404. Born to be Mild

Joel has been on the lam for the past three weeks or so. Could be a month. It’s been a social and intellectual drought in his absence. However, time is sketchy. At our age time is measured in sinus infections and colonoscopies. The sky won’t rain; the chickens won’t lay; and the cows will not come home. I don’t really want the cows to come home, mind you, but that leads right into one of Joel’s favorite movies, City Slickers.Image result for city slickers 1 pictures

If you recall, several rather impotent midlife crisis New York men go out west to a real working ranch to find and flex their manhood. Despite many challenges and setbacks, Billy Crystal transforms from some sort of fragile wimpy dud Dad insurance salesman into a true cowboy hero. He brings in the herd after the real cowboy leader (Jack Palance) dies. Crystal observes, “What did you expect?  He ate bacon three meals a day.” Let this be a warning to you lard inhaling bacon lovers. Do you want this epithet on your tombstone? “Killed by nitrates seared in salty pork fat.”Image result for city slickers 1 pictures

Similarly noted in Coffee Nation, “Sometimes a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.” That virile (or is it viral?) spirit led our mild mannered Joel out of Turtle Town onto a world class motorcycle trip into the Ozarks with several other biker dudes from around the world. You see, he recently purchased a three wheeled Spyder motorcycle, which is worthy of much envy. But our local roads could not contain nor constrain his Steppenwolf heart that beats beneath a sharp new leather vest, bursting with high test testosterone.Image result for steppenwolf band pictures

“Get your motor runnin’, head out on the highway

Lookin for adventure and whatever comes our way

Yeah Darlin’, go make it happen Take the world in a love embrace

Fire all of your guns at once and explode into space.

I like smoke and lightning  heavy metal thunder

Racin’ with the wind and this feelin’ that I’m under

Yeah Darlin’, go make it happen  Take the world in a love embrace

Fire all of your guns at once and explode into space.

Like a true nature’s child  we were born, born to be mild

We can climb so high  never want to die.

Born to be mild.”

Before he left for his journey, I managed to wheedle him into a napkin will, where it was clearly stated in his inky hand, that in the event of his untimely death on the Tail of the Dragon trail, I would receive the Spyder, if it survived unscathed. I had the napkin notarized by Shirley, who calls me various men’s names and occasionally gets the right one. I was torn, however, between wanting to hear Joel’s road warrior tales and driving my new Spyder cycle. Come on, you would too.Image result for spyder motorcycles images

So, Joel has returned intact with a certain swagger that comes from deep immersion in the hot springs of masculinity. His jaw seems more square and his posture post modern, beyond framing. He announced in  his purple checked shirt that he had to leave for a meeting in Shippensburg, and thus he could not attend Coffee Nation. Wow! Just Wow! We moved out to the noisy sidewalk to do our suddenly less important business, but Peter Fonda’s stunt double remained inside, finishing something epic on his Ipad.  Eventually he emerged and put on that leather vest, a funky helmet and away he road on that Spyder, like Harry Potter… into a world we mortals could only imagine.Image result for pictures of faces of abandonment

I was left without any tales of Brave Joelysses or my much coveted Spyder cycle. I felt robbed twice, as if someone stole my wallet from the guy who stole my wallet. It hurt in an abstract sort of way if you thought about it long enough. Somewhere Shakespeare’s lines on mercy seemed reversed–

“Envy is twice cursed. Like gasoline stinks on the pumper and the pumped.

It curses he who covets and he who is immersed.

Leaving both as empty as a wheel barrow dumped.”Image result for gas pump picturesUnlike Billy Crystal Joel did not return with a calf named Norman. That would have been special, by Golly. Norman on the back seat roaring through Turtle Town.Image result for cow on a motorcycle picturesBut he did return with a huge mildewed heart. Being mild is okay, my blog warts. It allows for a comfortable move forward, while remaining grounded, safe, and homogenous. The highest state of mild is “to become the dew of mildness, also known as mildew.” Wild is for crazy risk takers who don’t wear helmets. In salsa sales mild is by far the leader, not medium or hot. Know why? You can always increase the kick of mild, but you cannot unwild the hot stuff. A jalapeno without a fever is a fake pepper and will never become a gastronomical dictator.

