691. Two Men Meet Death

Image result for the grim reaper imagesHe comes to us all, mostly unbidden. A small number of humans rush toward Death for a variety of reasons, but most of us wait patiently though anxiously for his arrival. He’s not exactly bringing an Amazon Prime deal to your door. I recall the medieval morality play called Everyman, circa 1400 A.D. In this allegory Everyman is unexpectedly called upon by Death. He resists and tries to bargain with Death. He’s just not ready to die. Really, who is? Death plays along and agrees that Everyman may bring along a companion if anyone was so foolish to accompany him.  That’s when the dense Greek yogurt tragedy hits the high speed oscillating ceiling fan. Surprise, or not. No one wants to go there with Everyman— not family, not friends, not his wealth, beauty, knowledge, five senses, etc. In the end, after confessing his sins, repenting, and taking communion, only his Good Deeds go with him into the grave, leaving a powerful moral lesson for illiterate minds in the audience: do good while you are alive. It’s all you take with you into a blessed eternity. Into the cursed coal mine, not so much.

Now I don’t want to get into a debate about works/deeds versus grace for the basis of one’s salvation. Rather, I’d like to simply visit two dying men and observe how each deals with the same problem that every man and woman must one day face.

Boris Khazanov is the the local commissioner of the Bulgarian cooperative farm system. He is well known and respected. One of  the few former Communists who managed to still appeal to the current democratic atmosphere in Bulgaria after the end of Communism in 1991. He negotiated his way into the National Assembly where he served without scandal for 24 years. Along the way he amassed a lot of favors and a tidy fortune, as well as a strong sense of entitlement that he kept hidden from the public.Image result for russian aristocrat pictures

Boris eventually left the Assembly with a fine pension and favors to cash in. He was appointed to foundations and bank boards around Sofia. These positions paid him handsomely for little to no work. You see, he had already done the work in the National Assembly with sweetheart deals for his favored compatriots. He was free to attend to the secret business of the Bulgarian Knights Templar Association and play the cello in the Comrades of Sofia Symphony.  Life was delicious and quite lucrative for Boris. He was in demand at conferences and cocktail parties all over the country… for a price– cash, credit, debit, or quid pro quo barter.Image result for bulgarian aristocrats homes pictures

When Death sent him an invitation at age 79, he was shocked. How could he stop all of his life’s engagements and go wherever Death was going to take him? He was needed and expected to carry on his precious work on earth. Death, however, was not impressed with any of his arguments. He left his appointment card on Boris’s bedside table– July 20th at noon. Boris’s wife turned it over in a rash moment of denial, but the other side said the same thing, so she covered it with a gold-rimmed saucer. Surely their lawyer would advocate for him and work out an extension just as their accountant did with taxes each year. After all, they were the Khazanovs.Image result for interior of wealthy bulgarian home

Deputy Attorney Galilnovalov came the next day, the 19th. He assured the Khazanovs that Death was non-negotiable. No one had ever escaped Death’s greedy grasp. He counseled Boris to let go of his large life with dignity. Boris was perturbed. He was a man of power and prestige, used to getting his own way. He refused to sign letters of termination and resignation. He would not resign from his many associations. It was tantamount to agreeing with Death. The next day at two p.m. Attorney Deputy Galilnovalov received a call from a sobbing Mrs. Khazanov that Boris had died in a fevered seizure around noon, “it was as if Death himself were choking Boris into submission”, she reported hysterically. “There was a faint odor of sulfur. He would not let go!” Galilnovalov was not sure who would not let go.Related image

Galilnovalov could not help but compare Boris with his other long term client Gerislav Bukhalov, who was also bedridden. “Gerry” knew Boris from the farm cooperative days. Gerry, however, had always been a worker bee and never a commissioner. He farmed under Communism and under Capitalism. He knew and loved the land he stewarded. Unlike Boris Khazanov he had no pretensions about him. He rarely left his farm and practiced a simple faith as most farmers are wont to do. He was completely dependent upon the whims of nature for his livelihood. And more years than not he prospered, increasing his hectares and head of cattle carefully over the decades. Sadly, his wife of 47 years had died eight years previously, leaving Gerry alone but resolute in his simple faith of planting and hoping for a harvest. Now his end was near at 83 years of age.Image result for bulgarian farm house pictures

