I'm thankful my wife doesn't kill me when I miss trash day.
I'm thankful for cornbread and cast iron skillets.
I'm thankful the grass has stopped growing because I really hate mowing.
I'm thankful for good old fashioned guacamole -- without peas!
I'm thankful my toilets flush when it's rainy.
I"m thankful my old grandpa isn't around to see the mess we've gotten ourselves into.
I'm thankful my phone has an off switch.
I'm thankful the neighbor's dog finally stopped barki...
Damn. Spoke too soon.
But it was all good.
Not long after (relatively speaking), massive stars exploded sending shrapnel through nearby gas clouds, forming more chunks, blobs and globs, and that's how our very own sun and planets were formed. I guess you could call that the end of the first day, but that would be getting ahead of ourselves a bit, don't you think?
It's hard to say what happened next. Nobody was around to tweet about it. Maybe a comet brought us ice. Maybe space aliens brought us gin. Maybe "Gineses" is the proper spelling. We just don't know.
Maybe a girl amoeba fell in love with a boy amoeba and they had little baby amoebas who multiplied like rabbits until they were rabbits, then other amoebas invented the calendar and declared a day of rest which was a good thing because all those amoebas were getting really, really tired of multiplying. We just don't know.
Maybe the first trees were just grass, and they grew into trees to defend themselves from being eaten by all those rabbits. Maybe some of the grass remained grass because they didn't believe in evolution and ended up getting eaten alive, which really sucked for them, but nobody cared. They were just grass. We just don't know.
What we DO know is that Copernicus threw us off-center; Newton gave us gravity to keep our apples from flying off the table; Faraday inspired Whitman to sing the body electric; Darwin evolutionized the meaning of life; Pasteur washed his hands of it all; and Einstein gave us relatives we wish we didn't have.
Yes, in the beginning there was nothing, but these days we have more than enough -- so much so that I'm having a garage sale next week.
Hope to see ya there.
That your neighbor's religion is his own business;
That freedom of speech doesn't include being downright hateful;
and that you should always help folk in need, whether they speak a different language than you or wear a kandura and ghutrah.
My old grandpa would always say, "Our differences are the spice of life. Shunning those differences is like eating Mac & Cheese without fish sticks and canned green beans."
Comparatively, the Summer of 2016 has been a picnic.
But still, I'm more than ready for this summer to pass into history -- especially since Autumn teased us with a 65-degree Sunday morning recently. It was so nice, I got up, fixed a cup of coffee, drank it out on the porch, and felt the seasons turn, turn, turn.
And then Sunday turned into Monday and Summer felt obligated to take a long curtain call.
Get off the stage!
The two friends didn't quit their jobs to go on such a grand adventure; they have jobs to go back to when they're done. You on the other hand would have no job to go back to, and would have to live on Ramen Noodles for the rest of your life.
NOTE TO SELF: Yes, an around-the-world journey by motorcycle seems like it would be the dream of a lifetime, but don't forget about the money it would take -- the money that you don't have.
So, and this is just my two cents, never watch such vile movies during your lunch break.
Better yet, just skip lunch.
“I can’t believe we’re actually doing this,” said Jan
Stewart, veteran reporter for CNB News, Bismarck, North Dakota. She and
cameraman Michael Cardenas were in the CNB News van, heading for The Radisson,
“And considering how much he hates the media, it’s hard to
believe he’s even agreed to talk to us at all,” said Michael.
Jan and Mike, as they were known in Bismarck, were respected
reporters known for tackling the tough assignments, the tough interviews, and
always coming back with fair and impartial stories.
They had twice been nominated for a Pulitzer.
“I’m going to have to watch my Ps & Qs because you know
how much I loathe him,” Jan said.
“You’ll do fine,” said Mike. “You’re the most professional
reporter I know.”
The van pulled into The Radisson parking lot, and they parked
up close to the front door.
“I still can’t believe he had the audacity to make that
accusation, get his followers all riled up, and then just stand by and watch them attack that poor woman,” said Jan. “What kind of a person would do that?”
