359. where are you from?

Simple question.  Where do you come from? Everyone has a different answer.  You come from your Momma’s belly, and she… may not be available or even known. Orphans don’t know where they came from, which can cause some primal insecurity. On the other hand, there are folks who are equally insecure because they know exactly where they came from and are ashamed of it. “That drunk woman on the floor of Aisle 9, that’s my mother. She’s pretending to have a seizure now to get the pharmacist to fill her fake OxyContin script.” Or maybe something less dramatic– “That’s my father. He never learned English and just wanders the town all day, lost and dizzy, hopelessly alone, searching for his village in India.” Where we come from is not necessarily where we are going to, though.

Image result for brooklyn movie still picturesMost folks came from a family unit, no matter how dysfunctional or reconstituted.  And that family unit came from somewhere, some place that is tattooed on the family’s consciousness somehow. The sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touches of home are wrapped around our brain stems.  This past Saturday a bunch of us went to see the film Brooklyn,  about a young female Irish immigrant named Eilis . Lovely film, never in a rush to tell its story. Superb acting. Every character comes alive and imprints on your heart for better or worse. The original home place is Wexford County, Ireland. Simple and plain and the Dead End of a vibrant life. The destination place is Brooklyn, N.Y.

Our friends met  us in Gettysburg for the evening. They come from New York, Ohio, Charleston, and nearby Newville. “We’re all immigrants”, Sue said later at the Irish pub where we had dinner and a pint. True. Some of us are orphans as well. None of us is from Gettysburg. Now Gary almost went to college there  but was put off by fraternity life. What an odd advertisement for the Greek system… “We make you uncomfortable in our debauched  brotherhood neighborhood…until you conform to OMEGA DELTA OMEGA.” One decision alters everything, you see, because Gary eventually met his lovely bride Suzanne in Charleston. Heck, it’s a love story inside a pinball machine inside a cosmic drama. Then again, so is your life, my Lucky Blog Mates. We all have a home, a story, and a destination.

Place is more than geography, so it is. What we call home is a feeling more than a blue gps pinpoint that blinks on your I-phone map. The main character, Eilis, is sent by her loving older sister to America for a chance to make a life. Why? because her hometown has no prospects of any sort for her.  Big sister Rose sacrifices to make a way for Eilis, who soon replicates home in Brooklyn by living and worshiping with all Irish folks. Funny, quirky Irish women. Though she struggles with homesickness for weeks, she flourishes after falling for Tony, the Italian guy who adores her. And no wonder, she is angelic with her auburn hair, pale blue eyes, and unfreckled milky complexion.  Home is truly where the heart resides, and her heart is given to Tony, the Italian plumber. Until…

Eilis must go home due to a family tragedy, and this is where the weird juju starts to flow. Her historic home has unspoken power over her. Folks start telling her what to do, how to behave, and whom to love. It’s all so familiar and nearly unconscious. The locals possessively nudge her toward a destiny that they have created. Brooklyn, freedom, individuation are all put on pause as guilt-inducing prospects are opened up for her.  Eilis is almost swept away by it all, except that IT is petty, jealous, gossipy, predictable, nosey, and suffocating. She suddenly  remembers why she left the first time and who she is. Eilis sails for Brooklyn again, a much wiser woman. Free from the constraints of small town Irish life.

Image result for compass picturesWhere are you from? The answer changes for lots of us. My folks would answer, “Boston. Cambridge actually. Fenoe Street and Mass. Ave.” I would answer “Virginia Hills, Alexandria, Virginia. Dorset Drive and The Parkway.” But that was over forty years ago. I am still from there, yet I say, “South Central PA, not far from Gettysburg.” And this may change again before I cease to be from anywhere. I’m hoping to say, “I live in Tucson” in the near future. Like Eilis I left a place behind. Must be some wandering Irish gypsy gene. My children too live far away, or should I say too far away? Ironically my oldest lives in Brooklyn, though she is not from there yet.

