474. Blaspheme me, Dude.

Image result for big arm bully picturesWell, it happened yet again. I lost control of Coffee Nation AGAIN. Even though I am the unquestioned Supreme Java Leader, Big Bold Bean, Imam of Indonesian Blends, King Kona, Sumatran Sultan, Emperor of Ethiopian Dark Roast, Head Columbian Water Drip Buffalo, Sir Half and Half, the only member with a tee shirt that says so, I have lost control of Article Two of our beloved Constitution. Again, I blame Lance, our Sergeant With Arms. He began an impassioned monologue on religion last Thursday, even though he is an original signatory of the aforementioned Constitution and knows better. I suppose I should not be surprised: when a good feeling collides with a good idea, we all know the good idea has no chance. I guess Lance was feeling good and ready to preach.

Image result for wimpy from popeye picturesI’m not sure where he began the doctrine dialogue. Might have been something about sin and relationships, or a bit about the last sermon by our pastor. God help us! It might have been residual overflow from the previous week’s political blow out. In any event we were leaning forward on our chairs. Even Gene. He asked Bishop Gary of the Singlet about the concept of crowns in heaven. “What, what, what if you accept Ja-Ja Jesus, but, but, but don’t do anything for the rest of your life?”Related image

Bishop Gary said, “Your salvation is not based on works, Gene. You will simply not have a good seat in heaven. You might have to stand behind a pole or something, but you’ll still be in heaven. You just won’t have any crowns.”Image result for terrible seats in stadium pictures

That’s where I told Gene he could have a crayon, which in Central PA is often pronounced “crown”, as in “I needed a crown to kuller the chimbley in my pitcher, but they were all.” We laughed and clowned a bit about whether he’d get a full 8 pack of crowns or the 64 pack with the built in sharpener. “That there is a lot o’ crowns.”Image result for crayola crayon box pictures

I  believe a reference or two was made regarding clowns, frowns, gowns, nouns, towns, browns, and, well, you get it. In true Coffee Nation form we got off track and seemed to be well on our way to meaningless jibber jabber, when big, dusty Patrick walked in.

Related imageNow Patrick is a piece of work. Truly. He’s a work a holic kind of guy from Philly. He showed up a few years ago and talked loudly, introduced himself, and began buying coffee for anyone near him, whether or not they wanted any. We came to  learn that he was sort of ADHD, bright, tattooed, Christian and committed to turning the former Tito’s Tacos building into an architectural diamond minus the rough. He labored and supervised various guys who looked like they were fresh from the streets of Philly and the cell blocks of her prisons.

Image result for construction workers picturesIn any event he strolled over to our soiree and immediately inserted himself in the verbal discharges. He has a construction connection with Doug and knows his family’s Plain roots. He joked, I guess, that he (Patrick) was ‘an evangelical Mennonite’. I asked if that meant he was liberal.

“Sort of.”

“So you can wear grey?”

“Oh, man! Don’t.”

“Gene, if you were Mennonite, you could get by with just one crown– Black.”

Patrick, “I am a black and white thinker, for sure.”

“Well, you’re in the right religion.”

“No, I choose to limit myself. Look, I wear button up long sleeve shirts and long pants by choice. I choose to limit my freedom of expression. You can do what you like, but I choose humble modesty… and I was a wild Hellian when I was young. There wasn’t a rule that I would  not drive through at 100 miles per hour. See, I thought that was freedom, and I’d fight for that knuckle headed philosophy. Now I’m a pacifist in a buttoned up shirt.”Related image

Lance, “But legalism gets you caught up in rules. We’ve been set free from all that. God says, ‘No man is holy, not one’. And I’m not gonna argue with Him.”Image result for spider web pictures

Patrick, “Well, what’s your position on Salvation? Do you believe in ONE and DONE or in working out your salvation daily?”