Mike opened up the van’s side door and grabbed his camera bag
“He’s a psychopath,” he said. “A narcissistic, homophobic,
bigoted, misogynist, racist, power-hungry psychopath, but…”
“But I’m just going to smile and do my job,” said Jan.
“Yes, you are.”
Jan closed the door, checked to make sure she had her notes
and microphone, then the two headed across the parking lot.
Before they went through the automatic front doors, Jan
stopped and asked, “If we were interviewing Hitler, and we knew what he was
going to end up doing, would you shoot him? Kill him?”
“Listen,” said Mike. “You’ve got to get that out of your
mind. He’s a presidential candidate.”
“So what?” said Jan. “He’s crazy, and at times I don't even think he's human."
The two went through the doors and stood in the lobby.
“I hate this,” Jan whispered.
“Me, too,” Mike replied.
Jan and Mike quickly found the Blue Bonnet Room. It was the
only conference room guarded by two burley security guards who looked like
members of The Hells Angels.
“I’m Jan and this is Mike, and we’re here for the 10 o’clock
interview,” Jan said to the two men. The reporters held out their press IDs.
The two guards just stood there for a moment, arms crossed. Jan
was beginning to think maybe they hadn’t understood when the more ugly one of
the two pulled out a “wand” and motioned for the reporters to raise their
The guard checked Mike first, and then took his time wanding
Jan. He smelled like sweat and a garlic sandwich. The other guard went through
the reporters’ bags, and finding nothing dangerous, zipped everything back up.
The ugly guard opened the door to the Blue Bonnet Room, and
Jan and Mike went inside.
The room was windowless and completely empty except for a
pair of leather wing-backed chairs. Jan and Mike began the process of setting up
their lights, the tripod and camera, something they had done a thousand times
and could probably do blindfolded.
And then they waited.
“Build a wall and make Mexico pay for it,” Jan mumbled. “And
what’s bad is that there are millions of people who buy into that idea without
giving it much thought. Like, this is really going to make us safer.”
“Well, you know, he’s just trying to keep out us rapists,”
“Oh, don’t even start,” she fired back. “It’s like, just
because he’s a billionaire – or at least says he is – and that he’s been on TV,
they just follow him blindly, like he’s the universe's answer to humanity, or something.”
“And not to mention….” Mike began, but stopped when the doors
to the room opened. Two men in matching black suits, obviously secret service,
scanned the room, then stepped aside as the candidate walked through the doors.
“Well, here we go,” Rod whispered. “Good luck.”
JAN STEWART: Good morning sir, and thank you so much for
taking the time out of your schedule to do this interview.
CANDIDATE (CDT): My pleasure. It’s not a bad hotel, but I
bet they paid too much for the renovation. But it will do.
STEWART: Yes. Your campaign manager said we had about 30
CDT: Right, but that’s flexible.
STEWART: Oh, ok. Good. I know you have a rally this evening,
so I’d like to begin by asking about your unbelievable campaign. It’s hard to
believe how far you’ve come, considering never having held an elected office or
participated much in politics, as far as we can tell. In fact, the electorate knows very little about you at all, or where you came from. So tell us what drives you, and to what do you
credit your success?
CDT: That’s a very good question. I’m where I am today
because I’m the right person for the right time. I’m right for humanity. There’s been too much
‘wrongness’ in society and I blame that on the current administration. They’re
wrong about everything. Wrong about …
STEWART: Can you be specific about that?
CDT: Yes, they’re wrong about the economy and trade. Wrong
about where our enemies are. Not only that, they are the worst dealmakers of
all time. It’s so sad.
STEWART: And because you come from a different world, the world of business,
you can make better deals.
CDT: I always make the best deals. I always win. And that’s
STEWART: But a country isn’t a business.
CDT: -- drives me; the desire to fix it all before this world collapses and is dragged down into a third-class blackhole, so to speak. No one
else sees this, but I do. And I alone know how to fix it.
STEWART: Ok, then, how specifically do you plan to fix it?