Galilnovalov enjoyed his time in Gerry’s presence. He looked forward to tea and hard bread at Gerry’s bare kitchen table. Unlike Khazanov’s ostentatious surroundings, Buhkalov’s farmhouse was austere, with just a smattering of icons on the otherwise barren walls. When Death sent his invitation, Gerry was not surprised or devastated. Instead he set it next to his shaving mirror. He was actually relieved to finally be off to see his beloved wife in eternity. He told Galilnovalov that he was ready, in fact, had been ready for the previous three years. Over this time he had signed off on his will and donated his considerable wealth to local charities and his church. His great nephew would take over the full time operation of the farm and move into the farmhouse after his passing. “I will not wrestle with Death when he comes for me. I am eager to go”, he told the amazed Gulilnovalov. “After all, I take nothing but my good deeds with me, my friend.”  Gulilnovalov served as his postmortem witness and swore to men who would listen that he detected a hint of frankincense after Gerry passed his last breath.Image result for smiling corpse pictures









690. Facetious

Image result for multifaceted gemstone picturesYes, a favorite word and activity of mine. One of only two English words with all the vowels in order– A, E, I, O, U. But that is just the cherry on top of all the ice cream and bananas that make up the awesome banana-splitting word  facetiousFake Banana Split - Great Gift for Ice Cream Lovers - Fake Sundae