All, “One and done, man. You’re talking works with that daily salvation stuff. We are saved by God’s grace alone. It’s not about what you’ve done, Patrick; it’s what God did.”Image result for pictures of heaven

[Meanwhile I’m hearing John Prine singing, “Your flag decals won’t get you into heaven any more. It’s already overcrowded from your dirty little war.”]

Patrick, “But if you accept Jesus and don’t do a thing after that, how can you expect to be rewarded with eternal life?”

[Meanwhile I’m thinking about a guy in heaven with a nice kullering book but no crowns.]Image result for coloring book without crayons pictures

Lance, “You are confusing salvation with forgiveness. They are two different things.”

Patrick, “But you gotta do something. If you claim Christ, then you need to be His witness in your remaining life.”

Lance, “Okay, so what did the thief on the Cross do?  And we know Jesus told him that he’d see heaven that very day.”

Patrick, “Well, I’m not a reader so I can’t quote Scripture too easily, but I am gonna research this and we can continue the debate.”

Me, “Gentlemen, gentlemen. If we can’t agree to disagree, I have a way we can settle this argument for good and ever.”

Lance, “Does it involve crayons?”Image result for single crayon picture

Me, “Please, I did not put syllables in your mouth when you were pontificating, Brother Lance. Here’s my solution:  the two of  you meet in a cage match, winner take all. Looking at the two of you, my money is on Lance (who is a body builder).”

Patrick with his hands up in surrender, “Hey, I told you I was a pacifist.”

Me, “So it will be quick and easy, uh, ONE ( I punched my open left hand, Thwack!) and DONE.”Image result for boxing knockout pictures

Chuckles around. Patrick laughed at me and said, “You were waiting for that opening.”

Me, “Maybe.”

 

 

Advertisements

473. United Shades of Greymerica

Related image

It’s just a few shades of grey difference between the asphalt road and the sky above. One of those early fall days that leave you exhaling melancholy vapors.  The remnants of Irma are dissipating over central PA, which looks pretty good in comparison to Florida this week. Not all that warm, but high humidity makes the atmosphere feel close, like sitting in coach on a plane on the runway with a large lady next to you going through a menopausal sweat storm. It will lift by tomorrow, I know,  but the grey effect washes out clarity and crispness, slowing my curious steps.

Image result for grayish white hair on men picturesImage result for stills of steve martin in father of the bride

The wedding approaches. My duties are simple: walk Jess down the aisle and not do anything stupid. Oh, and write a couple of big checks soon. “Oh, and one more thing– color your hair a few clicks darker, not Elvis dark but just enough so that your face is not washed out in the wedding pictures. And don’t you do it. Have Michelle color your hair this time. Not you and Just for Men. Do it Just for Me this time. I don’t want a twenty year old’s black hair on a sixty one year old’s pale face.”

Image result for bad hair dye outcomes for men pictures

“Okay, okay. I will. I promise.”

Well, alright. Men have some advantages in life– shorter lines for the bathroom usually. No monthly cycle, no menopause or self carry pregnancy. So I have no complaints, nor like a good crustacean in a courtroom, legs to stand upon. So I went to Michelle. I surrendered to the dye. I died to self instead of self dyeing. Image result for oyster shell images

‘Shades of grey’ is an idiom that speaks to the differences, the increments, between two poles, black and white for visual imagery purposes. In these very polarized days it’s helpful to remember that a moderate middle still exists. Absolutists dismiss the middle as abandoning their pure positions. Moving to the center is selling out, betraying the light switch slogans that roll so easily off the tongue. Shades of grey require the ability to weigh and balance competing interests and available resources.  Unlike North Korea, governing in a democratic republic cannot be black or white. We live in the United Shades of America.

