278. Yoga, Barney Fife, and Robert E. Lee

Never did I imagine that I would go to yoga class. Then again I never imagined going to ballroom dance classes. However, since last week’s neck seizure, I had to do something to prevent a recurrence of neck lock. Simply getting toridol shots, using ibuprofen, flexeril, and naproxen beats up my liver and kidneys. They work but do not appease my loving wife, who promised to hurt me if I did not get an order for physical therapy. Cleverly she made a yoga appointment for both of us at a local yoga parlor. Now stop your filthy imaginings right there!  I did not wear yoga pants or biker shorts.
No, I dressed modestly in nylon sweat pants that left everything to the imagination.
We met the petite instructor, Pat, who is so supple and toned that she does not seem to leave footprints when she walks. I followed my wife’s lead and unrolled my pink mat. I was ready to stretch not only my muscles but my manly comfort zone as well. Two other flexible women joined our little group in the small yoga parlor. Any more participants and it could have been an illegal or immoral gathering. Just as we were getting started, a thin man in a drab khaki uniform appeared.
Image result for barney fife pictures
 Vice Squad Detective Barney:  “What the heck are  you doin’ here, fella? Looks like a harem party. Show me some i.d.”
Yoga Man: “I, uh, don’t have any pockets. My i.d. is in my wallet, which is locked in my car across the street.”
Vice Squad Det. Barney: “Do I look like a rookie? Turn around and spread’em.”
Yoga Man: “Officer, is this really necessary?  These women can vouch for me, if you’ll just…. OUCH!” [arm twist behind back]
Vice Squad Det. Barney: “I’ll make the suggestions around here, Yoga Boy. There’ll be no vouching either. 219, I need back up at the Yoga Parlor on Main Street. Over. Caught’em in the act. Over. Send a female officer please. 409, over.”
Wife: “Detective, really, he’s my husband and I have an order in my purse for physical therapy but I thought yoga would do the same thing…”
Vice Squad Det. Barney: “Lemme guess, lady. Your purse is locked in the car across the street. Yeah, nice try. We call that a ruse prior to creating a distraction and an opportunity for escape. Do you know who ya’ll are dealing with? I went to the Mayberry Academy for six months on line.”
Pat: “Detective, you are disrupting a legal gathering of purely innocent activity in which we get in touch with our heart chakras.
Vice Squad Det. Barney: “Nip it! Nip it good, little lady. Just keep your chakras in their sheaves please. 219, send the drug dog too. Over.”
Radio Voice: “Now Barn, it’s Andy. Let them people alone. They got a license to do yoga. I got it right here at the station. Now just uncuff whoever you done arrested and come on back for some of Aunt Bee’s brownies. And, uh, let’s get you back on your medication.”
Vice Squad Det. Barney: “Roger that, Sheriff. 409 out.” [walks out backwards and knocks over an aromatic soap display] “You people caught a break today. But I’ll be watching you, so you best be on your P’s and Q’s. And you, Yoga Boy, you are one twisted man.”
Okay, that did not happen. But it could have been an interesting episode from the days of black and white television.
 Image result for yoga instructor pictures
What did happen was 45 minutes of exertion, stretching, sweating and mild bewilderment. Like dance class I have to be at the same orientation as the instructor, i.e., see the move from his/her perspective or else bad things happen. My brain does not reverse mirror well. I lack the protein that makes the neuropeptide responsible for mirror imaging. At least that is what I’m telling you instead of simply stating the obvious:  I am retarded in three dimensional reasoning like Spock was with emotions.
Image result for mirror image pictures“It’s quite logical, Captain. You see left as right and right as left in the mirror. All is merely opposite, causing the right hemisphere of your brain to interpret what the left hemisphere is experiencing while still retaining the essence of its rightness. When the instructor moves forward, you also move forward. When she moves the arm on your left side, you must respond with movement on your right side. Do not allow your human emotions to intervene.”
“Thank you, Mister Spock.”
Image result for hindu goddess pictures
The lights were dimmed, thank Shakragupta, the Vedic goddess of embarrassment. There were no mirrors reflecting our postures. In my case it was a wobble. I pictured John Candy doing yoga and began to laugh at myself, but I caught the giggle before it exited my pursed lips. I shudder to think what would have happened if I’d laughed at my own incompetence while prerecorded monks chanted “Ooooommmmmmm” over and over again just above a percussion instrument that sounded like a hollow log being beaten with two wooden spoons.

