A few tears ago, my granddaughter Emily and I were at my church and just a few moments before the service started, the carillon bells began to chime. She smiled and whispered a confession:
"Grandpa, when I was little I use to thing those bells were telling everybody to hurry and get to church because it’s getting late. I didn’t know they were telling us the time."
Funny how our views of life often are constantly changing. Each experience, each new revelation has the potential to affect us, perhaps give pause to re-examine how we have spent our lives. Time -- it gets away from us and accelerates as we get older, doesn’t it?
Many years ago, 85-year-old Nadine Stair of Louisville, Kentucky, was asked what she would do if she had to live here life over – and here’s what she wrote:
Thursday, July 26, 2012
Friday, July 20, 2012
Resurrected from my pile of stuff, circa December 2010.
I remember a few days before my Dad died back in November 1990, I had this fleeting dream of him. For whatever reason, he was wearing the tattered clothes that were common among youngsters of the Great Depression. A skinny, red-haired lad in a large, hardscrabble family near Yankeetown, Ind. But there he was, amidst all of the misery of those days, running around through a field, and then suddenly hopping into the depth of the stars you still can see in back-country Hoosierland on a clear night.
That wonderful dream has clung to me for two decades. I think of the Creator, the profound philosophers and even the great scientists who, in their different ways, say we all come from the stars and are destined to return to them.
I like that; I believe it.
Thursday, July 19, 2012
I walked into the Palace of the Golden Arches to order my favorite anti-vegan meal of two stout Egg McMuffins and a side order of high-density lipoprotein to go. Had no sooner crossed through the door when I was greeted by one of its patrons, lazily flopping back and forth in a plastic high-chair.
Hiiiiiiiiii!!!!, she screamed, clutching a half-eaten hash-brown square in one hand and waving furiously at me with the other. Her all-too-wise siblings rolled their eyes at their sister's spontaneous greeting. Mom and Dad just grinned and let it go.
So, I responded appropriately, doing a huge hand swoop and shouting back, Hiiiiiii to you, too!!!! I went to the counter, placed my order and waited. Behind me, the shrill voice greeted a couple as they stepped into the eatery. I paid the bill and started to walk out with my sack of fat.
Bye-Byeeeee!!!, the happy voice came back at me as I passed by her table. In my best cartoonish grandpa vernacular I repeated her sweet benediction.
Somehow, the rest of the workday seemed to go a little better.
That was a nice contrast compared to an encounter occurring a few days before at store where people in blue vests tell you hello and goodbye. Some with great gusto; others with all the emotion of voicemail prompts you get when paying a bill. It was one of the common situations when you’re standing in the “20 items or less” line and it becomes all too obvious the folks ahead of you probably did not do well on the math portion of their SATs.
Monday, July 16, 2012
1972 was a hellacious roller-coaster for this nation. What with Nixon and his knaves conspiring to cover up their felonies, race riots, the rise of myriad “liberation” movements, and anti-establishment protesters of which many would go on to become establishment capitalists, greedy Gordon Geckos, and pin-striped cowboys responsible for the collapse of workers’ pensions and idiotic investments.
On Tremont Road, one block west of where I grew up in Evansville, Indiana, there lived a woman, who by her own self-effacing description, was a “frumpy housewife.” She was living a typical middle-class demographic. A husband; two daughters, who I attended school with, and all of the proverbial qualities assigned to families in those days. She also attended Evansville College (now the University of Evansville) and studied a wide range of subjects. She was a voracious reader.
But a few years before, she came to the conclusion she could pen a better piece of writing than a lot of the claptrap ringing up registers and resounding with critics. So, in 1969, she began to write, quietly choreographing her work around her duties as a wife and mother and other responsibilities. According to some reports, her husband discovered what she was up to early in the project, but agreed to keep a lid on it. Whatever she was creating, perhaps, she wanted to be worth the read for others.
