strikes me as bad. I'm not really leaning that way in my own practice. But I'm getting more sentimental. But here's how it works, I take a mystical approach to faith and have some gains in that pursuit. So every little thing -- a phrase, an old memory -- can trigger emotions or appreciation in that context, and, frankly, I about bust out bawling.
If you think back to your religious foundations, which for me was childhood, all those lessons are things I took to heart, and still have, filtering them through all my religious pursuits since. One of the songs that gets me is "When They Ring the Golden Bells." Savor verse 1:
There's a land beyond the river,Then there's another whole dimension to it that I haven't even mentioned, involving a guy's untimely death!
That we call the sweet forever,
And we only reach that shore by faith's decree;
One by one we'll gain the portals,
There to dwell with the immortals,
When they ring the golden bells for you and me.
Yes, I used to go to a lot of revival services. My parents thought it was good for me. Maybe you heard the story of Brother Tolbert Victory. Well, I was there. I saw him die, and was with him when he heard the golden bells. The service ended. I had gone forward for prayer. Tolbert's hair was like a wet mop. He was delirious with the spirit, OK? Delirious. He told me, his lips touching my ear, that I'd do great things for the Lord. I didn't ask what. He seemed to shudder, like a man in vision. Like he looked ahead and saw me doing great things, but he also saw things out ahead that weren't so good.
He told me -- he was looking around, like he didn't want anyone to hear the inside scoop -- that these great old songs that we loved, including "Brighten the Corner Where You Are," "The Hallelujah Side," "The Old-Fashioned Meeting," and "When They Ring the Golden Bells," were being forgotten, or even attacked. Even though we'd just sung them! He said he wanted me to keep 'em going as long as I could, insofar as I had it in me, and if I had the sense of commitment to the task and the unction straight from the Lord to get it done. (I didn't have it entirely; I felt like, you know, Que Sera Sera, whatever will be will be. I was a realistic kid, but Victory was in such a fever I didn't poo-poo his spiritual burden.)
Then he said something I never thought I'd hear any man say. "If anything happens to me, this is all up to you!" Again, I was cool to the idea, not het up; I was a kid. A kid, I'm telling you. No man should lay that kind of grief on a kid. What was he talking about? I wasn't sure. But he sung for me the lyrics to the glorious last verse of "Golden Bells" and chorus:
When our days shall know their number,Brother Tolbert Victory exacted a solemn pledge from me, that I would be wary of the future and our rich spiritual heritage of the great songs. And if anything ever happened to him, that I would step forward in stolid vigilance in this regard. Which was extraordinarily hard in those pre-Spotify days.
When in death we sweetly slumber,
When the King commands the spirit to be free;
Nevermore with anguish laden,
We shall reach that lovely Aiden,
When they ring the golden bells for you and me.
Don't you hear the bells now ringing?
Don't you hear the angels singing?
'Tis the glory hallelujah Jubilee.
In that far-off sweet forever,
Just beyond the shining river,
When they ring the golden bells for you and me.
OK, OK, I said, "If anything ever happens to you, fine, so let it be written, so let it be done. Six of one, half dozen of another. Lady Luck, don't fail me now. Hot-cha-cha-cha. Goodnight, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are."
So I went to the basement for the post-revival refreshments, when literally five minutes later some kid comes running into the church, shrieking, screaming, that Brother Victory was hanging from one of the trees next to the driveway! We all rushed out -- my own orange soft drink being half spilled in the commotion -- to behold the lifeless body of that great man of God, unmistakably him, extra large brown baggy suit on a medium body, sweaty mop of hair and all.
They cut the man of God down and had everyone stand back. Maybe he could be revived. But it was no use. Brother Victory had reached that lovely Aiden. Unbelievable, I know, but every word is as good as gold. No one knew what to make of my own personal crazy response. I was beating on him -- this was before CPR -- and screaming, "I didn't think you would die in 5 minutes!" Now that I had taken an oath, etc.