CDT: To begin with, we have to be honest with ourselves. We
have to acknowledge that there are a lot of crazy people out there who are
taking advantage of the system, making other people like you pay for it, and
that it’s ruining our economy. And then people from other places come here –
we don’t even know who they are or what their intentions are – but they’re
coming here taking our jobs and we don’t even know how big of a mess that is.
When I’m president, we’re going to stop all that. We’re
going to build a wall and make Mexico pay for it, and we’re going to vet these other
people the right way. I mean, really vet them. If they come from a hostile
place, they’re going to be booted right back to where they
came from. And we’re going to keep a watch on everyone, especially those who
look like they don’t belong.
STEWART: So what you’re talking about is profiling people. But
that means --
CDT: You can call it profiling – I don’t call it profiling –
I call it watching out for trouble; getting rid of the troublemakers. Empowering regular citizens like yourself to call out people who just don't look right, and take care of them. Because they're everywhere. And if that means…
STEWART: But do the ends really justify the means?
CDT: Listen, people tell me all the time that they’re
scared. I’m here to tell them when I’m president, they won’t need to be scared
anymore. I am the messenger, I am the light, and I bring hope.
STEWART: So are you advocating that we put people who, in
your words, just don’t look right, in camps? Isolate them, like we did to the
Japanese during World War II?
CDT: Listen, Japan has a strong economy today. I like Japan.
I have a lot of Japanese friends. I understand the Japanese, and I don’t think
a few years in a safe environment – it was for their safety. You were
fighting against their families. And the real Americans saw them walking around
– your enemy, in your own country – and I don’t think it did them much harm. Just think how much greater they would've become if we'd left them in those camps a bit longer. A year or two longer, maybe.
STEWART: But they WERE real Americans, and just because they
‘didn’t look right,’ or because they’re Japanese or Muslims or Mexicans…
CDT: Look, it’s a different world out there today, and I
don’t hear anybody disagreeing with me. Tens of millions of people come to my
rallies and you know what I hear? Build the wall; stop the radicals; don't trust your neighbors; get rid of the aliens and other weirdoes; throw them all in jail -- especially, her.
STEWART: Do you really think she belongs in jail?
CDT: Are you kidding me? She’s the most corrupt,
egotistical, lying bigoted politician in history. Worse than Nixon. I doubt she's even human. Hell, yes she belongs in jail, as well as every nutjob who thinks like her. Hey
Charlie. Go find me some tomato juice. And if this place only has that crappy
stuff, just get me some bottled water.
CHARLENE EDMONDS, CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Yes sir. Anything else?
CDT: No, that’s all. She’s just the sequel of what we
already have. And the people know this. And that’s why they’re going to vote
for me in massive numbers. Numbers you’ve never seen before. And we're going to fix this place. It’s going to be a
STEWART: Still on the topic of Japan, you said in
yesterday’s rally that Japan should be allowed to produce nuclear weapons. Is
(Edmonds hands CDT a glass of tomato juice.)
CDT: Thank you. I drink tomato juice every day. Good for the
body, and the brain. Too many people drink colas. We have the fattest people
on the planet. By tons. That’s why we’re putting together a mandatory exercise
period. Keep the fittest, and get rid of the rest. Just look at the Asians. They’re skinny, and smart. I have a lot of
Asian friends. They do business with me. Skinny and smart.
STEWART: And about Japan --
CDT: Oh, sure. Let them have some nukes. Why should we have
them and they not? Why should we pay for their security when they have such a
great economy? They’re smart. They know how to use them wisely.
STEWART: Excuse me. Use them?
CDT: I’ve heard a lot of people say, and I’ve read a lot,
that nuclear weapons used properly, strategically used, could quickly solve
most of the world’s problems. Sure, a lot of people would die, but only the surplus. Think back to Hiroshima. We saved a lot of
American lives. But we’ll just have to see.
STEWART: But Japan has a constitution that --
CDT: Jan, we’ll just have to see.
STEWART: But to set off --
CDT: Sure, a bit of short-term headaches, but in the long
run, it's good for the human race, right?
