470. Racism: a fish in foul water

Image result for eel picturesSo today’s coffee nation was immensely and intensely different. Article 2. of Coffee Nation was suspended– the eelish topic of politics was not only broached but pontificated upon.  Brother Lance came in loaded for bear or killer whales and held court for two hours, laying down the Word on the Mayweather/McGregor fight for an appetizer; followed by soup and salad conversation on the NCAA’s use and abuse of its student athletes. But the main enchilada entree was the terminally frozen, occasionally thawed, oyster shelled conundrum of American racism. Lance is not a wild-eyed one station talk radio racist. Nope. He’s a conservative Black Army vet who wanted to be a state policeman. He’s a personal trainer, a skilled barber, and a witty raconteur. He’s also a Steelers fan, having grown up in the projects of Pittsburgh. He can preach like James Harrison can de-cleat grown men, at least I think he’d like to hear this comparison to the man of steel, since Lance likes to claim…Image result for james harrison pictures

“I was born in the basement of a steel mill. Baptized in the Monongahela. Sanctified on Heinz Field. Mesmerized by Fred Rogers. Mystified by Andy Warhol. And Raptured by Roberto Clemente.”

For those unfamiliar with the Coffee Nation Constitution, Article 2. states clearly,

NO discussion of modern politics of any sort beyond superficial notations of the day’s news. Coffee Nation does not pick winners or losers. We are a collection of Losers and no better than those who aspire to higher office. Violators of Article 2. will be subjected to Lance’s razor wit until death or coma ensues. In the case of Lance being the violator, he will be executed in a shrink wrap singlet by Gary, using an industrial strength heat gun. Should Gary be too indisposed or excited by the prospect, that duty shall pass to Steve, who will apply heat without consideration of mercy.

The Nation was well attended this morning– Barrister Joel, Protein Gene, Jerry Gary, Rebel Ron, Kevlar +1 & -2, and Sir Doug of the Uplights. All white guys ranging in age and educational backgrounds, but mostly 50+ birthdays each, or 350+ years of white guy experience all told.

Image result for lancelot picturesSir Lancelot began to prance a lot on the hot spots that make folks twitch and squirm… racial pressure points. It’s amazing how unracist one may believe himself to be, only to be surgically exposed as defensive white leper scales are filleted away with composed passion.

Image result for colin kaepernick pictures“So let’s talk about Kaepernick, okay?  Dude won’t stand during the national anthem, right? So as a Black man I wondered what that was all about. So I did some research. Verse 3 is the catch.”

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore,
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a Country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash’d out their foul footstep’s pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

So what is that referring to?

Wikipedia says this…

In total, about 4000 Africans escaped to the British by way of the Royal Navy, the largest emancipation of African Americans prior to the American Civil War. About 2000 settled in Nova Scotia and about 400 settled in New Brunswick. 

“Bottom line? Kaepernick is made out to be unpatriotic, unAmerican, communist. Dangerous dude. Unemployable. Sound familiar. MLKing got the same treatment.”

Some of those freed Africans fought against the United States later in the war. Here’s a picture of  a Black British Marine, a freed American slave. Never saw him in my history books. Never heard their story. A drawing of a soldier with a musket, wearing a light coloured uniform with dark facings, a white crossbelts, a hat and a packNever heard the unveiled threat of a promise to hunt down and/or kill these “traitors”, who fled slavery for freedom, the divine right that our Founding Fathers were so enamored of… for white folks. White Confederate traitors got statues erected in their honor for slaughtering their fellow Americans. Hmmm. Oh yeah, they were 5/5’s human. That 1/5 thing really hurts.

Also, I didn’t realize that our national anthem was not adopted as such until 1931, a time of great Jim Crow oppression. Ironic that the sporting events where it was sung religiously prohibited minorities from participating on the sports fields. Here is a small sampling of Crow from Georgia…Image result for segregated restaurant pictures

  • “All persons licensed to conduct a restaurant, shall serve either white people exclusively or colored people exclusively and shall not sell to the two races within the same room or serve the two races anywhere under the same license.”
  • “It shall be unlawful for any amateur white baseball team to play baseball on any vacant lot or baseball diamond within two blocks of a playground devoted to the Negro race, and it shall be unlawful for any amateur colored baseball team to play baseball in any vacant lot or baseball diamond within two blocks of any playground devoted to the white race.”

I wish that I were making this stuff up. I’m not.

So, Brother Lance continued with great animation to walk across the sanitized pages of White Supremacy history.

“I mean, look at Rosa Parks. She’s portrayed as this tired out woman who was too fatigued to move to the back of the bus. B.S.! She was an organizer who believed in organized resistance. She was a determined resister not the soft, one time victim on a bus. But you didn’t know that.”Image result for rosa parks pictures

Americans are convinced they know this civil rights hero. In textbooks and documentaries, she is the meek seamstress gazing quietly out of a bus window — a symbol of progress and how far we’ve come. When she died in 2005, the word “quiet” was used in most of her obituaries and eulogies. We have grown comfortable with the Parks who is often seen but rarely heard. [Wash. Post.]

“Whoever writes the history books gets to tell their narrative. Honorable Blacks are humble, patient, meek or else they are dangerously dishonorable,” Lance continued.

He gave searing personal examples he had experienced that blew my hair back like a blow torch.

My subtly suppressed racism sizzled all around me. I didn’t know what I didn’t know, like a fish does not know what water is because it is so ever present.