“Breath in and reach up! Pull down and exhale.” “Inhale and step forward in warrior pose. Exhale and step back in reposing warrior stance.” Breathing is important in this exercise. You can’t just breath on your own as your reptile brain tells you. No. You must corral your breaths and make them join the harmony of the motion you are doing, while becoming one with the universe’s pulse. So I am lost, but it’s dark and I’m pretty sure Pat is not looking at my form as she tells the group, “Good job.”
beautiful yoga, #yoga, royal dancer, black & white yoga photography
As we finish the torture, Pat compliments the others and then says to me, “You gave it all you had.” Only later do I analyze that “compliment” and associate it with failed attempts at baseball and skiing and carpentry and roofing. I’d heard this before as an acknowledgement of effort in a failed cause. Like when Robert E. Lee surrendered his saber at Appomattox Court house. General Grant said, “Well, Bob, you gave it all you had.”

277. Godless Zealots…the real reason

I can’t make sense of the Isis zealots or any other zealot group that kills  human beings due to a difference in ideology. There is an old cynical saying that goes like this: “People usually have a real good reason for what they do; and then there’s the real reason.” Isis claims to be crusading to create a new Caliphate in the land of Syria and Iraq by destroying every inch of the land they roll over; kidnapping, ransoming and beheading foreigners; raping and torturing young girls; murdering those who won’t align with their evil; throwing homosexuals off public buildings; destroying priceless, irreplaceable artifacts; selling stolen oil on the black market; and so, so much more. All in the name of Allah and Mohammed his only Prophet. That Alla Akbar mantra is the supposed good reason for their catastrophic actions. The real reason, however, seems to be a power grab and a money grab. Ransoming western foreigners pays well, apparently. Taking sex and taking life seem to be a big turn on for these desert weasels. I wonder what exactly they will have “created” once the smoke clears. Temporary riches for those with the biggest weapons? Maybe a political post in Iraq or Syria after some negotiations and further lies? A reality t.v. show? Rebellions and coups seem to earn big dividends for some rebels, and not just in the Middle East. In their wake these sand bandits have destroyed the land, the economy, culture, art, education, government, and any hope of their return.

Like their idiot cousins the Taliban in Afghanistan, these folks face backward in time to some imaginary pure era when their ancestors were in ascendancy. They can’t seem to get their Neanderthal  brains around the concept of history moving on, or of society changing. Isis is all about what you can’t do… cult think. Can’t think. Can’t disagree. Can’t live in peace. And what you gotta do.   Gotta convert or die. Gotta kill or be killed. Gotta pose for cult videos. Life is so cheap where these extremists mingle. Their end goal of an Islamic Caliphate will be a radioactive crater devoid of human life, I think. Their Caliphate will be absolutely black and white and unpeopled like the surface of the moon. Only the shadow of death will remain in its ashes.

A caliphate is a form of Islamic government led by a caliph —a person considered a political and religious successor to the prophet Muhammad and a leader of the entire Muslim community. The Rashidun caliphs, who directly succeeded Muhammad as leaders of the Muslim community, were chosen through shura, a process of community consultation which some consider an early form of Islamic democracy. During the history of Islam after the Rashidun period, many Muslim states, almost all of them hereditary monarchies, have claimed to be caliphates.

Image result for ayatollah khomeini picturesHi, I was the Ascerbic Ayatolla Khomeni of Iran, not Sean Connery in a funny hat.

On the other hand I wonder what has unleashed these sand bandits. It’s ironic that when there were gigantic tyrants running things, Gaddafi/Lybia, Saddam Hussein/Iraq, Mubarek/Egypt, Assad/Syria, things were a little more predictable. There was a bad order in place, but at the least it was a form of order. They were like the late monarchs of Europe who did not go gently into the good night. Now it’s unbridled chaos. Ironic that chaos followed the outbreak of “democracy fever” during the Arab spring that began in 2010. Even more ironic that the U.S. attempted to transfuse the ideals of American democracy into septic Arab veins. The Result?  Absolute chaos, murder, and mayhem and a march toward genocide.