And that is Joel. For sixty some years he has been building up to this zippiness. Aging well like old amontillado wine. He is enjoying life uncorked now since accepting Social Security and AARP benefits. Rockin it, too.Image result for amontilladoAnd I am trying really hard not to be envious, but I am failing miserably. He has taken on mythic stature in his semi-demi-god retirement. Image result for zeus on a harley davidson images Could it be that the Sermon on the Mount passed over the mild because their inheritance was too materialistic?  “Blessed are the mild, for they shall inherit the cool cycle, hang with Motor head dudes, tame the Dragon Trail in the Ozarks, and walk as giants among measly mortals.”

Image result for walter mitty imagesTom Petty told us “If you never slow down, you never grow old”, which is a nice lyric but a very hard trick to pull off into your seventies and eighties.

In any event… I guess it’s okay to have Joel back on his Spyder. He’s the man, the myth, a giant among dwarves. All the men of Coffee Nation stood a little taller that day as he gunned the Spyder and whirled away dervishly.

“You’re a savage gift on a wayward bus,

But you stepped down and you sang to us.”

So Joan Baez glorified Bob Dylan, and so we salute you, Joel. Born to be mild.

Image result for mild mannered man pictures

 

 

 

272. Melancholy psychic closet cleaning

Oh, my Blogginis, you little canaries, it is a combination of joy

and trepidation

that leads me to the contemplation

of all the odds and ends

stored back, way back

in the psychic closet of

my memories. I need the soundtrack to be melancholy,

Over the Rhine, “Latter Days” is perfect.

Scented with musty old books and worn leather shoes.

No mothballs here. The moths are thick.

Chew a stick of old style teaberry gum as we look with the heart

A favorite baseball glove

lives there tenderized with neatsfoot oil,

abandoned

along with my photo pack

of black and white Washington Senators

circa 1967 collectible portraits

and various colorful baseball cards

We got in to D.C. Stadium for free if we wore our Little League uniforms on certain generous days. Fathers and sons in all sorts of uniforms filled the arena so vast that the announcer’s voice echoed in a time delay. “Now batting….atting, atting, atting,  for the Senators….enators, enators, enators,  Frank…. ank, ank, ank. Howard,Howard, Howard, Howard.” Thunderous applause for the Hondo.

It was another world driving across the Potomac River

before everything broke loose in 1968,

Bobby Kennedy was killed a month after Martin Luther King… and the stadium was renamed to quell the trauma and grief sweeping the landscape.

It was safer then, before the riots and the rights marches, when I was still a child. Freedom can be radioactive and it was in the late 60’s. That freedom energy lit up a lot of cities that summer for better and worse. I watched D.C. burn for a week in person while many other cities burned on our black and white television.

I never imagined our  cities would still be radioactive fifty years later in the second term of a Black president. Nothing is as simple as it seems.

In the back of my cold closet, moisture would gather due to the fact

that it backed up to an unheated shed full of dust and rust

I housed a possum in that shed once but not for long

I managed to send him to meet Jesus with a bathtub baptism and Right Guard aerosol chrism plus below freezing temperatures. Marsupials are hard to love. I tried.

With three brothers I hid things like gum and money, maybe cigarettes later on

I found that the ultimate hiding place was behind the light switch

Who would look there?  for your silver coins? One of them would eventually.

I had the human figure target from our third grade trip to the FBI, Shot to Shreds for our unending excitement by an Agent with ear muffs. “Any questions, kids?”

“Why didn’t we get ear protection?” I wanted to say.

