307. Mr. Scratch Off

I just noticed him again, sitting in the alleyway outside my office. Early morning, bent over a lottery scratch off sheet, methodically rubbing a coin across the silver filmed boxes under which fortune awaits him. “Oh Luck!  Strike me. Fulfill me”,  I imagine him saying to the goddess Fortuna. He’s older, maybe 70’s with a cool ball cap on his head. Alone, very alone.

Now maybe it’s because earlier this morning I heard Otis Redding singing “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay”, but the lyric … “and this loneliness won’t leave me alone” floats across my consciousness. Lonely and alone are not equivalents. Lonely is a qualitative state versus alone which is a quantitative measure.  As I walk by him again, I am not lonely though I am alone. I just left my monthly peer group breakfast book share. The six of us old guys had a lovely time and talk together, discussing David Brooks’ book The Road to Character. Good stuff. Good community, like a good cup of coffee, is so rare among men, regardless of the content covered, becomes awesome when layered over with the cream of a good book.Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay

My peer group is composed of retired therapists– one MD/PhD, three PhDs, and two MS guys. Average age is mid sixties. I’m the only one still working and barely still in my fifties, (okay, 59) and they thank me for paying toward their Social Security and Medicare programs. And you know what?  I find it a privilege to keep these old geezers going. There is a lot of experience and wisdom in those other five noggins that is freely shared because of their gracious spirits. I deeply enjoy the camaraderie and know we share a mutual appreciation. (And I’m not sucking up since they don’t read my blog, okay? Why you gotta be like that? Sshheeesh!!)

One thing I am sure of– these men are not lonely nor are they putting their hopes in lottery tickets or some other unlikely probability. They have been delayers of gratification, putting off the pleasure of the moment for the greater good in the distance. All served others professionally with disciplined grace. On top of all that they managed to make a decent living in the human services. That’s a pretty big deal by itself, but what is more impressive in my book is that these dudes are retired yet still sharpening their wits and expanding their horizons. Who does that? Only rare birds. I want to be like that when I grow up and out of the buzziness of the working world.

In his book Brooks proposes two states of man or Adam. Adam I, the resume man; and Adam II, the eulogy man. Achievement and competition come from Adam 1. Character comes from the second Adam as he soldiers through suffering. As Greg said, “There are so many pithy comments in these pages… here’s another.”  Page 15, “Adam 1 aims for happiness, but Adam 2 knows happiness is insufficient.” The Adam 2 folks Brooks describes learned to quiet themselves in the valley of humility. That’s a big valley, but as I recall my trek through Sabino Canyon, it was a humbling experience feeling like I was in between God’s majestic fingers. Yeah, humility came over me like a storm cloud raining torrents of gratitude.

My prayer was not for more or a lightning bolt of happiness to hit me. No. I was in the moment of joy, connected to the Creator via His creation. Luck had nothing to do with it as I sat in the shade of a mesquite tree with hummingbirds flitting over me. Not luck but blessings showered over me so much that the molecules buzzed like minute grateful cicadas. Blessings do not leave one lonely since they come from a relationship. Luck on the other hand is a piece of cold statistical probability.  Mr. Scratchoff could be a winner if 12 million other players lose. At the end of the day he will remain alone and outside a relationship with his material winnings.
“I’m sittin’ on the dock of the bay
Watchin’ the tide roll away, ooh
I’m just sittin’ on the dock of the bay
Wastin’ time”

Perhaps more tragic is when someone like Mr. Scratchoff does hit it big, like the big game hunter who knocks down a rare lion only to have it devoured by hyenas as he stands by helplessly, he winds up emptier than when he began. What is not earned is lost almost as soon as it appears, my blogerras. So scratch it now– all or nothing– or wait on faith to get somewhere incrementally, no, sacramentally.

306. Burning the Dead

When I was a kid living in the cookie cutter housing tract known as Virginia Hills, summers were hot and humid and forever. As a little kid I have vivid memories of white and yellow honey suckle vines and pink feathery mimosa blossoms beyond my barren back yard. (With four boys in one quarter acre lot, ours was the designated turfless baseball or football field.)  Lying on the ground between damp sheets under the laundry line was an early form of air conditioning.  And digging in the clay with my mother’s treasured sterling silver soup spoons was an early science camp. They turned black and blue magically when you dug into that moist orange Virginia clay. Later on we had skate boards, the home made type– a board screwed onto roller skates. And then two wheeler bikes when we were big boys.

Along the way we also did a lot of walking. The closest stores were roughly one mile away in any direction. Without a lot of other competition we’d sometimes decide to walk up to the Super Giant on Route 1 to buy a pack of gum or a five cent store brand soda. I know it’s inconceivable of a modern kid walking two miles for anything, but we did without a second thought. Many times we began the store pilgrimage penniless but relied on faith that we’d find returnable bottles along the road sides as we slogged across shaded streets. Usually our faith was rewarded by others’ litter.

My partner in lizard catching, bird boxing, turtle hunting, crawfish nabbing, snake grabbing, and any other wild life adventure was Chris Young. He had three brothers also and lived around the corner on The Parkway. Like me he was third in the male birth order, which is not such a bad slot for wanderers to inhabit. Parents don’t miss the third child as readily as the first or the baby. And this opens up unearned opportunities for adventure and risk taking… and crime.