By January 2015, rulers had been forced from power in Tunisia,  Egypt (twice), Libya, and Yemen (twice); civil uprisings had erupted in Bahrain and Syria; major protests had broken out in Algeria, Iraq,  Jordan, Kuwait,  Morocco, Israel and Sudan; and minor protests had occurred in Mauritania, OmanSaudi Arabia, Djibouti, Western Sahara, and Palestine. Weapons and Tuareg fighters returning from the Libyan Civil War stoked a simmering conflict in Mali which has been described as “fallout” from the Arab Spring in North Africa.  [Wikipedia]

Let’s begin with Moamar the Arrogant. For 40 years he ran Libya as his little fiefdom of terror.That’s a whole lotta shakin goin on.dekHe and his fellow clowns were despicable despots. They even looked evil. How is it possible that tyrants seem to look alike? So smug and arrogant.

 I am Saddam unbowed/ Iraq.

I am Mubarak the somnambulant/ Egypt
 We are Two tyrants for the price of one.
In the power vacuum left behind these toppled dictatorships, bands of thugs seized the opportunity to claim power and authority with their weapons blazing. You know Revolution swept across Western Europe in 1848. Back then it was led by the new middle class and peasants against monarchy, the dictator/tyrants of that time.  Lots of folks died, but democratic reforms were birthed. Something new was created amid the slaughter. Those revolutionaries were not trying to go backward in time to harsher monolithic life. They sought all sorts of freedoms that the West eventually came to enjoy, but the West simultaneously developed industry, education, and technological advances.
The Al Qaeda/ Isis/ Taliban posses don’t seem interested in any of these things unless they go “BOOM!!”. I don’t mean the boom of mining or excavating a water project.  Their Booms lead to annihilation. Their end game?  To stop the beating heart of humanity and not restart it. When zealots rule, there is no reason involved nor can they rule for long. Only bloodbaths of emotion are permitted… because tyrants , after they kill off God, always eat their young.

 

 

276. The Necktar of Pain

Okay, I spent last night at the ER because I did not listen to my wife. No, she did not assault me or beat me with a ball bat, though I believe if she did, she’d get off with a jury trial… because she is so stinking pretty and my daughters would all testify against me. “He’s impossible to live with. It was justifiable strangulation, your Honor. The man is made for a good domestic beating; just look at him. He needed to go. It was a public service.” No, she’s been after me for months, yes months, to exercise, get a massage or go for physical therapy to treat my suffocatingly tight neck.  And I said, “Uh huh”, which means I am my own worst enemy while doing the male fake listen nod. In Arabic this attitude translates as “mi nek tar”, which is an old Persian expression that roughly means “pain of the camel’s neck”.

Actually the truth is that my neck muscles seized up like a pit bull chomped down on an industrial strength vacuum hose and would not, perhaps could not, release. (Think of the pounds per square inch that would be required to hold a 65 pound hunk of pure canine muscle locked down on a rubberized turkey neck toy.) I used ibuprofen. Nothing. I used patience, like four and a half minutes worth, I swear!! Nothing. Finally at 3 a.m. I used Tramadol, damnitall. Nothing. My neck was like kiln fired clay that had set up, crystallizing into bronze. Agony is the closest word I can think of. I was in Agony, a small town in a  Steven King novel where bad things happen to decent people lost in rural Maine, where Kathy Bates finds me stuck in a snow bank and tortures me with an ice pick in the neck for six months or summer, whichever comes first. I was a desperately hurting white boy with no possible hope.

All I could hear from across the lonely valley were strains of Aretha Franklin singing “Rescue Me.”

 

I reasoned that since I was not sleeping and three attempts at remediating this pain had failed, I might as well go to the local ER. I got dressed while my wife slept. I had to wake her up and worry her so that she would not worry when she woke up on her own and I was not there to beat with a ball bat. I moved like the Tin Man without WD 40 to my car and onto a deserted Route 30 festooned with teal green traffic lights all the way into town. I could not pivot my head. I had to turn at the torso to check for traffic. I was a danger to humanity.  Like Jim Morrison sang, “Killer on the road, his brain is squirming like a toad.” Wow, that seems really dumb forty five years after those lyrics charted.

With my squirming toad brain I expected no wait time at the ER. Wrong. “We only  have one doctor on duty, and he has a very long Middle Eastern name which takes about five minutes to pronounce, so we are backed up about two hours at least. When Dr. Smith works nights, we save all that translation time and see twice as many patients. But tonight it’s Dr. Rolexia Al Sirabi Hamadi Sirramboisiamani the third. Sorry about your luck. So, maybe around dawn we’ll get back to you. Until then, here’s the remote for the television. What? You can’t turn your head? Oh yeah, that sucks to be you, sir. Here, I’ll just leave it on QVC. Oh, faux pearls!! Well would you look at that?”