Related imageSloganeering is simplistic speech that a parrot can utter after sufficient training. “Drain the swamp”, caw. “Lock her up”, screech. “Build the wall”, craaahhhh. I’m sure there were simplistic slogans by the Left also. “Hope and Change”. Cheep, cheep. “Yes we can.” Tweedle dee.  “Change we need”. Whooo, whoooo. All crap repeated ad nauseam.  (Check out  the history of election campaign slogans on Wikipedia. Fascinating historical and hysterical garbage. “Adlai and Estes– the Besties.” 1956  Who knew?)Image result for cheerleader cheering pictures

Slogans are like cheers at a football game– they can’t be too in depth or hard to say. And that is the problem when a “movement” is built on cheers repeated by professional cheerleaders. When programs are actually needed to be implemented, repeating the slogan does not result in structured plans. However, it’s not a football game we are witnessing these days. It’s more of a circus where clowns run out of little cars and chase one another around the center ring known as the White House.

“What to do with health care now?”  Image result for sean spicer pictures

“Repeal and replace. Repeal and replace. Repeat and Repeat.”

“And immigration?”Image result for anthony scaramucci pictures

“Build a wall. Build a wall. Badda bing. Badda boom.”

“How about tax reform?”Image result for sarah huckabee sanders face pictures

“Go team go. Go team go. Thanks Daddy.”

“Crime?”Image result for jeff sessions pictures

“Lock them up. Lock them up. If they’re Black. If they’re Black.”

“Okay, let’s go with the opioid crisis.”Image result for tom price pictures

“War on drugs. War on drugs. If they’re Black. If they’re Black.”

“Why did you turn the lights out at our news conferences?”Image result for lights out  pictures

“You made us. You made us. Dark is good. Dark is good.”

“And education. What’s the plan, Betsy?”Image result for betsy devoss pictures

“Private school vouchers. Private school vouchers. Resegregtion is good.”

“Are you reading from 3″ x 5″ cards?”Image result for sarah huckabee sanders reading from note cards pictures

“Yes I am. Yes I am.”

“But, but, surely you have a structure beneath the slogans, right?  I mean, this, this is chanting and conjuring three word spells. Where are the policies, and budget estimates, and programs, and timelines?”Image result for alec baldwin as trump pictures

“You’re fake news. You’re fake news.”

“But these are empty micro sound bites, folks. They are not actionable strategies. You can’t even run a hot dog stand on three word slogans. You need permits and a supply chain, a tax i.d. number, vendor license, insurance, inspections, and…”

“Unnecessary over regulation. Unnecessary over regulation.”

Image result for scott pruitt pictures

“So, if you cut regulations, who will insure the safety, fitness and feasibility of our food, water, air, and the basic requirements of a civilized society? Will planes just land without the FAA? Will we allow drugs to be sold without requiring research? Government’s job is to provide basic safety and enforce legal contracts….”

“We’re deconstructing government. I’m deconstructing government.”

Image result for steve bannon pictures

“So I have some uninspected meat here Steve, a liter of untested water, and what looks like a knock off Viagra pill from China. Will you consume these now in this deconstructed paradise you have made by draining the swamp?”

“Call Shawn Spicer. Call Shawn Spicer.”Image result for sean spicer chewing gum pictures

“Why is it always Shawn Spicer who has to test the food for poison?”

“We love Spicey. We love Spicey.”Image result for reince priebus pictures

“We’re not picking salsa strength here. Can anyone in the Administration put together more than a three word statement?”

“Yep, but they won’t let me open my mouth or my eyes again.”

Image result for ben carson pictures

“Dr. Carson, what do you imagine you will see if you ever manage to open your eyes and look at this Administration with fearless honesty?”
“Chris Christie naked.”Image result for chris christie at beach pictures

“Is that like code for some military plan?”

“Armageddon.”

“I see. Can you share declassified specifics?”

“We’re gonna attach him to an ICBM and shoot him into Pyonyang.”

“Is there more to this plan?”

