Saturday, September 30, 2017

Wer-ner Klemp-er-er


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

When They Ring the Golden Bells


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,
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.
Then there's another whole dimension to it that I haven't even mentioned, involving a guy's untimely death!

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,
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.
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.

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

I Could've Been A Gynecologist


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

Crumpled Bird -- Take the Plunge


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

The Sign of The Crumpled Bird


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.