Those years are way behind us now. It's been decades. I don't put much stock in the oaths we take when we're kids, or anytime really. "I'll be your best friend till the rivers all run dry," etc. Circumstances change. But I've done my best, nonetheless, which really isn't much. The songs haven't exactly been besieged by enemies. Occasionally there's a bad arrangement I haven't liked. But more or less, Brother Victory's fears about the songs was just paranoia. Religion's not under siege. When they tell you that, it's crazy talk. The churches are in large part spiritually bereft, yes, but there's more sociology involved there than willful sieges. Look at the crazy alignment of churches with devilish, scurrilous President Trump and try to convince me they have the slightest clue about the nature of Christ, God, Spirit, or even common sense. It's laughable, and something to cry for. Whited sepulchers aren't what they used to be, they're worse!
I started off above saying I get weepy, and that's all true. I was singing these songs today, driving along, trying not to bawl since I wasn't alone. And it took me back, way back, to that old church, and that night, and that great evangelist hanging in the tree. I can still see his body in my mind's eye. Dead as a door nail, yes, but his spirit already in that haven of tomorrow. What kind of joke was he playing, to get a promise from an impressionable kid like that, then to commit suicide without even going down for refreshments? The ladies made those things for our enjoyment. They weren't expecting the evangelist, of all people, to kill the revival.
The second verse is very good, refreshingly tear-jerking for me:
We shall know no sin nor sorrow,
In that haven of tomorrow,
When our barque shall sail beyond the silver sea;
We shall only know the blessing
Of our Father's sweet caressing,
When they ring the golden bells for you and me.
You mess with that song, brother, you're messing with me.
Wednesday, September 13, 2017
Sometimes I really rue the choices I made in life. No one was especially gung ho and on me about making career choices. Grandpa would see me doing some stupid thing, like letting crawdads clamp on to a leaf, then pick them up in midair and watch them dangle, and basically laugh himself sick. Then we'd go to bed and the day was shot. No one was in my face, going, "Whatcha gonna be? Gotta make a choice real soon. Or you'll be standing on street corners, a public disgrace."
After I grew up and now that I'm old, it seems I have all kinds of ability to look back and say, "What if?" What if I'd just applied myself toward one damned thing, then launched out on a career specializing in that thing, my name on the side of the building, the building getting progressively bigger as I added on offices and waiting rooms and lounges, with assistants and cohorts running around, ducking in and out, barely seen by patients, but working feverishly behind the scenes with excellent ethics?
The thing that popped into my head today, accompanied by the usual regrets, was I could've been a gynecologist. That would've been darned interesting. And a great conversation starter as I grew up, if only I had known about them back then, the need for them, the terminology to discuss it with, and so on. As it was, I barely knew there was a difference between boys and girls till I was about 7-8. Of course I knew there were moms and dads, I'm not going to say I was completely oblivious. But that's about it.
Then I grew up and saw an occasional something here and there, whatever. But I don't know if you know about girlie magazines in the '60s. They didn't show anything very much, not like they do now. You can search at archive.org for Adam magazines* and see what they were like. Breasts and bottoms, that's it. I remember conversations with other boys (cousins) to the effect of "Why don't they ever show [boy's terminology omitted]?" And the answer was always some variation of this: "I don't know, must be something wrong with them."
But what if, in spite of all that, I had had parents and grandparents who ran by me all kinds of interesting career choices that didn't involve gas stations and motel laundry? Such as, "How about this, Denny, a gynecologist!" Then they'd explain to me what a gynecologist is, etc., and I'm enthralled by the service I could perform, fully professional, fully educated, fully honorable and ethical, knowledgeable, personable, just an unbelievable kid with real ideals about gynecology.
Teachers would be all like, "What have we here? A future gynecologist?" The newspapers would come around to run an article about "Local Kid Excels At National Gynecological Fair." My parents would be passing out cigars, knowing Grandma and Mom and my Aunts and their Friends are going to have lifetime discounts, with a family member serving them, completely taking away all the embarrassment they might otherwise have experienced. But as it was, if they ever went to a gyno they never said anything about it to me.