I asked the agent guide/shooter if I could have the target

“Sure, kid. Here ya go.”

Boom! Instant jealousy from every boy I knew who knew I had it

My mother could not bear to see it on my bedroom wall

Image result for human figure shooting target pictures

It freaked her out beyond the planet Valium’s orbit

So I had to roll it up and  put it in the closet.

I don’t think the FBI gives kids that tour any longer. It’s not safe or we are paranoid. Or there’s liability involved. You know how it is. If a kid pees on a tree, the EPA has to call the CDC to check with the NSA for a tox screen and DNA and satellite pictures which are lost when Congress wants to see for themselves if that kid was Bill Clinton.

In  sixth grade I recycled the name stone for Ben Mae Manor

an historic old manor a block down the Parkway from my house

By balancing it on my purple spider bike seat

That historic stone sat heavily on the parquet wood floor of my closet for years

Until my younger brother moved out in the 1970’s and took it with him

It really ought to be returned one day. So Chris, where is it?

Way, way back in time our cat Pinky had a litter of kittens in that closet. It was dark and safe. We’d peek in with unrestrained glee and count the little fur balls as they suckled before they all had to go “to a family with a farm”. My parents didn’t know any farmers.

And the St. Louis Catholic School uniforms– white collared shirts with navy blue pants and a blue bow tie. Yeah, big fashion. Only black shoes were allowed. They hung in that dark space like mason jars of authority ready to can and pickle me. I refused a lot. I still do. My wife and friends tell me the nuns didn’t beat me enough. That’s cold to say though it may be true.

I had a pair of green leather Converse All Star low top sneakers when I ran away from home around 16. I wore them through the rainy night as I hitchhiked past Baltimore and into near oblivion. I thought I was going to hitch all the way to Boston where other family might appreciate or tolerate me. Not to be. A van full of hippies picked me up on their return drug trip from Philly. They got me stoned and I spent the night with them tripping out over split pea soup. It was very groovy. When I put those damp shoes back in my closet, my feet remained green for days, algaed evidence of my prodigality.Enos Country Slaughter St. Louis Cardinals unsigned 8x10 photo Nice

I had a baseball bat with Enos Slaughter’s name burned into it. I didn’t know who he was or where he played ball, but what a name! go out swinging, kid.

Latter Days… Over the Rhine

What a beautiful piece of heartache
This has all turned out to be
Lord knows we’ve learned the hard way
All about healthy apathy

I use these words pretty loosely
There’s so much more to life than words

There is a me you would not recognize, dear
Call it the shadow of myself
And if the music starts before I get there
Dance without me, you dance so gracefully
I really think I’ll be okay
They’ve taken a toll, these latter days

Nothing like sleeping on a bed of nails
Nothing much here but our broken dream
Oh, but baby, if all else fails
Nothing is ever quite what it seems

And I’m dying inside to leave you
With more than just cliches

There is a me you would not recognize, dear
Call it the shadow of myself
And if the music starts before I get there
Dance without me, you dance so gracefully
I really think I’ll be okay
They’ve taken their toll, these latter days
They’ve taken their toll, these latter days

Tell them it’s real
Tell them it’s really real
I just don’t have much left to say
They’ve taken their toll, these latter days
They’ve taken their toll, these latter days

 

Maybe we should just leave that melancholy closet locked. The past need not be repeated.

262. Coffee, Constitution and commandments

Despite the utopian nature of the Coffee Summit and the wonderful cacophonous harmony of disunity that has persisted for the past five years, it is time for some tweaking of the original charter. The genuine Magna Carta napkin has been misplaced, possibly in a washing machine. I thought it was in my old wallet, but when I switched to a new wallet at Christmas, aghast! The most important napkin in Christendom was gone!! It was an agreement among unemployed giants of our time inked out during one of the bleakest periods in our collective history. Like Washington at Trenton or Meade at Gettysburg, the future of the nation was at stake as Tim the Silver Back and Chuckles and I stood in a wooden canoe crossing the Conococheague. (It was shallow there and narrow. Okay, we just walked across on a June morning, but it was powerfully symbolic.) And rather than wave a blank napkin of surrender, we (really I) wrote down on one powerful 3″ x  3″ square eternal truths to live by. And I-uh-I seem to have lost it.

