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.

 

 

370. What Guilt?

“Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.” Sir Walter Scott

Guilt:  a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offence, crime, wrong, etc. whether real or imagined.

In my business, since I work with human beings, I hear a lot about the subject of guilt, that nagging feeling of self loathing that convicts you when you have done something wrong or failed to do something right, assuming you were consciously choosing one outcome or another.  Growing up as a Catholic kid, I learned a lot about guilt and sin. You don’t even have to sin to be guilty if you believe in Original Sin, the sin of Adam and Eve that is attached to the human race. Then there are venial and mortal sins. Venial sins are lesser than mortal, as  you might guess. Mortal sins, unrepented of, lead to eternal damnation. Game over. Venial sins just put you in purgatory, which is like a moral rehab hospital in Catholic cosmology. You do your time and get cleaned up, purged, so you can be reunited with God. In the Middle Ages you could pay off your sins by paying church officials indulgences. I don’t think that program is still in effect these days.

Back in my St. Louis Catholic Elementary School days in the 1960’s I tried to be good or at least tried not to get caught being bad. A daunting task when you have three brothers and 150 boisterous neighbor boys trying to be heathens. The trouble was that the teachers and priests at St. Louis were excellent guilt peddlers to their young and not so innocent charges. All their work paid off on Fridays when Confession was held behind the secret curtain in a booth at the back of the fairly modern church, architecturally speaking it was modern. We would line up in two lines per booth. Little boys in crew cuts and flattop haircuts, white shirts, navy blue pants and a navy blue bow tie. Girls in white blouses and navy jumpers with white socks and saddle shoes. Quaking in anticipation of God’s justice uttered by an invisible priest on the other side of the purple curtain.

The confessional booths in our architecturally modern church were wired with sensor pads in the kneelers.  As you knelt down, a little light turned red outside to indicate “busy”. As you stood up, a light on the outside turned green, indicating “Go”, maybe to Hell if you had the wrong stuff to share. Now if you shifted your weight back and forth as fourth grade boys liked to do in order to have blinking lights bragging rights, the lights would blink strobosocopically into a blur of brownish orange. The goal was to run up more blinks than the guy before you had managed, without getting caught by the teacher monitoring you outside or the priest listening to kids confess sins inside behind the yellow lit sliding screen that smelled of incense and holiness.

John Digeorgi and James LaFrankie are the only boys’ names I can recall from those diabolical days. I’m sure one of us was pulled up by our ears in the midst of setting the blinking confessional light land record.  You see, it was a given condition that justice would be swift and harsh in those parochial school days. One legendary story came from the eighth grade class where Sister Josephine Stalin was striding toward a wayward bad boy with a paddle in her hand. The boy was trapped, away from the classroom door, so he jumped out the first floor window to save his fleshly behind. I don’t know if he ever came back. It doesn’t matter; the legend lives.

Anyway, I wanted to share the three guilts: True, False and Imposed Guilt. I defined true guilt above. It’s that awful, nauseating feeling that comes over you if you have a conscience, that motivates you to make the wrong you committed right again. E.g. you broke the neighbor’s window while hitting golf balls off a tee in your back yard. Hey, it happens. You feel fear, then some sadness, then maybe you try to think of who else can be blamed for the broken window, but there are ten other boys waiting to tee off or tell on you so you decide to expiate your guilt by knocking on the Coopers’ door and confessing your sin. Later you pay for the damage, thus ending the material and spiritual conflict.

False guilt, on the other hand, feels just like true guilt, but it is based on false information or incorrect thinking. For instance, when your unlicensed sheltie dog comes home in a blizzard with a frozen baby pig in his mouth… well, you know right away that Coco had run over to the Hades’ adjacent pig farm because we (yes, it was my dog) had no fence, no leash, and no sense. Okay? We lived like freakin’ hippies back then.

Well, because I knew the neighbor and had his two sons in school, I did the honorable thing based on limited information. I got my checkbook, bundled up against the blowing snow, and trudged over to their house, about a quarter mile away. I rang the bell, wondering what a pig cost ($200? maybe) and Mr. Hade answered.