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“As long was we suppress the truth and build false narratives, this evil will live. Ignorance attempts to breathe life into dead things.”


469. Race: A simple thing

Image result for 1960's black neighborhoods in D.C. picturesI was thinking about Race the other day and how its crisp shadows still linger on in our fractured gypsum society. See, I grew up in the 1960’s when race riots ravaged many U.S. cities. Still have a vivid memory of black smoke billowing over Washington, D.C. as my school bus rode up the hill on Memorial Drive toward Route One. The Nation’s capital on fire for days, the National Guard on duty up and down 14th Street. Martial law in place. That was April 1968, folks, immediately after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. A total of 110 U.S. cities saw riots that week. The underlying kindling had been drying out for decades– housing discrimination, poor education, high unemployment rates, and discriminatory policing practices– in Black communities. On April 4, 1968 the emotional match hit the dried out kindling and poof, a fire made of volatile racism and kerosene soaked anger exploded. The center could not hold any longer. Makes me recall Langston Hughes’ poem,  A Dream Deferred.

Image result for rotting raisin  imagesWhat happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode? 


 At the time, Chicago was known as an industrial hub that offered better opportunities for those seeking employment in the railroad and meatpacking industries, as the Windy City offered the best prospects for self-determination, survival and success. Rosskam captured the image above showing men outside of a store on the South Side Like most cities, D.C. had a Black center. This was by design. The Fair Housing Act of 1968 was passed the same year of the riots to prohibit discrimination in sale or rental of properties to minorities. Till then certain red lines existed that marked where minorities could/ should reside. Society deferred to these red lines until the explosion. Yep, we needed a law to say that you could no longer refuse to sell your house to a Black or Brown person, simply because you did not like their color. There are still neighborhoods with legal covenants barring the sale of houses to Blacks. You might want to check your deed if you live in an older neighborhood. They won’t stand a legal challenge but remain in deeds anyway. Deferred till explosion.

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I’ll never forget our overtly racist neighbor Ruby bragging out loud to anyone who would listen that she told a Black man who offered to buy her house for cash on the spot, “I don’t dislike my neighbors enough to sell my house to a Black man.” As if selling your house to a minority were some unforgivable cultural taboo… which I guess it was back then. Horrid to say, but worse, others chuckled at her audacity. No one, as my memory serves me, expressed shock or confusion. Justice deferred till explosion. [Historical note:  Truth is Ruby didn’t like anyone she couldn’t control.]

Image result for newsboy pictures delivering papersThe same sort of dynamics were in play when I was out collecting for my paper route, The Evening Star, the night MLK was murdered. I was between customer houses just off Jefferson Lane. I heard a raucous cheer go up in the next house, which I thought was odd for a weeknight, a Thursday at that.  ‘What blood sport could they be cheering?’ I wondered to myself. When I got there, the white residents were hooping and hollering with cheap PBR beers in hand, “They finally shot that N****R!!” It was a good day for the KKK and white supremacists. “Cheers.” The moron gave me a tip, the only tip he’d ever given. A week later the euphoria turned to paranoia as good, God fearing white folks got their guns out to fend off the ferocious Black mobs that were breaking the law in D.C., a mere 10 miles away. No doubt they would want to pillage these cookie cutter white trash houses where rednecks drank cheap beer and cheered the death of a Black man. Their debt deferred, Deferred till explosion.

Image result for donut shop imagesSo it seems to me that racism is like a donut shop where any type of donut is possible in theory, including diverse combinations never before heard of, but Ronnie Racist only makes white powder donuts– no cinnamon, no glazed, definitely no chocolate, no creme filled nor fruit added. No brown, yellow, orange, sprinkled, or pink. Nope, just white powder. When you go inside and ask Why? you’re told,  “Cuz we only ever made white powder and that’s all we ever want to make. All the rest is race mixin’ communist donut holes. We are here to save the white donut race. White Powder! White Powder!”

A neo-Nazi goads anti-fascist protesters at opposing demonstrations

Out of nowhere come wild-eyed skin heads waving swastikas and confederate flags, chanting, “White Powder. White Powder. White Powder.” They claim historical correctness in that our founding fathers wore white powder in their wigs while simultaneously owning slaves.

Image result for washington in white powder wig pictures

In their full-throated exuberance, logic is lost. Jews and news and things that rhyme with yous, are all tossed together in the parking lot of the donut shop. Marching in circles they raise a chorus, “We are white, we are right, powder, powder, powder. Fight, fight, fight.”  “Flour and oil. Flour and toil. Flour and broil.” “Glutens will not replace us.” “We got guns, you got chowder. You are clams, we are powder. White powder.” “No one claimed we were smarter. We dropped out when school got harder.” “White powder, white powder, white, white, white powder.” “I love America, never doubt her.”

Image result for on/off switch pictures

Racist thinking isn’t thinking at all. It’s on/off light switching with no sense of spectra or continua, i.e., dimmer switches. All or nothing thinking does not have to hold on to a third factor, like carrying a number from the ones column to the tens or figuring out a simple algebra problem. “If x squared is 16, then x must be _______?” It’s so much easier to just fall back on the comfortable wet diaper of the known– “If a straight white boy gets with a straight white girl, they will have straight white babies who love God, country, and other white people. Like it used to be when America was great the first time. Amen.”

