412. Unfriended Progenously

 

You have likely been unfriended before in the FB world, right?  It happens. You get busy with your own self absorption and fail to pour into one of your face book friends’ self absorption.  Maybe you don’t even realize that your 608 FB friend count is now 607. However, when it’s your own flesh and blood daughter, well, it’s pretty noticeable, and devastating. Yes, bloglings, my daughter unfriended me, and if you hang around I will tell you how in excruciating and humiliating detail.

By post 412 you must know that I am a joker, gadfly, comic, teaser, bear poker, a smoker, and a midnight toker. Okay, I’m getting carried away with Steve Miller’s song cycling in my hamster wheel of memorized songs. Wherever that hamster wheel stops, there’s a song to be sung. OOh, oooh, Sunshine Daydream by the Dead comes up on my shuffle. I’ll be right back. You don’t buy coffee; you merely rent it.

Anyway about a year ago, yes almost exactly at this time of pre-holidays, my lovely lawyer daughter sent out a FB post about employers being liable for their party goer guests if they served alcohol and their guests got in some smash up later. Liability is a big scary word to legalists. Now it was very well written and professional as a gold plated fountain pen. However, I failed to distinguish her professional FB account from her personal account when I  responded foolishly, thinking “She’ll get a laugh out of this response.”

I replied to her warning. It was a Friday as I recall… the last Friday for my already blemished dignity.

“Dear Ms. MCHammer,

I read your article with much interest. Now, I am self employed and work on the second floor of my building, up a flight of 15 steps. My legal question for you is this:  If I have a holiday party and get myself drunk, and then if I should fall down my stairs and injure myself, can I then sue myself? Can I be both plaintiff and respondent? How would that work? ”

My real name was attached.

Never hit send, bloggidos, unless you have thoroughly checked out your global liability. Of course, I hit send and chuckled about the anticipated funny response. My daughter is a funny girl, by the way. Oh, but it was not a funny reply I got.

Monday morning she was called in to her boss’s office. The company CEO was on the phone. They asked what the FB message was all about…. “And who, pray tell, is this guy?”

Horrified, she read the message for the first time under their glare, imagining the end of her brief career in law. “Uh, he’s my dad.” Gulp. Shamefully she looked down at her cute suede mauve shoes. They were comfortable and would be kind to her feet as security escorted her off the campus, she thought. Later on, these shoes would give her steps bouncy energy as she walked from interview to interview, hopelessly trying to escape this professional disaster.

Stunned, the two bosses waited for the other one to say something. Finally the big boss said, “It must have been hard for you in high school.”

She laughed out all the nervous energy that had been building up in her organs like steam.

“You have nooooo idea!”

It is a little known scientific fact that many people laugh spontaneously prior to their own executions. Apparently it helps them relax and die peacefully. It’s an autonomic reaction just before one voids his or her bowels.

“Jack, what do you want to do with the message?”

“I don’t know, Jim.” Pause. Smirk. ” Just leave it up. Hell, it is pretty funny. It’ll show we have a sense of humor here at Litigation Nation.”

My daughter sighed a deep sigh of relief. “Oh, thank you. I’m sorry. It will not happen again. I promise….”

“We know because you are going to unfriend him. Block him from any attachment to this company. Disenfranchise this clown. Cut him off….”

“Yes, sir. I will. I was adopted, by the way. We are nothing alike. I’ll bring in my birth certificate and take a DNA swab if you like.”

“That won’t be necessary.”

Later that day I got the upset word from my daughter. Man oh man!!  Have you ever felt like your body is melting away? My feet melted, then my legs, as my stomach dropped to a pig farm in China where, coincidentally, pig stomachs were being harvested on that very day.  Shame, like ice cold formaldehyde pumped through my vascular system, embalming me in that moment, naked in my sin, on display for all to mock in the Norwegian wedge of Antarctica. I felt like I’d killed her dog, which is the best dog ever. It hurt in a hollowed out way, not sharp local pain but all consuming galactic pain that burst out into deep space. I hate to hurt others, but hurting my daughter felt like instant lung cancer. Breathing suddenly hurt, as if shards of glass were in every breath.

Image result for arabian desert pictures

I was exiled. Sent into the desert of social media to wander aimlessly till the end of my useless, shame filled life. Only ghosts and specters, slivers of shattered humanity inhabit that wasteland. Unplugged and unfriended, they hide by day and watch distant fires by night, knowing they may never approach. Modern day millennial lepers. I’m the guy on the left in the picture below.

Never lose hope, my one-humped blog camels. Forgiveness may show up one day like rain in that arid wasteland you are wandering through. It did for me. As I painted my daughter’s house this past month, she asked me how she could ever thank me. I saw an opening and took a shot. “Refriend me on Facebook. That’s all I want. It’s all I’ve ever wanted.”