“If Kim Young Fool does not surrender, we’ll fire Nancy Pelosi on the next one.”Related image

“Is this what the president meant when he said ‘fire and fury’?”Image result for dennis rodman pictures with kim

“The Don sent a message to Kim. A lot of folks know Kim’s a big fan of Dennis Rodman, but he also adores Christie. It’s a thug thing.  He was always the pudgy kid whose pudding got stolen at lunch. Loves a good bully. So the Don said, ‘Christie sleeps with the fishes.’ Now I know they’re actually whales, but the message was received. Guam is safe. That’s leadership, my friend.”

“One last question, Dr. Carson. You are the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, though your only experience comes from having lived in public housing as a kid.”

“That is correct.”

“Can I be Secretary of the Treasury because I have U.S. money in my wallet? It’s like the same as your qualifications, right?”

“I’ll take that under consideration.”

“Okay, will somebody turn the lights back on?”

Image result for the white house in the dark pictures

 

 

 

 

472. September Sunlight, Listen to the Lion

Image result for september sunlight photosChilly September morning air slowly warms to the slanting sunlight, as I roll our empty green trash can down my freshly sealed driveway.  Six buckets almost covered the expanse this year, though I spread it ten gallons per weekend, grateful that my lower back could endure the repetitive motion. Time elapsed equals less light and less light equals less warmth now that August has expired. Not surprisingly, I appreciate more the less I can do.

Image resultI notice the sideways growing crabgrass has won another protracted lawn battle. “I’ll see you next year, you horizontal alien hairdo!” Time for a lawn service, I surrender to myself. One war at a time. Terrestrials this year; E.T.’s next.

Dew cuddles the grass blades in a morning after embrace, desiring more than a one night stand. “Where were you in the torrid heat of summer, Dew? You loved the air then, fickle one. Humid hubris”Image result for dew on grass photos

The geese have been honking overhead as they tune up the fall’s symphony of natural instruments– cicadas ga-ga-gaing their last; mocking birds cackle and caw before they are gone for winter; and owls hoot somewhere in hickory trees beyond the neighboring cornfield, while crickets get in final chirrups and giggles.Related image

It’s unfair to call this air, this ever present everywhereness that is scented with an aroma of urgency, potency to move, to harvest, and gather in the splendor. And what a year for bumper crops– Apples are ripening into delicious crispness. The grapes hang heavy along the fence, blushing more dusky purple each day. Never have I seen pears so heavy that they bend branches with their bounty down to the grass.Image result for fruit trees in harvest pictures In the gym these pears would be seen as bullies showing off their pecs and biceps. But man, they are built.

Last night I had the rare and splendid opportunity to see one of my favorite musical masters, Van Morrison, at a stadium venue. Even with binoculars it was hard to see him from the cheap seats where I sat with my daughter and granddaughter. The sound was fine, however. Yep, my 4 year old granddaughter came along to hear Sheryl Crow sing her big girl songs before Van began his set. It was cute to hear a picky four year old known for emotional meltdowns sing, “If it makes you happy, it can’t be that bad.” Leah Bideah was in her big girl glory dancing in her sparkle pants while eating blue cotton candy, though she longed for “Soak up the Sun”. It didn’t make the cut.Image result for sheryl crow dancing pictures

I had imagined that something magical from my youth would rise up remembered, and I would dervishly dance along with the music of my younger days, like a Nugenix promise come true. That didn’t happen. Nor did communal joints and bottles of wine get passed along my row, which was common practice back in the day. The evening was surprisingly PG rated and family friendly.  Instead what I experienced was a bucket list wish completed. I had a gorgeous evening with one of my music gods alongside two of my favorite human beings. Never did I imagine as a 16/17 year old kid, when I was listening to Oh Oh Domino,  Jackie Wilson Said or Listen to the Lion that I’d be a father and grandfather one day marveling at time, age, and unmistakable talent at 72 that won’t surrender to time or age. That’s Van’s age not mine in case you were wondering.Image result for van morrison pictures

“And all my love come down
All my love come tumblin’ down
All my love come tumblin’ down
All my love come tumblin’ down
Oh, listen listen
To the lion
Oh, listen listen listen
To the lion
Inside of me
Oh, oh, oh