See, it’s simple. Who needs raisins anyhow?

468. The Key

Image result for man with broad shoulders picturesYou can’t see them from your monitors, Bloggoiters, but I have very broad shoulders figuratively speaking.  What I mean is that I can mock myself and/or share less than positive info on myself. And that is the essence of this post– the essence of absence, as you will see, of common sense.

Image result for warfordsburg pa picturesSo, I wanted to run to Warfordsburg and visit with my friends Pat and Clark before they took off for their big wide west tour in a week. Also, Clark had an abundant peach crop on his half dozen trees that he wanted to share with me/us. My bride agreed –despite some intestinal distress– to roll down after church on Sunday. “We’ll visit for lunch and try to be home by 6 pm.  I’ll cut up some cheese and fruit. How about that?”

“Fine. I’ll text them back.”

Image result for giant grocery store imagesAs you might have already guessed, the plan fell apart. We were both tired from cutting the grass and sealing the driveway on Saturday. Too tired to prepare the plate we promised to bring.  “We’ll stop at Giant on the way. Sure. No problem.”

Image result for passing a note memeSitting in Sunday School my lovely one handed me a note saying she was gonna go to urgent care; the pain had returned; I should go to Warfordsburg; I’m sorry don’t hate me. Before I could respond, she had already asked one of our friends for a ride home.  Pfffffffff!!! I must admit I don’t like when someone else does my thinking, feeling and acting for me. But what are you gonna do? It was a fait accompli. I smiled and exited dutifully.Image result for clenched teeth face

Okay, I’d already given Clark the go ahead to roast that pork loin. I’d go alone, but I’d have to run by the grocery store and pick up the cheeses and fruit, plus a bottle of light white wine. I was preoccupied with my wife’s situation and needed to call Clark to reduce the number of guests by one. Checking my clock, I saw that I was already twenty minutes behind my anticipated departure time.

Into the store and quickly I found the five items on my mental list. Not bad. Out I rolled to my ocean blue Honda CRV in the 84 degree sunshine. I clicked my key fob and nothing happened. “Huh.”Image result for man locked out of his car in parking lot pictures

Repeat. Same thing. Hmmmmmm. I stuck the actual key in the actual keyhole. Turned. Nothing. I reversed sides and turned again. Nothing.

No. This can’t be. I assumed only one thing, two actually: first, the lithium battery in the fob was dead; and the key I had was actually the valet key. I looked for the tailgate keyhole. None. None on the other side door. Perplexed, I waited and determined I could solve this problem.Image result for pictures of inside a key fob with battery

“MMMMMMM. Lithium batteries. I bought some at the Dollar Store once. I’ll just go and do that again. And I’ll buy a cheap set of tiny screwdrivers to open the fob. I’ll swap out the dead one for the live one and voila!  I can see it all now. You can’t keep a good man down.”  (Editor’s note:  However, you can keep a stupid man down, quite easily. Just don’t interrupt him.)

Image result for images of inside dollar storeI took the cut up fruit and wine and cheese and crackers with me. I grabbed a set of screwdrivers and two lithium batteries that looked to be the right size. $2.12 later I was taking the fob apart and uncovering the factory installed lithium battery, which was of course, much smaller than the ones I’d just bought. Dang it!! I went back to the abbreviated battery display and concluded that the Dollar Store’s automotive key fob battery selection was minimal. I was dead in the water again like a mercury poisoned carp.Image result for dead carp pictures

I walked back toward the Giant store and checked their expanded battery display. No # 34 lithiums for sale. My carpe diemed again. Lithium poisoning this time.

I went back out into the 86 degree sunshine and rubbed the fob erotically and superstitiously this time. “Come on, Baby. Daddy loves you.” Nothing. I was broken. Why? I was now an hour behind schedule. I called Clark to let him know and then pondered my bleak options. My bride was in urgent care. My driving daughter was in Harrisburg. I could walk home the 8 miles, pick up the spare key fobs, and make it back round trip in four sweaty hours or so, if I was not hit by a hay wagon or a distracted pick up truck.Related image

Desperation was kicking in… when I thought of my hero, my future son-in-law who lives a mere two blocks away. That’s it!! Zach will take me home and back. I can salvage this nightmare yet. Fortunately Zach answered his cell phone and was home. Two awesome things that needed to both happen. I explained my stupid situation and he responded promptly. I retreated back into the air conditioned grocery store.Image result for man on cell phone meme

Zippity doo da, zippity ahhh, off we flew along the back roads. I burst into my house only to find my wife who had not gone to urgent care yet. “Why didn’t you call me?”

“I thought you were at urgent care.”

“You should have called me anyway.”

“Okay, later.”


Reverse zippity doo da and the next key fob I pulled out of my pocket did the trick immediately. “Yes, yes, yes.” I did the happy dance on the hot asphalt, hopped in and started the car.

“A million thanks, Zach.”

“You owe me a nap.”

“I’ll take one and mail it to you.”

“Thanks. Later.”

“Later.”Image result for happy man driving meme

I could not recall the last time I felt so fortunate to turn this CRV key in the ignition. Maybe two years ago when we bought the car. I stepped on the gas and started trying to make up lost time at 80 mph.  Radio up. A/C blasting. “Oh, oh, oh, oh, sweet child of miiiyyyyyyiiiiinnne.”

Okay, it’s all good. Then I touched my shirt pocket where I had put both spare keys from the frantic trip home. They were both in my chest pocket.