STEWART: But the danger would be just --
CDT: Jan, we’re not going to reinvent the wheel here, so
just move on.
STEWART: I can not sit here anymore and listen to --
CDT: Think about it Jan. Do you really think I want Japan to
use nuclear weapons against China? Or Korea? I was just being sarcastic. You
people are in such a hurry to make something out of nothing – and I mean you in
the media have been so dishonest. Maybe not you. You seem nice. Maybe you can
be on my cabinet when I win. But overall, it’s disgusting. You people just
can’t figure me out, and that’s all right by me.
STEWART: Wait. You just --
CDT: Not that sending a couple of nukes China’s way would be
a bad thing. Might straighten them up, they’re so crooked. I do a lot of
business with them, build a lot of buildings, but I don’t really trust them. They're overcrowded with people. Using up a lot of our resources. But this administration just lets them do whatever they want to do – their trade,
their cheap products. And my opponent doesn’t have a clue about how to deal
(Edmonds takes CDT’s empty juice glass.)
CDT: Thanks, Charlie. She’s a peach. I probably wouldn’t get
through the day without her and people like her, who advise me, who believe
in what we’re doing, which is to take this country, this world, back to the drawing board so we can make it better.
STEWART: You haven’t said much about your advisors. Running a
country is a big responsibility. It’s not like running a business. Who do you go
to for advice?
CDT: Well, I read a lot. I think a lot. I use my own brain. I
trust my instincts, my guts, and I’m always right. Sure, I have people who talk
to me, but in the end, if you can’t trust yourself, you really shouldn’t be
putting yourself on the line.
STEWART: Can you name a few of your advisors?
CDT: Can I? Sure. But will I? No. If the people know who I
talk to, then that means foreign governments know, too. It’s like poker. You
got to keep your cards close to your chest. I have some great cards. The
greatest. But I’m not stupid enough to show my hand to you. Guessing is good,
especially for all those countries that want to do us harm, that want to cheat us;
who invade our country with their soldiers who hide among refugees, or people
who say they’re refugees, just to destroy our system from the inside. And we
let them. They just walk on in while our president looks the other way. Pats
them on the back. Probably even sets them up with free health care and pizza. Our
own citizens are going without but --
EDMONDS: Sir, it’s time to move on to your next appointment.
CDT: Really? So soon? But I’m having fun here. Let them know
we’ll be a few minutes late.
EDMONDS: Yes sir.
STEWART: But you don’t actually think that our president is complicit
with letting terrorists into our country?
CDT: Well, all I know is what I read on the Internet, and what
I see in the very dishonest media. There’s something going on. I wish there
wasn’t, but there is. You people just look around it, trying to dig up the
worst about my very successful campaign, and you can’t even see the dog that’s
pooping on your shoes. When I’m president, I’ll take care of all that, too.
STEWART: Take care of it how?
CDT: That’s for me to know. But I can say when I’m done,
we’ll be winners again. We’ll win and this world will only be filled with the best. Do you think my opponent
knows how to win? She just knows how to whine, and lie. She is so crooked. Unhinged.
And I’ve heard people say her health can’t take being president. And they say
she’s mentally unstable. I’m not saying that, but that’s what I’ve heard.
STEWART: And you believe –
CDT: Listen, I know my campaign hasn’t been the norm. No
advertising. No town hall meetings. Some people, just a few, disloyal people saying
we haven’t got a chance, but have you been to one of my rallies? Thousands and
thousands come out to see me, and they’re very excited.
STEWART: Yes, they are; almost fanatical. But do you think
that will translate –
CDT: Wonderful support. Wonderful people. They want to be
winners. Most haven’t won in a long time, or ever, but they believe in me. They
know something’s wrong. That everything is rigged against them. And they know
I’m the only one who can fix it.
STEWART: Rigged? As in how?
CDT: Do you want me to let you in on the secret to my
STEWART: Um, sure.
CDT: Off the record, of course.
STEWART: But –
CDT: Off the record, or I don’t tell.
STEWART: Mike, turn off the camera.
CARDENAS: Ok. It’s off now.