“That’s all? You know I’m resigning from Litigation Nation in two days, right?”

“Yes, I know. Please reinstate me. I will not be improper ever again.”

“Deal, Daddio.”

Suddenly my leper chrysalis fell away and a forgiven butterfly slipped out to float away on a breeze of mercy, never to fart in the wind again.

 

 

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386. BEWARE: Killer Wanna Bees

Years ago we were supposed to be invaded by swarms of Africanized honey bees, known as Killer Bees. Saturday Night Live did skits on the Killer Bees. These bad mannered bees eventually did find their way into the Southwestern states where they have killed some outdoorsman types, rock climbers and landscapers, a hog here,  a dog there, and have attacked many a baseball player with aromatic hair gel. The swarm will sting a body  over 1,000 times, injecting more venom than a human body can tolerate. Victims swell up and die, unable to breathe.

And how did these stinking thugbees get loose, you ask?  Human intervention and accident. In the 1950’s Biologist Warwick E. Kerr interbred honey bees from Europe and southern Africa in an attempt to increase honey production in Brazil.(I am not making this up. I am paraphrasing Wikipedia here.) Great idea, right? What could possibly go wrong?  But, you guessed it– these hybrid bees were very defensive and swarmed aggressively. They had to be kept in containment as the research progressed. But in 1957 a visiting beekeeper not named Bill Buckner thought he’d take the lid off the bees’ hives. Twenty six swarms of Tanganyikan bees escaped through the wickets and into the wilds of Brazil. The rest of the tale is history, stupid history of man playing God and screwing up nature’s balance yet again.

Image result for attention addicts picturesI’m not writing about Killer Bees, however. I merely mentioned them to funnel you ala the old bait and switch technique into my topic–>> Wanna Bees. These are not insects but humans who buzz about.  Hungry and strangely defensive? Yes, but not for pollen or nectar. Nosirreee. They seek attention and any supplemental benefits that come from attention. Fame is the ultimate goal for Wanna Bees. This may come from performing or politics (really, what’s the difference?) or writing (doubtful, not enough face time) or the other arts. Sports has its share of wannabees, hot dogs who not only seek but create drama… because that’s where the cameras go, and bored American audiences crane their necks to see what’s gonna happen next. But the largest swarm ever released comes from the Hydra Headed, Medusa like beast known as Social Media, which inadvertently spawned and released the pathological Wanna Bees into the world about 15 years ago. This correlates roughly with the rise of the celebrity, noun, a useless but attractive Wanna Bee, see Kardashian/Jenner. Synonym, weasel-pede. Primarily American usage.

Andy Warhol was prophetic when he declared, “In the future everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes.” That was in 1968, Blogabillies.  Since then the world and its pool of potentially famous humans has grown substantially. Basically it’s doubled from 3.5 billion to 7 billion people. If each person gets his/her 15 minutes of fame, you and I are going to have to wait a long, long time till Zylpada Zyabrowski finishes her turn, assuming we go in alphabetical order.  I’m sure a math geek can calculate the number of hours required, and an engineer can rig up a system to broadcast each famous person, and a political delegate hunter can measure by polls how famous a person is for the allotted time… However, this 15 minutes of fame thing is really getting old. All these “famous” people aren’t all that interesting. Nonetheless we continue hoisting another Baby Bieber up the flagpole of popular appeal until everyone salutes. We step back and yawn, “Wow, that dude is famous. Could you pass me the salt?”

About the time the Killer Bees were released, a new way of parenting was being practiced– indulgence. My buddy Clark once told me that indulgence was the worst form of child abuse ever. When I prodded him for his justification, he told me this.

“You know if a kid gets beaten or sexually abused, he/she can eventually get over  it through counseling and medication, right? But the thing with indulgence is this: THE KID DOESN’T EVEN KNOW HE’S BEEN ABUSED. Instead, he’s been sold a script that he is so very precious and entitled to special treatment by everyone, all the time, everywhere. He’s screwed for life cuz he’s totally unprepared for unfiltered reality. It’s so awful.”

I could not disagree. He’s usually brilliant anyway, an anthracite diamond from Cambria County.

For myriad reasons, parents in upwardly mobile segments of America wanted more for themselves… perhaps because they worked themselves silly and were told by voices on television and radio that they deserved more of everything, all the time, everywhere. At the same time the American economy was booming at such a force that the dollar’s buying power increased, causing a unique problem known as deflation. Suddenly in the late 1950’s the dollar magically bought more. Prices dropped. All signs pointed to success, world domination, and the righteousness of the American Way.