Not much was on television as I cruised through the menu, finally settling on The Return of Zorro with Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta Jones and endless car commercials. I’d close my eyes with commercials on mute and try to sleep. The pain and stupidity of my situation would wake me as Zorro was about to blow up a train or CZJ ran wildly through a vineyard in the strangely bright night. I didn’t care. I was a miserable audience of one, alone in a dark Emergency Room corner at 4:00 a.m. waiting for an exhausted Dr. Rolexia who had to keep repeating himself in soapy English syllables. I imagined that he sounded like an automatic dishwasher spraying medical terminology around at accelerated speed onto muted patients who lay nearly comatose beneath him like hand painted china. That’s it. I am a dinner plate with a human form painted on it. My mind was confused. “My twisted muscles must be twisting my squirming toad brain”, I reasoned from under the hospital gown.

“Rescue me, Zorro. Forget CZJ. She’ll leave you by the next movie, but I’ll forever be your buddy if you will cut my head off and end this agony. Just look out for Kathy Bates. That’s a tough woman to kill.”

I may have been dreaming or hallucinating or alternating between alternate states of consciousness.  Finally the day doctor showed up and by 6:30 I was given toridol, my muscle declencher. It worked magic on my neck, prying it out of the jowls of the imaginary rabid pit bull. Oh sweet release!  I could swallow without pain. And like Botox, I could see clear proof of wrinkle reduction around my face. I could move ever so slightly and not have electrical shocks fire off at points of insertion. I had to sit still for a CT scan of my neck to rule out shrapnel, ice picks, tumors, arthritis, and internal serpents. The doctor told me I had the spine of a 59 year old. “I am 59.”

“Yes, but you look much older in the flesh.”

“Hey, I can go home and be insulted for free, Dr. Cornflakes.”

“And I can expedite your check out. Sign here and here.”

“Is there any prescription or advice for me, Doc?”

“Yes. Listen to your wife.”

 

 

 

275. The expansion of love

Empty Chair/Empty Net /John 21

 

Do you have room at your earthly table for those in need? I have observed over and over that many churched folks like to keep their dinner table just the way it is—Mom, Dad, Grandma, Uncle Bill, Aunt Sarah, the kids. If the table seats 8, then 8 is the magic number and homeostasis sets in, which means there is an internal balance to keep things just as they are. Equilibrium was the title of my last post… it seems like a positive that is achieved by negatives cancelling one another out for a sum of zero. That is control not love.

Now it is wonderful to have close family ties, to huddle up in a comfortable and secure manner every Sunday afternoon or evening. Many families do this, and God bless them.

My concern is that when your family is huddled up, is there room for another? Or is the newcomer, the stranger, the foreigner only shown your backs?  Do you practice hospitality by opening your self and your home to others?

I believe that many folks hold a mistaken and sometimes pathological belief about love—that it is a finite thing. In other words, love is diminished if given to too many others. To control and conserve the love, it is parceled out to immediate family only. In-laws are treated with a watered down love that depends on the immediate family spouse. In a similar way I’ve known a few parents who chose not to have a second child because they could not conceive of sharing their parental love with another being, as if loving a second child would dilute their love for the first child. And then I knew a man who said he had all the friends he needed for life—3, and unless one died, he did not need another. In this view, love is a fixed amount like a law of physics. No expansion is permissible.

There is a difference between being content with who is in your life and barring the door against anyone else, as if someone late to the party is an intruder.

And what if you have no room at your table? Is it okay to add a leaf and grow the table?

Can you extend your table or add another table to your intimate gatherings? A good hearted brother told me once that his wife was uncomfortable with sharing their home, their table. Consequently they were not hospitable outside their family boundary line. I responded that I didn’t think Jesus called us to comfort. I know He promised to comfort us in our pain and mourning. That’s the job of the Holy Spirit. The brother told me that I was stepping on his toes. I agreed that maybe his toes needed to be stepped on.  God does not call us to comfort and happiness. He calls us to serve Him, to be holy, and to worship Him. Happiness and comfort may come later, but if you seek those first, you miss the point of it all.