*  not meant to be taken seriously or literally: facetious remark.
*  amusing; humorous.
*lacking serious intent; concerned with something nonessential, amusing, or frivolous:  facetious person.
*  from facetiae, Latin, plural of facētia something witty.
Image result for comic winking gif
In the word you can see face and facet. So, being facetious has something to do with the face or a facet of intent. Maybe it’s a glint in the eye that conveys a code such as, “Hold my beer,partner”. Or it’s a facet, a shard of broken mirror that captures a slice of frivolity. In my case it’s deadpan jokes uttered as semi-sacred truths. Somehow, if you don’t laugh as you utter the milky joke, it hits the unsuspecting ear drum with an echo of confusion. The sacred cow moos off key. Something does not resonate rightly with the listener, and he/she wonders if they heard it correctly. Perhaps they wonder, “Why is he milking this situation?”
Example: new folks meeting at a picnic. One guy asks where two other old friends met. I offer, “On a gay dating site. Matcho’men.Com” as if I were mentioning a self evident fact like “The sky is very blue today, don’tcha think?”. Pause. Restrained chuckles that release male tensions.Related image
Now I know what you are thinking: ‘This sort of joke could get you beaten into a heavy duty garbage bag and tossed into the East River for urban piranhas to nibble on.’ And I would agree with the first part about the garbage bag but quickly point out that piranhas are not native to New York. However, they are served as a main course in Peru with the head on. Now that’s an ironic twist, eh?, a piranha being devoured by a human. Quite a bite. Facetious or fact? Check the fact box, fans.
So, one must have a fire escape ready when the facetious remark is met with angry revulsion coupled with a desire for immediate violent revenge. In a world of stand up comedy, one must expect hecklers buzzing from the tender nerve you just stepped on. It happens. All jobs have their occupational hazards, you know?, like sand traps and water hazards in golf. That’s what keeps the game challenging. Yes? Of course yes.Image result for golf course pictures with water and sand traps
An earlier post 412Unfriended Progenously is a perfect example of such reaching too far and not knowing one’s audience. It’s the one where I sent a goofily facetious message to my daughter’s very official professional website, thinking it was her personal Facebook page.  I think it’s a funny story now, but I can’t be absolutely sure since I was so wrong before. It was a case of mistaken context, like farting in church or belching at a funeral. She kept her job, but I was exiled. Oh so faux pas!
There are other incidents back in the memory vault, though they grow suspect over time. Pretending seriously to be something or someone I was not got me in a pickle jam a time or two. There was the time in college when my lumberjack friend Craver and his buddies came up from William and Mary to a concert around the corner from my apartment in Richmond, Virginia. I had a paper due and declined the invite, though I wished I could find a way to make both happen. (It was Bonnie Raitt and someone else.) As the evening dragged on and I sat in my academic isolation, I got bored with the paper and began to think of mischief. My roommate Sam had a very lifelike old man mask made of rubber.  I put it on and then added a trench coat and a hat. I thought for a laugh I’d go over to greet Mark and his friends as they exited The Mosque, an old fashioned concert hall built prior to the concept of political correctness. Right? Can you imagine a casino in Dubai called The Cathedral?Image result for pictures of the Mosque in Richmond Virginia
Anyhow, I was early or there were curtain calls, so I waited outside the main entrance, trying to be discreet. Three redneck dudes noticed me and wondered what the heck was going on. I just played along as an old man, which confused their already addled brains. I was getting a bit anxious and definitely second guessing my charade when they began to get hostile and pushy with me. Just about that time the crowd came out of the auditorium and I spotted Craver. I called his name and he lumbered over to my awkward situation. “Is there a problem here, fellas?” he inquired. The three suddenly polite rednecks quickly uttered that there was no problem and away they went. That’s when Crave started chuckling and said, “What the hell are you doing?” I thanked him for saving me from a beating and we all went back to my apartment. Looking back with fondness now, I guess I was being facetious, but I had the wrong context. Craver got a kick out of the get up and the set up. He was very tolerant of my facetiousness.Image result for big lumberjack pictures
I have found it’s a good thing to have big friends, even if they are teddy bears. Which brings my last memory to the surface. My buddy and roommate Sam and I were at Virginia Tech for a weekend, and after the game and pints of Southern Comfort he and I were wondering down the main drag in Blacksburg. We wound up in a bar on the second floor. [That in itself is a liability, which reminds me of the loony email to my lawyer daughter referenced above, but I’ll leave that for you to research.] We were both drunk, but I more than Sam when we entered this bar with a pool table in the center. I staggered up to the table and slapped a dollar on the side rail. “I want the winner!” I swaggered. That’s when a large dude with a cue stick took my money and set it at the end of the line of dollars that belonged to rough guys waiting to play the winner. A sober person would have noticed the cold tension in the room. I went to the bathroom.Image result for mummy wrapped in toilet paper
While I was singing to myself in the men’s room, probably a Little Feat song… “Drop me off on Peach Street, I can feel that Georgia sun…”, Sam was explaining that I was mentally ill and he was my personal aide, I think. Otherwise I cannot explain how we got out of there without a full body beating. In a flash of inspiration I thought it would be a great gag to wrap myself in toilet paper as I returned to the pool table crowd. So I did. As I walked out of the bathroom completely wrapped in toilet paper, I said, “Gentlemen, meet The Mummy.” Somebody yelled, “That’s enough” and I found myself outside the bar laughing with Sam at the absurdity of it all. We were lost and wandered along the avenue until we found our bearings to some friend of a friend’s apartment floor. And that’s a facetious fact.Related image
It’s not for everyone, this facetious thing. Some folks are too tightly wrapped up in their own too serious Saran Wrap for my taste. And I am way too out there for their sensibilities. So streams split and you just have to paddle your own canoe, one joke at a time.Image result for road signs-- sanity and otherwise

689. Away we go

Related imageGone like the night owls that hooted back and forth across the newly planted soybean fields, my grandkids flew back to Arizona on Sunday. Not without a bit of drama, however. The plan when we went to bed was to get up at 3:30 am; slouch out the door with food and coffee; and drive the two hours to Reagan National Airport for a flight to Dallas. It was the best pass ride deal my pilot son-in law-could figure out. He would fly with them from Dallas to Tucson. Ready, steady, go.Image result for busy airport pictures

Off we went in the cool night air at 3:45 a.m. Right turn and turn again. At the bottom of the first hill Grace fired up her cell phone and said, “What? Wait! Our flight was cancelled. We have to go to Philadelphia. Oh no! What? To Minneapolis? Oh, Dad. I’m so sorry.”

“What’s another couple of hundred miles, Honey? You’re now in the Nina club.”

We turned around and headed northeast instead of southeast. I had enough time to retell the Nina story. “Let’s see, it must have been 1999. Yes, Erin graduated that summer. Wow, twenty years ago.”

“Oh, that’s horrrreeeebull!” Nina’s favorite comment about American television or shoes or chocolate. “You drove her to Philadelphia, right?”