One late summer day Chris and I decided to take the not so short shortcut across Mt. Comfort Cemetery on our way up to the Giant store. I did not like hopping strangers’ fences and cutting through their yards, but Chris reassured me it was all good, which is an incomplete translation of … “until you get caught”.  Anyhow, we experienced no troubles on the way up as we came out of the wooded back yards of a contiguous neighborhood and into the almost golf course feel of the cemetery where no vertical monuments are allowed. My Catholic faith told me to respect the dead and not walk over their graves but around them. Chris never saw the inside of a church and walked in various states of ignorance. We cut across the bone dry grass past the Last Supper Monument toward the fountain of the All Seeing Jesus for a drink of water.

 The deal with that carving was that no matter where you stood, the eyes followed you. It was both freaky and guilt inducing if you had an IQ plus a conscience. I did not suspect then that Chris lacked one or both. However, in the intervening years it has been confirmed. We took a long drink of water that was likely not too pure and walked the last half mile to the store with Jesus staring at our blissfully ignorant backsides. “Oh pride goes before a fall.”

We chilled out in the air conditioned grocery store for as long as we could without attracting too much attention. Chris also liked to shoplift on occasion. My parochial school training (i.e. institutional shame) offset my desire for immediate impulse gratification. On the way past the cigarette vending machine Chris picked up two packets of matches that customers had left behind. It seemed pretty innocent.

On our return trip across the cemetery we stopped for a second drink from the fountain of the All Seeing Jesus and then trekked slowly toward the white oak trees that curved along the perimeter of the graveyard. Chris took out a pack of matches and flicked a lit one into the dry white grass. It immediately caught fire and began to spread. He swooped his Chuck Taylor sneakers across the flames and immediately the fire was over, leaving only a small black stain in the acres of gnarly white carpet.

“That was cool. Let’s see how big we can make the fire.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

Image result for fire in a field pictures

But no sooner were my words out of my mouth than the next match was igniting more dead grass at our feet. The flames spread exponentially it seemed. Every second the fire was double. This time I ran around the edge and smothered the leading edge with my Converse sneakers while Chris stomped out his side.

“That was close, man. Don’t do it again.”

“Oh come on, one more time and then we’ll get out of here.”

And again he carelessly tossed another lit match onto the pale thatch that had been green grass months ago. This time the flames must have had a little breeze aiding them. No matter how we ran and stomped, the ring of fire was faster than our tap dancing feet. Chris began to yell something incomprehensible and then he bolted for the tree line, leaving me alone with the spreading fire among the deceased safely six feet under the flames. Out of nowhere I saw a man in a Jeep come flying at the fire circle. He drove around the perimeter in a heartbeat and then jumped out with a fire extinguisher to finish off the inside flames. Amazingly the fire was out in a minute.

I was sooty, scared and shaking as the man yelled at me. I immediately ratted out Chris as I awaited a lifetime in prison for arson. For some reason the guy let me go, perhaps because I was peeing my pants with fear. I don’t know if Chris ever faced the music for his pyromania. I know that I learned un-incinerated boredom is not so bad after all.

Somehow I knew Jesus had seen it all even though He was facing the other way.

305. Narcissus Maximus Trumpus

I don’t like politics and politicians in general. Whether they are lefties who want to expand government and make the world politically correct at all times for all people or they are righties who need another tax cut while contracting the parts of government that don’t enrich them, I am generally disgusted by their self promotion. Plus, they can never answer a straight forward yes/no question.  It’s always an exercise in CYA. But on top of all these disgusting hacksters there is the supreme narcissist, the gopher pelted, angry, rude, hostile Donald Trump, who lacks a filter of any sort. He is like the diesel pick up truck that billows clouds of black smoke from an oversized exhaust pipe with a sexually suggestive bumper sticker on its tail gate. Essentially these overblown high maintenance idiots are compensating for some major deficit in their lives, but their egos are so inflated that they cannot face the possibility that they are responsible for their own problems. Nope, gotta find someone to blame– immigrants, gays, Islamists, Democrats, POWs, the Chambers of Commerce, the media, the Pope. The problem cannot be in the mirror. So they just keep on blowing smoke.

Which brings me to the Donald who would be king. I don’t believe he wants to be president any more than Robert Mugabe wanted to be president. At least not in the USA. Maybe there is room for him in an African nation. I get the sense that Sir Ronald the Mc Donald wants to be Dictator for Life and King of Scotland, like some Idi Amin fantasy.

You see, in an American style democracy there is a supposed to be a balance of power among the three branches of government. However, since the Donald has to be the smartest, richest, smuggest moron in the room, there is no oxygen left for anyone else to breathe. So in a Trump presidency we’d have to close Congress, shut down the press, and send the courts home till he died. Why?  Because the Donald will take care of all things all the time. Like a Roman emperor/dictator. “Believe me, I have negotiated with the toughest negotiators on the planet and I’ve won. Now they work for me. Do you know how rich I am?”

 So why are we bothering? No sane person could possibly consider the Donald for anything other than a circus, which maybe is what the bigger political picture is. If we are ready to blow up our fragile democracy, then let’s all vote for the Narcissus Maximus Trumpus. He can reinstitute the gladiator fights at RFK stadium, and when the tired ones fall, the Donald can hold his thumb up or down, “You’re fired!” the hordes can all shout as the defeated warrior is cut into shish kabob chunks for the lions to  snack upon.

