549. The Lectins are Coming!

Image result for lectins picturesWe went to Ruby Tuesday’s after a couple hours of dancing, just for a snack and a drink, and to catch up on the past week with Wayne and Jackie, our new almost in-laws. Our kids married in October past, as the three aphid readers of this blog know already. Late on Friday at Ruby Tuesday’s, 9:30 or so when we arrived, the place was emptying out and we were tired. “Just one glass of red wine”, said Wayne. It  was agreed… maybe a large one.

Wayne opened up about Dr. Gundry, had we ever heard of him? I assumed it was a continuation of Jackie’s report on Trivia Night, how no one could match the unfamous woman with her “first” in history. Perhaps Dr. Gundry was a feminist researcher in Nairobi who had researched tsetse flies.Image result for doctor evil pictures

“No, never. Who is this person?”

“He’s a doctor of nutrition.”

Jackie added, “Zach says he’s a quack. He googled him and said he’s a quack, Wayne.”

“He might be a good quack, like the AFLAC duck, you know. He’s there to protect us from lost wages in the event of an injury.”

“So this guy does insurance commercials?”Image result for aflac duck gif

“No, but I think he’s got something worth listening to, so I’ve been watching his videos on YouTube. He does these talks about the food we eat and how it actually is killing us.”

“Wayne, I just turned 62. I don’t think food is killing me at this moment. I am killing the food.”

“Like, five raw red beans can kill you. Unless you pressure cook them like the Italians do.”

“Really? Silent red assassins.” Image result for lectins pictures

“Yeah, Dr. Gundry says that…”

“Wait, I have it on google, here…

‘According to his book, it’s not only about that awful gluten that we have heard so much about but about a whole class of “highly toxic, plant-based proteins called lectins” of which gluten is a member. He says that “lectins are found not only in grains like wheat but also in the ‘gluten-free’ foods like … many fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans and conventional dairy products,” which “many of us regard as healthy.” After consumption, they “incite a kind of chemical warfare in our bodies, causing inflammatory reactions that can lead to weight gain and serious health conditions.'”

“Yeah!! That’s it.”

“Honey, could you read that again? a flock of geese interrupted my hearing there.”Image result for a flock of geese pictures

“Now, listen. It’s maybe, well some of it is far fetched, but a lot of what he says makes sense. Like adult men should not eat peanuts or cashews. They’ll give you cancer.”

“Oh, crap! I wondered why Erin sent me that nut collection for my birthday. Revenge!! I’ve been poisoned by my first born. [Gag, hack, cough.]Luckily the antidote is beer.” [Gulp.]Image result for cashew nut pictures

“Dr. Gundry says that plants and animals have evolved to stay alive longer and lectins work to protect them from predators. Then, or now, the genetically modified foods have extra lectins injected into them for a longer shelf life. So we are poisoning ourselves.”

“I’m trying to visualize the process of injecting individual peanut halves with a syringe full of lectin juice. It just seems too tedious to me.”

“This is where the Chinese come in. There are like nine billion Chinese with nothing to do because of pollution and robots. So Dr. Gundry says that in secret labs billions of Chinese and North Korean slaves are doing the injections. It’s unbelievable.”Image result for syringes injecting nuts with chemicals pictures

“Where are these labs, Wayne? Surely our satellites would find them. You can’t hide nine billion slaves very easily.”

“I know, it’s coming to me through the honking and quacking geese and duck noises…”

“Where? You don’t have to be so dramatic!”

“Drum roll please, Lectinschtein.”Map of Liechtenstein

“Funny. I almost spit my wine at you. Don’t joke when my mouth is full.”

“My mother’s maiden name was Bridenstein, like the bride of Frankenstein. Wouldn’t that make a cool name for a craft beer?”

“Oh yeah. Who would be the model on the bottle?”

“Hmmm, maybe Dr. Gundry’s wife.”Image result for frankenstein beer label

“Okay, keep laughing at me till your inflammation adds sixty pounds to you. You know Dr. Gundry did a study or talked about what happens when human feces are placed in mice after the mice have had rodent specific colonoscopies.”Image result for lab mouse pictures

“And?”