I explain it like this. When we wanted to see dolphins in Tampa Bay, the boat captain explained that in order to see dolphins, he needed to bring the boat up to a certain speed that attracted the dolphins. Once we achieved that speed, lo and behold dolphins appeared next to our boat, jumping and winking at us. It was a magical moment I’ll never forget. My take away lesson was this:  if you go directly at dolphins or happiness, i.e., take the shortcut, you’ll ram them and ruin the mission. If, on the other hand, you go forward in faith and pursue holiness, dolphins and happiness will show up. It’s not magic but miracle.

I met my buddy Dave in Honduras 12 years ago. We clicked and just enjoyed each other’s company. Once back in town, we continued to develop our friendship by meeting each other’s families and spending time together. Over the past years we have vacationed with Dave and his wife’s family on several occasions. They have room at the table and I have been blessed by their hospitality. It’s this way with most of our church family: we spend time in one another’s homes for prayer, fellowship, comfort, and material help.

Are there empty chairs at your table?  Maybe you are a widower who is alone, recalling your deceased husband’s presence. Maybe you are a single guy who craves the presence of a soul mate across the table. Or you are a childless couple who desperately want a child to care for. The empty chair can be filled with grief over a divorced spouse or a broken family relationship.  Whatever or whoever you believe should be in the empty chair, consider this:  invite Jesus to your table. Make Him the first guest, your primary relationship. And knowing that His spirit resides in all believers, invite someone new to your table, someone in need of comfort or companionship or joy.

Once you make room for Jesus, you will find that people show up and fill that precious place.

Now let’s pause and go to John 21.

“Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathaneel from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together.

“I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.”  So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.

He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”

“No,” they answered.

He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.”

When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.

Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord!” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards.  When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.

The disciples ate breakfast with Jesus, finally recognizing Him. Then Jesus reinstated Peter, telling Peter, “Feed my sheep.”

The disciples had fished all night in futility. Not one fish did they catch. But once Jesus appeared, they brought a bounty to shore, 153 fish in all.

What do these two themes have to do with one another? Well, empty chairs and empty nets share emptiness, a void, an unmet need. In John 21 Jesus feeds his disciples and commands that they feed others. At your dinner tables you can also cast your nets in a different direction if you hear Jesus telling you to do so.  If you put Jesus in that empty chair, He will bring His blessing to you. It may not be a spouse, but it could be a friend. It may not be a child, but it could be an opportunity to minister to someone else’s child.

When you invite Jesus to your table, you are inviting the source of love, the multiplier of fish and loaves. He did not conserve or control love and limit the distribution of love. Instead, He gave all He had, bled out, so that we might love as He did. Though you are tired and despondent, cast your nets once more. Though you have a void at your dinner table or you feel smugly self-sufficient, invite Jesus to your table so that He may feed you too. Finally, listen to your Lord and be reinstated as Peter was, to feed the precious flock of Jesus.Image result for shepherd with sheep flock pictures

 

 

 

 

274. Equilibrium

I have no idea why I chose this title. I sometimes just start with a word I like and try to write into it. Maybe that’s what I’ll do here. I like to define my terms before I explore and explode them.

Equilibrium equal scales

1. a stable condition in which forces cancel one another
 
2. a state or feeling of mental balance; composure
 
3. any unchanging condition or state of a body, system, etc, resulting from the balance or cancelling out of the influences or processes to which it is subjected

I’m often confronted with the old equal versus fair debate in counseling sessions, whether it’s between an adolescent and a parent or between spouses. The question arises, “What is fair?” Sometimes fair is equal, but usually it’s not, because not all problems are quantifiable.

Let’s say a teen aged kid wants a cell phone. He has two younger siblings, ages 9 and 4. Do they need a phone?  No, nor have they asked mom and dad for one. So the smart teen boy does not pull the equal card out within the family. Instead, he starts with his peer group.

“I neeeeed a phone so I can keep up with my friends and check on homework. Plus if I’m ever locked out of the house or kidnapped, I can call you or 911.”

(Notice the red herrings dropping out of the adolescent atmosphere like medieval miracles in the form of large Swedish fish. “Father Minotti, the red fish are falling out of the skies. Praise God. It’s a miracle. And this boy, he must be a prophet or an angel. And, Saints be praised, they are sweet and tangy!!”)