Some obvious questions  arise when we consider electing Donald as our Emperor Divine for life. Who would be vice emperor?  Certainly we would not need one because the Donald is all powerful and eternal, just ask him. We would, however, need a new government Department of Admiration, which would essentially be a 1,000 woman harem who had graduated from the Trump University of Cosmetic Lobotomies and Idol Worship. They could be housed in the empty Congress building. Who would be able to tell the difference between these ladies and the ones currently “working” there?

The White House would have to be demolished since it is far too small for such a large man. Emperor Donald could move into the Pentagon, the largest office building in the world, after a proper makeover, mostly triumphal arches wide enough for his chariot themed limos to drive through. At the same time the Secret Service would need to be grown by ten thousand percent because there is such an important man to protect now, a man who doesn’t sleep and never shuts up. A man who has alienated even retired nuns who have taken vows of silence and perpetual peace… who are buying guns at record levels. Who doesn’t want to shoot him?

With the Donald as our reigning Divine Emperor of All Things we could finally rename the Redskins to something more politically palatable. I mean, the Donald did own the defunct New Jersey Generals. Let’s see, the Washington Donalds, the Trumpettes, the Toupees, the Emperoritas, the Ignoramuses, the Blowhards, or the Pompous Asses. Maybe we should just ask Donald, since voting will be outlawed by then.

Image result for washington redskins pictures

Donald’s Divinity will be good for tourism also, once he has remodeled. The Washington Mall will need to be redone. The Trump Temple will rise above the Washington Monument, which will function like a speedometer needle pointing to the vortex of Donald’s inflated shrine to self. “Oh the humanity!”, cried the radio announcer when the Hindenburg exploded. Oh, if we could be so lucky and Emperor Donald could self combust from his own bombast blasts.

But I suspect that the Donald will do just that. He is the propane filled Mothra drawn to the flame of  public attention. His inflammatory rhetoric will be ignited by static electric shock from his frizzled coiffure and Boom!!

Image result for donald trump angry pictures

“Bye bye Don
Bye bye  crappiness, hello selflessness
I think I’m-a gonna cry
Bye bye Don
Bye bye crude impress, hello happiness
I feel like I could sigh
Bye bye bully boy, goodbye.

I’m-a through with ignorance, I’m a-through with self love
I’m through with polling this clown above
And here’s the reason that I’m so free
My arrogant Donald is gone, you see.”

 

 

 

 

304. Wrestling Pythons

There is a cop in the alley behind the church, across from the drive up bank, tucked in at an angle where he can see the parking lot without attracting too much attention. Why?  Maybe speeders in the cut through alley; maybe a bank robbery. (Who robs a drive through bank? “Could you give me that in two tubes of twenties?  Thanks. Uh and a lollipop for my kid.”) Oh, how about a drug deal in the parking lot? I think I’ve witnessed one or two between a guy on a bicycle pulling up to an Escalade. They didn’t seem to go together for any good reason I could think of. Cop pulls out– nothing but powdered sugar left behind his acceleration. Gone. Nothing!! I had front row seats for action that vaporized… a pregnant rain cloud that broke into dry steam. Crap! I have to face real work now, calling insurance companies and faxing stuff. But wait…

Oh, good, the floor guys are here today for some distraction before my haircut at 11:30. They have already peeled off the vinyl fake wood floor that bubbled up on me after months of trying to get someone to lay it. In mere minutes these three guys have wrestled a vinyl python into submission.

It is now a fake wood floor covering, but I think of it as a flayed python skin glued onto the subfloor. My hyper-fertile imagination takes over…

“Yes, I bagged this bugger in the Amazon Basin in 2004. Had me in his coils, so he did, alone beneath an enormous Brazilian old growth mahogany tree I was admiring. Before I knew it, he was squeezing tight as a bad vice while I exhaled. Panic began to fill my over pressurized frame.

Climber Pocket Knife (Red)Then I remembered my all purpose utility tool attached to my belt. Fortunately my hands were at belt level and I could manipulate my fingers to open the tool for the grill brush attachment. As it popped open I felt a reassuring thud against the belly of the mammoth beast. I knew I had engaged the brush and began to wiggle it against the pale scales of the muscular monstrosity. Eyeball to eyeball we faced one another, its flickering tongue tasting the salty sweat of my fearless face. My training told me that when a constrictor savors its victim, the next step is opening the jaw for the one piece gorging which follows. I stared into his soulless eyes.

“That’s when I heard a whisper of a breath of hope. The beast’s belly convulsed and the serpent tried not to giggle or show any weakness. I kept methodically wiggling the grill brush, and then it happened. The leviathan laughed out loud with breath that reeked of gastrointestinal decay and putrefaction. With each helpless giggle I felt it loosen its grip on me. I prodded harder with the grill brush against one of its twenty or so sternums. Now I saw fear in the serpent’s vertical pupils. It knew that I had not just one upper hand but two. I grabbed the slippery slitherer by its meaty throat with my left hand, never stopping the tickling with my grill brush. ‘Who’s laughing now?’ I whispered to the once cocky worm.