But how cool would it have been? Very cool. I buzz through school. I get scholarships. I go through college, pre-med, intermediate med, the study of the human body, the reproductive system, the difference between boys and girls, the whole ball of wax. Then I hang my shingle out, Denny the Gynecologist. I get a reputation as stated above, ending up like redeemed Scrooge, the best gynecologist that old town had ever seen, or any old town had ever seen, in any old country that there ever was or could ever be.
I take on a staff, a receptionist (offering her discounts, him discounts if he's conventionally married, or discounts for their mothers if it's two men, etc.), associates, gofers. Then like the SimDoctor game, the patients start flowing in, getting their yearly checkups, monthlies as needed, and what-all I don't even know. I've never been to a gynecologist's office. Remember, this is all a fantasy of what could've been.
*One of my cousins died approximately a week ago, in real life. He was five years older than I. Somehow his parents allowed him to have a stash of girlie magazines in his room. I guess they allowed him. They didn't seem to be hidden under the mattress. One of the main titles he had was Adam, which you indeed can find at archive.org. I always wished I had a stash of these myself. But when you look at them at archive.org, though, you'll notice, What piss-poor girlie magazines they had back then! Anyway, RIP to my cousin. We weren't extremely close, but got together once in a while as kids. I saw him at my mom's funeral a few years ago and he was very personable to me.
Wednesday, September 6, 2017
It's not too late to change my mind, let me state that right now as an absolute fact. I said the other day I was putting up The Sign of the Crumpled Bird, with the possibility that I'd then be having real world meetings with people around town. I've been sick ever since I said it, but you'll notice, I haven't deleted the post. I could be sick from anything. Look at me in Pocock's artwork, I don't know whether to dive in or throw up. That's truly how things stand.
I like the looks of the tub. We didn't have a tub at hand, actually, when Pocock was sketching me. So he either drew it from memory of what tubs look like -- in which case I'm impressed -- or more likely he copied it from a tub catalog. It brings up an interesting thing in my mind about drawing circles. When you draw a circle from the side it becomes more of a football-shaped thing. Meaning, one could theorize, that if you looked at a football standing over it and looking down, it ought to be a circle. But it's not.
That'd be a good thing to talk about in one of these real life meetings. Say I do put up the Sign of the Crumpled Bird, indicating I'm somewhere near at hand, in the vicinity, then I see a group of people milling around wondering if I'm going to show up. I edge in, let's also say, and peel off the most interesting looking guy from the periphery, and take him somewhat privately to get away from the crowd. Really, do I want a bunch of people who crowd in to see my sign, some guy who's close to it, like an investigator, trying to discern more about the author of the sign than he otherwise should? Or do I want the guy who's wondering but is more skeptical, even dismissive of the whole thing?
Good question, huh? I believe I can confess it, I've always been something of a profiler, finicky, nit-picky, selective. That guy at the edge, he's more my cup of tea (or soup) than the closer guy, who barely gives me room to breathe. I need room to breathe, that's key. And if I need a quick escape, to get the hell out of there, I don't want the guy pressing in, breathing down my neck, but, hey, that's just me.
Maybe the Crumpled Bird is a mistake, a bad idea. But I'm not giving up quite yet. No, I take that back, it's a great idea, separate the wheat from the chaff. I've always been good at that. I can be selective. The sign means I'm in the area, not that I'm necessarily going to swoop in and select someone. And I really feel for that guy at the edge. Maybe he's a real iconoclast. Just wants the crowd to disperse a bit so he can draw a mustache on my bird, or deface the sign in some other way, knowing it would very likely lure me out to choose him immediately on that account.
Life is hard, ah yes, they used to teach us you can't win. But I'm sure you can win. If you really pay attention, read the signs that life puts out there, etc., etc. Life's own version of the Crumpled Bird. Gotta take that plunge!
SPECIAL THANKS to E. Nubbi Pocock for today's artwork. I appreciate it very much, and the price was definitely right, zero. Thanks again. As an aside, though, no offense intended, If my pocock was nubbi I don't think I'd be parading around like E. did, making it my name! Am I right?