Dad, “Son, you have straight A’s and can’t really do any better academically. You have rarely called your friends about homework in the 8 years you have been in school. You also passed over the fact that we have a land line, a computer, and our personal cell phones at your disposal. Likewise you have never been locked out of our house because you know where we hide the spare key and your grandparents live two streets over. Nor have you or any of your friends ever been kidnapped or been in need of 911 services. So the reasons you have given for neeeeding a phone are imaginary, “what if?” scenarios. I would prefer to negotiate in the real world. Okay?”

Son, “Gosh, you don’t have to get all mad about it, Dad!! You guys NEVER let me do anything!!” (Attempted guilting to soften up the parents for the next pitch. The big unhittable “Fair” curve ball is coming along with a generous serving of exaggeration.) “I am the only kid in 8th grade who doesn’t have his own cell phone. Do you know how immature and demeaning that is to me? I’m out of the loop. I miss all sorts of important growth opportunities to mature and be socially useful.” ( Altruistic prosocial reasons sprinkled on the red miracle fish.)

Mom, “Like what?”

Son, “Like Facebook and Youtube. There’s really relevant stuff on those media.”

Dad, “Son, every time you have used my cell you’ve googled sports statistics and song lyrics or tried to watch movies. Plus, I know for a fact that the Harrison twins don’t have cell phones. I’m pretty sure Shirley Shoemaker hasn’t let Alyson have her own phone yet. There’s three out of what? 21 kids in your class?”

Son, “Ughhh!! The twins are dorks, Dad. You know they are. They wouldn’t even use phones if they had them cuz they’re too busy building Lego landscapes in their attic. They probably built a cell phone out of Legos. And Alyson still plays with Barbies.”

Dad, “You used to love to play with those dorks two years ago. And you still have Legos boxed up in your closet. Or have you forgotten?”

Son, “Huhhhh!! Those… are…collectibles. Just like my Magic card collection. They are investments. I’m just sitting on them till the price is right…which is why I neeeeed a phone, so I can track the prices of my collectibles.” (Entrepreneurial angle)

Mom,”Honey, how many million Lego sets and Magic cards do you think are out there? I played with Barbies and held on to  a few like Christmas Barbie and Bicentennial Barbie, and you know what? So did every other girl and gay boy in the world. So they are actually worth less today than when I bought them and I never even took them out of the box. There is something in economics called equilibrium when enough buyers match enough sellers….It’s a Keynesian model….”

Son, “Mooooommmm!!! It’s not the same thing. I know my stuff is valuable. You speculated on a common commodity and lost. I’ve done my research. Just one of my Magic cards is worth $500 because nothing in any deck can kill it. Don’t you know anything?!! Maybe you should adopt Alyson Shoemaker, then you would have your precious equilibrium.” ( Parry for shame that a parent would express preference for another child.)
Dad, “Son, show some respect. Let’s reel it back in. Weren’t we talking about a phone?”

Son, “Yeah, but it’s pointless. (Go for broke nihilistic drama to the max.) Just forget it! I’ll play with mom’s Barbies and my old Legos in the attic like the Harrison twins. When my friends call about prom, just tell them, “Eric can’t go. He is in the attic.” You know, psycho boy beyond all recognition or hope.”

Mom, “Eric Wilson Myers!! Stop it right now! We love you and want what’s best for you. We’re just nervous about allowing the big ugly world to come to your innocent ears and eyes 24/7. You’re just 13, Baby. That’s all.”

Dad, “Eric, it’s true. We don’t want you to be the boy in the attic who lives in his own world of fantasy and delusion either.”

Son, “Which is why I neeeed a phone, Dad. I don’t want to live in an attic with imaginary friends. I’d be dangerous to myself and others.”

Dad, “Okay, we’ll add you to our plan. But you’re gonna have to share your password with us. No bull, no arguing. Okay?”

Son, “Yes, Dad. I think you’ve made a really responsible decision here that you can be proud of in the future. You guys are tough negotiators.”

Mom, “I hope that’s true, Honey.”

 

 

272. Melancholy psychic closet cleaning

Oh, my Blogginis, you little canaries, it is a combination of joy

and trepidation

that leads me to the contemplation

of all the odds and ends

stored back, way back

in the psychic closet of

my memories. I need the soundtrack to be melancholy,

Over the Rhine, “Latter Days” is perfect.