“And the mice swelled up like hippopotamuses.”Image result for hippo pictures

“So?”

“So that proves that our colons are bursting with lectins, inflaming our bodies and killing us.”

“Wayne, this is not a chemical issue; it’s mechanical.”

“What do you mean?”

“Human feces alone are larger then a whole mouse, so naturally if you jammed one up a mouse hole it would inflate and explode,  killing the mouse and leaving a smelly mess behind, or a behind mess, as you will.”Image result for coal slurry accidents pictures

“We found a dead mouse in our front hall closet. Uh, the stink. I washed all the garments and set out baking soda in a dish. Such a nasty smell.”

“Yeah, the worst. We had one die inside a wall once. Had to drill out the plaster to remove the carcass.”

“Another case of lectincide. Did you find any red beans or cashews strewn about the crime scene?”

“You’re gonna put this in the blog, aren’t you? I can just see the wheels turning.”Image result for tony soprano pictures

“Maybe, but I need to know where Dr. Gundry came from, how he became obsessed with lectins. Hmmmm.”

“I can google him for you.”

“NO! Don’t disrupt the process. I don’t want any facts to get in the way of a good fiction. Let’s see, he was found washed up on the Isle of Orkney wrapped only in a blanket from Ikea. It was always assumed he was Swedish, since he came from the sea and the Scotswoman who found him was past child bearing years, she took the infant to a wet nurse on the inlet of Grand Cairn Firth. When the wet nurse saw the woman and her little sea biscuit of a boy, she said, “Why ere you here, me dear? Why errant you suckling him?”Image result for orkney island beaches

“Why I’ve Gun Dry, missy.”Image result for withered old crone pictures

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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329. Relax, loosen again

The blue horizon just sits there, level. Dividing a pale blue sky from its dark ocean self. Is the sky half empty or half full, or half full of emptiness?  Sixteen floors above the beach that horizon is the halfway mark of the sliding glass balcony doors I am gazing through this late October afternoon. Little white caps appear like silverfish  and then are gone as the waves roll into Myrtle Beach. Our last day of deep relaxation and peace. No phones, no schedules, no pressure, no worries. My little brain is plumping up again — a reconstituted prune– due to the week’s luscious inactivity. I feel like I am finally recovering from screamotherapy, also known as office work. Blogging is the only thing approaching work that I have done since last Saturday. Ahhhhhh. I know from experience, though, that this blissful pause will not last beyond Tuesday coming. Like a massage. And maybe that’s how it should be. If only we could reload more frequently with such bliss instead of wandering like desert bound camels far away from living water. “Mike, Mike, Mike, what day is it?…. HUMP DAAAAAAY.” Only galley slaves celebrate Wednesdays, my Bloggumps.

Before leaving home, people asked what I planned to do at the beach. DO? Nothing. No plangenda. Eat, rest, breathe, laugh, drink beer for lunch, sing silly songs, nap, shop with my wife, go to a show, and sleep. “Don’t worry about me. I will survive without achieving a thing.” I don’t want to jet ski or golf, parasail or fish, drive go karts or buy a time share. Those things require thought and ambition, not to mention money. I just want to watch the tide go out and come back in, like Otis Redding sang. And I’ve been successful all this glorious week in walking slowly up the beach and back, picking up broken shells and parts of sand dollars, as if these broken things were gold nuggets and rough diamonds, marveling at the whimsical genius in each shard. I’ve thrilled at the creativity of it all, at God’s hand in the tiniest of places. Ghost crabs and herons, sharks and ospreys, conch and scallop shells, children and old folks. It’s all good if you just let it be.

“How silly!” you might be tempted to say. “I can buy perfect shells at the craft store.” And you certainly can. Please do so. But I suspect if you are reading my eccentric meanderings, then you are not a perfectionist, unless you are doing a research project on sociopathic media.  As for me, I like brokenness, imperfection, flaws, nicks, dings, and apparent defects. You see: you can’t break it if it’s already broken, right? So there goes all that perfect pressure if you start with dents and rust. I find this especially true in the folks I call friends. They are eccentric, naturally, if they can tolerate me. Heck, they have lowered their standards to hang out with me, so it’s the least I can do to likewise lower mine.

