Sunday, May 31, 2009

A Father's Son

It was a time of celebration far too long in the making; a festive occasion where banners flew freely and those gathered basked in its glory. Sparks of electricity bridged the gap, arcing from one guest to another, energizing smiles and providing fuel for the dreams of tomorrow.

A sudden hush fell over the crowd as they were asked to take their seats by a distinguished looking gentleman.

“It is a glorious day, indeed, and our distinct privilege to have Reverend Darius Williams II as our speaker. Please join me in giving him a warm welcome.”

The Reverend appeared comfortable behind the podium. Time only allowed a quick glance at his watch and like a man seeking to make up for lost time he launched into his speech.

“The houses along Spruce Lane stood in rows of conformity. Precisely .75 acres of plush Bermuda grass surrounded each, mowed and manicured twice weekly on Wednesday and Saturday between the months of April and November. Each owner was free to apply for a tree permit, but if approved it would be a Blue Spruce and could not exceed six feet at maturity. Routine patrols ensured the Sea-gray #12 brick exteriors remained free from debris. Cracks in the mortar could not exceed two inches in length. Owners which fell out of compliance would find themselves reprimanded with official notices of correction. An owner ticketed more than twice in a calendar year would be summonsed before the architectural council, and nothing good ever came from that. Those who presided there did more than dabble in evil; within the secret chamber they formed unholy alliances. The neighborhood was a nightmare of symmetry and oppression. Just as a cancer can never be content with a single organ, so was the dysfunction here.

As a young boy I struggled against myself. It was my heart which took exception to what they stood for, or more importantly what they stood against. Yet my father, an eternal pacifist, continued to preach against hate. He reminded me often, ‘The harboring of hate will not only kill the heart, but render a heart blind to solutions.’ Believe what I tell you, many speak of principles but few have the courage to apply them to their own life.

The council allowed my father to address them and for six long hours he pleaded to stop the expansion. His desire was to spare the tattered homes and broken down house of worship that lined the north perimeter of the golden neighborhood. Not only did they flatly deny his request, he was savagely beaten as he left the meeting place that night. I suppose a not-so-subtle reminder that a black man might realize his place in society.

Even when the bulldozers arrived he asked the neighbors to carry him there. I begged him not to go, but he assured me he had an obligation to speak for those having no voice. His body was broken but those who gathered came to hear his spirit speak, and without judgment he calmly put his faith in dialogue. On the surface my father pleaded for worthless homes and real estate, but they belonged to relatives, friends, and neighbors, and even a seven year old realized there were greater things at stake. Armed with an open Bible and crucifix my father began to speak, believing fully that God would provide him words that might change the course of events. His once powerful voice that carried conviction from the pulpit now sounded weak and ineffective against the backdrop of whining diesel engines. In the end powerful words were not nearly enough. Justice of the day allowed a single neighborhood and its powerfully corrupt council to hold us all hostages.

For months I was summoned to my father’s room each evening as he required help to kneel and pray. Although I requested to leave and return when he was finished, my wishes were denied. He knew the importance of me hearing as he prayed for the very men who had beaten him. While obedience required me to sit, obstinacy prevented the words from penetrating my mind.

Year after year I bitterly harbored that which my father warned against, and still I wandered there in a wilderness of my own making even as he passed. On the year anniversary of his death I went to lay flowers for him. Through a stand of trees came a single beam of light, powerful enough to penetrate the walls I had fortified. In that golden ray I heard my father’s voice and suddenly realized this world could ill-afford another damaged heart.

In that moment of revelation I found my mission. Little did I realize the rocky road would bring me before the very council my father once stood. There was little hope that my words stood a chance of being more convincing than his, so instead I prayed my father’s belief might be put in practice. Even on his death bed he held firmly to a notion that appealing to the sensibility of another man’s humanity might produce results—and eventually it did.

The past has passed, but should not be forgotten. The very ground on which this sanctuary sits was the land my father fought to preserve. Long ago I forgave the council for stealing my father’s dreams. Dreams are of our own design and where one rises and falls certainly another can be born. As you move forward so shall I. It is with great pride I can finally announce; I am my father’s son!”

Friday, May 8, 2009

To the casual observer this is nothing more than a tired farm implement whiling away its last days as the branches of a nearby tree attempt to obscure it from view. Au contraire; in the proper hands this bad boy can sling five-hundreds pounds of manure in the blink of an eye. You say, “But Dan, between the two houses of Congress we already have 535 professional versions, why do we need more?” And to that I can only respond, “Good question.”

But due to an acute state of boredom I decided to compile a list of characteristics for each. (Due to posting issues I am unable to do a side to side comparison with columns. It will make much more sense if you read an item number from one category and the coresponding item under the other category).