It was the story about a maverick man of the West, who kidnaps an erudite woman fleeing a hellish marriage in the East, while on his way to pull off a train robbery. She learns the guy is still haunted by the murder of his wife, a Shoshone, and the direction his life has taken since. On an emotional level, West eventually makes a truce and finds love with the East, with the couple on the lam, chased by an angry husband and a railroad detective.
Friday, July 13, 2012
A few years back, Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman appeared together in movie called The Bucket List. Here were two men from two completely different backgrounds and perspectives about life. They did have one thing in common: They both had cancer and the Grim Reaper was hanging out on the nearby 18th tee taking practice swings.
The premise of this flick is that the two agreed to tackle a list of things each of them hoped to do before they checked out. Experiences they never pursued for whatever reasons. Nicholson’s character was a billionaire, so it was easy for him to foot the bill for their worldwide vacation and derring-do. And so they did.
Many of us, too, have such dreams and aspirations tucked away or figuratively jotted down on mental lists. Certainly, I do. And the time-honored cliché always reminds us that when we reach the end of the road of this journey, it’s usually the things we didn’t do, rather than what we did do, cause us the most regret.
Perhaps. But there are experiences I wish never to to try while I’m still strolling around on this mortal coil. It’s in the Top 10 of what I call The Chuck-It List.
Swimming with dolphins. Hey, Flipper was a pretty cool guy and I appreciate his yipping sense of humor and ability to always show up and save lives. Dolphins are smart and rate high in my estimation and I think it's great to toss them tasty fish every now and then. But the idea of splashing around side-by-side, in controlled and contrived settings, somehow just doesn’t seem right and natural. It seems to lack a purpose, so to speak.
Dying my hair orange and sporting a Mohawk haircut. For obvious reasons. If not so clear, go to some of my hatless profile photos on Facebook.
Note: Given our area's recent blistering drought and drought, I thought I would resurrect this blog entry from nearly a year ago. It certainly seems appropriate at a time when some greedy folks are ignoring a local temporary ban on using water to keep their grass green and their pools filled.
So much angst, anger, disappointment and despair in the world these days. The global economy teeters; terrorism in its many ugly forms killing in the name of God or any warped secular persuasion ; gangster warlords fostering famine in poor nations; and politicians in every nation more focused on preserving their cancerous careers and their goose-stepping agenda than serving the publics they have sworn to represent.
Well, every now and then us so-called mentors of future generations need to take a step back, keep our mouths shut and observe from those whose lives are just beginning. Want to talk about real profiles in courage, consider Rachel Beckwith.
Some time ago, this Seattle girl embarked on a mission to celebrate her June birthday: Forget the cards and presents and all that. She wanted people to contribute to her quest to provide clean and safe drinking water in those desperate niches of the world, places where people die because they don’t have it. And that death toll continues to rise.
Rachel did her homework. She urged contributors to donate to www.charitywater.org, which locates and drills for freshwater in needy places.
Her goal was to raise a measly $300. She was well on her way to reach that amount – only $80 shy of it by her stated deadline – but she was undaunted.
Reportedly she told her family, No problem. For her 10th birthday in 2012 she promised to work harder to raise more bucks. She apparently felt momentum was on her side.
In late July, Rachel was critically injured in a car accident, her spine severed in a horrendous turn of events on an interstate. The prognosis was bleak. And her parents made that agonizing decision to take her off of life-support systems and let nature run its course. A bright light turned off way too early.
And then a wondrous thing happened. News and social media picked up on her simple dream. Her message spread like wildfire and celebrities and common folk responded accordingly. At last report, the fund has raised more than $800,000, and the floodgate of response continues to be open.
I am reminded of what the Isaiah said so many centuries ago: The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together, and a little child will lead them.
This world is in so much need of a calming, cool and clean drink of kindness.
Maybe it begins with the wisdom of a little girl named Rachel.
Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Though the urbane bloodsucker always managed a decent body count for 90 minutes or so, I knew by that by the end, the erudite, sanctimonious Peter Cushing’s “Van Helsing” would drive a stake through his nemesis’ heart or boldly burn his towering rival into ashes with a crucifix. Game over for you, Chris, and your foul minions at Hammer Films, though I was always a bit sorry to his buxom, toothsome groupies bite the dust.
Growing up in Evansville, Indiana, in the early 1960s, Sunday was typically a day of much theater for me. It began early in the morning at Friendship Southern Baptist Church. One of the most gentle and congenial men I remember from that time was the pastor, Brother Elliott Williams.
Soft-spoken and always joking, when he took to the pulpit he morphed and delivered a blend of Richard III and Sam Kinison, sans the cursing, yelping about burning lakes and the precious blood of the Lamb. As the service came to an end with altar call, he’d be nearly in tears while his wife Fanny and daughter Cathy played Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling on the keys.
As you left the church Brother Williams would pump your hand and grin. I always liked and still admire this man.
But in all honesty, the best drama that day was yet to come. For you see, many Sunday afternoons my brother and I and our cousins were treated to the latest attractions at the Columbia Movie Theater.
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
Never underestimate the crude creativity of boys. I think it’s true in any culture and every epoch of time since we began hopping around that mysterious monolith at sunrise with Strauss’ brass fanfare providing the musical backdrop. You know the tune – the one warning audiences when a bloated Elvis was about to hit the stage.
In one of my earliest coming of age time periods – roughly between the ages of 8-to-13 – it was an accepted and common practice among my circle of friends to modernize time-honored nursery rhymes and tales from the Brothers Grimm. We had plenty of sources to go to. In my own home, my well-read parents kept a decent stock of orange Childcraft books.
Certainly, the satirical Mad and Cracked magazines, and episodes of Fractured Fairy Tales from The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show added fuel to our thought processes.
I hadn’t thought much about such boyhood trivialities until the other day, when I overhead a radio advertisement hawking a local social service with an instrumental version of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” playing in the background. Suddenly, I was11 years old again and remembering the all-too-familiar stupid verses:
Mary had a little hog,
And kept him fat and drunk.
And when the price of bacon went up,
She butchered the little punk.
It was too late. The floodgate had been raised and the irreverent verses of old gushed with tsunami force. The hounds had been unleashed. And isn’t it strange how many nursery rhymes are based on miscommunication, the complexities of human relationships and the consequences of our actions? For example…
The last time I had been to this place, I came alone. I wasn’t seeking ghosts on previous visits or conjuring a Waldenesque journey of self-discovery; rather, a brief detour from a marriage which had collapsed into rust a month or so before. I pitched my pop-up tent, walked some trails, drank a few beers at my humble campfire, turned in for the night, and headed back to Indy not long after sunrise.
Before, this had been a setting for many fine camping trips with my daughters and blended family. Good memories all. But life goes on, yes?
A few days ago, I returned to McCormick’s Creek – some 60 miles southwest of Indy and two galaxies away in stress reduction – but I wasn’t alone. My dear girlfriend. Robyn, and I were able to coordinate some down time from work over the Independence Day holiday, so we booked a room in advance at the park’s Canyon Inn, a far more comfortable place to place your head from sharing the space with crushing 100-plus degree heat, lung-sucking humidity and pesky, hungry critters. Better, the Inn offers a swimming pool to its guests.
So, we arrived at these gentle, rolling hills near Spencer, Owen County early in the afternoon, settled into our small room and immediately began to tackle the first of the many trails of this nearly 2,000-acre park.
Tuesday, July 3, 2012
I saw them through my garage door windows, ambling down the street and pointing at my neighbors’ roofs. The pair of them would cross their arms in serious consideration, nod their neckless heads in agreement and jot down a few notes on tiny paper pads. They would knock at doors, ring doorbells and not have a door opened. Bad time of day before a holiday.