“What in the world are you doing out?” he inquired.

“I’m sorry to tell you that my dog killed one of your piglets.”

He laughed a deep belly laugh and stepped back a few paces. “Come on in out of the snow. Your dog did no such thing.”

“Mr. Hade, Coco came home with a baby pig in his mouth. It had to be from your herd.”

He laughed again. “Not possible. Your dog could not get into my barn. It’s hotwired to keep predators out. He probably just got one off the pile.”

“The pile?” I asked, stunned at this turn of events.

“Yeah, when the sow rolls over on her young’uns, sometimes she smothers them. We just throw the dead ones on the pile out back.”

“Oh… I feel foolish. I’m sorry to bother you.”

“Oh, no, no problem.”

At least the wind was at my back on the way home. “The pile!!!” I was ready to write a check for big money. Stupid assumption! False guilt.Image result for i'm stupid face picturesImage result for math equations pictures

Finally we have imposed guilt. It’s also false guilt. The difference is that someone else imposes guilt onto you, usually with the words should or should not. E.g. your mother tells you, “You should have gone to law school, you little schmuck! Now look at ya. You’re a nothing, nobody, Georgie Costanza.”

The reverse is also used. “You shouldn’t have gone to Atlantic City, but you did, Mr. Bigshot. Now you’re broke and you suck!!”

The shoulding business is so common I have called its use, Suck Math. It goes like this–

You should do x.

–You didn’t do x.

Therefore, you suck.

The final product of suck math is “you suck”.  Oh, guilt mongers. I don’t have enough time to give you full treatment. See, I’m way over 1,000 words and feeling a little guilty that I stretched the attention span of my three faithful followers. And with their medication load, that’s just too much. So I’m just going to stop here.Guilty as charged.

 

 

 

 

 

 

255. Christmas in Needmore

Though I’ve never been to Needmore, Pennsylvania, I can imagine freely what it’s like at Christmas. For the past few years I’ve pondered what life is like there in general, ever since sweet Andrea began managing my coffee shop. She’s from Needmore and proud of it, dontcha know? Or at least  a little puffy and oversensitive in her defensiveness. Sort of like Canadians are proud of their often overlooked  country, eh? And even though those Canadians sheltered six American Embassy workers during 1978 in Teheran, I have no such implied debt to the Needmore Embassy and Consulate, which is located in the dry goods section at the back of Crouse’s General Store. On the other hand, am I risking a hostage taking incident by lampooning Needmorons? Hum. Ho. What to do? Go for it. It’s an hour’s drive from my computer, and I doubt they have trained hostage takers or assassins. However, we underestimated the cunning of those Iranian militant “students” back in the Carter era, didn’t we? If I don’t post in another week or two, look for my lifeless body in Needmore.

There was that episode of 30 Rock that used a fictionalized Needmore as the hiding place for Tracy Morgan’s character. But anyone even remotely familiar with the REAL Needmore knew that buses don’t come through town, nor is there a town square where cars park. Simply put:  There is no there there. (If you are not a native American English speaker, you won’t be able to make sense of the previous sentence.) So with such an inglorious introduction, let’s visit Needmore at Christmas. And remember, Tracy got hit by a bus after crossing the line of decency with Needmore, so step carefully my friends.

Oh, how contrived! Here is Betty Bigelow, the unofficial ambassador of Needmore and Bingo Director of the Fire Hall on 522. She graduated third in her class. She’ll be sure to tell you. I’ll let her do the tour from here on.