Being a word nerd I like etymology, word origins. Relax comes from re+laxare, which means “to loosen again”.  Which makes me wonder aloud, ‘When were we laxare to begin with?’ Another way to ask this is ‘When did we get so uptight and rigid, so constipated?’ I suspect it happened during the industrialized socialization process known as high school. Most of us were herded into large warehouses and homogenized into teams or levels or some such commodification. Suddenly everything mattered or else we would not graduate, and therefore be unemployable, and therefore be homeless and wind up dead in jail for vagrancy. All because we did not pass ninth grade geography that no longer resembles today’s maps. Okay? Where did Rhodesia go? And the Soviet Union? And when did you last use Algebra II/Trig?”I once made a wooden Christmas drum for my mother-in-law and needed to figure out pi r squared. But that’s about it for me and higher math. The drum looked nice.

In high school I was taught that the Great Lakes were biologically dead. The Cold War would never thaw out. The sun would never set on the British Empire. And I could not succeed if I did not go to a good college. Now, the Great Lakes look great. The Cold War is lukewarm history. And the British Empire has shrunken down like a wool sweater in the dryer. All this is forgivable because we can just shake it all off as a snake would shed its old skin. But the tense sphincter factor of getting uptight about succeeding in life is not. Just being a regular guy in a relaxed manner became tantamount to being a loser. You had to grab on tight and never let go of the success train to achievement. Get busy, get educated… advanced degree, get a job, get rich, get married, get pregnant, get ahead, get a good retirement, get cremated. I must admit, this never appealed to me very much.

Listening to music, hanging out with my friends, reading good books– all trumped being super focused on my GPA or my gross annual income. I found it exhausting to care about others’ opinions of me. I like to say to my clients, “It’s hard enough to fly your own helicopter; trying to fly your neighbor’s helicopter at the same time will kill both of you.” Translated this means, “Work on your own life. Don’t bother with others’ views of your life.” Relax. Breathe. Just be.

A lot of what was presented as indisputable facts in the early 1970s turned out to be wrong, mere opinion, or just partly true. And I’m fine with that. Hey, there were no personal computers around then, no Google, just for a starter point. They didn’t know any better. I never learned how to write a research paper or do a chemistry experiment or solve a quadratic equation. Still, I’ve had a nice life, a great wife, three great daughters, my own business, and yes, laxare. I’ve been told a thousand times about how life could, would and should collapse on my Chicken Little neck. To date it has not. Like my broken shells I have found beauty in the tiniest places… and breathe joy deeply and loosely. It feels good, my Blogstaceans. Real good.

Keep the party going.

 

 

310. Tragic Muscle Head Cars

My blog post numbers are getting up near the high horsepower engine range. It is just a natural association for me to recall that 327 CID was a Chevy engine, though I am no motor head.  There was a Ford 302. Chevy also had a 350, 396, and 427.  I just know that they were powerful and fast, too fast for the teenagers who tried to drive them. Which is perhaps symbolic of how woefully unprepared some adolescent males are to maneuver through the twisting course of adult life.

Where to begin?  Charlie Young drove a Camaro Z28 when we were all teenagers. I have no idea where he got the money to even buy the gas, though it was cheap in the early 1970’s. It was a sweet car to be sure, green base with wide white racing stripes. A shrine to the young male ego, sporting  slotted mags, a Hurst shifter, slick spoiler on the back, and fat tires. Yeah. Charlie posed in it like Clint Eastwood on a racehorse. Cool squint and a John Travolta smile.

There was talk of races behind the high school and big talk about how fast this car was or how fast that guy shifted gears. I don’t recall how Charlie fared in these much heralded races. I just recall that the Z28 went away one day, and not into a museum. He got married early and moved into a travel trailer parked in his parents’ side yard. The last I heard about Charlie was that he was working for the sheriff’s department back home transporting prisoners. Someone told me that one of the prisoners persuaded Charlie to stop at a liquor store during the trip to jail for one last good time. Good Time Charlie obliged and got drunk too; the prisoner escaped; Charlie was fired. The funny part is that there is no surprise here. It just got away from him like the Z28 did years before.