“When it was completely helpless and recoiled by laughter, I switched the utility tool to its filet knife attachment and proceeded to surgically separate the beast from its scaly hide. Twenty two feet of snakeskin without a drop of blood involved. With a final flourish I snapped the snake’s entire bulkiness out of the souvenir skin. It wriggled away– naked, afraid, and defeated. Oddly pink as if sunburned in this rain forest. ‘He won’t last long in this jungle’, I muttered to no one. Meanwhile I rolled up the hide into a neat tube for office flooring.”

Now I am fully aware that none of this ever happened to anyone at any level of society or at any point in history. But such limitations do not disturb or even challenge me. I plod on against the boredom of the moment as the flooring guys make remarkable progress mere feet from my laptop. They have cut the vinyl beast precisely to fit my S-shaped hallway in the time it took me to fantasize about snake wrestling and fileting. Now they are carefully gluing down the coveted skin. It’s a ticklish process, to be sure. I thank the Lord for my Belgium made utility tool as I watch them cut and paste the complicated vinyl edges. Yes, it’s good to be alive.

Reality, however, is not all that sexy, folks, let’s face it. Some days just don’t pass the excitement test. Elvis, James Brown, Jackie Wilson, Jimi Hendrix… all dead and gone. So it’s up to me to juice up reality. If speeders won’t speed, and robbers won’t rob, and dealers won’t deal,  I need to create an alternate universe where entertaining things do happen. In my world flooring contractors show up with a wild serpent in a tube. Otherwise I’d die of ennui, which looks like emu from a distance. Now there’s a thought, the mighty Emu rushed out of the bush with murderous intent, drawn like a religious fanatic to my orange towel as I shaved in the early Australian dawn…

303. Croquet, Anyone?

It’s not what I expected either, but after a wonderful summer dinner with couples friends, finishing with homemade ice cream on a high fiber gluten free brownie, ummm, we went out into the early evening and picked up croquet mallets and balls. I picked the black one, casting myself as the villain of the group of six. I have never played croquet before in my almost 60 years. Something told me we needed British accents and witty phrases, “Old Boy” and “Sticky Wicket” and all that. Many references to Aussies and Kiwis would be proper good fun, don’t you know? And bloody good pudding from Staffordshire in the boot. Oh those Brits! LOL. Trippy.

We proceeded according to color. Gary, blue, then my wife, the radiant Sara, was red, then me, Gary’s wife Suzanne, yellow, then our hosts, Dan, orange and Susan, green. The colors were intense and very cool. It was remarkably simple to grasp the objective of whacking a ball through wickets, but then the dark side of the croquet world arose as competitive juices began to effervesce like Alka Seltzer in tonic water. Suzanne introduced rule 54…”when your ball contacts another ball, you are entitled to an additional whack. You can choose to hit yours or to send the ball you contacted.” Well, that’s when evil smiled its serpentine grin. Up became down and right became wrong.

“Nice hit, Gary. Strong. Impressive.”

“Good show, wifey. Lots of torque on that spheroid.”

And then I hit the black-hearted globe. “Watch out! He’s competitive”, muttered someone in the gallery behind me. I had unknowingly stepped into a nest of snarky snakes. Vituperous vipers. I felt their fierce fangs filet my frightened fragile flesh.

“I can’t help it if I hit it well. Isn’t that the objective?” Too late. Too late. I was in too deep. It all felt psychedelic at once. Pink Floyd echoed, “If you don’t eat your meat, how can you have any pudding? How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat?”

“No, the objective it to prevent you from winning. Send him Gary. Don’t wait. Punish him now!!”  The soundtrack of the evening switched to a sweeping bass line with electronic bings and buzzes. I realized that the niceties were over and my 007 life was on the line. I lacked technology gizmos to escape.

I appealed to Gary, mano y mano, but he crumbled under power-starved feminine pressure. Oh such villainy! I looked at Suzanne who held five ceramic human figureheads in her hands. She was squeezing the blue headed one like a voodoo doll… and Gary twitchingly complied.

And just like that– my black ball was sent rocketing away at an impossible angle to the wicket.

“Oh, I see how this is gonna be. Every dog for himself. Well, look out, cuz Pit Bull be here. And you a Chihuahua, bro dog. Better git back to where you once belonged. Git back Loretta.”

I took off the proverbial gloves on my next shot, caroming off Gary’s blue ball and winning another shot. Rather than exiling him into the thick grass yonder, however, I shot my ball through the wicket honorably forward with malice toward none and fraternity for all. I tried to set an example of cool professionalism and sportsmanship, knowing full well that I had been drugged at dinner. Sue’s brownie! She left without eating one. She was Judas in July.

Soon the first four were ahead of the hosts by a wicket or two. Lots of clocking and clacking and whicking and whacking was going on. I will own up to doing a few illegal booty dance celebrations after a remarkable shot or two. But in my defense I must add that there were no children about. Still, resentment grew toward my success. Their conniving was palpable on this humid night of ignominy. It seemed like I was moving under many leagues of hallucinogenic water.

I felt the jealous hand of fate draw an x on my back as I approached my next wicket. By this point in the competition I had accused the others of being croquet-stipated and stuck. I’d sung “Mustang Sally” in tribute to Wicked Wilson Pickett, the original Sticky Wicket. And a James Brown “Hit Me!” routine. But my impromptu jestering was not appreciated. Resentment grew and the conspiracy along with it. I was trying to inject some urban hip hop funky Broadway into this stiff  Anglican affair. But like the first banana out of any bunch, I would soon be peeled. Devoured by cruel monkeys.