“Off of Pigeon Cove Drive lives Toothless Tommy Conklin, the town idiot who leads the tristate spitting tours in the good weather. We call it ‘The Great Expectorations Swinery Tour’. It’s huge what that single event does for our economy.  Now that the cold has settled in, he hangs around between 522 and the Seventh Day Adventist Church. He dips minnows out of Barnetts Run and sells them to eager fishermen in the summer and sometimes to the pizza shop in McConnellsburg as ‘mountain anchovies’. We all know what they are, but city folk can be so naïve. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas he cuts down unguarded pine and hemlock trees and sells them to the few lost tourists who come up from Route 70. Two years ago he got caught red handed cutting down Edna Parson’s white pine tree, a nice seven footer, with a hacksaw at midnite. Edna, who sits on the Board of the Baptist congregation of twice saved once shy evangelical disciples, gave him a thorough tongue lashing and told him to make it right before God and his fellow Needmorons. Well, Tommy came back with a roll of duct tape and used half a roll firming up the trunk of that poor tree. And Edna, being a good Christian woman, told Tommy thanks for repenting and making amends. The doggone tree blew down with the first strong wind through the hollow. Though with all that tape around it, the tree looked like it was on a hinge. Folks drove by real slow afterwards to take videos and still photos of the hinged tree on Edna’s lawn. It was something to behold. Not a single light on it either, but it amazed locals and foreigners equally. Wound up on page 3 of the Fulton County Investigator too, with a full picture and caption under it. Said, ‘Needmore Tannenbaum comes unhinged.’ I got a copy in my scrapbook under my mattress.

“Now with a population of only 170 souls, Needmore can’t afford a parade or a fancy manger scene on the square… also, there’s no square or triangle. We are asymmetrical people. Not even a traffic light for a sprig of mistletoe or holly. But hold on!  Don’t be too quick to judge. The Needmore Baptist Church puts out a crèche that defies words. See, Bob Witherspoon puts up a shanty with an electric bulb in the roof. He borrows a few bales of Leonard Smitten’s straw and lays out a ceramic Baby Jesus in a Longaberger picnic basket that’s got to be worth near $100. No one would think of stealing it except for Tommy. Nobody could prove it, but the rumor is that Tommy stole and sold off the third ceramic wise man, the one with the broken off right hand. So, until the recovery and reunion, we’re down to just two wise men in Needmore. But that’s all you really need. I can tell ya’ll, being third in my class was no day at the beach with all the peacocking and flamenco strutting through the halls of Southern Fulton High School. Two wise men is plenty, sure enough, even for the Baby Jesus.

“What’s truly remarkable is that we have pygmy sheep and goats scaled to fit in the shanty manger.  Plus Bob’s border collie Upchuck lays there just as good as gold, even though we all know he’d  love to herd those pygmies into a tight formation and run them around like a tiny marching band at half time. You should see what that dog can do with a flock of geese. It’s a wonder.

“Where was I? I just get lost in the grandeur of the history and pageantry of our little village. On New Year’s Eve we crown the new Miss Needmore Milk Princess and Cheese Queen.  It’s a daughter/mother combination contest/pageant. The only one of its kind in the entire nation. For eleven years it was won by Priscilla Blunt and her step mom Roxanne Wilson Blunt. Now there was some jealous talk that Roxanne only married Priscilla’s dad Arnold so she could get the Cheese Queen crown, but, c’mon people! Needmorons can see through such duplicity and chicanery.

“I’m afraid that concludes ya’lls’s tour.”

238. thuffering thistle thorn thermon

[Purple haired Thistlus puncturus Americanus, stinking punk for short]

I was gardening barehanded recently in the back yard, out beyond my usual plucking zone of weeds. The smorgasbord of undesirable greens had gotten ahead of my good intentions. Rabbits, squirrels and groundhogs ignored these leafy dishes. I figure these weeds must taste as bad as they look. Mostly it’s the thistles that are repulsive with their fine needley leaves. They appear soft, but whoa Martha Stewart, they have enough tensile strength to penetrate thick fingers and palms and embed their unwanted syringey selves into one’s flesh. Unlike a bee’s stinger, there is no plunger on the other side; the bare, ignorant gardening hand does all the pushing. All the thinking or lack thereof belongs on the ungloved human side. [ It appears that my anti-melodramatic prescription needs a refill.  I need to call the Wal Mart automated pharmacy line immediately or bad things will happen.]