(CDT leans in closer to Stewart.)
CDT: It’s all in my right hand.
STEWART: What’s in your right hand?
CDT: The power.
STEWART: Excuse me?
CDT: I discovered this trick a long time ago, when I was a
teenager, and it’s made me who I am today. Just watch my hand. When I point my
index finger up, pull my other fingers down and stick my thumb out like this –
like I’m making a gun – it catches your attention. Has it caught your
STEWART: Yes, I guess, but --
CDT: This hand has gotten me through school, helped me not
to get drafted; it’s made investors give me millions for some of my stupidest
ideas. It can turn best friends into rivals, and I just step in and take over.
STEWART: Ok, but I don’t –
CDT: Of course, I’ve found out it doesn’t work through
television. That’s why I have so many rallies. I’ve got to be ‘with’ the
people. At just the right moment, I put up my hand like this, and like magic,
everybody’s focused on my hand. They think they hear what I’m saying, but
they’re really just looking at my hand. I can wave it all around, and the
people follow it like little puppy dogs. Are you following it?
STEWART: Um, yes, I guess.
CDT: How about you.
CARDENAS: Sure. I mean, yes, of course.
CDT: I can say anything, like my opponent is the devil; the
president is an illegal alien; his wife is an ugly whore; the person sitting next to you is a terrorist. You'll soak it all in, just by watching the hand.
STEWART/CARDENAS: Watching the hand.
CDT: Now, just between you and me, all those rally people
are idiots. Not very educated, low IQ, but I don’t tell them that. They are the ones who will help me usher in a new world order. The strong will survive, the weak, not so much. I'll tell them to believe in me, and they will; to not trust Muslims, and they won't; to throw boiling water on their enemies, especially the gays, and they'll do it. And you know what? Right after I open up my hand like this --
(CDT’s hand is now making an “OK” sign, thumb and forefinger
touching, his other fingers high in the air.)
CDT: They'll forget all about my hand, and start making the changes that this little rock needs. And when this world is on the verge of devastation, my people will walk right in and take over with nary a hassle to speak of.
(Jan and Mike blinked.)
CDT: Sounds good, doesn't it?
STEWART: Wow. Yes. Fantastic!
CDT: We’re going to be winners, aren’t we?
STEWART/CARDENAS: It’s time we started winning again.
CDT: And who’s going to build that wall?
STEWART/CARDENAS: Mexico! Mexico! Mexico!
The candidate got out of his seat and reached out to shake
“This has been a great interview,” he said. “I wish you the
best of luck with your story.”
“Thank you, sir,” said Jan. “And the best of luck to you.”
The candidate slapped Mike on the back and said, "Delete that tape, like a good little Mexican, ok?" then he walked out of the Blue Bonnet room, followed by the secret service.
Jan and Mike stood there for a moment, just looking at each other.
“That had to be the best interview we’ve ever done,” Jan said, practically giggling.
"Are you kidding me?" said Mike. "You sound like one of those delusional fanatics. Besides, I deleted the file."
“You did what?!" screamed Jan. "Why you little wetback. I can't believe you're so stupid."
“What did you say?” asked Mike as he picked up a chair.
“You heard me, amigo," said Jan, holding her microphone like a hammer.
The two biker security guards heard the approaching thunderstorm, and quietly closed the door.
You just have to live with the path you've chosen, I guess.
But isn't it also possible you can begin something new, to delve into a new passion, even though you're well past middle age and time is running out, so to speak?
I mean, isn't it possible if I practice my banjo every day for the next 30 years -- if I live that long and someone who hates banjo playing doesn't kill me first -- I might actually end up being good at it?
Well, of course.
Sure, I'd never be on the cover of Time Magazine (what banjo player ever is?), but self-satisfaction goes a long way. Or at least it should be.
Even though I own two banjos, I'm actually talking about writing.
I haven't really put a lot of time into it like I should, like real authors do. I just sort of dabble in it. A tweet here, a poem there. Maybe an essay or two. But nothing really fancy. But I did write a short story this weekend. Never wrote one before.