Scented with musty old books and worn leather shoes.

No mothballs here. The moths are thick.

Chew a stick of old style teaberry gum as we look with the heart

A favorite baseball glove

lives there tenderized with neatsfoot oil,

abandoned

along with my photo pack

of black and white Washington Senators

circa 1967 collectible portraits

and various colorful baseball cards

We got in to D.C. Stadium for free if we wore our Little League uniforms on certain generous days. Fathers and sons in all sorts of uniforms filled the arena so vast that the announcer’s voice echoed in a time delay. “Now batting….atting, atting, atting,  for the Senators….enators, enators, enators,  Frank…. ank, ank, ank. Howard,Howard, Howard, Howard.” Thunderous applause for the Hondo.

It was another world driving across the Potomac River

before everything broke loose in 1968,

Bobby Kennedy was killed a month after Martin Luther King… and the stadium was renamed to quell the trauma and grief sweeping the landscape.

It was safer then, before the riots and the rights marches, when I was still a child. Freedom can be radioactive and it was in the late 60’s. That freedom energy lit up a lot of cities that summer for better and worse. I watched D.C. burn for a week in person while many other cities burned on our black and white television.

I never imagined our  cities would still be radioactive fifty years later in the second term of a Black president. Nothing is as simple as it seems.

In the back of my cold closet, moisture would gather due to the fact

that it backed up to an unheated shed full of dust and rust

I housed a possum in that shed once but not for long

I managed to send him to meet Jesus with a bathtub baptism and Right Guard aerosol chrism plus below freezing temperatures. Marsupials are hard to love. I tried.

With three brothers I hid things like gum and money, maybe cigarettes later on

I found that the ultimate hiding place was behind the light switch

Who would look there?  for your silver coins? One of them would eventually.

I had the human figure target from our third grade trip to the FBI, Shot to Shreds for our unending excitement by an Agent with ear muffs. “Any questions, kids?”

“Why didn’t we get ear protection?” I wanted to say.

I asked the agent guide/shooter if I could have the target

“Sure, kid. Here ya go.”

Boom! Instant jealousy from every boy I knew who knew I had it

My mother could not bear to see it on my bedroom wall

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It freaked her out beyond the planet Valium’s orbit

So I had to roll it up and  put it in the closet.

I don’t think the FBI gives kids that tour any longer. It’s not safe or we are paranoid. Or there’s liability involved. You know how it is. If a kid pees on a tree, the EPA has to call the CDC to check with the NSA for a tox screen and DNA and satellite pictures which are lost when Congress wants to see for themselves if that kid was Bill Clinton.

In  sixth grade I recycled the name stone for Ben Mae Manor

an historic old manor a block down the Parkway from my house

By balancing it on my purple spider bike seat

That historic stone sat heavily on the parquet wood floor of my closet for years

Until my younger brother moved out in the 1970’s and took it with him

It really ought to be returned one day. So Chris, where is it?

Way, way back in time our cat Pinky had a litter of kittens in that closet. It was dark and safe. We’d peek in with unrestrained glee and count the little fur balls as they suckled before they all had to go “to a family with a farm”. My parents didn’t know any farmers.

And the St. Louis Catholic School uniforms– white collared shirts with navy blue pants and a blue bow tie. Yeah, big fashion. Only black shoes were allowed. They hung in that dark space like mason jars of authority ready to can and pickle me. I refused a lot. I still do. My wife and friends tell me the nuns didn’t beat me enough. That’s cold to say though it may be true.

I had a pair of green leather Converse All Star low top sneakers when I ran away from home around 16. I wore them through the rainy night as I hitchhiked past Baltimore and into near oblivion. I thought I was going to hitch all the way to Boston where other family might appreciate or tolerate me. Not to be. A van full of hippies picked me up on their return drug trip from Philly. They got me stoned and I spent the night with them tripping out over split pea soup. It was very groovy. When I put those damp shoes back in my closet, my feet remained green for days, algaed evidence of my prodigality.Enos Country Slaughter St. Louis Cardinals unsigned 8x10 photo Nice

I had a baseball bat with Enos Slaughter’s name burned into it. I didn’t know who he was or where he played ball, but what a name! go out swinging, kid.