Let’s go up a few cubic inches. I believe Glenn Barret’s Nova SS had a 307 or a 350. I used to know these things like baseball players’ batting averages. Glenn’s car was red and black, manual transmission. He was constantly cleaning or waxing it, posing with the door open. He had this cool rolling start he liked to pull where he’d start the car just by popping the clutch. Cool cubed, man. He’d silently cruise into a parking space with the engine off or drift down a grade noiselessly and then pop that clutch. VRRRoooom!!

One day he was parked on the incline in front of Bobby Doering’s house, door open, coolness spilling out of his car like chilled air conditioning. He was all set to do the silent back out, but this time he forgot to close his door. As he glided back down the hill, his driver side door caught the fire hydrant he had neglected to account for. The interaction ripped his door out away from the frame of the car like an airplane wing.  Now this would upset any driver of any car, but factor back in that Glenn worshipped this Nova SS. It was his first love, his status symbol, his everything. Like Barry White sang,

“I know there’s only, only one like you
There’s no way they could have made two
Girl, you’re my reality, but I’m lost in a dream
You’re the first, you’re the last, my everything ”

He married young and took up golf. Not sure how either of those endeavors turned out.

Then there is the king of foolishness, the late Bobby Doering. He moved from Oklahoma in his junior year of high school. He could talk and bluster and brag with a western cockiness that was infectious and charming. He was famous for sayings like, “That sounds like a cow pissing on a flat rock.”

Bobby had a couple of cute sisters, plus his dad had a Porsche that we drove around when we cut school. What more could a 17 year old need? He also played ice hockey when that was unheard of in our experience. What more? How about a  forest green Chevelle SS 396 with boss wheels and dual exhaust? One of the coolest cars ever.

 Bobby lacked common sense and a healthy fear of death or injury. He’d smoke the tires with no provocation whatsoever. I imagine there is great pressure to blow out the four barrel carburetor when you have one, just like the pressure to drive your dad’s Porsche 135 miles an hour on the Beltway while skipping school and listening to the Stones “Under My Thumb”.

Bobby was keen on my girlfriend’s girlfriend Lisa, who was 15 then, I think. Lisa’s parents weren’t too keen on Bobby being around Lisa, for obvious reasons.  However, on Halloween of that year Bobby was driving both girls around the neighborhood  in the SS 396 when he decided to gun the engine and smoke tires. He did and lost control of the green monster, dumping it into a deep ravine to his left. He and both girls fell forward as the Chevelle went 90 degrees into the concrete culvert. I forget the physical damage done. Everyone received injuries as no one wore their seatbelt. Bobby was bankrupted. The car was totaled but the loan against it was not. He had to get a job and work off the debts he’d accumulated while  worshipping at the shrine of the 396.

I don’t know when, but through the grapevine I learned that he died a couple of years later, maybe while playing hockey. Cardiac arrest. Rest in peace, bro, like Dick Clark– forever a teenager.

I don’t recall the CID of Mike Dean’s Charger or Challenger. It’s too far back there. It was a big muscle car, I do know. He hung out in the same neighborhood of Wilton Woods, where there were plenty of cute girls. Mike’s car was not the problem, though. The story is murky, but as I heard it he blew his brains out with a gun after this girlfriend dumped him. Too much power in the hands of boys wanting to be great.

Tragedies are poignant because they did not have to happen. Some character flaw or bizarre circumstance destroys a good manboy. Yeah, well let me finish by directing you to Tom Waits’ “Big Joe and Phantom 309”, a lovely old ballad with a tragic seed.

 

287. Accolades from Coffee Nation, inquire within

Provisional Coffee Nation marketing quotes…

The Nation: making useless men uselesser since 2009.

The Summit: Where small men talk big and loud in order to compensate for their inadequacies.

The Supreme Bean Nation: Why settle for efficiency when you can upgrade to deficiency?