And then I sent it off to The New Yorker.
You know what the odds are for a first time submitter who is only a part-time writer getting published in anywhere, much less The New Yorker?
But if you don't at least take the chance, you're chances aren't great at all. Right?
So, I'll let you know how it goes.
I thought if I read a lot of books, the inspiration that washed over the authors of those books would drench me with a bit of their self discipline and I'd sit my butt down and become the writer I always wanted to be.
So far, I'm still waiting.
I know what I have to do -- I have to write 1,000 words a day, 365 days a year, come rain or global warming, but I just can't get enough steam to actually do the work.
I think it's the "work" part of "doing the work" that has me stumped.
Reading's good, though.
To be a good writer, you have to be a good reader, or at least that's what I've always heard.
If I could get paid for reading, I'd be pert-near well off.
Lean back in my chair, sip on a hot cup of tea, and get lost in the back of some writer's mind -- a writer who was able to jump that reading-to-writer curve and make it work for them.
There's that "work" word again.
I really should give it a try.
Maybe next week.
(She has to work, which makes me feel a little guilty to be lying on the couch as she heads off to her 9 to 5 -- but only a little guilty.)
Many people are not as fortunate as I. They get two weeks off, try to cram in as much going and doing as they can, wrap up their vacation on a Friday night before heading back to work on Monday morning, and then spend the rest of the year thinking, "Where did the time go?" and "Teachers suck."
Whether or not you have two weeks or eight weeks vacation, we all want a little bit more.
A couple of days will do fine.
Maybe a week.
But since you don't get a few extra days or a week off, let me give you some advice for making next year's summer vacation seem to last forever:
Don't do anything. Don't go anywhere.
Stay at home and just watch the clock.
Your summer will drag by so slow you'll be DYING to get back to work.
If for some reason I'm riding my motorcycle and I get smooshed by some dude in an F-150 listening to "She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy" by Kenny Chesney, and all the smooshing leaves me in a coma for the rest of my life, please don't turn on the television in my hospital room.
It's very possible that my mind inside the coma is fully intact just looking for a way to let you know, but if The Bachelorette is blaring on the tube, I'm going to hunker down in my trenches and wait until the shelling has stopped.
To entice me out of my vegetable soup, I hereby leave a Coma List of five things to do and not do:
1. Leave the TV off unless it's showing reruns of "Gilligan's Island," "Star Trek," or "Doctor Who" -- the new Doctor Whos, not from the 60s; I especially like the Matt Smith seasons with Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman) wearing her red leather jacket, oh yes!
2. I like all kinds of music, except for country and anything from the 70s or 80s. Barry Manilow's "Copa Cabana" is fine but only because it will force my crying wife out of the room. She hates it.
3. Most people believe in talking to a comatose person. I do, too. Talk to me all you won't, but please don't discuss the weather, politics, religion, any kind of procedure your Aunt Edna in El Paso is having, or football.
4. It's been a long time since I've been read to, but I think my coma mind would enjoy it. Poetry is good, but not the "what is he talking about?" kind. Graphic novels would be okay, but you have to use different voices for the characters. Dickens' "Tale of Two Cities" would be perfect. But please, no erotica -- I'm in a coma, for heaven's sake.
5. If I'm not in a coma, the doctors are saying I'm just a breathing cucumber, but my eyes are open, I think a stripper would do me worlds of good; a classy Jessica Alba "Sin City" type would be great, but please no wrinkly Pamela Andersons.
Even as a youngster I learned to avoid stepping in fresh piles of malarkey, but people today seem to enjoy rolling all over in it.
Don't they know that malarkey by any other name still smells like bullshit?
My old grandfather would say, "A man who wallows in enough malarkey never realizes he should take a bath."
My downfall was that I bought a truck.
A nice used one to get me through the Winter.
Heater worked great.
But every time I hopped into it to get me to work, I felt lousy.
I went 11 years riding through winters, and here I was being seduced by a bit of warm air.
Oh, some mornings I got up and told myself this was the day I was getting back on the bike, but then I found some excuse not to ride, so I drove.