I must, however, persevere and recall as much as I can of the Constitution of Coffee Nation before it deteriorates in the landfill of wasted time and wasted minds. First of all, it was decided by voice vote that we would meet Thursdays at 8:30 a.m. unless otherwise directed by the Supreme Imperial Leader, which I decided was me. For an entire college semester, however, we met on Fridays at 8:30 due to a teaching commitment I had made. It was Abnormal Psychology. Shocker. I drew heavily on my interactions with the primates at Coffee Nation for the class I taught. (Sotto voce) “Here are lowland gorilla men grazing at a coffee shop. The one on the bottom is thought to be a direct link to the Himalayan Yeti. Note his ululating calls… ‘Ugggguggggllll. Uggggugggglll’. We call him Chuckles. The one on the top is from Allentown.  His call resembles human speech… approximating the expression of pleasant surprise…’That’s so coooool’. ” He’s Timmy.

It was simple then… Two articles: No politics. No religion. Bodily noises were permissible and continue to be.  Mild violence is encouraged but not required. No outside food or drink is permitted, however. It is not forbidden so much as ridiculed. Brother Lance brought a purple lady’s coffee travel mug once. ONCE. It was a long day for him. But I am getting far ahead of the Nation’s coffee creamer thimble of tears.

We grew one unemployed and undeserving man at a time. Matt the creeper tried to deny his predilections while only reinforcing our beliefs. He ranted on about astral physics while staring at women’s physiques. He was sanctioned. Low octane Walt rolled along for a while. He didn’t even drink coffee. However, we puttered along through his successful chemo treatments. Truly, there are far more departed Nation brothers than active ones. Rob the candy and ice cruncher moved on. Josh the armed American bull rider came faithfully but got a job and married into the System. He was always good for NRA propaganda and outrageous right wing conspiracies from Fox News Nation. “Did you know more people were killed by water heaters last year than by guns?” Many times he was sanctioned for offending Our second amendment– no politics– and for being downright naïve.

The artist formerly known as Egginator was a faithful attendee and chess opponent, but the coffee was too strong for him and he fled back to his Motherland. Ron 1 used to keep the bar up with his aging frame, while chatting amiably to the pretty young barrista-ettes. We talked for  a while about him putting me into his will, but he was hung up on the fact that I was older than he was. “You could die first, Ron. You need to be prepared.” He could not see the logic in my argument despite his End Timer tendencies.

Chuck the Cowboy came for a few visits. He was too busy, though, and could not take the constant demand for sluggishness by the group. He had to rope a calf or canter about. This is the existential problem when it comes to do’ers versus be’ers. Coffee Nation is all about being and is on record against doing. Anything! Once Lance suggested a purpose for our aimless crew. He was severely sanctioned. “Ignore that voice of doooty. We are here merely to be or not to be. Doing is not in our Declaration of Indolence. Heel!”  Dave dropped in for chess a few times and disappeared into that blind alley of upper mobility like a character from a Springsteen song.  We of coffee nation curse the cruel JOBS that have decimated our ranks. As the chart below illustrates, happiness comes from set points, which means inertia. Studies in the UK have determined that working toward specific goals actually hampers perceived levels of happiness in mental patients and sluggards. You just can’t make this stuff up.