Saturday, September 2, 2017
It's a thing that probably happens with every guy like me with a popular blog, different ones want to "meet up" and, I don't know, pick my brain about the latest topic du jour. Usually I put them off with some flimsy excuse, or dismiss them with a conceited "You couldn't handle me, honey." They're looking at an average guy who doesn't look even vaguely interesting or dangerous, and while they're trying to reconcile the contradiction, I slip quickly from the scene. Fact is, at 60+ I still follow what my mom taught me, Run From Strangers.
But I know how it goes -- you read a blog and you think it has to be made up by a genius -- yes, a tortured genius -- or by someone who's so popular and such a people-person, he probably has a million decent contacts you could exploit for sales, marketing, or pyramid schemes. I don't entirely know why anyone would want to get together with me. I sit around, take a shower once in a while, apply deodorant when I have it, I'm actually a mess. If we were to talk politics then, you might get mad and beat the crap out of me. Then where would I be? Bruised, battered, barely able to function, worse than usual, smelly armpits.
Another thing that makes me so reticent is something that happened between 8 to 12 months ago. I met a guy in the park a few years ago, an old gnarly dude the same age as my dad would've been if he hadn't died, 80-something. He talked my leg off; because he literally had sexual ideas in the same vicinity. Then within the last year, maybe longer, hard to say, I was in the park looking at the river close to flooding that day. This guy was sitting in his car or truck and motions me over. I'm standing there -- I know his name, I know his background from talking to him those years before -- but this time he wants more than talk, he goes for pay-dirt, reaching down quickly and grabbing my crotch. I wasn't even thinking of anything sexual, so I thought maybe he was swatting at a bug, I didn't know. Till he had a quick grip on my [junk] and I pulled away, saying still innocently, "What are you doing?" Soon as I got the question out, I knew what he was doing. So I said my final pleasantries and got the hell out of there. He was 82 or 83 at that time, old enough to know better. Dirty bird.
Which brings me to the solution to this idea of people "meeting up" with me, and remaining at least at arms length. I won't actually say where I am at any given point, and I won't give the time I may be anywhere, OK? But I will give you a sign: The Sign of the Crumpled Bird. When you see the Sign of the Crumpled Bird -- I may have it stuck on someone's antenna, or taped to a store window, or on a parking meter, etc. -- then you will know I am somewhere near. Got that? I will be looking in the general direction of the Sign of the Crumpled Bird. But you won't be sure if I'm the guy or if I'm just another guy looking for the Sign of the Crumpled Bird, hoping to get in touch with me.
When I see you, I will check you out, mentally computing a whole bunch of stuff as quickly as I can. Whether you look interesting, whether you look worthy, and especially whether you look safe. You should not be reaching down and doing the motions of grabbing something in the air. At that point all bets are off, the Sign of the Crumpled Bird will remain till I can circle back and get it. But I'll be gone like the "Summer Wind," a song that is in the Top 5 Frank Sinatra songs I like.
How did I come up with the Sign of the Crumpled Bird? It's an interesting story -- not terribly interesting -- that I might tell someday. Be that as it may, when you see the Sign of the Crumpled Bird, that's the critical thing, that's when I may be found, when I may be known. You don't need to know anything more about it than that.
Monday, May 8, 2017
I'm in a quandary, a mental quagmire. O this wretched existence! Hast thou no mercy, inexorable Fate? Inexorable is right, whoever first said that.
Life is revealed -- is it not? -- when you cut it in bite size pieces. Days, hours, minutes. 15 minutes. 15 minutes is long enough to do several things, but not long enough to be prolonged; it's fleeting, very fleeting.
As I've stewed over this post, driven to it really by a kind of cruel desperation, I've felt a dreadful range of emotions. All centered on one question, Why? And tangentially related to a second question: How? Why this burden of 15 minutes? And how can I escape it. I seriously don't think I can escape it. And that's not right, am I right?