So, full disclosure, I am 100% Irish, but I am not from Ireland because I have never been there. It is a destination I’d like to visit along with Italy, where my wife’s DNA arose. But for now we are from here, trying not to be self centered and blind to the bigger world around us. And yet, there are deep unconscious tugs on our souls to be somewhere else. This is not our home yet.

Interviewing a candidate for associate pastor of our church years ago, I was the only non-local on the conference call. The senior pastor directed the candidate’s question about the town’s ethos to me. “Tell him, Burrito. You moved here back in 1980, right?”

“Well, buddy, it’s like this. If your grandfather is not buried in a local church graveyard, then you are not from here yet. And you can’t bring your grandfather’s coffin with you and rebury him here. That won’t count.” After a chuckle, our pastor concurred. “That’s about right.”

Where are you from, mate? What’s your story?  Where are you headed?

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339. Free Agency

The concept of free agency comes from the world of professional sports, as far as I know.

In professional sports, a free agent is a player who is eligible to sign with any club or franchise, i.e. not under contract to any specific team. The term is also used in reference to a player who is under contract at present, but who is allowed to solicit offers from other teams. In some circumstances, the free agent’s options are limited by league rules.Image result for Richmond Braves pictures

Before Curt Flood sued Major League Baseball for being a monopoly, pro teams simply drafted players and more or less owned that player exclusively. Players were traded with or without the players’ input. It was reminiscent of an enlightened plantation system. Players were paid but did not have any bargaining leverage.  Minor league teams are still called the farm system.plantation, cockspur island, georgia, slaves, slave life, black history

And what is farmed then harvested  there?  Pro players, human beings.  Sometime in the early 1970’s the Supreme Court agreed with Curt Flood and a system of free agency developed in baseball and then all pro sports. Salaries exploded and so did individual egos and prices for anything connected to the superheated frenzy of professional sports teams.

I often borrow the concept to instruct clients, who are sometimes players also, about transitioning from one relationship status to another. It’s not as simple as Facebook status changes where you merely click on a different label. For example, I often have angry seventeen year olds who are jacked up about getting out of their parents’ control and house. These kids think that on their 18th birthday some sort of mind meld magic will transform them into free agents. FREEDOM!!  Legally, yes, they are considered new adult citizens and they gain various rights like voting or signing contracts. They tend to overlook the responsibility load that is the counterweight to freedom. However, make no mistake about it:  they are not free agents in any other sense. Naturally the question is asked of me, “So what makes me a free agent and when?”

My answer is my own. It has not been researched or surveyed or subjected to statistical analyses. I say something like this… “When you have been paying your own bills without any help for five years. When your old bedroom is a den. When you are fully affiliated with a new team. When you make all of your own decisions and stick around for the consequences.”  All of these comments add up to this, “When you have grown out of financial, emotional, legal, and psychological dependence on your folks.” Breaking one link is just the beginning. It takes a long time and a powerful chisel to blast off the invisible handcuffs.

In broken romantic relationships this concept is painfully obvious to outsiders. The unhappy wife flirts with a paper hanger guy because her husband does not pay her any more attention than he does the furniture.  Shabang! Image result for wallpaper hanger guy pictures

Bob the wallpaper guy has all the time in the world for Sylvia as he teaches her how to soak the paper and book it over into a manageable size. It’s thrilling as he stands close behind her hardly whispering instructions to her on how to smooth out the bubbles and glide the wet paper into its proper alignment. Something tingles in Sylvia that has not tingled in years and she is smitten with his voice, his strong clever hands, his aftershave, even the Juicy Fruit gum he slowly chews as he squint winks at her from head to toe. “You are a mighty fine woman, Sylvia. I tell you what I’d like to do if you were mine…”

Of course, Bob leaves out the fact that he is between spouses himself. He fails to correct the small sample size that Sylvia is rushing to fall in love with. He owes back child support and his last divorce attorney a pile of money. And there is his current paramour Janet. But, hey, none of that is around right now.

Problem is that the ecstatic Sylvia is not a free agent, nor will she be for years. By then the wallpaper will have become so yesterday and very unsexy. No matter, she will have jumped ships, only to find out the rest of Bob’s story is so, so unsavory… A1 sauce on sunbaked road kill possum. 