Rob 2 affiliated with us for a few weeks. He was between financial gigs but graced us with his starched white shirt appearance for a while. Gigilo Gene took some offense to Rob’s eccentric white collar mojo.  D.J. helped mediate that fraternal fracas before fists flew. His MP background has come in handy a time or two in disciplining Big Steve, perhaps the most faithful National among us. Though fully employed by an international corporation, Steve routinely goes in late on Thursdays. When he dies we will bury him with full Nation honors as outlined in a previous post. (240. Time is Short)

And then there was Gary aka Jerry who tried after a brief internship to organize a coup d’état. What saved the Imperial Leader for Life’s life was the fact that no one speaks French, and therefore they thought Jerry was coughing while sneezing. “Make up your mind, Dude. Either cough or sneeze.” He was sentenced to a North Korean firing squad in Hagerstown. Actually we tapped Josh and his personal arsenal to shoot a precise outline of .17 caliber bullets around Jerry to warn him against insurrection. He was sentenced instead to a lifetime of servitude under a different dictator.

Oh the humanity!

253. Glomorous

“California Dreaming” comes to mind this morning as a cold gray rain drizzles relentlessly on the scattered layers of trampled maple leaves.  Creamy yellows, rusty reds, and shades of orange lose all their glory when they are plastered against the wet ground like forgotten Play Doh pie crust.  Fallen beauty now awaits the mouldering process that turns organic matter back into soil. It’s a necessary step in the cycle of life, this cold fall rain that strips away litters of leaves from their tenacious parent trees. Euthanasia comes to mind. It’s sometimes called mercy killing. And I wonder is it a merciful death that’s meant or the death of mercy? In any event, I take the thuggish assault by this weather personally.

Good Lord! I am a weather wimp, I tell myself. So the damn leaves have fallen on the cold wet ground? Get over it!! Winter is early and you are not really ready inside your head. So get the psychic equivalent of a wool sweater out of storage and put it on your oversensitive neural synapses. Turn up the thermostat and Man up! Seek and enjoy the warmth that is available and stop whining about what has moved on. Whew! That felt good, like the football coach pep talk to his losing junior varsity team. Still, a glommy gloom lingers on this dark Monday. A cruise ship could silently slip into town under the fog and drizzle and not be noticed till the frozen sunlight returns.

Joel, “What is that large object in the square? It looks like the Costa Concordia or the Titanic.”

BS, “Looks like someone left a cruise ship stranded there where the fountain used to be. That’s something you don’t see every day.”

Joel, “Hmmmm, there will be litigation here. I can almost taste it.”

BS, “What does litigation taste like, Counselor Joel?”

Joel, “That’s an astute question. Hmmmm. It tastes like precious metal in your mouth, like pure gold, fizzing in a bath of Dom Perignon champagne, chasing Russian caviar or goose liver pate into your upper gastro intestinal system.”

BS, “That’s a pretty complex palate, my friend.”

Joel, “Why yes, litigation is an acquired taste. It’s not for everyone, mind you.”

BS, “What if a person didn’t want it, you know, but was accidentally exposed to it. Like an attorney’s kid sips what it thinks is Coca Cola but it turns out to be liquid litigation. What then? Is there an antidote?”

Joel, “Again, astute, very astute. The antidote, though I can’t imagine why anyone would want it, is a tall glass of goat’s milk.”

BS, “Why goat’s milk?”

Joel, “It gloms onto one’s taste buds and coats the drinker’s throat, much like this nasty weather is coating our town.”

BS, “And does it leave an equivalent cruise ship in its aftermath?”

Joel, “Don’t be silly.”

BS, “It’s too late for that Joel. We are deep behind silly lines now and will have to fight our way back to normalcy. And since I did not have the ROTC training that you received during the Vietnam Conflict, I will follow your orders.”

Joel, “Very good then. One tactic I learned back in my training was to play possum in battle. In other words, when the lead began to fly, one should simply lie down until the shooting was all over. I found that to be the very essence of survival.”

BS, “Isn’t that also known as cowardice?”

Joel, “Oh no, quite the contrary. Sterling officers in my class were trained to survive and then lead a lead free life.”

BS, “You mean they never deployed?”