We tend to look at it as a commonplace fact of life that we're all getting older. Certainly I can see that as well. When I look at old photographs of myself, it's like a different world, a different me. But I know it is me, and in some cases even have memories of the photo being taken. And other aspects of what it was to be in those circumstances long ago. Am I alone in this knowledge? I believe I'm not. Surely others -- if only a few others -- know what it was by way of vivid memories to live in the past. I can't be alone.
20 years, 10 years, 5 years, a few years, months, weeks, days, minutes, seconds. Leading me back to this dreadful question of 15 minutes. How can I cease aging for 15 minutes? Is there someone really good at math, or preferably time travel, who can clue me in to the mysterious answer of this? I'm not asking a lot, just to not age a single bit in 15 minutes. That's not such a huge request.
I'm looking for wisdom. This burden came on me just three or four units of 15 minutes ago. I called a man whose wisdom I respect. He answered me tentatively, not fully understanding the question, apparently. Everyone deals in "common sense," which I frankly get sick of. He did the same thing. "You can't quit aging for 15 minutes," he said, point blank, like my question was so much dirt under his feet, not even worth considering, and even stupid. I could tell I wasn't going to make much progress with him. Leaving me once again alone.
This came from my mind, OK? The only one who can answer it has to be me, an answer straight from the horse's mouth, as it were. A person could die, right? That takes away aging in regards to a conscious person all right. But your body still ages, with the mechanics of death even harsher for the body. Aging as well as putrefaction. Not good. Briefly, death doesn't help, because I still want my life to go on. For life to be prolonged.
If there's an answer, and it doesn't come physically, what's left but mental? That's where it has to be. Like in the phrase, "Think young." If I meditated, really stewed over it, say, for an hour, that for 15 minutes solid I was going to think young, then did it, I actually could mentally convince myself that I hadn't aged. Think so? Life as we know it is comprised of our thoughts. If that's true, it could be done.
AN HOUR AND 15 MINUTES LATER: OK, I'm back. The hour meditation itself seemed damned near to stop time. Then it was time for the 15 minutes. Which was a total failure. I simply couldn't get started. I kept checking the time, like the way I cook frozen pizzas; I never trust the instructions. I was checking the time, then diving back in, but all I could do by way of experience was fall prey to time's passage, a minute here, two minutes there, etc. I was so frustrated, 15 minutes passed like an instant, and I was 15 minutes older -- mentally and physically -- and worn out. What a failure I am!
The weird thing about this, totally unexpected, was the hour of meditation was great -- flew by! -- and I felt just as young going in as coming out. But the lesser period, 15 minutes, was like a kick in the pants. What I'm seeing is, If you prolong the time -- an hour or more -- you can stay forever young. But if you limit yourself to 15 minutes only, all you do is age. A weird, seemingly contradictory set of circumstances, I realize that much, but regardless, it appears to be the only way this can be done...
Saturday, March 18, 2017
That's what I'm saying: Time never gets ahead of itself. The truth of which is pretty well settled, although you'd think if anyone could do it, Time could. I'm fairly stressed out by time. I keep it, I mark it, I jump to its tunes, and I rue it.
I tell myself I'm not afraid to die. And I'm often convinced it's so. As I've been thinking about Time, as I am now, I know it's out there as Terminus B, Terminus A being when I came into the world much Time ago. Over 60 years, so you tell me. You never know what might happen. Car wreck, ice slick, jealous husband or wife, bar fight gone bad, pool cue against the temple, or just plain old age with a bad health chaser. Something's gonna do me in, all in good Time.
I went to see a friend of mine, who's something of an Eastern kind of guy. He's respectful of our Western ways -- to a point -- but he thinks the Easterners (Indians, Tibetans, etc., who really are just Westerners if you traveled the opposite way to get to them) have the inside track on wisdom. Which, incidentally, is how I thought of Native Americans on old westerns. They could put their ear to the ground and describe the enemy to the shoelaces. It's uncanny. I respected them but never had the good sense to root for them against the cowboys. A big regret.