No free lunch or free agents at that buffet. Oh, but the promises of Chateau Briand and Cabernet Sauvignon only make the available grub that much more nauseating.

No one wants to grieve or wait to love again. So men and women going through a divorce date others, who may be going through divorce themselves. No free agents here. Instead a compromise lives with or promises to marry another compromise, which makes for interesting introductions at gatherings.

“This is Sylvia, my, uh, friend, good friend. Buddy, partner, love of my life.”

“But Bob, you are still married to Stella, aren’t you?”

“Well, she just has to sign the papers and we’re done. I’ve moved on emotionally.”

“How convenient… you get to skip all the grief work and the transformation that suffering renders in a soul laid bare.”

“We are spiritual spouses,” adds Sylvia. “We are married in God’s eyes.”

“Did God tell you that?”

“No, but I’m sure He wants us to be happy. That’s what Jesus died for.”

“Um, not sure about that, Sylvia. I think he wanted us to be holy, honey.”

“Whatever!  When your husband quits desiring you, he’s basically breaking the contract, so you are free to go. That’s in the Bible, somewhere.”

“In the Book of Bob, I think. Look, you guys are driving a duct taped together rusted minivan  relationship off a cliff, and your kids and friends and other relatives are hanging on as you bounce into the spikey abyss.”

“Kind of exciting, isn’t it?”

“Kind of bigamy, isn’t it?”

“You are so old fashioned, Dude. Let’s go Bob. Gun the Harley and jump the canyon. If it makes me happy, it can’t be that baaaaad.”

 

 

248. Unrequited Political Ear Sex

I know. I know. It’s not what you’re thinking. Elections are next week and the awful, biased, insulting political ads are going full bore on television and radio. It’s all slick talk like a slimy pick up artist at a slimy bar hitting on easy but slimy marks somewhere between happy hour and closing time. All the voters get prettier at closing time, dontcha know?  Heavy humid words are being delivered with great passion to waxed and unwaxed ears alike throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Even tired nail technicians watching “Keeping up with the Kardashians” are being selectively hit on….

Click. Channel 08.

Slimy Slim, in a low sultry voice: “Hi there, Gorgeous. You don’t know me or who paid for this commercial, but Tom Wolf wants to take your guns away and raise your  taxes, Honey Bun.”

Bimbo: “Who’s Tom Wolf?”

Slimy Slim: “He’s the Democratic candidate for Governor of Pennsylvania, you sexy thing. You’re like a voluptuous hoot owl when you say Who.”

Bimbo: “I don’t know what that V word means, but do we got a Governor?”

Slimy Slim: “Oh yeah. He’s my best friend and boss, Tom Corbett. You’ve got a friend in Pennsylvania with Tom Corbett. You bet, Corbett.  Like a Corvette. He’s our man. If Tom Corbett can’t do it, no one can do it, you better believe it. He’s like a Chevy truck in a Viagra commercial… unstoppable old horsepower with a hemi.”

Bimbo: “That’s so cute how you turned around like a cheerleader. Ya know, I was a cheerleader back in the day in middle school. I never made it through high school, though. That New Math did me in.”

Slimy Slim: “That’s what I’m talking about, Pretty Eyes. Tom Wolf wants to bring in educational strategies that were used in Godless communist countries like New Math for a New World Order. In his geography book Iran and North Korea are tinted blue, like a subliminal message that they are trust worthy, ya know, like true blue? It’s nothing less than a left wing liberal conspiracy for one world Democrat demagogue domination.”

Bimbo: “Uh huh… I could eat some wings about now. Maybe I’ll get some subliminal cheese sauce with my regular ranch dip. Is it kinda tangy like a lime?”

Slimy Slim:  ” No, Bims. But Tom Corbett has a plan. He’s gonna remove all bad countries from his geography book and shrink the world back to pre World War II borders, return us to the gold standard, leave the U.N., and repeal all unnecessary taxes while eliminating the government deficit of 19  trillion dollars.”