“Wait…if the spares are in my pocket, that means the key in the ignition is the… no. It can’t be. It’s the key that was in my pants pocket the entire stinking time.”

I’d been desperately trying to open my CRV with my Civic fob. Stupid Honda people!!Image result for dumb man faces

467. Half and Half Coffee Wars: A Nation at Risk

Image result for pole vaulter  picturesLast week was a pivotal moment in Coffee Nation’s illustriously foggy imprint on the mirror of roasted bean history. After repeated shoddy service at the original site of the founding of Coffee Nation circa 2009, we the people, in order to reform a more perfect atmosphere and croissant, moved north along Main Street until we came to the Brussels Cafe. Their sign outside says, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free coffee fumes… The wretched refuse of your teeming shore…” (Okay, that’s enough of that.) Service was friendly and owner-driven, though slow. It’s a European thing, I guess. He asked us at least three times if we were completely satisfied. Mostly we were as we sent a big, small town, caffeinated shot over the bow of the Coffee Barge. Our message?  “Don’t take us for You Sissy’s S. Granted.” If you cut us, do we not bleed? (Let’s not drill down too far on that last bit of hyperbole. It’s just a dramatic flare not an invitation to maiming.)Image result for statue of liberty pictures

I hate to say “the tipping point” came all at once. It did not. It came over and over again in these words, “No half and half again. Sorry.” From the beginning of the Nation we were founded on the free exercise of half and half flowing into a stout cup of smooth java. In rare emergencies and acts of God whole milk was tolerated, never skim, which everyone knows is simply food coloring or drywall dust dissolved in water. Upon desperate requests the barristas would top off the mix with whipped cream, but that was always on the down low, like a dairy product drug deal. (“Pssst. Gimme your cup. You watch for the cops. Shhhhhhhhhurrggg. Yeah, don’t tell anyone about this. It never happened.”)

Image result for milk delivery man with hand cart We even know the milk delivery guy’s name, Mike, and cheer him on delivery days, “Mike, Mike, Mike, Mike.”  Our resident consigliere even helped Mike resolve an out of state speeding ticket.  We’re thick like that, a melting pot of common men sharing a common purposelessness and lack of meaning. But come to think of it, Mike has not been seen for weeks!! The conspiracy goes to the highest levels of the deep roast coffee state, so it seems.

Image result for brussels cafe pictures

We enjoyed our leisurely visit at the Brussels Cafe, especially the outside alley seating; it was somehow wide open yet simultaneously intimate . Pleasant as Paris, New Jersey. As I walked back to my office with a to go cup of Belgian coffee in hand, I passed the Java Barge’s owners. Furtive avoidance of eye contact stared back at me full force. “Okay”, I thought, “the rockets’ red glare has been seen.” I imagined gun smoke in the humid air, though I knew it was just a breeze from the Boro’s sewage treatment plant. The cup is in their court now.Image result for rockets red glare pictures baltimore harbor

The next day I received a lengthy email from the owner imploring me to bring the Nation back to its historic home. Promises of endless half and half were made. A gift card was offered as an incentive to return. I pondered what I should do: either way I had the upper hand in this milky situation.Image result for hand in milk pictures

I picked up the card and began reducing its value immediately. Joel was so impressed that he uttered, “I wonder how much I could get if I boycotted the Java Barge?”  I thought briefly, at least a nanosecond, and responded, “Um, if you left right now, they’d probably give me another gift card. But I don’t want you to embarrass yourself.”

“Ouch! I have feelings too, you know.”

“Joel, of course you do. That’s why I waited so long to tell you.”

Image result for corleone brothers picturesTentatively we have begun the Coffee Nation reconciliation process. We noticed dairy products full and at the ready in shiny silver carafes. A freshness was in the air which could be attributed to a good cleaning or the absence of us stinky men for a week. Not sure. In any event we sat together again like the Corleone brothers after Michael got back from Sicily. Godfather references were easily made,

“You come to me on the day of my daughter’s wedding without half and half?”

“Forgive me, Godfather. I do want your business.”

Image result for corleone brothers pictures

“When I offered you my business, you did not want to dignify it with half and half. Now you want me to whack you daughter’s no good boyfriend with a frozen quart of dairy products?”

“Yes, Godfather. Forgive me. I will repay you faithfully when you call on me.”

“But you are an undertaker, Pasquale. In order for you to repay me, someone I know must die.”

“True, Don Corleone, but what a discount I can offer. No embalming fluid for you. Only half and half, my friend. Nice for the complexion.”

“Can I get a dozen cannolis with that?”

“Of course, Godfather.”

Image result for perplexed faces

466. The contract

Related imageWell, it looks like the deal of a lifetime is coming to an end. It was a vaguely worded verbal contract we had. Back in the fall of 2016 my Tucson daughter asked if she and her family could relocate East and live with us for a few months, as her hubs Stu went through flight school to be a  commercial airline pilot.

“We’ve decided to sell the house. Then we’ll be debt free. I’ll be able to stay home for a couple of years. Stu’s going to flight school. He’ll fly out of New York City. We’ve both resigned our jobs. We just need a place to land for a few months.”