With one wicket to go, a magnetic force field curved my ball off at an unnatural angle. It was clear to me that alien forces had been summoned by Gary, Suzanne and even my own wife. She had cast her lot with the Moral Munchkins, the little people of croquet, the Lollipop League.

You think you know someone until you play a competitive game with them. I shouldn’t have been surprised, though. Scrabble games often end with blood under the table, my blood. I’ve been told that I’m a bad winner but an excellent loser. I guess that’s my destiny– the arrow catcher, pin cushion, punching bag, poop magnet. I needed help as badly as Dorothy needed the Wizard of Oz.  It looked bad as my frenemies piled on and whacked me away from the victory wicket that was rightfully mine. And then it happened.

Over the western tree line a hot air balloon appeared. The pilot was a vaguely familiar man with a top hat. He masterfully guided the balloon onto the Martins’ lawn. No easy feat. He introduced himself as the next senior pastor of our church. “I got here as fast as I could, but there were flying monkeys that grounded all the flights out of Pittsburgh, plus the property commissioner was absent for the final vote.”  We welcomed him most graciously as Suzanne hid her ceramic voodoo doll collection and her gravity shifting controller.

 Then it hit me: this was not our pastoral candidate. It was Mark Sanford. It all came together then. The entire evening was a scam, a fundraiser for the 16th Republican candidate for president. I’d been Amwayed again, but the brownie buzz was even better than the colonoscopy anesthesia that trips you out so good. Finally I had a grip on reality again. Croquet, Anyone?

 

 

 

302. Forgiveness vs. Emotional Constipation

 

Lots of folks are stuck, or as I like to say, emotionally constipated. They can’t get past some hurt or offense, some slight or inconsideration.  So they slaver over their hurt like a dog with a meaty bone. Try to take it away and you will lose a limb. It does not make sense on first thought that someone would cling to a hurt as if it were a family heirloom. Why hoard an infection or grasp possessively  at cancer? The indignant victim claims “Justice! I want justice!!” but all they have is anger that distills into wormwood bitterness over time. One sip will blind even the man who has built up tolerance to lesser liquors.

Well, let’s look closer. When a person is hurt by someone else, there is a split second or more in which the mind determines what emotional reaction to display. Often the reaction  is limited to sadness (letting go of the hurt) or anger (gripping tightly to the offense). Sadness yields control; anger seizes it. If you visit a pre school, watch what reactions arise when one toddler takes another toddler’s toy. Tears or hitting, whimpering or screaming. But there are other combinations of emotional responses one can make, depending on maturity and modeling examples.

Now a concrete fictional example. My buddy calls and says, “Hey, I got free tickets to the Steelers game in Baltimore from my brother-in-law. December game. Wanna go?”

“Are you kidding?  Of course. What do I need to do?”

“Nothing. There are four tickets, so I’m gonna see if my son and grandson want to come along too.”

“Awesome! Keep me posted so I can keep my schedule clear.”

“Okay. Later.”

Time goes by. We chat here and there, but instead of getting clearer, it gets fuzzier. Eddie is vague and talks about if he gets the tickets instead of when. “What do you mean, IF?”

“Well,  Tom is backing up on the offer. He wants me to take his grandkids now.”

“Are they coming?”

“One of them wants to…”

“So what does that mean?”

“You’re out, man. Sorry.”

***************************************************************************

Here’s where the menu of options and combos arises.

1. Anger with some guilting attached.

“Bolsheviks, man! Couldn’t you have just not dealt me in to begin with?”

2. Victim drama and operatic exit.

“I can’t believe it! I mean, the hurt and betrayal are overwhelming. I have to go puke.”

3. Just tears and sobbing.

“No, sniffle, sniffle. How could you? No, uh, uh, uh, the hurt hurts so stinkin’ bad.”

4. Reverse energy attack.

“You spineless scumbag! You lied to me and aren’t man enough to keep your word.”

5. Pure guilt.

“After all I have done for you. I gave you blood, man. I gave you my kidney back in ’08. I want it back. NOW!!”

6. The fake with a twist of sour grapes.

“Oh, no problem. I wasn’t that interested anyway. I have a free community concert to go to that day anyway. No blood, no foul, man. It’s cool. Actually, I don’t like either team, you know. Plus, that late in the season they’ll be playing for nothing. Bunch of thugs anyway. No worries.”

7. Revenge.

“Oh I understand completely…which is why I am uninviting you to our New Year’s party. Yeah, just tear up the invitation if we send you one by mistake.”

8. Humor.

“That’s really funny, man. You got me going for a second. Pulling the rug out from under me. I mean it, you got me. A masterful ploy. Oh that’s too funny. You kill me. I get it. You punked me, Dude. Well done.”

9. Denial.

“This is not happening. It’s impossible. You are lying. I am going. I can’t hear you. Lalalalala.”

10. Passive aggression.

“So, okay. Um, but I booked a hotel room for that night, you know. Baltimore is sold out of rooms for that weekend. So, uh, if I cancel I’ll be out $160. So you’re gonna cover that, right?”

11. Self blame.

“I knew it was too good to be true. I’m a fool. No one really likes me for me. I’m a loser. I wouldn’t take myself to a pro football game either. I’m a waste of time and skin.”