Their fiery new truck idly blazed at roadside with the company name and logo. They were a self-described A Number One Roofing Specialist – suggesting an expertise in hail damage. No reason to doubt that claim; a call to the BBB or Angie’s List might verify such a claim. As I crouched and watched, they finally stood at my front yard. They took visual and written notes and punched my door bell. Then they knocked hard.
And that was the time I unleashed the hound, my guardian roommate and confidante, Patrick. His pounding basso profundo on our side of the door must have suggested the master was not at home. Therefore, dear salesmen, better move on because you are not welcome.
To begin with, I work in the world of media and public relations. My duties in that realm essentially have been playing pitch-and-catch with the news media. In 1999, I paddled my way across the
Styx, waving goodbye to many years as a journalist waded ashore to that place where I am now at.
What I do can pretty much be summed up as a game, of sorts: Pitch and catch. Specifically, I pitch stories that have some measure of news value to reporters and editors. And I catch stories from the media, seeking some unique perspective or localized angle to bigger stories.
One aspect of pitching comes in the form of news releases. In the old days of ink and smoke-stained newsrooms, they arrived daily in the mail. Bundles of them. Every conceivable source with a word-generating machine mailed. Saturation bombing via the U.S. Postal Service. In today’s dizzying world of communications technology, they can be sent to multiple sources and locations merely by hitting the “send” button.
I won’t say there’s a distinct art of writing a news release; rather, it tends to be – at least in many corporate circles – the science of mass distribution of mass communication. God knows I have written thousands of them over these many years. Many dull and bordering on the fringe of non-newsworthiness, others interesting because of a unique angle. A true news lead and story.
When I write these things, I try my best to avoid using hackneyed phrases, clichés and worse – meaningless corporate buzzwords whose only value is to cloud a message or to mislead. Or fall back on such words when saying what you really mean is too tough to admit. Though I sometimes fail at this, there are terms you will never see in any news release and embedded quotes below my name.
My favorites includes such morsels as:
Value-added. Our product is so bad we have to offer our consumers extra stuff so they perceive they’re getting more for their bucks.
Monday, July 2, 2012
I don’t know what the weather was like on the 2nd day of July 1776, but I am sure the fellows gathered at Independence Hall in Philly were sweating a bit.
Young Thomas Jefferson earlier had written the first draft of document, then it was turned over to the older guys Ben Franklin and John Adams for edits. Seems that any time you write anything to go on record, there’s always going to be somebody to change a word here and there. Editing is the world’s second oldest profession, though it pays less.
But on that day, the Declaration of Independence was signed by members of the Continental Congress. John Hancock was the first to step forward and place his large, well-known signature on the document. The irrepressible Massachusetts stalwart is reported to have said, “There, I guess King George will be able to read that.” Eventually the cagy monarch would and so would others around the world.
Though the document was signed, there was much political wrangling and deal-making behind the scenes among the colonies. It wasn’t until two days later this bold statement was a done deal. They didn’t have e-mail or authorized PDFs back then. But they had enough to make it public.
And that’s when the proverbial writ hit the fan.
I wield an ax once a week. Not the kind you see lumberjacks slinging to bring down timber, or what Mr. Lincoln would swing to hone his rail-splitting skills. We’re talking a piece of wood with polymer and metal and strings, thus allowing me to play guitar in my church’s praise band, Upon This Rock.
And it’s been a fun, exhilarating and fulfilling ride. There’s no bigger kick than sawing those strings or playing the occasional lead on songs geared to make you think, to feel and to tune into your faith or some aspects of your beliefs.
Along the way, I like to sneak peeks at the congregation while making chord changes, sometimes freelancing funky lead riffs or bowing out while my guitar gently sleeps and the listeners politely sleep. Especially spying my oldest granddaughter, my youngest daughter and my two grandsons; and more recently, my girlfriend and her grandchildren. I wink at them and they return with finger-wave acknowledgment.
There’s another spectator out there for whom I always keep an eye peeled. A young man, who along with his older brother and his parents (Mom being our band's keyboardist and lead female vocalist), I have been fortunate to watch grow up for nearly 13 years.