But not today.
And now I'm thinking back on Summer 2015.
I was brought up to believe you never really know a person until you eat leftovers with them.
Acquaintances might take you out for sushi, but true friends will share their leftovers.
You raise your kids on hard work and leftovers and they just might turn out OK.
I never throw out leftover cornbread. Well, I might if it gets a bit purple and fuzzy, but only maybe.
If a restaurant is too posh to give you a to-go box, then you shouldn't have been there in the first place.
I do have a confession: I shy away from leftover oatmeal that's been in the fridge for a week.
If you ain't ingenious enough to make Thanksgiving leftovers last for at least a week, then you just weren't raised right.
A political candidate who thumbs his or her nose at eating leftover lasagna can't possible have my best interests at heart.
A candidate who wouldn't save a half-eaten Subway sandwich for a midnight snack or tomorrow's breakfast is too shortsighted, in my humble opinion.
I want a president who looks at a leftover Sunday pot of chili and sees lunch for Monday, and "Hey, there's even enough for the VP."
My old grandpa would warn us, "A man who'll eat tonight's beans but shun tomorrow's refried beans will more'n likely steal your cattle."
Jake and his mother lived in a cabin at the edge of the woods, and they were poor. They weren't so poor as to be starving, but they were poor enough to know they weren't far from it.
The only thing Jake had of value was a magic bean.
"One of these days," Jake would tell his mother, "I'm going to plant that bean, water it, and watch it grow tall to the sky. And who knows what good luck that will bring us?"
Jake's mother thought it a silly dream, not very practical, but since dreams didn't cost anything, she let him keep it.
Jake kept the magic bean in his pocket. He got it out sometimes, rolled it around in his hands, thumped it into the air and caught it, but he never got around to planting it. Oh, he talked about doing it, but he never did.
One morning, after eating a bowl of thin gruel that didn't quite ease their hunger pains, Jake's mother said, "Boy, I want you to go to town and buy us a milk cow so we can have milk and cheese."
"But Ma, we don't have any money to buy a milk cow."
"Then sell that magic bean you're always talking about," she said. "Surely a magic bean is worth a milk cow."
"But Ma, one of these days I'm going to plant that bean, and it's going to grow to the sky, and I'm going to climb it into the clouds, and if there's a giant up there, I'm going to steal all his food and gold, and we'll never have to worry about starving or being poor ever again."
"That may be so," she said, "but we're close to starving now. So do as I say and go buy us a cow."
Back in those days, a boy didn't argue much with his mother, so with a heavy heart he travelled into town and did the practical thing: he traded his magic bean for a milk cow.
Jake and his mother were still poor, but at least they had milk and cheese with their gruel and they never starved.
As for the bean?
I'm sure the old farmer who traded his cow for Jake's magic bean never believed his wife was strong enough to throw a cast iron skillet so accurately.
MORAL: Some dreams don't seem practical but could grow to the sky if planted and nurtured.
We love our cellphones, can’t live without Internet, FaceChat, Netflix, and big screen TV sets. Excuse us while we check our Snap-a-Grams again, and update our personal profiles for all our less-than-personal TweetBook friends.
“But wait! Why don’t we do something different tonight? Something that doesn’t involve screens, messaging, or ‘checking in’ at local restaurants we frequent just because they offer free WiFi?”
Hmmmmm. What did you have in mind?
“I don’t know. Maybe we could…talk?”
We talk all the time, through texting, the most. Have you ever thought about updating your InnerTube Channel with a video post?
“No. I mean face-to-face talk. About anything – the future, politics. About sharing special memories, like what kind of books are important to us, or cars we used to drive when we were younger, when calling home cost only a dime at any phone booth scattered across town.”
Cars, you say? Well, I remember I was in luck that you really liked my red Chevy Luv pickup truck. And you drove a Rambler, vintage and white. Looking somewhat like an old Mercedes Benz, if I remember right.
