Category Archives: Personal

Nothing Great Without Something Bad

When I attended Southwest Junior High, the one smart thing I did was to enroll in band. It contributed as much to my preservation as anything else might have. Band opened doors for me, allowed me to participate in something without being athletic and gave me an opportunity to look, learn and listen to some great people. Like nothing had before, I could socialize and watch the workings of normal people. Don’t get me wrong, I had plenty of normal people around me – just not ones I could interact with socially. Band allowed me to listen closely to others and see that my situation in life wasn’t normal by any definition.

The point of this post isn’t so much about how important band turned out to be for me but to demonstrate how life always seem to come in give-and-take doses for me.

One year, the band director Mr. Morris managed to get me a scholarship to band camp. Whether he paid for it out of pocket or someone else donated the money, I can’t be certain.  What I do know is that there is no way I would have ever been able to go were it not for his involvement. It would have never occurred to me to even ask mom and dad for the money. The band camp was held at the U of A campus in Fayetteville.

It was one of the best weeks ever in my life, even including being trapped along on an elevator for a couple of hours.

When I came back home from band camp, instead of going to my house, I went over to my paternal Uncle Buck’s house. I was still on a mental high from everything I’d seen and experienced during my time away at band camp. It seemed like life might be worth experiencing and that people didn’t all think I was weird.

Mom and Aunt Ardith were of course drinking even when they drove over to pick me up. I could smell the beer just getting into the car. They continued doing more of the same when we got back to my aunt’s house. I went back to Jimmy’s bedroom on the other side of the house to play around on Jimmy’s console computer and watch television.

I don’t know how much time passed but horrific screaming interrupted my thoughts. It was my mom, screaming my name at the top of her lungs. It sounded like someone was pulling her tonsils out with a fork. Jumping up, I flung open the bedroom door and ran down the hallway.

Aunt Ardith was straddling mom with her knees by her ribs, using handfuls of mom’s hair to yank mom’s head up and down, hitting it against the RCA console tv. Mom’s head was making a ‘clunk’ sound each time Aunt Ardith threw her head down. Mom was screaming at me to get Aunt Ardith off of her. Aunt Ardith looked at me with murder in her eyes as I told her to let mom get up. Instead of letting go, she asked mom if she was going to shut her f%$%^ing mouth if she did. Mom cursed at her. Aunt Ardith gave mom’s head one final clunk and then got off her.

Mom took several seconds to get shakily to her feet and then attempted to hit Aunt Ardith. Aunt Ardith pushed mom’s fist away and slapped mom so hard her head swiveled and she had to sit down on the floor again, still crying and cursing. My aunt lectured my mom about her need to make everyone mad and start fights.

(Sidenote: I would have never hit Aunt Ardith. Yes, she could be angry at times. But she didn’t hit me in violence or scream at me needlessly. I never saw her hit mom unless mom hit her first or so vilely screamed at her that she was pushed into it. Aunt Ardith was my gateway to normal experiences that most people take for granted.)

Without a word, I turned and went back to Jimmy’s bedroom. In less than 2 minutes, mom stormed into the bedroom, cursing me for letting her get beat up. She screamed at me to go get in the car. Mom was so drunk that she kept hitting the doorjambs as she walked. How we made it home I’m not certain.

Incidents like this one made me doubt the truth of any good moments in my life. It seemed back then that it was impossible to enjoy life without getting a punch in the gut in return. 

Performing Marriages in Arkansas

Even though many people don’t understand it, I had long wanted to be able to perform marriages. After months of procrastinating, I recently finished all the paperwork, went to the courthouse, and became “legitimate,” so to speak. The State of Arkansas decided to allow me to pay the fees and register to perform marriages.

It still seems surreal to me. Literally speaking, I now have minister credentials. It will be interesting to see how a few people respond.   On the other hand, there were a couple of people who never offer anything other than criticism – their derision was to be expected. Those who would be malicious in their criticism are the same people who make weddings sometimes hideous spectacles instead of a simple joining of two people

Part of my reluctance was due to my cousin Jimmy who has been ill for well over a year. He had been putting off getting married. I had told him to let me know when he was going to tie the knot. Although I might be wrong, I think my sudden ability to do weddings might have pushed him along somewhat.