**********************************************************************************

Image result for psycho face  pictures

Not one of these reactions is a very healthy way out of the situation. Each of these options will keep the actor stuck in a place of bitterness and repetition rather than a healthy resolution. So I offer forgiveness as the preferred response to hurts.

The uninvited guy played by me… “Well, thanks for telling me. I can see it was hard for you.”

Ticket withholder buddy, “Yeah, I was dreading this scene. I’ve gone over it a hundred times and could not find a respectful way to tell you. I’m just sorry, man.”

“Okay, it really sucks. I was excited and told everyone I was going, you know, I really played it up.”

“Oh, no. Look, just tell them I blew it. It’s on me not you.”

” It’s not really. You got stuck in the middle. I’ve been in binds like that before. Remember that painting job I got into where the paint never hardened?”

“Yeah, what a nightmare!”

“It was my painting Vietnam. I got hung out to dry and abandoned by the paint guys. They could have resolved the situation easily, but they chose to lie to me. Thanks for not lying to me.”

“Whew. Are you pissed at me?”

“No. I’m disappointed and a little embarrassed, but I’m not angry with you. You are the messenger, Eddie. You are my friend. That’s more important than a stupid maybe awesome football game.”

“Thanks for handling this so graciously. I felt so stupid and rude. I told Tom I wasn’t going to the game.”

“No, don’t do that for me.”

“It’s not about you. I don’t like getting jerked around either.”

“So you’re really not going?”

“Yup.”

“Can I have your ticket?”  (Followed by edgy laughter.)

“You suck, man, but you’re my buddy. Thanks.”

301. Thank You, Talibanditos

I was reading about the recent attack of teenaged Afghan girls who had acid thrown in their young faces by Taliban extremists. (Pardon the redundancy.) At first I didn’t get it. I thought that it was finally safe for Afghanistan’s next generation of women to attend school so that they would not be such total fanatical idiots like the morons who attacked them. It bothered me until the other day while I was cutting the grass and my numb mind wandered. I suddenly got the logic of the Taliban idiots. They have several good reasons for disfiguring innocent school girls

1. By pouring acid in these girls’ faces, the Talibuttheads could make the girls as ugly on the outside as the attackers are on the inside. Seeing their handiwork displayed forever will show folks for as long as these girls live just how ugly a heart poisoned by hatred can to be.  And not only one zealous Talijerk, but the whole lot of them. And as they scream “jihad and Allahu Akbar” on deaf ears, only scarred faces and mute mouths will silently stand witness. These poor girls won’t pray out loud to Allah, for what kind of God condemns his own daughters to be maimed? Thanks, Taliban Carcinogeniuses, you have answered the previous rhetorical question for the world. Chemical de-vangelists. Brilliant cretins who worship annihilation. Ground zero is your holy spot; your god is plutonium. “Here’s a toast to you guys. Yes, it’s hydrochloric acid. Tastes like bleachy poison with a hint of charcoal finish, huh? The second sip doesn’t burn so much, though.”

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2. Blinding the next generation of women makes them as blind as their attackers. In this way they won’t be able to read their Korans or any other texts. Instead they can live a life of impoverished dependence on hysterical fundamental mullahs who shriek in the name of the Prophet with pure venom. After all, acid is simply the distilled liquid form of their fanatical verbal streams. Instead of just deadening the listeners’ ears with toxic steam, acid eye wash can burn out retinas, blotting out most of God’s beauty. Thank you, Talibandits for your gift of the blind leading the blind. Your example is perfectly despicable.

The poppy flower.

3. Blinding young women keeps them as ignorant as their attackers and guarantees more ignorant devolution. They will get to wallow in the victim hot tub of religious quicksand till death. What an agonizingly delicious deal! The gift of incompetent stupidity passes to the next generation. Hatred and vengeance served hot on a pita with hummus and a celery stalk. Reminds me of the old Asimov line, “Violence is the final refuge of the incompetent.” How true!!  These Talibaboons cannot make, invent, discover or create anything. Instead they destroy, even their own young. Like their first cousins Isis, nothing is sacred, nothing is holy, certainly not human life. They recruit the next human wave like heroin dealers selling opiates to the hopeless. Truth is the first victim of warfare and religious zealotry. The dealers promise vibrant poppy flower salvation but deliver oppression via dead opium bulbs.

The opium factory.

4. Worshiping violence and death is easier than protecting life, culture, art, beauty, love, and the good of mankind. But it’s all or nothing with Talibuttons, and since they lack competence, their answer to complex issues is nothing cubed. Just look at the before and after  pictures of Buddhist carvings in Bamiyan.

They were dynamited and destroyed in March 2001 by the Taliban, on orders from leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, after the Taliban government declared that they were idols. And of course, the world is a safer place now without these irreplaceable antiquities. Who needs history? Idiots don’t. It’s like giving wristwatches to chimpanzees. Thanks for absolute intolerance and mono-monotheist nihilism. Your purity, Talibanzais, makes things so clear.

5. Thanks for making it so clear that evil exists in a pure form. Many times issues overlap and get quite complicated in our modern world. They take time to sort out and categorize. Not this one. Thank you, Talibitemes, for simplifying while magnifying your infantile blind rage with Stone Age clarity. Your black stain on humanity can be seen from a satellite in space, but you probably have a fatwah against space crafts. So let’s just say, we can see it from the Kyber Pass. It’s not religion, it’s not culture, it’s not a value system that you represent. It is the same old opium paste of hate and power and greed with automatic weapons.