“You do! And do you also remember I drove that thing until it was falling apart? My father would fix it and fix it – sometimes with actual car parts and sometimes with baling wire – until it could be fixed no more. And then he bought me a Honda Civic, stick shift and clutch, that I had a hard time learning to drive. Until you taught me.”
That’s right. And the only reason I was good at stick shift was because I learned at night – driving a Ford F-150 in the middle of the school parking lot. My dad showed me how. I really made that thing buck a lot.
“Really? I thought the only pickup truck you drove was that little Chevy Luv.”
You learn something new, each and every day. But soon that old Ford was passed down to my brother, and gave way to a car I can barely remember. What kind it was, I can’t say. All I know is it was yellow with an engine that made it go a little too fast. It was probably because of that one small detail, it didn’t long last.
“Before the Rambler, I learned to drive a 1978 Chevrolet Caprice Classic. But the car I loved the most was my family’s 1957 blue and white Chevy Bel Air. To this day I can still remember what it felt like – what it smelled like – to be inside that car. Good memories, for sure.”
Good memories, for sure.
“And after the yellow car that I guess your parents thought was a wee bit too ‘lively’ for you, what did that lead to?”
A white Buick Regal, two-door, with a moon roof. Unfortunately, I don’t have photos of it, so I can show you no proof. But that was the car that turned into the Luv – the vehicle I was driving when we became friends, then fell in love.
“After that was another Honda Civic, a Renault, a Peugeot, a Dodge minivan for the family, and away we did go. Followed by a Neon, a Cavalier and a Jeep for our girl. Then you bought a motorcycle and went on a whirl around the country, leaving me to drive that horrific Chrysler dry-heave thing. And now we own Toyotas. I wonder what tomorrow will bring?”
There’s no telling. But maybe we can do this again – turn off the electronics and talk about stuff. Maybe trips we can go on, or the history of forks and spoons. Maybe even decorative dishes.
“Oh, you smooth talker. That sounds really great. Tomorrow, it is. We’ll make it a date.”
Yes, I knew where he grew up, I knew he'd been in the Navy, but a lot of other things that I should've known about him, I just didn't.
For instance: back in the late 50s, my dad was at a drive-in restaurant with some of his friends -- boys and girls mingling about, laughing, having a good time -- when he spied a young lady sitting alone in her car.
He got up the nerve, walked over to her, and the very first words that came out of his mouth were:
"You sure are stuck up."
One thing leads to another, he buys her a shake, takes her out for a few rounds of Putt-Putt, then BAM! -- 57 years of marriage.
I never knew he was a guy who could use a lousy pickup line, and actually make it work.
* * *
He was also a big teaser, but everybody knew that.
I have memories of him taking us to restaurants, and when the bill came, he would reach into his pocket, and with a shocked look on his face, he'd say, "Oh no. I forgot my wallet. I guess you boys are gonna have to do some dishes."
I don't know about my brother, but my heart was beating 90 miles per hour.
But just at the last moment, he'd pull out his wallet and say, "Oh, here it is. I guess you boys got lucky this time."
He even pulled that trick on us when we were kids.
* * *
I knew my father loved to play Santa Claus, and games like 42 and Chicken-Foot, but I never knew he was The Monopoly Man.
Now, if you don't mind, and even if you do, I want you to take out your phones and Google Monopoly Man. Look for an image. I'll wait.
One of his students at school noticed the resemblance and called him The Monopoly Man. Then more did. Then he "cashed in" on the idea and started to use the Monopoly cards as an incentive for them to act right. And I want you know, just a few weeks ago, one of the meal servers at the retirement center where my parents moved to, one of the meal servers came up to him and said, "Has anybody ever told you, ya look like The Monopoly Man?"
Can you imagine?
My father, The Monopoly Man, Santa Claus, a Navy veteran, a big teaser, someone who loved to travel, make wooden toys, fish, play golf, go bowling, watch movies, grill hamburgers, read Westerns, go to church, a hard worker, a good listener, kind, gentle, loving, caring, funny, a man who always had a smile on his face, and a lover of cappuccinos and root beer floats.
I didn't know my father well.
But I knew enough.