Coffee Nation: Where a disturbed nerd can be… well, a disturbed nerd.

Work is the curse; we are the cure– Coffee Nation.

Productivity– it’s not for everyone. Join the Nation.

When jobs are outlawed, only outlaws will have jobs. Why wait? Join the Nation of the Bean.

Our purpose is purposelessness. CSN.

Bold like the beans we roast. CSN.

W-O-R-K, the original four letter word. CSN.

================================================

These slogans are intentionally mediocre since we only have room for six guys at the Summit table, the rectangular Round Table of Perfidy. However, since Gene was kidnapped by his prospective bride in January and is presumably being held in suspended animation until the nuptials are benubious, and because Pastor Kyle is moving to Detroit (Detroit!!), there are two semi-permanent seats open at the coveted coffee table of peerlessness. Should you pass the stringent interview process, here is what to expect.

Growaset! this was Steve’s word for the day. He likes to throw his chest out and seek pain like a peacock in mating season. If you shy away from being tazed or hit by lightning (two lifelong desires of his that could also end his life), Steve barks, “Oh Growaset!” No one takes him all that seriously despite his position of sergeant at arms, legs  and elbows of the Nation table.

“Do you need a pair?”

“A pair of Percoset?”

“Isn’t that a grass fertilizer? Controls crabgrass I think.”

“Grabass? Who said that? Don’t touch me.”

“Stop! In the name of Love, before I break a fart.”

“Doug, this is a No Hand Dancing Zone. Stop it now.”

“Rob, what’s new with you?”

“I started riding my bike.”

“The unicycle, tricycle, your Big Wheel…”

“Uh, bicycle, please. Trying to get into shape. You know bikini season is coming up.”

“Please, the image of you in a bikini on a ten speed is truly disturbing. My gag reflex is going off. Ahhgggh ahhhgggh.”

“Medic! Medic. I need a tankini and a martini at table one. Stat!”

“No, you need a mental image eraser like Men in Black, the thingy jigger mind cleaner.”

“Oh yeah. Without it I would have  to gouge out my eyes.”

“Both of them?”

“Yeah, Rob. You can’t unsee that pale white bikini flasher biker dude skin.”

“Switch. Oh, look who’s here.”

“Well, DJ himself. Farfugnoodle to you.”

“Farfugnoodle to you too.” Handshakes all around except for the Supreme Imam who insists on hand sanitizer.

“So how many Republican candidates does it take to change a light bulb?”

“Apparently a dozen. One to hold the bulb and eleven to kill each other off in the primaries. Did you see Carly Fiorina jumped in?”

“Well H. my P!”

“No abbreviations are permitted at the Summit Nation, thou perfidious knight.”

“How about Trump? Did he toss his toupee into the ring yet?”

“Only to say he’s going to interview vice presidential candidates on the Apprentice, Wednesday nights at 8 eastern.”

“Oh my gosh, what about the other fight. Mayweather and Paquiao?”

“I heard it was a sleeper. Glad I didn’t spend $100 to watch it.”

“Scamacious if you ask me.”

“And deflategate may cost Brady a game suspension. Maybe the Steelers will win that opening day game.”

“Isn’t that ironic, the first game for Brady after the Super Bowl and he’s suspended? Talk about integrity.”

“Yeah, next time he should snort coke and leave the footballs alone. Protect the integrity of the game.”

“He needs to grow a set!”

“Steve, enough.”

“Sir Lancelate has been recognized at the rectangular round table.”

“Yes, thank you. As you already know, I am a template of fine haberdashery and…”

“Shut up and get to your point!”

“You ever notice how a lot of inventions are the result of warfare? Airplanes, canned food, radar, nuclear power. Leonardo Da Vinci had these elaborate drawings of submarines and flying machines.”

“Yeah. Did you know that the Leaning Tower of Pisa was originally a cannon barrel?”

“No way!”

“Oh yeah, only the turret had not been invented yet so it could only shell the same neighborhood in Lombardy.”

“That’s ridiculous blasphemy and very funny.” (Kyle)

“I know. Only later was it opened for tourists after a spiral staircase was inserted. You should think about that in Detroit, Kyle. You know, tow an old barge onto your church grounds and charge admission to the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. It’s a sure money maker.”