Joel, “Well, that’s why they were sterling, untarnished by the caustic atmosphere of war.”

BS, “But you did go to that famous civil rights march in Petersburg, Virginia, as I recall, didn’t you?”

Joel, “Yes, though my parents knew nothing of my liberal leanings, it was one of my proudest moments.”

BS, “Do tell, oh Prophet.”

Joel, “In my liberal college days, maybe because I was harassed for being in the ROTC, I signed up for the trip to Petersburg to protest the Jim Crow laws still on the books. In fact, this may be one of the key reasons why I chose law as a career.”

BS, “Please, Counselor. Remember that the first time you told me this story you signed up right after that most pretty young hunk of undergraduate woman signed up, and furthermore, that if she had signed up for the Sudanese equivalent of the Iditerod, you were going to sign up after her. Do you recall that, sir?”

Joel, “Well, there was that. But I was sprayed with fire hoses and chased by German shepherds.”

BS, “The breed of dog or the actual shepherds?”

Joel, “I will not dignify that question with a response. As we were abused by the militia and police that infamous day, I was knocked unconscious, only to be revived by the screaming pain of a broken collarbone.”

BS, “So what did you do?”

Joel, “My mates helped me back to the Rambler we had driven down from Pennsylvania, but when we got to the hospital, the staff refused to treat me. They hurled insults and scorn at us, and I could not even raise an arm to protest.”

BS, “That’s horrible! What cretins, what vermin, what termites in the good wood of society!!!”

Joel, “Actually it wasn’t so bad. I rode home with my head on Suzie’s freedom loving lap just inches below the forbidden fruit of her bosom. It was tantalizing: if I reached for her in my delirious state, the pain of moving my hand would coerce me to drop it. For hours I was so close to a lusty desire that could never be fulfilled.”

BS, “I thought you were a freedom fighter.”

Joel, “I- I- I was. Remember it was the Sixties; there were many causes to support.”

BS, “And your favorite was a double D?”

Joel, “Please, you make it all sound so self serving.”

 

 

 

 

231. Uninspired Torpidity 1961

 

Inspire conjures up the act of breathing, breathing in some magic spirit like freedom that leads to the creation of something new. But that breath does not always show up, just like perfect crystalline days don’t show up too often here in Central Pennsylvania. Many days are smudgy with all the humidity loitering in the warm air. Old timers blame all the trees that grow here for the moist weather. They expire, the trees and the old guys do… and I don’t get their reasoning. However, when the dew point moves past 60, muggy is the word. I sort of like the criminality of that weather word, as if the very air is forcibly robbing us with nothing more than a sweaty hand in its saggy pocket.

“Stick’m up, pardners! This here is a wet robbery. I got a big old squirt gun under this paper bag. Plus, I got a fat lady with a wet wool blanket ready to squeeze  you taight if you don’t behave.  Ya’ll been sweatin’ up a bunch of stink. You’ns can put your arms down now. Whew. I’m just muggin’, okay? Nobody needs to get hurt here if you just slow down and act like some good ole Alabamians. Get you some tea and put your feet up in a shady spot. There ya go. Just procrastinate a while. Live in the past. Drink a lot of liquor.”

Whether or not you like it, weather is not that polite or predictable. It swarms in over night and saturates the local atmosphere. No negotiations.  The combination of heat and humidity can stultify a man’s brain, leaving him uninspired, a locked vault door behind which are wonderful treasures piled high. We can’t have this outcome, bloggitties. A psychic thunderstorm must well up and conquer this wet blanket of oppression. We cannot tolerate weather thugs with bags on their heads mugging us.

 Ah, much better. Refreshing actually. But is it enough to turn over the inspiration ignition?  Let’s see. “Vrrr, rrrr,rrrr, room, room, room.” Alright! I’m breathing hard and deep. Ready to run a creative marathon. Maybe just finish this post. We’ll see.