“Yes, after a trip to Dulles. Remember, she had a stand by ticket to Germany and the flight was full.”

“How did she get down there to begin with?”

“The Academy van service took her down. She had asked me to run her down. I declined. She wanted to save the $75.00 fee. But hours later that day, it was the last day of school for me, and Mom and I were sitting on the pool deck. I looked up to see a jet streaming across the sky. I said, ‘Hey, there goes Nina.’ Your mom said, ‘I don’t think so. You haven’t seen the last of her.’ ”

“I’m sure I said something witless like ‘Au contraire, mon ami.’ She is surely on her way back to Germany on a Lufthansa jet.”Image result for lufthansa airplane pics

“Well, I was wrong. When we got home from the pool, the phone rang. She was stuck at Dulles. Her standby ticket was worthless… sort of like your pass ride that just disappeared. She was in near panic with her nine suitcases and nowhere to go.”

“Didn’t you get her a place to stay?”

“Yeah, I tried to call in favors from my brothers and anyone I could think of to avoid another trip to D.C. In the end only Grandma T. offered refuge for the night.”

“Good old Grandma, bless her soul.”Image result for gray taurus station wagon picture

“So I drove to Dulles in the old Taurus station wagon. I mean, although she was a pain in the butt at times, she was still a scared 16 year old girl trying to get home. Why on earth her parents didn’t spring for a first class ticket makes you wonder though.”

“Yeah, they were wealthy enough to send her to a fancy boarding school in the states but not wealthy enough to buy a real ticket?”

“Anyway, I parked in the loading lane and ran in to find her and her gypsy caravan of luggage. All black, remember, she only wore black?”Image result for dulles airport terminal at night pictures

“Yep. Horrreeebull, dees American t.v. commercials. Oooooohhhh!!”

“And don’t forget the time she dried herself off with the towel that Charlie the iguana had crawled into.”Image result for iguana in a white towel photo

“Oh my, I can still hear her blood curdling scream… ‘CHAHHHLEEE, CHAHHHLEE!!’ ”

“What a scene that was.  Anyhow, when we got to the car, an airport parking cop was writing me a ticket, but he also had to lecture me about where to park and I’d had it. I cut off his lecture and tersely demanded ‘Just give me the damn ticket and save the sermon. You have no idea what’s going on here.’ Seventy five bucks. I never paid it. The Taurus has been scrap metal for a decade at least. The paper trail is gone.”

“So how did you end up in Philadelphia?”

“Yeah, the next plane with a real ticket was leaving from Philadelphia International the next evening.”

“So you spent the night with Grandma in McLean and drove all the way to Philly in the morning?”Image result for 95 north photos in Philadelphia

“Sure did. Let’s see, it was a solid two hours, and then we had to move those damn suitcases for the fifth time. Remember, we carried them out of her third floor dorm room, into our house, that’s two. Then out of the house and into the van. Then into the Taurus at Dulles, and finally out of the Taurus in Philly. Whew! Nine for Nina, and I swear one weighed ninety pounds. So there she sat in Philly in the middle of her gypsy caravan of luggage again. By the time I got home, I had to go to my night job at the counseling center. I drove 500 plus miles that day.”

“Dad, you’re a saint.”

“Saint Burrito of Stupito.”Image result for saint paintings

We were turning left onto Short Cut Road when an adult doe decided to jump out of the woods on Grace’s side of the Honda CRV. THUMP. Shriek. Corrective steering and adrenaline rush at 4:00 a.m.

“Well, that’s a fitting ending to the Nina saga. Just when you think it’s over, it aint.”

“Dad, I’m so sorry for this whole thing.”Related image

“Because you are magically responsible for the cancellation of your flight and especially for that deer bolting out of the dark? What super powers you possess, Grace.”

From the back seat two year old Max said, “Mommy, did the deer want to come to Tucson with us?” His absurdly innocent question helped Grace laugh about the meta absurdity of the entire situation.Image result for deer on a car photo

“Yes, Max, but wild animals aren’t allowed on airplanes, Buddy.”

“But Dad, this wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for us. I should have taken an Uber.”

“No, the deer was simply the exclamation point on the Nina Club sequel, Gracie. It’s going to be a funny story one day. Just not today.”

“Okay, away we go.”Related image