“That’s a bit tawdry.”

“Oh, now you’re gonna have standards.”

“Okay, change of topic– child actor burnouts for 50, Alex.”

“Macauley Culkin. Hall of Fame. Definitely.”

“The Olsen twins.”

“Doogie Howser.”

“That’s not his real name. It’s Neil Patrick Harris.”

Image result for doogie howser pictures

“He seems to have turned out well. He’s selling Heineken and not riding his ten speed in a Speedo.”

“Unfair!! That category was explored and discarded, Alex. Unless it’s the Daily Double we’re going to have to move on.”

“Good bye Jodi Foster, Opey, Leonardo De Caprio.”

“They aren’t burnouts.”

“Picky, picky.”

“Growaset!!”

“Steve, three Growasets and you are out, okay? It’s a rule on Jeopardy.”

“What are you gonna do if I say it again? Taze me?”

“No, you’d like that. I’ll call Alexandra Steele and tell her you are married.”

“You wouldn’t!!!”

Lance, “Gentlemen, please. A bit of poetry to soothe your torrid bestial minds.

O CAPTAIN! my Captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won;
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.”

All, “Well done. Do you do funerals and grocery store openings?”

Steve, “I have one…

Death be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for, thou art not so,
For, those, whom thou think’st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poor death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
And better then thy stroake; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.”

“That was just thoooper with all the thee’s and thou’s.  Thoooper.”

Rob?  “Okay, Roses are red,
Violets are blue.
I’m a schizophrenic,
And so am I.”

“Nice modern twist to that, Rob. Super.”

Doug?

“Ahem, One fine day in the middle of the night,
Two dead boys got up to fight,
Back to back they faced each other,
Drew their swords and shot each other,

One was blind and the other couldn’t, see
So they chose a dummy for a referee.
A blind man went to see fair play,
A dumb man went to shout “hooray!”

A paralysed donkey passing by,
Kicked the blind man in the eye,
Knocked him through a nine inch wall,
Into a dry ditch and drowned them all,

A deaf policeman heard the noise,
And came to arrest the two dead boys,
If you don’t believe this story’s true,
Ask the blind man he saw it too! Amen.”

“And you, Coffee Sultan. Have you a rhyme for us?”

“Certainly:  Here’s to you and here’s to me.

May we never disagree

If we do,

Here’s to me.”

“Lovely, lovely. We will serve no yogurt before it’s time.”

“Culture… my people, culture.”

“That’s bacteria, man.”

Image result for bacteria pictures No, that’s coffee nation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

184. Gold Miners and Wise Men

King Midas, Rumpelstiltskin, and the Goose that laid the Golden Egg– these are myth and fairy tales that speak to gold and greed. There is a long association between the two. In these stories the pursuit of gold led to heartbreak, death, or an ironic killing of the gold machine. Some sort of destruction followed greed.  Storytellers and writers have valued these stories enough to keep them alive for centuries. Like Neil Young’s singer kept searching for a heart of gold, a miner for a heart of gold. I’m not sure if he ever found it. There’s the literal and the figurative, the fact and the fantasy.  By post 184 you are well aware of my preference.

Image result for gold mining reality tv show picturesThere are several reality shows on television based on gold seeking. They celebrate the  pioneer spirit of Americans who are chasing the rags to riches story in our highly technological world. It’s ironic that gold remains central to our economy and technology after thousands of years. It seems to exist in the exact right proportion to be both essential and difficult to come by in relationship to humankind’s ever expanding wants. It would not surprise me if the next mother lode is discovered on Mars and that Martian gold would draw humans deeper into space just as it drew explorers to the New World in the 16th century and Americans to California in the 1850’s.