Image result for lion growling picturesFunny thing about lyrics on a page versus lyrics exploding from a singer’s mouth: what looks like chicken scratches on paper comes out sounding like chicken cordon bleu from a masterful chanteur chef like Van. When he growls later in the song, it’s like the soul of a captive lion shredding its cage bars. Van didn’t sing any of these songs, by the way, but he still stirred my lion. That lion is not prowling about agitated or melancholic. Nope, he’s pretty content. Far more content that I ever imagined I’d be when I thought love and success were far ahead of me on life’s highway. Now I see they are right next to me: the lion is purring, not longing or hungry.Related image

So, back to the light and sights, sounds and smells of an early fall day. This day seems to match my inner calendar, this year and my life are three quarters over, unless one of us gets bonus time. Life expectancy is around 80 years for old married white guys in reasonable health. (Single men die sooner. Did you know that? They lack a partner to make them [under threat of death] be healthy.) All the planets align sometimes, metaphorically speaking, so that light and sound and smell and all sensory input flows right through the beholder. The senses are flooded like good bourbon floods one’s body in a rush. That’s a storm surge in a charcoal charred oak barrel. How to respond to such moments? Inhale joyfully; hold to saturation; exhale gratefully.Image result for faces of gratitude

Have I told you lately that I love you
Have I told you there’s no one above you
Fill my heart with gladness
Take away my sadness
Ease my troubles, that’s what you do
Oh the morning sun in all its glory
Greets the day with hope and comfort too
And you fill my life with laughter
You can make it better
Ease my troubles that’s what you do
There’s a love that’s divine
And it’s yours and it’s mine
Like the sun
At the end of the day
We should give thanks and pray to the One
Have I told you lately that I love you
Have I told you there’s no one above you
Fill my heart with gladness
Take away my sadness
Ease my troubles, that’s what you do
There’s a love that’s divine
And it’s yours and it’s mine
And it shines like the sun
At the end of the day we will give thanks and pray to the One
Have I told you lately that I love you
Have I told you there’s no one above you
Fill my heart with gladness
Take away my sadness
Ease my troubles, that’s what you do
Take away my sadness
Fill my life with gladness
Ease my troubles that’s what you do
Fill my life with gladness
Take away my sadness
Ease my troubles that’s what you do”
Songwriter: Van Morrison
Image result for fall sunset pictures

 

 

 

471. Forget, forgot, not forgotten

To “un-get,” hence “to lose” from the mind. A common Germanic construction  (cf. Old Saxon fargetanOld Frisian forjetaDutch vergetenOld High German  firgezanGerman vergessen “to forget”). The literal sense would be “to lose   (one’s) grip on”  [Dictionary.Com]

I got it. No, I lost it. I had it, but I forgot it. That is, I lost my grip on the umbrella, our anniversary, the password, my client’s name, my promise to call you back, the money I owe you…. I suppose it’s the opposite of remember, which is about grasping a memory and pulling it back into consciousness, like a big carp on a stout fishing line. That line is a neural pathway in your brain. Forgetting, on the other pole, is like reeling in an empty hook baitlessly. You can tell by the tension on the line if anything is there beneath the surface of proof. “OOOPs, guess I forgot my key, wallet, homework, pants.”Image result for carp pictures In Alzheimer’s patients there are many lines that have empty hooks or severed tethers to nothingness. They catch only plaque fish that let go as the empty hook breaks the surface of stark reality.

How is it that we forget so much, so often? For instance, I forget my hair appointments about as often as I remember them. My stylist gives me a card each time in good faith without any lecture or nagging. I go right back to my office and somehow don’t record the next appointment. I “remember” to some degree when my hair starts to curl over my ears that I should be getting it cut again, so let’s see… it’s not written on the calendar… again. Shabingo!! Sorry, Michelle. I buried my reminder card beneath a pack of gum, yellow sticky notes, a few file folders, an overdue bill or two, and a layer or three of  just plain stupid. See, I had that card and good intentions to transfer the time to my appointment calendar, but, aaaahhhhhhggggghhhhh. I didn’t. Beat me with hot vermicelli al dente. Fifty strokes or until spongy to the touch.