Those parents came to adulthood during the Great Depression and World War II. They did not know what surplus meant since the excess of the Roaring Twenties fueled the near total collapse of the stock market and banking system in the U.S. over a generation previously. Here was a new opportunity to get it wrong again. Those parents might have suffered through bleak decades of war and deprivation, but their little ones would not want for anything if they could help it. Free time, sports, entertainment, convenience foods, miracle drugs, and other indulgences exploded as if to confirm that America had found Nirvana. The kids of that era were given more than any previous generation had dreamed of along with a  system that would keep the dream alive. Television became the opiate of the masses, hypnotically calling them onto the treadmills of consumerism, pulling them deep into the vortex of unending debt.

Voila!! There is the recipe for today’s indulged children no matter their age.

Today’s Wanna Bees sting with cyberwords and emojis, thousands in a minute. They Twitterpate their adversaries with 180 cc’s of deadly venom at a time. All for the sake of more honey. They don’t even know they’ve been abused, honey junkies one and all.

219. He’s not me; I’m not him; are you you?

So a month or so back I received a voicemail on a Friday afternoon from a national radio station person. Not NPR but close. The message giver said, “This is so and so from blank of blank radio network. My boss is interested in talking to you about doing a weekly radio show. If you are interested, call him at ….”  Well, of course I wondered what was up with such a message. I tried to figure out what sort of scam it might be. Maybe if you call the number mentioned, they would sign you up for a Master Card or some charity or other. Maybe it was a sting operation by the IRS to snag tax deadbeats who were grandiosely narcissistic.  I deleted it.

Then a week ago the same guy called with the same message. I decided to investigate a bit, so I Googled the entity and sure enough the two names I was given were both represented in the website. It seemed legitimate, but who in his right mind would want me on a radio show? Did someone stumble across my blog and find it exotically interesting? Or ridiculously stupid? If so, why not just comment on-line?  I  mentioned it to my daughters who assumed that someone somewhere somehow found me interesting, and that I should at least call back. So I did. I left a generally vague response that I’d be glad to talk to him, the network director.

The next day I missed his return phone call from Phoenix. “Well, this is getting interesting”, I thought. Again I tried to piece together some reason why anyone would want to listen to me? Could one of my former clients have recommended me? Perhaps a former student? In this world wide web generation anything is possible.

Yesterday afternoon I was sitting in full lassitude, full of indolent indifference, with my family admiring my granddaughter when my phone vibrated in my left pocket. It was the radio guy. I took the call in the next room, not knowing what to expect. The program director introduced himself and I did the same.  He asked me if I was familiar with his operation. I mentioned that I’d Googled the website. “Good, good”, he replied. I asked him bluntly why he was interested in me?  Scott (his real name) asked if I’d be interested in doing a one hour weekly radio show, as in hosting one.

I was confused and told him so. “How did you get hold of me and why would you want me to host a national/international radio show?” He told me that his research assistants had recommended me to him. “For what?” I inquired. “Public speaking,  interviewing folks in your field, you know, stuff like that.” I pushed for sanity one more time, ” I live in Turtle Town, USA. I do private practice counseling. I’m a retired teacher. What would the market be for that?”   We had reached the tipping point of our brief conversation.

“You are _____________ G. __________________, aren’t you?”

“Uh, no. I am _____________________ F. _______________________.”

“Oh, well, have you ever thought about doing a weekly radio show?”

“No, I’m pretty content with my life as it is. I think the guy you’re looking for lives in Michigan. He writes books with his wife. I’ve been confused with him before. I do write a blog, though.”

“Okay, then, thanks for your time and good luck. Bye.”

“Bye.”

Was I relieved or crushed?

My daughter and wife asked, “So what’s the deal?”

“Misidentification. My celebrity was prematurely birthed and died on delivery. I feel like Joel’s mule…unrequited.”

“Oh, that’s okay. You still have… um, I mean, you can still work in the public when you retire… or something. You could be a crossing guard for your grandkids like Uncle Steve.”

“Yes, there’s that. But my FM dj voice, my Bob Dylan impersonation, my Barry White solos, my puns. All gone forever. My Lou Rawls, “You’re gonna miss, you’re gonna miss, you’re gonna miss my lovin'”.

“Dad, you’re being dramatic.”

“So?  I could have been a contender. A measly initial kept me out of the big time.”

“Why don’t you call him back and audition?”

“Nah, this is like my class ring that I lost in England in 1974. It makes a better story than if I’d ever worn the thing.”

“Seriously, what would you have talked about? No, wait. Talking about things that don’t exist, like the missing letters of the Cyrillic alphabet, has never been a problem for you. It’s better this way, Dad.”

“You’re right. Let us never speak of this again.”

 

 

 

 

 

189. cruel renewal

Making all things new again. That’s a tall order, I think. Just making one simple thing new again is hard enough. Refinishing a piece of furniture, for example, requires five times the effort than the original finishing took. Think about it:  you have to strip the varnish or polyurethane with some solvent and a wire brush and fine tools to get into the grooves. Then you have to strip out the stain with more stain remover/solvent. At this point you have to sand the remaining stains or patches of finish to smooth out the original wood grain. Finer and finer grits of sandpaper need to be rubbed carefully with the grain. Then you wipe away the fine dust. Finally you are back to the starting point of new, bare furniture. But that’s what you do to restore the old wood to prime condition so that its luster and deep grain can be seen and appreciated again, or maybe for the first time.