All right -- be all that as it may -- I dasn't waste Time! As my Eastern-loving friend told me, quoting the Mahabharata, "Existence and non-existence, pleasure and pain all have Time for their root. Time createth all things and Time destroyeth all creatures. It is Time that burneth creatures," etc., blah blah blah. Think I'm afraid of time? Bah! Not for a second! Until I start thinking, You know, maybe they're right. Mom told me I was born at a particular time. That I transitioned from diapers to overalls at a particular time. And that she would leave me at a particular time, probably when she changed her last poopy overalls, which would kill anyone.
All that being as it may, I must write the things on my mind! To leave behind at least a few snippets of my existence, as I feel like I could croak at any moment. So what do I have on my mind?
[Nebulous clouds of wisdom appear at the window. The visage of a dear old man, beard down to his feet and the look of wrinkles about the eyes, appears. He touches my forehead and I'm immediately filled with the wisdom of a schoolroom from long ago.]
I see a boy with his teacher, learning his spelling. But for much of his life muteness has left him speechless, and the teacher makes allowances. "George, spell 'A'." He taps his foot once. "Good, now spell 'B." He taps his foot twice. "Great job, now spell C." He taps his foot three times. And it goes that way through the alphabet. "Very good," the teacher says.
She gives him a much bigger assignment. To write out, "I'm a good boy."
George is aghast. Thinking, "I have to write out all that?" He starts his tapping, tapping, tapping, feverishly tapping with the teacher doing her best to transcribe the flurry of taps. He seemed to be off track, up and dancing, his feet becoming terribly sore from the amount of tapping and the feverishness with which he wrote. The teacher could barely write, count, and match up the taps with the alphabet. It was frankly all she could do
Finally, though, she looked at her pad and George's message was clear: "Look, teacher, if you expect me to stand here and write all day, especially something as long and involved as 'I'm a good boy," I'm going to need a pair of boots to protect my feet, at least a pair of socks -- something! -- because anything that takes that much tapping is sure to severely damage my feet, to the point that I may never recover from it, even if I lived to be 12! And especially with the roughness of this old-fashioned wooden, splintery floor! Give me something shorter to write and I'll be glad to complete the assignment to the best of my ability."
The moral of the story has to do with Time -- how it's only as long as it is -- and Feet, that you give a teacher an inch and she'll take two.
Monday, February 27, 2017
I have a beef today, as well as an interesting principle about coming back from the dead. Or being away a long time, like Tom Sawyer. Didn't he walk in on his own funeral?
I have my routine in the morning. Sitting doing meditation and considering spiritual lit, including the Bible and various things on yoga, Sri Aurobindo, etc. Then it's time to take Roughage (my dog) out. Then breakfast. It's a clean, good, effortless routine. God forbid it change!
Today it changed. Thanks to an inopportune phone call plus my Cousin Deb visiting from Missouri. She's been here a couple weeks, sleeping in all those mornings, then getting up and seeing how I do it here. Today, though, I got an urgent call from a guy I've known for 40+ years, Melvin, who parks by the water tower and has his own taxi service, one car.
My time of meditation was just coming to a close when Melvin called. His key was locked in the car, do I still have the extra key? In the last five or six years he hasn't needed it at all. But it's been in my bedroom with a full layer of dust on it. Could I bring it to him?
Cousin Deb was getting up and around. I told her what I had to do, that it'd take 10-12 minutes, Roughage is in the crate, she'll be OK till I get back. Then we'll make breakfast, etc.
I got downtown right away, Melvin had his hand out, I rolled down the window and gave him the key and sped home. Now, what has Cousin been doing in the meantime? Wellllll, Roughage whined a little bit with me gone, so she let her out to do her business. Leaving enough time to start the breakfast, get the plates out, etc., and push my meditation books up against some other crap at the edge of the table. Page crunch. And she was busying around.
I was a little pissed off, but didn't spill it with the full force, just some gentle, "I said I'd take care of the dog when I got back. And there was no hurry on the breakfast; I was gone 10-12 minutes, there's nothing I need to do this morning, it was fine." Well, like she said, Roughage was whining, and there was no reason to wait on breakfast, apparently, because I was gone. I was barely gone, but the whole world had to change!