Whether I ever perform a marriage or not, it is no longer a question of getting the details accomplished. I would hope that I might help people see that there’s no need for expensive, complicated weddings. When the hoopla of the event fades, all that is left is the daily routine and, hopefully, lasting love and patience to temper it. Daily life exacts an angry toll on most people.

06252014 James Arthur Terry aka Uncle Buck aka Buster aka Arthur (Another Story About Names…)

Al Johnson and James Buck Terry

40th Reunion Picture (Note he used “Arthur” again the picture)

My paternal uncle James Arthur Terry was one of those people who experienced the weirdness of name issues. I always called my dad’s brother “Uncle Buck.” Even though his dad (my grandfather) was also named James Arthur Terry, no one ever put a “Junior” on my uncle’s name. At risk of offending the family revisionists, he did not understand why my birth name had been botched so badly or why my mom and dad added the “Jr.”

Throughout my Uncle Buck’s school years, he used “Arthur” as his first name, even though James was his actual first name. Below is a picture from his high school graduating class. He’s the third from the right on the very bottom.

Brinkley, Arkansas 1951 Senior Class

It wasn’t until he moved away that he started using “James” or “Jim” in any real sense, not when he had a choice.

My Uncle Buck also named my cousin Jimmy, his son with his second wife “James,” but used “Lawrence” as his middle name to avoid any issue with the “Junior” nonsense. My cousin Jimmy didn’t like the name “James” very much and preferred Jimmy. Adding even more oddness to the story, my first cousin Jimmy names his only son Noah James Terry, reversing the first and last names of his aunt’s husband James Noah.

While many people called him “Buck,” much of the Brinkley family called him “Buster” instead of “Buck” or “James.” I can’t remember why those chose yet another name over either of the most common alternatives.

James Arthur Terry and his first wife and 3 kids
James Arthur Terry and one of his favorite trucks, in Memphis, TN

01102013 It’s a Learning Process

Without specifically mentioning anyone, I’ve learned a little over the last week.

People are so insistent on bending circumstances to their particular viewpoint. (Me, included, I am afraid.)

The ability to let things flow without categorizing, judging or condemnation is a rare trait.

As smart as I might ever become, I would rather opt for acceptance and ‘presence’ in people’s lives than being right.

“No one is ever right. Even if they are, they are still often wrong.” – X
 (You can quote me on that one.)

A List of Warnings About Writing Anything (Previous Post From Very First Blog)

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This post will be edited and reposted infrequently, both as a reminder to anyone reading and as a warning to myself. Especially for those of you who might have family, friends, or enemies. (These three categories are often fluid.)

We are all subject to fatigue, brain farts (medical terminology – sorry), inattention, sloppy thinking, etc. Mistakes will happen, words will escape our grasp, and meanings will be implied that weren’t supposed to be.

Sometimes, even when you are willing to write perfectly, you lose the initiative and get lazy. This type of writing often turns out to be the simplest possible method of expressing yourself, but you won’t recognize lazy writing until you start to revise it.

Even the best writers sometimes fail at adequately expressing ideas.
Everything written can and will be taken out of context. And when you least expect it. And in the worst possible way of interpreting it. If you write a few words about why you dislike licorice, your words will be later applied to indicate that you hate small children and drink your own urine.

Sometimes, what we write is used in context and still wrongly interpreted either through the reader’s malice or through lousy writing.

Every reader has active filters, affecting the meaning of words. Not all such filters can be avoided by stellar writing. (A crazy person can pick up your words and falsely believe that you are threatening their lives. An argument to the contrary doesn’t appease the crazy person – it only serves to amplify the belief.)

Continuing to explain an idea after a reader or listener has expressed hostility or less-than-gentlemanly response is a waste of time. You can’t “win” once this occurs. Stop trying.