Image result for deliriously happy faces picturesDelighted is not a strong enough word to describe how my wife and I felt hearing those words. Elated. Ecstatic. Delirious with joy gets closer but does not capture the rapture in our hearts. For the past few years, actually since my four year old grand daughter was born, we’d been trying to figure out how to live closer to each other. Could I get a job in Arizona? No. Could we just retire a bit early?  No. Could we start cooking meth in a rolling Winnebago lab?  No. Lottery win, gun running, numbers games, computer hacking…. no,no,no,no.

Image result for sundial picturesIn the end it all came together in the most unimaginable way. After a month in San Diego Grace and the kids and dog Kermit moved in with us just before Christmas. Wow!! Our quiet and orderly days were immediately over. Max was crawling, then walking, then dare-deviling all over the place. Miss Leah Bideyah was off the leash with her four year old attitude. Challenges were met with lots of hands on deck as three generations began to coexist under one roof. I’d never experienced this generational stacking before, but now I am a big fan of the Big 3. Sure, there’s more food, utilities, cleaning, dishes, noise, wear and tear, etc. But there is also more fun, energy, zest, joy, and snuggling.

“How long will it be?  ”

“Just till we get a contract on the house. We should be out by the end of May for sure.”

Related imageNo rush from grandma and grandpa. We were thrilled to have the novel chaos erupting around us like a freshly fertilized mushroom farm on a warm summer night. I mean stuff was popping up and falling over, creeping, dripping, tripping, stinking, bouncing, screaming, crying, giggling, snuggling, and on and on in the glorious minutes. Ear infections were numerous. One trip to the ER for a choking incident. Multiple dingers on Leah’s head, making her preschool teachers suspect that the absent pilot father was abusing her on his sporadic trips home. I think the injuries occurred because she happily whirled like a dervish whenever her daddy was home, and then fell over her tuffet.

March came and went. Grace started working in an empty room at my office. It was nice to have a coffee and lunch buddy after years of solitude. No hurry to lose that benefit. The void of absence filled in firmly with smiles and hugs and funny conversations.

Image result for baby godzilla destroying tokyo picturesApril rolled over into May. No change, no problem. Though the living room and downstairs were filling up with plastic Little Tykes toys, and the back yard had a trampoline, a blow up dragon pool, a sand box, and many other monstrosities, it was all good all the time. Nothing like an alarm clock made out of little feet pitter pattering overhead at 6:00 a.m. Nothing like a whispery voice telling you “I love you, Granpa.” Nothing like watching a little boy crawl, then walk, then run, then terrorize a major city like Godzilla. So many lessons were taught both ways as our grandkids grew up before our eyes, making every day pretty darn special.

Image result for treadmill coat hanger imagesI began to make my smart aleck comments in June, I believe, not to motivate exodus but to deal with the stress of imploding chaos. “Hey, has anyone seen the treadmill?  It was in the sun room last week, I’m sure of it. Who would steal a treadmill?”  Actually the treadmill was buried beneath a landfill of wedding decorations and unopened Amazon boxes.

Image result for cluttered basement  picturesIn July I thought I was in the scare house from a carnival, the one with the shrinking room. As I walked across a shrinking downstairs family room, I uttered, “Didn’t we used to have a wood stove on that side of the room? Where can that have gone?”  Honest to exaggerations, toys and boxes of clothes, poofy chairs, yoga mats, and a big doll house surrounded by 1,000 plastic figures were/are stacked floor to ceiling. Behind that is my bride-to-be daughter’s karaoke system with big speakers. I fear the arrival of the fire marshal as much as I do my own premature death.

Last week good news came that the Tucson house had finally been rented. Apparently no one wanted to buy it… which is not really bad news. I’m still holding out for some weird relocation or witness protection residence program in Tucson. Anyway, that freed up the cash flow, so the immigrants could emigrate. On Saturday last we drove up to Hershey, PA for a look around at rentals Grace and Stu had previewed on line.

Image result for old run down rambling brick house picturesThe first one was adequate, in a hodge podge tolerable sort of way. “We could stand to live here”, Grace voiced. We almost cancelled the second appointment.
“I can’t imagine a house with only 1400 finished square feet meeting your needs. House number one was over 2,000 funky feet with all the wonky rooms.”

“We have to go look at it.”  So we did. Up a lovely tree lined road we climbed, past very fine homes. I kept reading the address numbers as we got closer. When we finally arrived at 1150, I thought there had to be a mistake. It was too nice. Wonderfully landscaped. A half million dollar house next door, and endless back yard, not your typical rental. And it wasn’t. The owner’s daughter showed us around the property. Truth be told, it’s a nicer house than the one I live in. Solidly built in the late 1960’s. Sure, there are drawbacks, one bath. Three bedrooms that cannot be reconfigured. An unfinished basement that is also unheated. The upside, however, far exceeded the down. Gorgeous floors, a patio, granite counter tops, solid wood doors, and more.Image result for 1960's raised ranch house with landscaping pictures

It seemed hardly a contest as we drove away, with an application in for both properties. Before we got back on the major highway, renters’ remorse kicked in and Grace called the owner, left a message, sent a text, and then emailed her intentions to lease the place. “I hope they like me, us, the dog. All that.”

Apparently they did since the deal was closed today, two days later. The old contract is gone; the new is in play. It’s been a wonderful journey. Gratitude like happy ink tears drips all around the signed deal.