6. In a free society it is easy to get distracted by lovely things, trivial things, even sports and landscaping television shows. Thanks again, Taliburdens, for bringing the focus back to the gates of Hell, where blind mullahs lead blind girls into eternity under the blind eyes of Cerberus. Thanks again for reminding me of Marvin Gaye’s fatalistic line, “Only three things for sure: taxes, death and trouble.”

 

 

300. Pining

Percy Sledge is singing “When a Man Loves a Woman” as I am constructing my 300th post. It’s been over three years that I’ve been at this blog business, and it still feels fresh and interesting to me. Sort of like my marriage. Surprisingly. I’m still surprised by language and human behavior, so I guess I’ll keep pecking away at my keyboard and the edges of credibility… and stay married. Though Steve tells me that my stuff lately has been too esoteric ( my word). I don’t know what to say. I can’t be shallow all the time. Doug agreed all too quickly that my blogularization mix is too dense and seems to be getting stuck in the chute. He suggested more fiber. I don’t know. My faithful readers, give me some feedback here. Dear Vera gave me high praises the other day at the coffee shop, but she is so nice that I’m afraid if I wore a cardboard box around town she’d say, “You look good in brown. Are you with UPS now? Anyway, I love it!”

So, back to Percy Sledge…

“When a man loves a woman
Can’t keep his mind on nothing else
He’ll trade the world
For the good thing he’s found
If she’s bad he can’t see it
She can do no wrong
Turn his back on his best friend
If he put her down

When a man loves a woman
Spend his very last dime
Trying to hold on to what he needs
He’d give up all his comfort
Sleep out in the rain
If she said that’s the way it ought to be

Well, this man loves a woman
I gave you everything I had
Trying to hold on to your precious love
Baby, please don’t treat me bad

When a man loves a woman
Down deep in his soul
She can bring him such misery

If she plays him for a fool
He’s the last one to know
Loving eyes can’t ever see

When a man loves a woman
He can do no wrong
He can never own some other girl
Yes when a man loves a woman
I know exactly how he feels
‘Cause baby, baby, baby, you’re my world

When a man loves a woman”

Songwriters
WRIGHT, ANDREW JAMES / LEWIS, CALVIN HOUSTON

Well, I suppose there is a point here. I love my wife. Mind you, I am not sleeping out in the rain or blind to her faults, nope. I am dry and warm, all snugged up while she’s been away for two weeks with our Grandbaby Cow Yodee. She left me a honey do list five inches wide and 29 inches long, taped to the kitchen counter. It was not all hard labor. For instance, item one said, “Pine for your wife and daughter. Miss us till it hurts.” I wasn’t sure how to pine. I know it means longing for something or someone who is not present, often a loved one. So I sat there at the granite counter top and tried to pine. I wailed. I pouted. I covered my face with both hands. I sniffed vinegar. Nothing came out. No pineage.

Well, I am no quitter. I thought outside the box. (There’s a shocker, huh?) I opened the refrigerator and found some pineapple preserves, which I slathered on a toasted English muffin. I chomped on that sucker while listening to some low down blues on my Pandora Blues station. Nothing. I was failing miserably with item one. Eleven more tasks swarmed below it, mocking me. I couldn’t take it. A sweaty panic broke out all over me. I had to run outside, though it was raining again. But I knew what I needed to do. I went over two yards where our neighbor has a nice white pine tree. Beneath its lofty branches is a wide natural bed of ginger needles with a few pine cones here and there. I picked up the smallest one I could find and returned to my empty house, shaking with fear and exultation.

I could not find any recipes for pine cones, only pine nuts. No help. I was on my own. I steamed it to soften the bristly cone and then microwaved it for good measure. I soaked it in white wine then covered it in a hazelnut chocolate spread. Finally I did my best python impression and swallowed the pine confection whole. It was painful and awkward and hard to breathe. Yet, I knew I was doing the right thing. I felt my upper gastrointestinal system scratch and scream against the foreign object. I kept swallowing hoping to pass the organic grenade. No luck.

And then I realized:  I was pining, full bore pining!! Elation rose up and filled my head like helium and dental gas . I was giddy as long as I did not move because that brittle wooden cone slugged mercilessly through the twists and turns of my intestines like the Santa Maria through the mud flats of Hispaniola. I cried out, “Baby! I love you and I hurt! I am pining for you. Don’t do me like this!!! You got to come home.”

By day three I knew was in trouble. Things weren’t moving as expected. Apparently my gastric juices and enzymes were no match for the spindly wooden missile stuck in my lower g.i. I hesitated to call the doctor and explain what I’d done. I didn’t want to risk the harsh judgment I expected. “You did what? Huh? How stupid are you?”

Eventually the pain of the blockage overrode my pride. The price of pining was too great for me to pay. I was torn between calling an upper g.i. doc or a lower g.i. guy. I flipped a coin and went with tails. After a nine hour surgery I was deconed and no longer pining. I got home just in time to tear up the incomplete honey do list and make it look like a break in had occurred. Whoa, Dude, I never want to pine again.