That's something worth considering. If you can be gone 10-12 minutes and everything has to change, imagine you went somewhere near the ends of the world for a half hour! She'd change the locks, paint the house, and maybe donate my freezer of bacon to the poor. "It's not good for you anyway." Oh! But it's good enough for the poor, I see! And that's just a half hour! A whole hour and they'd be reading my will...
What if I were suddenly called to Center City for a whole day? Not only would the bacon be gone, the dog wouldn't recognize me. The crate would be gone, she'd be sleeping in my bed, and growling when I crawled in to sleep. Possession is 9/10s of the law, they say, you abandoned the bed, you're outta here!
Multiply it out. You're gone a week? A week is like a thousand years. Your house was condemned, the high rise apartment complex in its place was planned and contracted out in four days, and when they decided you weren't coming back they built it. And that freezer was getting old anyway. The bacon had the accumulated frost damage of a whole seven days!
The interesting principle is, You can be a stranger in your own home within minutes. You gave your last wishes -- keep the dog in and don't start the bacon -- but if you've been gone 10 minutes all bets are off! In short, if you can't depend on your life maintaining its stability for 10-12 minutes, don't be gone any longer. Life is quicksand. Time waits for no man, as they say, but you'd think it'd take at least a month to fully rear its ugly encroaching head... You're gone a couple hours, though, you're not coming back.
Sheesh! That's Earl, brother!
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Hey, hey, not to be left out -- after I wrote about his brother in the presidency, Abraham Lincoln -- is the Father of Our Country, George Washington, with another birthday!
I regret to say I haven't learned one single new thing about Washington in the last year. I'm ashamed to say that, of course, since I'm a conscientious person who goes through life trying to learn at least one new thing a day. Now, with the regime of President Trump upon us, however, and the general atmosphere of questioning the value of education -- Is it really still a thing? -- I've taken off a number of weeks to vegetate.
Never know when that might happen! I always figured it was "Onward and Upward" for us, the American way. Sometimes I imagined an end to it, but never thought it'd come this soon after we got the Internet. Which, between you and me, is truthfully the force that has made this vast difference in our general outlook. Before, nutcases could get together over beers, three or four guys who then went home and cursed the wind. Now they're a vast assembly, each stupider than the next. Dredging up from the depths of the collective unconsciousness enough evil to stock a dozen hells.
Wonder when Trump's birthday is. Could Google it. But then what? I'd have to remember it year by year like I do Lincoln's and Washington's. I haven't branched out from those two dudes in my whole life. Although I do remember Kennedy's birthday was in May, and I think he was born the same year as one of my grandmothers. I should do FDR. He was quite the hero to my other grandparents. I inherited the poster that used to hang over their headboard.
Anyway, George Washington. I hear there's been new books written about him and even a TV show or movie made recently. Which are apparently quite good, but I don't have time for all that. I'll stick with the tried and true: He cut down a cherry tree, he was honest about it with his dad. But his dad, not wanting him to get off scot-free, challenged him to a duel. Little George, ever honest, replaced the bullets with blanks, circled around and "shot" his dad in the back. His dad knowing he himself had gotten off scot-free, too, since he could've been dead, forgave him for the tree.
Then there were the wooden teeth, penance for cutting down the tree, whittled out by the dentist from the self same tree! He should've chopped up the toilet, then he could've had teeth that would've lasted! Porcelain teeth, brushing with SaniFlush. That'd be good for me, since I've had notoriously bad teeth most of my life. I had a dentist who did half a root canal on me -- then left me in the chair while he and the staff went off for hamburgers. I haven't been the same since.
A fun experiment would be to find out how old George Washington would be today! They used to teach us he was born in 1732, back when education mattered. But it seems to me there's some complication about the way they reckoned years back then. For the sake of convenience, though, I'll assume 1732 is still good. 2017 minus 1732 is-- I'm going out for hamburgers. I'll figure it out when I get back.