Families carry their children while they toil for free in mercury-poisoned pits to pan gold in Ghana. Photo: Lisa Kristine, Lisa Kristine ©Gold seems to bring out the best and worst in humans. On the one hand its beauty, malleability and conductivity have been creatively exploited for many good purposes in art and technology and medicine. On the other hand its undisputed value as hard currency has fueled man’s greed for millennia. Gold has been used to glorify God in cathedrals, but the greedy human pursuit of gold is a story of blood, death and enslavement. For instance, African gold today is evidence of modern slavery. It is extracted from that tragic continent by imprisoned miners under the  hardened gaze of armed guards.  It makes me cringe to think that the value of this metal is held so much higher than the human lives expended to obtain it. I don’t even like to consider how much human misery was compelled by the production of my wedding band or my wife’s jewelry.

Image result for nelson mandela picturesBut I’m not focusing on real gold mines today. Rather, I’ve been thinking about the golden veins that run through the wrinkled gray quartz of our minds.  Jackpot memories and associations that wind about in the neural wire mazes of the brain contain some of the same gold qualities that are in play here– purity, conductivity, beauty, malleability. Which brings me to Nelson Mandela, a gold mine of a human being. (He was the same age as my father, who would have been 95 this year. ) Why would a white kid from the suburbs of D.C. care about a Black African political figure?  Probably for the same reasons that I cared about Martin Luther King, Jr. domestically. He was another gold mine in my mind. Something was wrong in our world, not just a little wrong, but drastically wrong like raging cancer.  It had to be amputated from the body of civilization or else a limb, a tribe, a continent would die. And these two men stood up to it with truth and light and laser faith, like skilled miners in the depths of the earth. They were underdog Davids versus monstrous institutional Goliaths. They operated surgically with words as their scalpels, cutting up the well defended giants who had every advantage.

A five year old could see the injustice of apartheid but a fifty year old could not… because that older man had grown up in the soupy illogic of inherited racism. If you cook facts under a steady low flame of ignorance, over time all the elements will cook down and mix together into something else, which I believe is institutional racism. Isms become so familiar and warm and sticky, they are as hard to get rid of as pine sap on one’s hands. Turpentine can cut the grip of it, but the smell, like the smell of blood, lingers.

Image result for mandela speaking to congress picturesBoth wise men avoided  cooked down political soup slop, and instead deconstructed the garbage they were fed by the authorities of their day. They bored through the  walls of inequality, discrimination, and apartheid on separate continents with similar intensity. They never met, though MLK tried to get a visa to visit South Africa in the early sixties. No surprise, he was denied access…the light was not permitted in the darkness by those invested in the darkness.  By the time Mandela spoke to the U.S. Congress in 1990, Martin Luther King, Jr. was long dead…killed by that same low flame of ignorance. Branded as a communist, an anarchist, a rabble rouser, a puppet of darker forces. Funny how villains of propaganda become heroes in truth. Propaganda is fool’s gold; truth is real gold to the wise.

It always seems to be that tragedy polishes and refines the gold in our lives. A worm eaten frame of injustice around a haloed saint seems to make that halo brighter. A dark veil makes you squint all the harder for the rays of light that pierce the crosshatched fabric behind it. Then quite dramatically one day the veil burns to ash. Freedom is all the sweeter and brighter and glorious after a long absence. The Berlin Wall crumbled under the sledgehammers of free people.  Two systems had met on that line– democracy and totalitarianism, messy truth versus controlled lies. It always seems to go this way… when our love of truth and freedom is not held responsibly, in rushes fear driven deceit and ever escalating control. When that totalitarian control is finally shucked off, what glorious joy the newborn truth radiates.

Wise men don’t wait for injustice to celebrate the truth. They don’t require any prison term to enjoy their freedom. No, with each breath they inhale truth and exhale joy, following God’s star.

171. Adolessons 2

I recall a night in mid-May of 1975. I had just gotten home from my first year of college. My buddies came by and we drank some beer and perhaps smoked some pot. It was a long time ago. All these things were legal then if you were under the influence of adolescence. There was Craver, Tim Gulley, Gerard Windt, my older brother Steve, and me. Craver and Gulley were big boys– 250 each; “G” was like a piece of shoelace licorice; and my brother and I were average size 20 and 19 year olds. Anyhow, we wound up at Craver’s kitchen table, blathering and joking, and we were looking for some adventure. Gulley was blathering on about his father and how he worked at the White House. I challenged his b.s. He called the White House and handed me the phone. “Good evening, this is the White House. How may I help you?” said the very adult voice on the other end. I hung up. “I hope they don’t trace prank calls”, was my lame reply to Gulley. I wouldn’t want Mark’s dad, Colonel Craver, to get that follow up phone call.