Bimbo: “Oh, wow!! That’s like a lot of money. I wish I had some money. Wanna buy me a drink, Handsome?”

Slimy Slim: “Sure. Bartender!  Two margaritas, separate bills. Thanks.”

Bimbo: “Uh, that’s no way to treat a lady, Slim! You were supposta pay for mine too. Don’t you know nuthin’?”

Slimy Slim: “But Bims, it’s a cruel world and everyone must pull her own weight. Now I’m not saying I need to know how much you weigh, but Tom Corbett will cut corporate taxes and regulations that keep us all overly safe. He thinks all Pennsylvanians need to buck up and eat venison, support Penn State, marry only humans, put prayer back in school, and arm our underfunded school students with NRA approved high capacity handguns.”

Bimbo: ” I had a couple of kids once. The county took’m from me for barhopping too much while they were supposta be sleeping. I’ll never understand that. Ya think Tom can get me my kids back? The one was a girl named Kitty. The other one was a boy named Tiger. Oh we had us some good times, we did.”

Slimy Slim: “Well, Sure, Bims. With your dedicated vote, just mark the straight Republican line, I can guarantee Tom will apply the full force of the state government to your case like a hurricane whoopin’ Jim Cantore’s butt. He won’t rest until your kittens are returned to the mother cat and their litter box. No more welfare or useless things like social services and needless over-education of the electorate will stand in his way. ”

Bimbo: “Oh that’s so sweet, Slim. Um, how do you vote?”

Slimy Slim:”What do you mean? You, you just go to the designated polling place and sign the book and then mark a ballot.”

Bimbo: “Well, sure. You make it sound all easy and everythin’, but I aint never done it. Plus I lost my license for my fifth DUI, for which I still owe a pile of fines and lawyers fees. So I’ll need a ride. Do I got to bring my own pencil?”

Slimy Slim: “You mean you’re not registered?”

Bimbo: “That’s right. I’m whatcha call a political virgin, Slim. Zat make your motor rev up,huh?”

Slimy Slim: “No, this can’t be. I-I-I can’t believe I spent the last five minutes with a nonvoter cretin who can’t even bother to register. It’s too late to register because we wanted to weed out your kind from voting at the last minute. Oh the Horror!”

Bimbo: “Oh, so you’re not really interested in me as a person, huh? You just want a uptown voter chick for a girlfriend. I see. Any old slutty cretin voter will do for you. Zat it? I thought we had something goin’ on here, Mr. Cheapskate political windbag. Ya’ll ought to be votin’ for wind power farms cuz you got one right here when you open your pie hole.”

Slimy Slim: “Oh sure, talk your trailer park trash talk, Bims. You know what you are?  A loser. We don’t need stupid dyed blonde bimbos like you in Harrisburg.”

Bimbo:”Cuz ya’ll got that market covered, right?” Click.

Channel 27.

Bozo Bob: “Hi Beautiful. Heaven must be missin’ an angel… Tom Wolf wants you to have free cable t.v. and green energy made from kale grown in Pennsylvania’s abandoned coal mines,  but Tom Corbett won’t poop or get off the pot.”

Bimbo: “No, not another slime ball!!”

Bozo Bob: “Wait, don’t make me pay for another man’s sins. I’ll buy you a drink. This could be love. I’m for gay marriage, medical marijuana, and the Equal Rights Amend… ”

Click.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

247. Inversions

Invert–verb (used with object)

1. to turn upside down.
2. to reverse in position, order, direction, or relationship.
3. to turn or change to the opposite or contrary, as in nature, bearing, or effect:

to invert a process.
4. to turn inward or back upon itself.
5. to turn inside out.
 