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My buddy Clark knows a lot about wood and renewal. He learned about trees as a kid in Patton, PA., walking through the woods to school cuz he’d been thrown off the school bus again and again for being a hyperactive ne’er do well. He was rejected frequently as a kid by humans but not by trees or pieces of wood. He learned about oaks and maples and birch and beech and box elder and walnut and cherry simply walking by them twice a day. He saw pines grow to their fullness and die in his lifetime. However, dead trees simply cross over to lumber for him. He eyes up  trees and looks for unique features that he can use in tables or bowls or just long runs for boards. And then he gets to work creating with saws and planer, lathe and chisels.

A couple of years ago I helped him saw up a spalted maple; that’s a downed tree which has been decaying with fungi but hasn’t rotted yet. The result of spalting is a beautiful array of discoloration, waves and rivulets of brown, red, and black paint spilled throughout the wood. Clark turns hunks of this stuff into gorgeous bowls that appear to be fired ceramic. You have to touch them to believe they are not ceramic but wood, not paintings of deserts landscapes but infected wood transformed into marble. Beauty birthed from death.

Image result for spalted maple lumber pictures

He learned about renewal by living a life full of zest and curiosity… after he was down and decaying like a fallen maple in the leaf mold.  Alcohol was the lightning and tornado that slew him. By age 35 his doctor told him he had a year to live if he did not quit drinking. He said, ” Thanks, Doc. I ‘m tired of living,” and went to the closest bar. He got so polluted on Yuenglings or Iron City beer that the bartender asked, “Don’t you think you’ve had enough?”  “Hell no,” he bellowed and order another. He had one more angry sip and announced, “Now I’ve had enough.” He stumbled out of the bar and right into the path of his beloved daughter and her best friend. (Timber!) No details remain except the pain of shame he saw on his precious girl’s face. Something transformative occurred in that one second. Clark grew on the level of consciousness even as his angry pride fell down face first. He recalls it like Paul falling off his horse on the way to Damascus. Clark went to rehab the next day. That was almost 35 years ago.

Since then he’s been sanding off the old varnish of youth, adolescence and early adult life. The mess of foolishness, the lacqeur of addiction and scars of selfishness. As he does this consciousness raising on a cognitive level, he’s finding more and more to like about himself… compassion, loyalty, a modicum of patience…and an artist’s heart/head/hands package. Late in life, to be sure, but there it is: beauty born from pain and suffering. He is spalted maple through and through, washed by the rivers of alcohol, rejection and rage that are dry riverbeds nowadays.Image result for spalted maple lumber pictures

One story of thousands will have to suffice. Ironic, of course. Up the road from his childhood house was a substantial estate owned by the Five Farabaugh sisters. They were well off spinster sisters. Clark’s dad agreed to be an informal caretaker of the property when the only male child left to run part of the A&P store chain out west. One by one the old ladies died off until there were no more. Still Clark’s father “Bunny” continued the upkeep of the property. When Clark went along to help, his father would say, “Don’t even think about stealing anything. We might be poor but we’re honest, by God.” There were many objects and knickknacks all over this grand Victorian house. In the attic the sisters had a miniature classroom where they had played school as little girls. He remembered thinking, “I could learn here. They would not beat me for being wiggly. They would favor me somehow.” In the old days the sisters had given his dad oranges at Christmas, which was unheard of by working class folks. Only the wealthy could afford citrus fruit in winter. Clark’s family not only ate them but his mom made marmalade from the peels. Then one day that fine house and every object in it burned to cinders and ashes. Nothing survived but memories. Nothing.

Nothing worked out in his life.  By age five he had developed a sense of doom. The spalting had begun. He wondered about the loose ends and unfairness of it all–

“Five old ladies, never had sex or got married or had kids or grandkids. What’s the point? They had wealth and it all disappeared. Just a waste. I shoulda stole something but the Old Man woulda killed me.”

Actually it did not disappear. Rather, it was breathed into Clark’s lungs and memory, spalding his soul. I’m sure if surgeons could extricate his soul and sand it down, it would radiate like his hero George Nakashima’s table tops. Renewed for all to see and appreciate. Nakashima was interned during WWII for being Japanese. That was his sole crime. Poetically, tragically,  or ironically that is where he learned to master woodworking under the tutelage of a master Japanese woodworker. More beauty born from pain and suffering.

So  often we screw up the unstained and painless new and have to claw our way back to a renewal that is soaked in barrels of liquid pain. But that is the difference between grapes and wine, sand and pearls, knowledge and wisdom.