Image result for vietnam era army ranger pictures

 

“Uh huh, they did what? Why that’s un-American. I’ll take care of it with my Ranger-trained hands.” He served much too long in Vietnam, and the country changed on him while he was deployed. That’s another blog post.

I suppose the conversation moved on to our girlfriends. Somehow I mentioned that mine was stuck at college in Richmond till her mother could drive down and fetch her on the weekend. Gulley, ever grandiose and seeking universal approval, offered that we all pile in his Volkswagen and drive to Richmond and bring her back immediately. “Gulley, there are five of us going down in a VW Beetle. One of us would have to get out and hitchhike back.”

“No, we’ll squeeze in on the way back.”

The funny thing about substances is how they can make what is clearly impossible seem viable. We piled into his Beetle. It was tight. Gulley was over-excited and did a very Gulley thing: he punched his windshield and made a fist-sized spider web appear. Now usually such a bad omen would make an audience reconsider what’s up. Nope. We just headed down the road in the dark. Luminescence became pleasantly kaleidoscopic as we passed streetlights and other vehicles.

Now a careful reader might ask at this juncture, “Don’t you ever learn?” I mean there was the broken foot while skipping school; the mangled deer with the headlights out; the somnambulance ride to Ocean City; not to mention the ticket Sam got when three of us rode on the hood of his Falcon to keep it from bottoming out on a back road in Fauquier County, and a local sheriff couldn’t see the wisdom of that move.( Another pile of guys had decided to go camping in the middle of another bored summer night.) And the answer is an unequivocal “NO”.

Our first destination was the 7-11 store for more beer. Strangely, we thought, they stopped selling beer at 2:00 a.m. We could not figure that one out. Again, another bad omen, but we forged onward, down 95 to Richmond.

It must have been 4:00 a.m. when we arrived, unannounced and strolled right into Johnson Hall, the dorm I lived in as well as my girlfriend Sara. I think after brief introductions we all slept on the floor of her dorm room, or maybe it was mine. In any event the sun came up soon after and the alcohol’s effects were worn off. What seemed gloriously fun and cool and inimitable the night before looked like a dirty Volkswagen with a broken windshield in the pale morning light. Reality was like a flea in our sleeping bag. How to squeeze six people into an overcrowded VW? Sara had to go in the back seat, and though her weight was welcome at first, after an hour it was painful and then numbing over the final hour as the sun heated up and the engine whined under the strain of 1,000 pounds of human cargo. If nothing else, my respect for clown car passengers in the circus grew immensely on that morning. It was wisdom born from pain.

Back at my house, where the saga had begun twelve hours earlier, the VW disgorged its occupants. Normalcy returned in the daylight. And here’s the odd thing: normalcy is forgettable. The mundane is not memorable. Just ask a tollbooth worker what moments were memorable in his/her career. Was it the 12 millionth suit and briefcase or the nude woman with a pet zebra in the back seat who whispered ala Marilyn Monroe, “This is my birthday zoot suit” ? That’s not a fair question, I realize this.

Those days were thirty eight years ago. Gerard lives in San Francisco now and has an awesome life according to his Christmas card letters. The last time I saw Gulley he picked me up hitchhiking on the way to California in 1978. Craver died in 2004. In 1979 I married the only girl in the VW, and my brother Steve is still her brother-in-law.

What to make of these adolescent lessons, because logical outcomes and life altering wisdom are not the only lessons we gather in life. Life rushes out of us, even on boring summer nights that seem to lack meaning and purpose. Some heavily potentiated moments gel into little gemstones that we bury in the subsoil of our consciousness. Somehow these stem cell moments achieve critical mass and arc into the idealized timelessness of nostalgia. And that has to count for something despite the mixing of metaphors.