It’s 76 degrees Fahrenheit on the second floor of my office building here on October 27.  Cold Canadian air is due in a few days. Like a bookie I owe betting losses to, he’s coming in around the freezing point on Friday night to hurt me and force me to comply with his cruel will.  Frost will settle in by Friday night, and I’m not talking about poets. I can feel it like dogs can sense earthquakes before humans do. It’s coming with an urgency that will shiver our Mid Atlantic butts into winter jackets and coats and corduroy pants, uttering “Ahhhs” as we find our way into warm dry interiors. You know, at first flip flops were summer sandals before they became political reversals.  When folks change positions, we say they flip-flopped. This sudden temperature inversion will be a meteorological flip flop of seasons in a week. You don’t argue with cold fronts or tornadoes or floods or tsunamis. You just surf them out as best you can and hopefully you survive. You just have to turn on the furnace and bunker down, my downy blog peeps. We’ll get through this winter with good books and music, warm conversations over hot cider and coffee, and hearty meals with happy dogs curled underneath the dinner table. That sounds delightful and yet doubtful at the same time.

And this weekend we play with time again, turning our clocks back an hour. Why? Because Congress thinks it’s a great idea for the economy. Think about that for a minute:  the most untrustworthy weasels in the country set the clocks twice a year and tell us it’s a good, no, a great idea. Originally this time change was designed to help farmers maximize available daylight. Uh, how many farmers do you know? The ones I see working during harvest time drive combines and trucks with headlights. Hmmm. Trust Congress?

 Trust me. Don’t they tell the truth when they’re not lying? So do mimes.

 

It’s funny how screwed up people get as the seasons change. This morning I went to a supervision meeting at 9 a.m. No one was home. It started without me at 9:30 a.m.  But I’d given up on the meeting when one of the guys left a voicemail for me telling me he was going to be 20 minutes late to my house, where the meeting was not. I then got settled at my office when the meeting host called me to see if I was on my way to his house. I told him I was there already at 9; no one answered the doorbell so I left. He said he got to his own house at 9:06. (What do you do? Laugh, cry, scream. )  I chuckled and sauntered off to the coffee shop for a longer and deeper conversation with Joel, the resident decaffeinated attorney. He asked me to consider how many other appointments and dates I’d missed in my life,  which was not reassuring nor was it meant to be. (Attorneys live in the land of potential liability and what ifs.) I told him I did not care, that it all comes out in the wash eventually. But he insisted that I could have been famous if I had met my destiny earlier and not missed the weekly opportunity meetings along the way. I sensed he was massaging me to ask for a contribution to one of the many charities he serves.  Like an inverted Bill Clinton, he said, “I feel your pain.”  I said, “Billy Joel, that’s my knee.” Meanwhile, unbeknownst to me, my 7p.m. appointment had already come to my office at 7a.m. God only knows what other appointments were missed or dyslexically rearranged by 10 a.m. on this, the last warm day of fall. I tell you, it’s coming like a new born glacier calf flailing down a fractured fjord.

I can feel it coming unglued. Last night my Washington Redskins beat the overrated Dallas Cowboys in the JerryDome on Monday Night Football, in overtime no less. It was awesome to see a beat up third string team defeat a highly touted first string team on their own field. Oh the inversions are everywhere I looked. You can’t pick out winners and losers, blog casters; you just have to play the game or let the weather do what it must.  Let me insert a slide to demonstrate how irrational inversions seem to be.

 You see, it makes little sense for warm air, which is lighter and should rise, to trap cool air beneath it and keep Mr. Sunshine hidden. However, if you fumble the ball or throw interceptions, Mr. Romo, an inversion occurs and the Red team marches the other way against the Blue team. Even in the colossal spectacle of the JerryDome, the modern day gladiatorial Cowboys were defeated by the rag tag, politically incorrect Redskins and their third string quarterback. Ooooh, that stings.
And now the crescendo inversion. I found a Peruvian 50 centimos coin in my pocket change last week as I fed the evil coin eating parking meter. It’s the same size as a U.S. quarter and that’s what I  thought it was until I noticed the different details. Huh. It appears to be silver like U.S. coins used to be. I’m keeping it for good luck. Perhaps I’ll drill it and make a necklace out of it. Chic inversion that.
So, don’t forget to turn your clocks back an hour this Sunday at 2:00 a.m. Put an extra blanket on your bed. Never trust lawyers,  politicians or Jerry Jones. And may you find your own lucky charm this winter. Till next spring, invert something.