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465. The Ump

Image result for major league umpire picturesThe umpire is supposed to be neutral when calling balls and strikes as well as plays on the field. He/she should be very knowledgeable and experienced in order to ump in the Big Leagues. He can’t become emotionally embroiled in every little reaction by prima dona ball players who make millions more a season than the ump. Authority is his as long as he upholds it ruthlessly and objectively.Image result for bryce harper arguing with ump pictures

A good umpire does not become a deciding factor in the games he calls. He is never the show. Instead, due to his competence and management skills, the fans and players and media can focus on the players in the game, being amazed at great athleticism or ingenious strategies. Good players and coaches and fans know when they have a good umpire with integrity. Such umps are not constantly attacked for each call they make. They are given any benefit of the doubt because they leave little to doubt to start with. Their strike zone is consistent. Their game management is fair to both sides. Safety and fairness never take a back seat.  The only preference they demonstrate is a laser focus for the integrity of the game, not for a player or team.

Image result for bad umpires in movies picturesNow imagine, and it hardly requires any imagination these days, that a highly unqualified ump should be thrust into the limelight of the playoff runs in August and September. Purists of the game, how it used to be played before Jackie Robinson arrived, back this Ump and he is promoted beyond any sane competency standards because he is a new kind of umpire from outside the union. He promises to drain the diamond of heresies that ruin the holy sport. He taps into old anger and insecurities among armchair athletes and spectators.  He’s a celebrity umpire. When he yells, “You’re out!!”, his backers howl and catcall like the good old days, when white men were men and all others could only wish they were white. It’s like Christmas in the summertime with each syllable The Ump gushes out. “Ball. Steeerike!! Foul Ball.” Even when his calls are clearly wrong, his groupies erupt with lavish praise for his “telling it like it is” instead of being accurate. He seems to encourage pitchers to brush back batters and to enjoy on field melees. He gets to throw out more players and demonstrate his manliness in this way. Chicks dig it.Image result for jackie robinson arguing with umpire pictures in 1940s

After a great deal of backslapping and self congratulatory rallies that take him through like minded states, the ump finally gets settled behind the plate. Tension rather than hot dogs sizzles in ball parks around the country. Reasonable folks anticipate that the ump will eventually cave in and realize the game is bigger than he is. Others think not. He’s thinks he’s the big Hot Dog. Like all other achievements in his life, he did not earn this one either. (He made millions selling used cars previously in Russia.) Real baseball men like to say he was born on third and told he hit a triple.  His reputation precedes him like an ice covered ski slope that can only lead to a wicked wipe out.Image result for icey ski slope pictures

As soon as the All Star break is completed, the Ump bans all unauthorized immigrants who want to play or attend pro ball. All employees of Major League Baseball who may be Moslem are forbidden from MLB venues until he figures out what the hell is going on. Loyalty pledges are extracted like impacted wisdom teeth from the Commissioner and President of the league. Dew rags and dreadlocks are banned. Uniformity in uniforms is enforced, with socks and waistbands being measured for any discrepancies. He is a stickler for appearances. All remaining foreign players are required to register as foreign agents and subjected to very invasive searches.Image result for airport screening pictures leaked

The Umpander in Chief ramps up the drug detection program in the MLB with an eye at catching and exiling bad hombres who use any substance stronger than chewing tobacco. His lily white base beer cheer him on and set attendance records at whatever venue he umps. The rest of the umps realize that something beyond their control has erupted in this season. Fans are coming to stadium after stadium for the governor of the game and not the game itself or any favorite players. No one has ever seen anything like it. Instead of challenging the Governor Ump, the other umps smile around him at photo ops. They turn themselves into human logic pretzels trying not to contradict his inability to master the infield fly rule. After all they “reason”, he has no experience in umping. His heart is in the right place, according to the Governor’s fans, who look like they’ve been taking LSD. Also, the fans are now armed and wear umpire gear like The Governor Ump, made of kevlar and titanium. They come to the stadiums beating drums and shields as if on a Rosicrucian Crusade.Image resultIt’s all too, too much.

Regardless of the game’s proceedings, cheers break out– “Lock them up!” “Where’s their birth certificates?” Then the call and response that goes “Who’s gonna throw out the ball?” “You are.”

And who’s gonna pay for it?” “Mexico!”

In early August The Governor Ump issues a ban on all transgendered ball players, claiming they cause an undue burden on the fans with all their surgeries from men to women and back again, and the nearly impossible engineering problem of figuring out where these players should pee. Despite the fact that no player has ever identified as transgendered, the order is implemented and followed by gossip and rumor about who might be a tranny and how disruptive that would be to the game. The home side yells “Tyranny” and the visitors yell “Tranny”.

“You say Tranny, I say Tyranny.”

“Tranny.  Tyranny.”

The mess devolves into violence all over these stadiums as the Governor Ump smiles that fifteen foot canoe smile of his and tosses his hands up, as if to say, “Hey, it’s terribly egregious on all sides. What are you gonna do?”

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Our great American past time limps toward decline, hit by a pitch.

464. Attachments

Image result for computer screen image of attachmentsIn computer speak an attachment is a document added to an email. It’s an add on, and very helpful at that. However, there are other definitions of the word. John Bowlby pioneered a special definition as follows.

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Attachment is a deep and enduring emotional bond that connects one person to another across time and space (Ainsworth, 1973; Bowlby, 1969).

