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




304. Wrestling Pythons

There is a cop in the alley behind the church, across from the drive up bank, tucked in at an angle where he can see the parking lot without attracting too much attention. Why?  Maybe speeders in the cut through alley; maybe a bank robbery. (Who robs a drive through bank? “Could you give me that in two tubes of twenties?  Thanks. Uh and a lollipop for my kid.”) Oh, how about a drug deal in the parking lot? I think I’ve witnessed one or two between a guy on a bicycle pulling up to an Escalade. They didn’t seem to go together for any good reason I could think of. Cop pulls out– nothing but powdered sugar left behind his acceleration. Gone. Nothing!! I had front row seats for action that vaporized… a pregnant rain cloud that broke into dry steam. Crap! I have to face real work now, calling insurance companies and faxing stuff. But wait…

Oh, good, the floor guys are here today for some distraction before my haircut at 11:30. They have already peeled off the vinyl fake wood floor that bubbled up on me after months of trying to get someone to lay it. In mere minutes these three guys have wrestled a vinyl python into submission.

It is now a fake wood floor covering, but I think of it as a flayed python skin glued onto the subfloor. My hyper-fertile imagination takes over…

“Yes, I bagged this bugger in the Amazon Basin in 2004. Had me in his coils, so he did, alone beneath an enormous Brazilian old growth mahogany tree I was admiring. Before I knew it, he was squeezing tight as a bad vice while I exhaled. Panic began to fill my over pressurized frame.

Climber Pocket Knife (Red)Then I remembered my all purpose utility tool attached to my belt. Fortunately my hands were at belt level and I could manipulate my fingers to open the tool for the grill brush attachment. As it popped open I felt a reassuring thud against the belly of the mammoth beast. I knew I had engaged the brush and began to wiggle it against the pale scales of the muscular monstrosity. Eyeball to eyeball we faced one another, its flickering tongue tasting the salty sweat of my fearless face. My training told me that when a constrictor savors its victim, the next step is opening the jaw for the one piece gorging which follows. I stared into his soulless eyes.

“That’s when I heard a whisper of a breath of hope. The beast’s belly convulsed and the serpent tried not to giggle or show any weakness. I kept methodically wiggling the grill brush, and then it happened. The leviathan laughed out loud with breath that reeked of gastrointestinal decay and putrefaction. With each helpless giggle I felt it loosen its grip on me. I prodded harder with the grill brush against one of its twenty or so sternums. Now I saw fear in the serpent’s vertical pupils. It knew that I had not just one upper hand but two. I grabbed the slippery slitherer by its meaty throat with my left hand, never stopping the tickling with my grill brush. ‘Who’s laughing now?’ I whispered to the once cocky worm.

“When it was completely helpless and recoiled by laughter, I switched the utility tool to its filet knife attachment and proceeded to surgically separate the beast from its scaly hide. Twenty two feet of snakeskin without a drop of blood involved. With a final flourish I snapped the snake’s entire bulkiness out of the souvenir skin. It wriggled away– naked, afraid, and defeated. Oddly pink as if sunburned in this rain forest. ‘He won’t last long in this jungle’, I muttered to no one. Meanwhile I rolled up the hide into a neat tube for office flooring.”

Now I am fully aware that none of this ever happened to anyone at any level of society or at any point in history. But such limitations do not disturb or even challenge me. I plod on against the boredom of the moment as the flooring guys make remarkable progress mere feet from my laptop. They have cut the vinyl beast precisely to fit my S-shaped hallway in the time it took me to fantasize about snake wrestling and fileting. Now they are carefully gluing down the coveted skin. It’s a ticklish process, to be sure. I thank the Lord for my Belgium made utility tool as I watch them cut and paste the complicated vinyl edges. Yes, it’s good to be alive.

Reality, however, is not all that sexy, folks, let’s face it. Some days just don’t pass the excitement test. Elvis, James Brown, Jackie Wilson, Jimi Hendrix… all dead and gone. So it’s up to me to juice up reality. If speeders won’t speed, and robbers won’t rob, and dealers won’t deal,  I need to create an alternate universe where entertaining things do happen. In my world flooring contractors show up with a wild serpent in a tube. Otherwise I’d die of ennui, which looks like emu from a distance. Now there’s a thought, the mighty Emu rushed out of the bush with murderous intent, drawn like a religious fanatic to my orange towel as I shaved in the early Australian dawn…