 

299. Coincidental Miracles

Coincidence is what non believers call unexplainable phenomena in their lives, stuff that seems to have been orchestrated by an intelligent higher being that they don’t believe in, so they say, “Wow, what a coincidence!” Instead of “That’s miraculous!”  Coincidence works in the secular scientific materialistic explanation of the world and human behaviors. Here’s an example:  If a blind, lame Great Dane fell off a plane over Kentucky in May during the Derby race and happened to survive the landing and then ran ahead of the million dollar horses to win the race… “Well, what a coincidence!” just wouldn’t reflect the reality witnessed. I’m sorry; it leaves something to be desired. If a team of insurance company actuaries figured the odds and then had their math checked by MIT mathematicians and Google gurus, what would the odds of success be? 1 in 1,000,000,0000,000,000,000. Essentially zero. And yet these folks would scoff at the idea of a higher power being involved. Absurd, either way you look at it.

Serendipity, on the other hand, more accurately reflects the reality than coincidence does.

1. noun.  an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident. It suggests that someone could have an aptitude, a predisposition for experiencing very cool occurrences. That’s better but not quite the right size nut for this metaphorical bolt. Too loose… won’t hold under pressure. Dictionary.com tells me that the origin of this word is from a fairy tale called The Three Princes of Serendip. Fairy tales often incorporate magic and inexplicable super powers. However, I’m not comfortable hanging my beliefs on a magic spell or a secret super power any more than I’d want to hang my health on a pharmaceutical cocktail from the apothecary.
A miracle, on the third hand, is an event not explicable by natural or scientific laws. Such an event may be attributed to a supernatural being (God or gods), a miracle worker, a saint or a religious leader. Theologians say that, with divine providence, gods regularly work through created nature yet are free to work without, above, or against it as well. Okay, now the blind, lame Great Dane can win the Kentucky Derby not on his own power but through the power of God.
In Yoro, Honduras they have a parade each year to celebrate the Miracle of the Raining Fish that supposedly occurred a long time ago to end a famine in this desolate mountain town. You probably think I’m making this up, and I don’t blame you. However, if you trust Wikipedia, here’s a note on the subject:
Spanish priest Father José Manuel Subirana was a figure in the history of Christianity in Honduras. He arrived in Honduras in 1855 and worked here until his death in 1864. Today the name of Father Subirana is linked with the legend of Yoro fish rain “lluvia de peces”. The legend tells the following: “Father Subirana saw how poor are the people in Honduras and prayed 3 days and 3 nights asking God for a miracle to help the poor people and to provide them food. After these three days and nights God took note of this and there came a dark cloud. Lots of tasty fish rained from the sky, feeding all the people. Since then this wonder is repeated every year.”
Every once in a while freaky things do occur in life, defying all odds and expectations. Only ignorant folks brush them off. Here is one from the memory banks for you that lands between coincidence and miracle… and it is true.
In 1982 I taught 10th grade remedial English at the local high school. Among the repeaters were two Korean kids, Jae Taik and his sister Min Jeung. Min had “failed” English because she struggled with basic English and needed a tutor. Instead she was given Watership Down and told to read and report on it. Jae Taik, on the fourth hand, had just finished 8th grade. I was confused about his presence. I asked  him why he was in my remedial English class. He said, “I want to learn.”  I was suspicious. The next day I pulled him aside and told him I knew why he was there. “You are your sister’s insurance policy, her ringer to pass. Right?”
Avoiding eye contact he told me, “Sir, I want to learn.”
I replied, “Hey, you aced the pretest, so you already know this grammar material. There is nothing else in this course. So let’s make a deal:  I guarantee you that Min Jeung will pass summer school. What would you like to learn?”
 Image result for breakfast club pictures
Sheepishly he told me he liked astronomy and Star Wars. I thought a moment and suggested that we read the Greek myths, which actually have connections to astronomy and the quest theme of Star Wars. He accepted. Min Jeung passed summer school. Jae Taik and I became close and spent some additional time with my family. The next fall he tried to play football. He was a decent place kicker but was told a senior was going to do the kicking even though Jae Taik was better. “Which Korea are you from, Kid?” he was asked. It was one of many shames for this lonely young man on the outside looking in.  His family moved to Los Angeles a year later. I heard from him once or twice a year with beautiful Korean cards. I was not and never did get used to being treated with such respect.
 **** Harp music plays in the background*****
In 1993 I had a student teacher, a tall Mexican/Indian American named David Vega. He was a very polished guy despite growing up in the tougher part of Los Angeles and attending L.A. High. He told me about playing guitar and basketball in high school. He mentioned his friend J.T., who I assumed was a Black guy from his ‘hood.  Never once did it occur to me that he was even the same age as Jae Taik, let alone that they could have possibly run into one another, or, on the fifth hand, been a close friend with him during high school.
As fate, coincidence, serendipity or God would have it, I picked up Jae Taik one weekend in 1998 or so when he was in D.C. for a visit. I was listening to flamenco guitar on the c.d. player. He mentioned that he liked it too, and that his old friend David Vega played flamenco guitar.  I said, “How about that. My student teacher’s name was David Vega and he played flamenco guitar… but it’s impossible that you could know him.”
“Six five, green eyes, black hair?”
“Yeah, but it’s not even imaginable that in a country with 300 million people…”
Well, it was. The next evening David and J.T. and I walked together down my street after dinner feeling very euphoric and magical, or should I say blessed? But it was merely a coincidence, the odd intersection of fate with serendipity… or maybe a small miracle.