Attachment does not have to be reciprocal.  One person may have an attachment to an individual which is not shared.  Attachment is characterized by specific behaviors in children, such as seeking proximity with the attachment figure when upset or threatened (Bowlby, 1969). Image result for postpartum depression mother infant pictures

Attachment behavior in adults towards the child includes responding sensitively and appropriately to the child’s needs.  Such behavior appears universal across cultures. Attachment theory provides an explanation of how the parent-child relationship emerges and influences subsequent development.

Attachment theory in psychology originates with the seminal work of John
Bowlby (1958).  In the 1930’s John Bowlby worked as a psychiatrist in a Child
Guidance Clinic in London, where he treated many emotionally disturbed


This experience led Bowlby to consider the importance of the child’s relationship with their mother in terms of their social, emotional and cognitive development.  Specifically, it shaped his belief about the link between early infant separations with the mother and later maladjustment, and led Bowlby to formulate his attachment theory.”  (McLeod, 2009 Simply Psychology)

Image result for micro filament picturesWe all have varying degrees of attachment that are less robust than parent/child connectedness. Think of that annoying kid who sat behind you in middle school who poked you with his eraser relentlessly. (Whoops. That was me. Sorry, Marsha Humphries.) Um, in any event you have a lasting memory or attachment across time and space with this person, no matter how microscopically thin. Thank God you are not connected today beyond the neural pathway that harbors his voice or face or smell and welds it finitely to your early adolescent girl’s discomfort.

Image result for steel cable picturesThen think of your Grandmother or your Mother. For better or worse, if you had a close relationship with either, that attachment might resemble a bridge cable, thick with reinforced neural wire networks. Each wire contains hundreds and thousands of words and smells and smiles and winks and touches. Countless lessons course through these fibers. Values and attitudes oxidize like some mildly corrosive patina on the cable, etching atmospheric style on your essence. Whatever that means mingles with the faint scent of closeted mothballs mixed with wafts of chocolate cake.Image result for chocolate cake images

When you hear that the kid from middle school died, you might feel a tiny twinge that a face from childhood no longer exists, like a play house on your childhood street burned. However, when Grandma passes on, look out!! Paul Simon’s lyric comes to mind, “This is the powerful pulsing of love in the veins….” A fire hose volume of tears may gush uncontrollably from your lacrimal canaliculus. Gasps of grief. Convulsions of agony echo the ripping of that attachment. Like Carol King sang, you might “feel the earth move under your feet and the sky tumbling down”.

Related imageDetaching is the unwanted but necessary task of grief. In your unconscious mind a blue plumber mime with no torso hands you a hack saw and gestures for you to cut ties: the billions of ties that make up the fibers, that make up the million wires, that make up the massive cable of your attachment to Grandma. Related image You keep dropping the saw in your convulsed state. After hours alone you pick it up and hate the tool, curse its function while knowing what must be done. Like sawing the legs off the deer you shot and gutted. Then peel off  its fur. It must be done. Survival depends on such cruelties.Image result for hacksaw pictures

Part of you dissociates in this trauma, watching your hands saw back and forth at the suspension cable from the top of the bridge tower. The bridge of interpersonal connection back into Grandma’s lap. The distance allows for quiet objectivity. No emotional engagement. You wonder why the guy doesn’t just use a cutting torch. Wouldn’t that be more efficient?Image result for bridge welder pictures

The guy is you, you remember, and now feel his exhaustion. Grief rages through your marrow like chemotherapy, killing to cleanse and give life back to you. Existential wrestling erupts in your belly: is the vermilion pain of this present reduction worth the mint green joy of the earlier construction? Then a meteor of guilt hits from outer space– “Of course it is, you block of marble!! Love is carving you into David, grinding away the burrs and imperfections; sanding your integrity till it gleams.”  This is the powerful pulsing of love in your living veins. Blood smells like wet iron rust, right? Stop whining!

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Grief is the exit tax on love. In Honduras the government is so poor that they do all they can to attract visitors or investors, but they charge an exit fee for you to leave. It’s maybe thirty bucks, or a five gallon bucket of lempiras. Fifty five other countries either charge you to enter or leave (mostly via airline tickets), like they are huge amusement parks. But you get the point, right? You had a good time and now it has to hurt to leave the Tunnel of Love. Otherwise everyone would stay there and no new folks could snuggle and kiss and fall in love on a swan boat. The human parade would end if no one ever vacated space.Image result for tunnel of love swan boats pictures

Origin of attach

Middle English (in the sense ‘seize by legal authority’): from Old French atachier or estachier ‘fasten, fix’, based on an element of Germanic origin related to stake; compare with attack.

If you follow the word back to its origins, there is often a story that resonates with the ringing bell of truth. Our loved ones are hearts we have staked, laid claim to, fastened and fixated upon, whether they agree to the legal authority of love or not. The stake is driven in our own hearts by eager little hands.Related image

So there you go. Attach at your own risk.

463. Three Sues/ Three Tuxedos

Image result for bridal shower picturesThe recent bridal shower for my youngest daughter was the occasion for extraordinary generosity by friends of ours. You may have stumbled across these folks in previous blog posts such as The Christmas Party or Croquet Anyone? or Navel Dancing Tonight, 7 to 9.  I wrote facetiously then. Psychedelically maybe, anyone? Yes, the shoeless man in the box in the back row, sir? A big Amen to you too.  I know this will shock some of you that I might gild the truth with spray paint and glitter, cherry bombs and bombast, hot glue and confectioner’s sugar. However, it’s not lying if the goal is entertainment and no laws are broken in the process.