Latter Days… Over the Rhine

What a beautiful piece of heartache
This has all turned out to be
Lord knows we’ve learned the hard way
All about healthy apathy

I use these words pretty loosely
There’s so much more to life than words

There is a me you would not recognize, dear
Call it the shadow of myself
And if the music starts before I get there
Dance without me, you dance so gracefully
I really think I’ll be okay
They’ve taken a toll, these latter days

Nothing like sleeping on a bed of nails
Nothing much here but our broken dream
Oh, but baby, if all else fails
Nothing is ever quite what it seems

And I’m dying inside to leave you
With more than just cliches

There is a me you would not recognize, dear
Call it the shadow of myself
And if the music starts before I get there
Dance without me, you dance so gracefully
I really think I’ll be okay
They’ve taken their toll, these latter days
They’ve taken their toll, these latter days

Tell them it’s real
Tell them it’s really real
I just don’t have much left to say
They’ve taken their toll, these latter days
They’ve taken their toll, these latter days

 

Maybe we should just leave that melancholy closet locked. The past need not be repeated.

271. Unpaused

My toilet has been running in place for weeks now like a watery treadmill. How much, you ask?  The Boro meter ticket guy wrote me an orange  “abnormally high water usage” ticket a couple of weeks ago. It’s a warning not a fine. But it’s the same guy who has written me at least 100 parking tickets over the 10 years I’ve been parking around my fair boro. Rod, MMC, the meanest man in Chambersburg. I average two per month; that’s $10 a month or $120 per year or $1200 plus per decade.  Hmmmm. I shudder to calculate my coffee and lunch tabs for the same time frame. So let me return to the sprinting toilet. It just won’t stop slushing and gurgling on the other side of the restroom door. There is no rest going on in there.

Now those who know me well know that I am not a handy person. I don’t even operate a tape measure precisely, let alone cutting boards or pipes. I tend to cut things short. But I also am cheap. I know the plumber charges $90 to drive over to my office, and then the money meter starts running. So I figured if I came in with a solution for less than $100, I would be ahead…if I didn’t charge myself any labor or mileage, aka, opportunity costs.

I went to Lowe’s the first time and bought a new float device for $8.00. Turned the water supply off.  I swapped out the old float for the new one. I turned the water back on. Nope, not gonna fix it. Dang! Actually I only swapped the top part because I couldn’t break loose the lower half without a larger left-handed pipe wrench and some pretzel gymnastics moves and a dental mirror.Image result for toilet parts pictures

Back to Lowe’s. I bought a new flush pipe doohickey shaft thingy. I turned the water off and began to install that device. Like the other piece, I could not get the bottom part to move, so I just replaced the only critical part that seemed to matter– the soft plastic seal around the bottom. I did not pay precise attention to how it fit; I just made it fit. Replaced all the other parts; turned on the water. No fix. It kept running. The float kept dropping after it shut off and then it would run again. Even Alec Baldwin would be frustrated with this scenario.

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Now a handy man would have realized that the water was leaking out at the soft plastic seal on the doohickey shaft. But I already told you that I am not handy. So I decided to pull out the float shaft. I got a pair of big plyers and turned the water supply wing nut. It snapped. Okay. Back to Lowe’s to buy a new water supply hose. I bought the wrong size and could not figure out why this plastic wing nut would not dance with the float shaft that protruded out of the tank. Back to Lowe’s.

Finally I figured out that the shaft was a notch or two wider. I had to laugh at my stupidity and ruthless incompetence. Yes, ruthless. Now after I had all new parts in place and the tank kept leaking, I knew I’d have to actually think rather than simply replace parts. I had $30 in parts, four trips to Lowe’s and a couple of hours in this task. I took the tank lid off once more and stared at the float. The water keeps running after the float lifted and stopped. It’s got to be going somewhere. I revisited the soft plastic seal again. It had to be the culprit, I knew. I played with the ring and got it to fit the hard plastic collar. I reassembled the flush pipe doohickey shaft thingy and waited as the  water filled up the tank… and stopped. No more hissing or schlurping or dribbling. Just quiet. It was a beautiful moment, blog flushers. Progress is often seen as the presence of new positives; in this case it was the serene absence of the aquatic hissing and hiccupping I had grown used to.

I put the few tools and extra parts away in my storage closet, feeling very janitorial and victorious. .. janictorious. There you go. It was a good outcome, unlike the time I cut all the phone lines or blew up the hot water heater. Mr. Handy capped that schwizzle… and the music of life came unpaused.

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