So last Sunday I was standing in church singing a praise song and “ouch!”, wouldn’t you know it? One of those tiny, almost invisible, eyelash thin thistle thorns in my left thumb was pressed just enough to set off a nerve signal of pain to my distracted brain. Dang! it sent a tiny but nasty bite up my arm, stinging, like tender flesh caught in the zipper signal to my brain. If I had been spirit-minded, I was suddenly flesh-focused on that nasty little zinger in my thumb. I explored the source, pushing around my thumb to find the exact puncture point.  “Douhoughouh”, I ejaculated, which is the phonetic spelling of Mandarin Chinese for “That’s it, Jerry Jeff Jesus!”

Throughout the next few songs and well into the sermon, I explored the surface of my thumb with the index finger and thumb of my right hand. “Douhoughouh” again. I connected this pain signal with the concept of sin as I mentally dipped into the figurative  pool of prickly pain and that other pool of spiritual protection. I don’t recall if the pastor referred to Ephesians 6:10, but I will. “Our battle is not against flesh and blood but against powers and principalities.” Well, at that second I was holding a  tiny though bloodless skirmish against my flesh and nervous system. I wanted that little demon irritant out of my body. As I sought to get rid of the annoying penetration, I pondered if this was a mini-sermon on sin.

[Elvis and Priscilla in a fairy garden, waiting for Frank Sinatra.]

After all I had done the stupid thing– barehanded weed plucking. I should have used protection. I was impatient, impulsive and did things my way. That’s always a good way to get bad results. I applied all the careless pressure and ignored the lessons of my past. “In my own will”… that’s the mantra of the sin-filled man. Whether Sinatra or Elvis sings, “I did it my way”, it comes out the same. Pain and irritation if you are lucky. Of course it could get worse with allergic reactions or infection later on. As I know full well, there is a crop of poison ivy loitering along my back fence line. That would have been unnerving if I’d grabbed onto some of that. My Broken Blog Farmers, sin and weeds are out there. You don’t have to look too hard to find a pile of either. But God gives us “gloves” to handle such things.

As I was analyzing this analogy, I pinched the puncture point and got lucky or blessed since I was in God’s house. I pulled the offending zinger out of my thumb. I couldn’t believe it at first, so I pressed the puncture again. A sense of soreness had replaced the stinging sharp prick that had been whining at my brain from that area code. The nearly microscopic thorn was too fine for my eyes to see in the dim church light. I just knew by feel that it was gone. Amen.

Now about those holy gloves, what would they be?  Let’s start with discernment. Not every prickly thing is a sin just as not every prickly plant is a thistle.  Take pineapples for example. No, I mean for real. Pick one up. Ahh, not so fast, right? You could saw your arm off trying to harvest one of those juicy wonders. So you need some careful discernment, friends.

You need protection. Ephesians 6:10 tells us to put on God’s armor in preparation for the darts and verbal volleys of the enemy. Put on the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the helmet of salvation, the shoes of peace in God’s gospel, the shield of faith, and the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God. But you might say, “I’m just going out to pull a few weeds, man. Who needs all that?”  You do. I do. We all do. It’s a battlefield out there, especially when it appears calm and lovely. Do you put on your seatbelt and keep your airbag activated? Do you keep your car inspected and your brakes working?  Well, sure you do. Why? For your protection, my friend. Accidents and stupid human tricks are not hard to find. And God, do they hurt.
And after all of this preparation, what to do?  Stand, pray, be alert. Don’t become complacent and/or smug in your protection. That’s when the camel gets its nose under the tent. The next thing you know, the camel is ordering off the menu and smoking at the table over coffee. Keep your camels tied firmly outside your tents, my blognomads. For they are unclean beasts. As Moses told his brother Aaron, “Get that filthy beast out of here.” This incident did not make the final cut of the KJV Bible, but I’m sure it happened a time or two.   Anyway, weeds are sin; sin is bad; camels are dirty beasts. Amen.

;