Lying is an untruth told in an attempt to avoid negative consequences or gain advantage. By this definition Burritospecial is truth of an alternative kind. Like a zebra is not a horse or a donkey or giraffe, but it’s like them in that they all share four legs. Write that down or at least cut and paste it for future reference. It’s a fact, sort of.Image result for zebra next to a horse pictures

Some background is necessary, I think, to fully appreciate the gift of the Sues.

Image result for female triplet picturesThe three Sues are Susan M., Sue B., and Suzanne P. They are stars from our Sunday School class, called Feet to Faith by those in the know. Along with my bride they have bonded over the last few years in a weekly prayer and Bible study small group with delicious snacks and shared intimacies. They rotate among their houses on Tuesday nights. Often my youngest daughter Jess joins them in their spiritual explorations. (I work Tuesday nights, otherwise I would be much holier, believe me.)

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Once Jess’s engagement was set and fluttered over like a new blue egg in a robin’s nest, Suzanne announced her intention: “Y’all know how I love to entertain. How about if I host Jess’s bridal shower at my house? It’ll be fun! We can all get involved in the party.” Well, what are you to say to these statements but yes, yes, yes and yes? She is a great hostess. Of course she can host it. Of course it will be fun. If Suzanne says it, by golly, it will be done. Just ask Gary her husband. She is the Norman Schwarzkopf of entertaining, a force of cultural nature, a diva of delivery systems, a dervish of deviled eggs, a… wonderful woman who may hurt me if I continue this list.

Image result for scarlett ohara pictures“Sara, bless your heart, you don’t need to do a thing. Let us Sues do it for you. You’ll have enough on your plate with all the wedding planning.” (Suzanne is from Charleston, and “Bless your heart” is an expression that sounds deeply sincere and connective, but when parsed means something like “you are the village idiot”. )

With more relief than reluctance, my girl sort of complied. “Okay, but let me know what I can do…”

“Nope! We got this. You have a dress, a cake, a ceremony, a d.j., invitations, photographer, menu, music playlist…”

“Okay. But let me…”

“Now, what did I just say?”Image result for scarlett o'hara pictures

Stung with tough love, my girl put on the little sister saddle shoes and agreed, let go, and surrendered the shower burden to these loving ladies. Good move. Opposing Stormin’ Norman never worked out in the past. Just ask Saddam Hussein.

Image result for a s tring of honeybees picturesNo words, texts, phone calls needed to be exchanged on the business of the shower. The Sues swarmed like honeybees to flowers, flowers to nectar, and from nectar to honey back at the hive, i.e. Suzanne’s lovely home. See, bees have to chew nectar for a while before it turns into honey. And isn’t that a nice analogy for lovely women processing beauty and sweetness into a perfected product? After all, honey and love are both labor intensive products.

Now these ladies have a sense of humor. Over time they came up with the idea of having their available men be the butler wait staff at the shower. It was agreed that we– Gary, Dan and I — would be the un-jacketed tuxedo crew  to wait on the whims and cares of the assembled females. Without a lot of planning we decided not to wait in wrestling singlets or biker shorts (Gary’s first two ideas) or tear away Chippendale dancer outfits (his third). Instead we planned on starched white shirts and black pants, preferably tuxedo attire, along with swanky bow ties and linen tea towels held aloft by sharply angled left forearms. And we killed it. Bulls eye. A spectacle. Bingo. Holy Schnikes. The swagger in our pantalones alone was worth all the Jagger in the Rolling Stones.Image result for three downton abbey butlers picturesImage result for three downton abbey butlers picturesImage result for three downton abbey butlers picturesImage result for butler images

(Number four is gratuitous eye candy and did not attend.)

We reacted as professionals. “Martin. Where did you go to Butler School?

“Quincy, sir.”

“Isn’t that near Yardley?”

“Why yes it is, sir.”

“Did you attend the front yardley or back yardley portion, Martin?”

“Alas, the back yardley, sir.”

“I thought so.”

“Piper!! Is that a singlet tan I see under your crisply starched white shirt?”

“Yes, sir. I wore the singlet proudly at West Chester.”

“Go wash it off or finish the spray tan before gentle company arrives. Bloody pugilist!”

Image result for party platters table picturesWe were ready to take the Sues’ marching orders to the mat if need be, but since our women were supremely prepared, it was not necessary. Like great athletes, they made it all look easy– the fresh lemonade and tea; the hor d’oeuvres; the cheeses and wines; the confections and lovely sandwiches. It was a feast for the eyes as well as the taste buds.

Pictures were snapped. Presents gathered up and recorded. And then the bonding activity of weaving a bridal head dress out of toilet paper, something so Pinteresting, came later. Three teams of ladies competed for the best head dress made with toilet paper and any other available materials. After twenty or thirty minutes it was left to the three butlers to judge the finest head dress. After several rounds of paper, scissors, rock, we reached a conclusion, announcing it to great fan fare.Image result for head dresses made from toilet paper pictures The first was the finest by a sheet or two, nipping out the competition by a whisker.

Altogether it was a fine time enjoyed by anyone capable of joy. Even the butler washing up was a good  time as Dan nearly wiped out a freshly washed stack of china as he rushed to answer his duty bell.

“Martin, steady as you go, son. A good butler must be seen and never heard. Like a good mime barber.”

Good Show, All of you.

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