So, I’ve been observing lately that doubt precedes faith, which precedes proof or facts, and then eventually along comes validation. The other night I was watching a show about The Freedom Riders in the 1960’s Deep South. What heroic folks they were. They knowingly boarded Trailways and Greyhound buses for Montgomery, Alabama and Jackson, Mississippi in order to be arrested at their destination and put into prison on bogus racially discriminatory charges. Along the way they were often beaten or nearly killed. In Mississippi they were put in an infamous prison and forced into hard manual labor or death row accomodations. And still more came, flooding the prison. In the film footage I watched, the Freedom Riders looked curious and resolute but never scared. They complied nonviolently with hostile morons in police uniforms who believed in or belonged to the KKK. Somehow the Freedom Riders stayed united in spirit, unbroken in their faith that they would prevail along with justice. The native whites reminded me of nauseating Nazis off the leash, unrestrained. How on earth did that unjust oppression work for so long against so many? Makes me wonder if we have a similar atrocity building up today that is merely tolerated and buried in the back pages of our news. There is no shortage of ignorance or guns in our country after all.

Meanwhile, back in Washington, the Kennedy brothers looked for political solutions. They did not want to turn the conflict into federal versus states’ rights. Backing southern governors into a corner only fueled the anti-federal government feelings already at fever pitch in Old Dixie.  The rule of law had to come from their pens not from the elitist East Coast Kennedys or the Supreme Court. The south refused to recognize the fact that Jim Crow laws were found to be unconstitutional. They simply continued on as usual. The political humidity built and built past muggy into severely oppressive, into  total saturation. Southern torpidity was complete; a fresh wind had to blow through like a tornado and turn shacks and shanties upside down. And that is what happened.

The fresh cool wind was actually comprised of committed black and white Americans on buses and then trains heading south, into the torpid wall of resistance and ignorance. Cold dry air slamming into hot moist air creates tornados which create havoc and destruction. Yes indeed, as in mother nature so too in human nature. The two forces collided and both moved.

On May 14, Mother’s Day, in Anniston, a mob of Ku Klux Klansmen, some still in church attire, attacked the first of the two buses (the Greyhound). The driver tried to leave the station, but was blocked until KKK members slashed its tires.[8] The mob forced the crippled bus to stop several miles outside of town and then firebombed it.[9][10] As the bus burned, the mob held the doors shut, intending to burn the riders to death. Sources disagree, but either an exploding fuel tank[9] or an undercover state investigator brandishing a revolver[11] caused the mob to retreat, and the riders escaped the bus. The mob beat the riders after they escaped the bus. Only warning shots fired into the air by highway patrolmen prevented the riders from being lynched.

 

I wonder what the sermon was on that Mother’s Day that those Klansmen had heard? I don’t ever recall hearing a call to arms in all my 58 years of going to church. Never heard one that urged me to hate my neighbor or to kill my perceived enemy. Rather, I recall being urged to love my neighbor and my enemy, to seek justice and to give mercy.

Eventually the federal troops arrived; desegregation began in earnest; and the humidity of stupidity began to drop below muggy for the first time in 350 years.

 

 

 

 

170. Adolessons 1

Blazing blognacity! Humor, like fireworks, should only be handled by professionals. Even then, someone may lose a finger or an eye due to a tragic mishap. Nor should adolescent males be left unsupervised…ever. Many a full grown man is today hobbling around due to some foolish stunt he pulled as a teenager. Some have scars. Some have skin cancer ’cause they didn’t use sunscreen. A neighbor, Steve Murray, lost his sight in one eye when a cherry bomb he threw out his window caught the frame and bounced back into his face, forever altering his life. Lots of lessons are learned in male adolescence. Lots aren’t.