Manure Spreader
1. Sales pitch accurately depicts merchandise
2. Can be openly purchased at auction
3. Superior customer satisfaction rating
4. Sits idle a good portion of the year
5. Quite adept at spewing poo
6. Pulled behind a tractor

Elected Official
1. Is this even the same guy I voted for?
2. Will openly auction his purchase
3. Sketchy; see ability to be purchased
4. Same
5. Same
6. Not a bad idea

* The views and generally piss-poor attitude depicted in this article may not reflect the view of the blog owner, but in this case they do.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Mine That Bird

I’m a big enough man to admit that jealousy is an ugly thing. He vaulted from virtual obscurity to a fully bona fide stud in a shade over two minutes—the horse I mean. Although I suppose if the lighting was right and he was buying me dinner, Calvin Borel isn’t necessarily an unattractive man.

I guess we can’t consider him a stud in the true sense of the word; actually Mine That Bird is a gelding. Hopefully news of such a private nature does not travel through the horsing community as readily as it does through a small town filled with busy-bodies. Nothing is sacred any longer and poor Dale Dorfler learned the hard way.

The purchase of a life size blow-up doll combined with half-pulled bedroom curtains would not have definitely spelled his doom were it not for Gladys Glasscock’s penchant for binoculars. You see, Dale was a rather rotund man and according to Gladys’ account, he attacked the O-shaped mouth of the Marilyn Monroe look-a-like with such veracity that on four separate occasions he had to pause and patch his buoyant beauty.

Within a week of his infamous display word had spread. Most folks believe the last straw came at the hands of Gladys’ two seven-year-old grandsons. Rusty Glasscock and his brother Woody performed their rendition in front of the plate glass window of Dale’s Hardware store. Just where two little devils acquired an inflate-a-date remains a mystery, but their realistic reenactment drew quite a crowd.

Faced with humiliation on a level that few can relate to, Dale closed the store early. Sadly he folded his latex lover, placed her in the passenger seat, and left town under the cover of darkness. To this day his house remains empty as no local would knowingly subject themselves to Gladys’ prying eyes.

Word to the wise: for her seventy-third birthday she received a video camera. Remember to draw the shades lest the indiscretions of today garner a plethora of U-tube hits tomorrow.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Circle of Influence

During the course of a lifetime we connect with thousands of people, but busy lives, selfish interests, and simply circumstances, keep acquaintances from entering our circle of influence. Yet there are those that defy logic, requiring neither proximity nor extended exposure to leave an indelible impression. Bob Church (aka Bubba Lee Strunk) was one of those rarities; pretentious and unapologetic in his candor, yet humble enough to be uncomfortable hearing the profound impact he has made. Often the most enjoyable slices of life arrive late and depart far too soon, so is my acquaintance with Bob Church.

Our first meeting occurred on the internet, peculiar for a man unabashedly comfortable in his own skin to be loitering in a virtual realm where paupers routinely pose as kings and reality is none the wiser. Bob Church did not ‘do fake’; he was nothing less and nothing more than he appeared to be and a tag line at the end of his e-mails was a not-so-subtle reminder to the rest of us: “Life’s short…get over yourself.”

Soon after our meeting Bob was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer; the timeline remains fuzzy as he rarely spoke of it directly. In my opinion, it was not that he struggled with his own mortality but by recognizing it unduly, he was giving it more power over him than it deserved. No matter the odds a former-Marine will never embolden the enemy and finally when surrender is unavoidable it cannot be under the terms of the enemy. Bob’s words from a recent e-mail stick with me, “In small doses I feed him poison. Despite my efforts he may win the battle, but I’ll be damned if I stroke his head and feed him!”

Bob was a regular working man as required by the world, but it was at the request of his heart that he penned his stories. Had he bowed to the masses and written the type of drivel an editor wants to hear, I’m convinced he would have been on a book-signing tour ten months out of the year. As much as the world needs to see his work, they deserved it in pure Bob-esque form. The following is a paragraph from a response Bob gave to someone that asked, “Why do you write like you do?”

So chide me if you will—mock me if you must—but somewhere within, you know I’m right. If you’re interested, I have one piece of advice for any writer: Leave the safety of acceptance and you will find a new world so complex, so appealing, so goddamn interesting… that you won’t want to leave. Never again will you be satisfied to tell someone else’s story in someone else’s terms; never again will you accept normality as a hallmark nor universal acceptability as a precept. Don’t describe a character’s life or actions, but help me experience his dreams. I promise your writing will fly like never before—with or without a few extra illusory similes.

At Bob's personal request there will be no extravagant funeral, simply a gathering of friends and family to celebrate and reminisce. No doubt he will be watching over those in the circle, for they meant the world to him, but I wish for him to know that his circle of influence goes well beyond those in attendance. Although I am unable to physically attend, tonight we will chat as long as you like.

The cooler is packed, the minnow bucket full, and there’s an open seat in the boat. Even though the crappie left their beds weeks ago, still you wink and accept the invitation. A mischievous smile crosses your face as you dust off one of your famous stories.

“Dan, did I ever tell about the time…….”

As we head off to a quiet cove, impervious to the troubles of the world, my mind quietly records the chuckle of a man larger than life. Bob Church I salute you. God speed and Semper Fi, my friend.