Image result for parodies of the thinker statue picturesI suppose there are hundreds of reasons why people forget. Starling distractions come swooping by and pluck up the seeds of thoughtlessness. Image result for swooping starlings pictures Or the “thinker”, i.e., the guardian of thoughts, is multitasking like smoking and swimming the back stroke; one or both will end badly.Image result for swimming while smoking picture I further suppose that there is accidental forgetting and purposeful forgetting. The first lacks motivation and depends on circumstances like sleep deprivation, inebriation, head injury, Electro Convulsive Therapy, brain swelling for other reasons, or coma.Image result for brain scan images

Then there is purposeful forgetting, willful ignorance. When something awful happens to a victim, the last thing he/she wants to do is memorialize it or recall any part of it.  A process of suppression begins, a conscious pushing of the unpalatable memory down under consciousness, until it is unrecognizable, beyond willful recall. Related image“It never happened”, the victim tells himself and anyone else who wants to know. He/she repeats the lie until it is as silkily familiar as the truth. It becomes an alternative factual narrative, maybe with a twist of irony or a dash of humor. Held down beneath the surface of consciousness long enough, the true truth will drown or lose conscious connectivity. In that state, called repression, the horrible truth will stay put at a significant cost. The cost is a nocticeable change in the keeper of the truth as the lies sputter, leaking psychic energy out into anxiety, a sort of free floating anxiety. The gate keeper’s one leg grows shorter and he/she loses balance, stumbles or develops vertigo. He leans like a peg-legged sailor on a rocky boat. Dreams get weird. Panic is easy to find.Related imageTransfusing truth with embalming fluid lies even temporarily is similar to submerging a new boogie board under several feet of salt water. When the downward pressure wiggles a bit and the truth keeper loses his/her grip, the boogie board killer whale comes barreling out of the water. Whoa! What’s that all about? How is it even possible?

Image result for whale jumping pictures

It is both a Biblical and psychological maxim that the truth will set you free. Boy will it ever, especially if you have suppressed it twenty leagues below in the dark undercurrents of your psyche for twenty years. Upheaval, surge, turbulence, tumult, and eruption are just a few words that come to mind to describe such events. Image result for images of munch's scream painting“I remember, I remember now!!” gushes out of a tortured client’s mouth as tears squirt. Odd contortions in face and body follow, like emotional vomiting or rebirth, as the redeemed individual is uncrucified.'Descent from the Cross', Max Beckmann 1917

“It was my father… our pastor… my stepbrother… my bus driver… coach… who did the unspeakable… and took my voice along with my innocence.” Heaving sobs and labored breaths are interrupted by gasping phrases, ” it was, uh, hurt, dark, terror” followed by uncontrollable shaking. You watch and wonder what reality is. My breathing is calm and measured. I see a puzzle being solved, order coming into being. Painful redemption of an abandoned soulImage result for images of munch's scream painting

It’s another day at the office for me, but I can’t forget the privilege it is to be present at a holy feast of vulnerability. Like a birth or a heart transplant, life is palpably on display. Sure, it was there five minutes ago in some lesser shadow state, but now I hold a baby becoming pink on my lap as a middle aged man weeps for his terrorized four year old self. His new pulsing heart is wet and messy in my hands. “I believe this is yours.”Related image

“Thank you so much.”

“No. You did all the work. It’s your gift. Thank God, my friend. He never forgot you.”Image result for man hugging his son photos

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.

Related image

“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.

Image result for old white woman pictures

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.”

“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 a 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.

Image result for drippy ink images

 

 

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?”

Image result for mean umpire face pictures

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