One summer night in high school we were hanging around my Fairfax County front yard, bored yet energetic. It must have been 11 p.m. or so. Richard Cooper, Dwayne Beatty, me, and maybe Johnny Emrico and Bobby Doering were mulling over teen angst. It was dark, okay? Richard still had a cast on his foot from a rope swing accident earlier in the spring. While we were skipping school, and he was under the influence of Boone’s Farm Berry wine, he swung fast and hard off his 1967 Volkswagen Beetle’s hood and flew into space above the Occoquan River near Woodbridge, Virginia. Unfortunately for him, as he let go and flipped a flawless backward gainer, he landed on a large rock and shattered his ankle.

So here we were a couple of months later, unrepentant. Someone babbled that we should drive to Ocean City, Maryland, a four hour car ride back in the day. Like another adventure I blogged about, (the x-rated movie scam Blog #73. Unerringly), the motion to be purposefully stupid was unanimously approved. Dwayne said he’d drive his dad’s gold Pontiac Bonneville. It easily sat six with room to spare. Each guy went home for a towel, no sun screen, some food, money, and maybe left a note for a sleeping parent. I grabbed a half bag of charcoals and a pack of hot dogs.

Away we went at high speeds. On a different night Dwayne had pushed his dad’s Pontiac up to 125 mph on the Beltway. Not on this night. In fact, on our way through small towns in the Eastern Shore of Maryland, we all fell asleep until the car jumped a railroad track and slammed down on the other side. For dramatic effect I’ll compare it to a space capsule full of monkeys re-entering Earth’s atmosphere, jolting the animals awake. From there on one of us was assigned to keep Dwayne awake.

When we got to the boardwalk, it was 3:00 a.m. and we imagined we’d just sleep on the beach. The cops had other ideas. They told us we could not sleep anywhere except a hotel, not even in our car. So we sat on the benches until sunup, at which time we were allowed to sleep on the beach. We were tired and hungry. I made a little pit in the sand and lit my charcoals for roasting the wieners. The cops had other ideas. “You can’t have a fire on the beach, kid. Put it out.” I was stunned and still hungry. I kicked sand over my combusting charcoals not knowing that I was simply creating a sand furnace. Later in the day I walked right over my buried charcoal and burned my right foot. One of the other guys had the communal brain at that time, I guess. We all laughed hard at our own stupidity. Somehow everyone survived the sunburnt trip, sort of. Richard got tired of his cast, though, and walked into the waves. In a matter of minutes the plaster softened and he took it off. Bad idea. The ankle was not ready for duty, and pain began to school him again. Apparently he was a slow learner.

It could have been the same summer but a different cast of characters. The only common factor was me. Again, adolescent males bored on a summer night. It was Sam, Chris and Dwight this night. After squirreling around our local haunts, Sam or Chris said, “Let’s go to Dulles airport and watch the planes come in.” All in favor got in Dwight’s green bug and away we went. There was a full moon as I recall because on the way west Dwight turned his lights out and drove by moonlight. Once we got to the terminal we noticed that it was just about as empty and boring as the place we’d just left.

Back in Dwight’s bug, back on the access road, again no lights. As we approached the Beltway, one of us suggested turning on the lights for safety. Dwight did so and, lo’ and behold, a large doe stood right in front of the car, but not for long. Boom! The deer slammed into the hood, the windshield, and rolled over the roof of the car. Mrs. Deer flew up and into history. The trunk, which was in the front of bugs, flew open and bent back on its hinges as Dwight tried to slow down and not crash any worse than we’d already managed to do. He was blinded by the hood, however. In slow motion I recall the VW’s headlights illuminating the woods which we wound up driving into and Dwight’s spare tire bouncing merrily through the trees in the moonlight. It was death defying and hilarious at the same moment. We got out to inspect the damage. Not too bad for us. The deer was nowhere in sight. We fetched the spare, pulled deer hair out of the rear view mirror and hood handle, and bent the hood back into closed position. Somehow, and only God knows how, we made it home alive again.

 

Mommas, don’t let your babies grow up to be adolescents.