Being right is an illusion. When you were younger, you falsely believed your ideas and actions to be correct; you aged and discovered that many of your thoughts, actions, and beliefs were probably just dumb. This process is still going on – but you can’t see it. That’s part of the human condition.

Even on a particular subject, people who have studied the subject exclusively their entire lives cannot agree. This is true with hard sciences, and it is doubly true for “soft” or subjective ideas. Someone is wrong – and usually, everyone is wrong to a certain degree, including me. And you, too.

Since everyone knows that I preach that it’s okay to change your mind if you’ve learned something new or experience something honest or new in your life, be prepared for the infinite shelf life of the modern written word. You might have espoused horrible ideas when young and later recognized the error of your ways. However, when you’re 35, don’t be surprised when a self-serving revisionist uses what you once believed as current evidence of your stupidity, vileness, etc. They’ll quote you at your worst possible moment. That you no longer think it will be irrelevant.

Waiting until you are perfectly able to express yourself usually means you’ll never get around to it.

04012014 People Who Make Opinion Certainty

In the Aug 13th, 2011 Scott Adams blog (Dilbert), Scott asks the following:
“…When you hear an argument about a complex issue presented as a certainty, do you reflexively downgrade its value? Or does the certainty mixed with a credible source make it more persuasive to you?…”

To answer the first part, I HATE when someone presents an idea, especially one not demonstrated, as certainty. I can’t stand the type of person who presents the world as a cut-and-dry interpretation. It tends to be about a subject that largely subjective to begin with. Politics, religions, sports – all of these tend to be the largest offenders.

As for the “credible” source part, it does make a difference. I will at least THINK about the idea or opinion if it is from someone who normally seems to be rational and responsible. But if Brad Pitt spouts off about the efficiency of a supply-side economic principle, I’m not listening.

Or if a friend/family member who has never been able to balance a checkbook starts pontificating about what’s wrong with the economy… Of if someone I know who is kind of an ass and preaches anything religious, my eyes roll over.

As I like to remind myself, on any given subject…If countless people smarter than me, some of who have spent their entire lives studying a subject, can’t agree, chances are great that no one can be sure and that it’s mostly opinion.

Discovering Beliefs


“The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.”
Gustave Flaubert

I can’t testify about other people in this regard. However, I personally sit at idle in regards to many ideas. If something isn’t in my field of vision or life, it either lingers in the background or never penetrates my consciousness. That’s a good thing. Having a selective filter keeps me happier.

When I sit down to attempt to discuss or elaborate on my opinions, I find myself going down blind alleys and considering strange alternatives to what I had previously thought. I enjoy that feeling, even if it makes me think that perhaps I’m not as logical as I would have hoped.

Every once and a while, I find myself changing what I believe based on my attempt to write about it. I wonder how often this occurs with other writers.

11252014 Likes and Dislikes

It is tough to admit to a “dislike.” especially when it’s something you once “liked.” It’s like character assassination upon yourself. All your friends and family know you by your likes and dislikes. By changing them, you’ve changed who you are. People don’t respond well to change, especially when you’ve pulled the rug out from under their understanding of the world. It’s one of the reason people get antsy when you lose a lot of weight, stop drinking, start going to church, or just do anything differently.

Try giving up on a TV show! Whether you’ve watched 2 shows or 2 seasons, it is almost impossible to stop watching. More accurately, it’s impossible to ADMIT you’ve stopped. If you’ve seen the first 3 installments of the horrible Harry Potter movies, it is basically a federal law that you must watch all of them into infinity. Are you tired to the same stupid plot and antics in “Warehouse 13?” Too bad – you are doomed to watch every single barking episode or until the planet explodes.

Are you tired of eating your “favorite” pizza? Does the idea of eating another slice make you look around for shards of glass with which to exsanguinate yourself? Better start grabbing the broken glass, as suicide would be easier to explain than detailing WHY you dislike your once-favorite food.

In a similar vein, do you find yourself enjoying things you once didn’t? For example, you might have thought that country music or opera was akin to listening to retarded cats fight. Now, without even a head injury to explain your sudden bad taste, you would rather listen to opera or Brad Paisley butcher otherwise good melodies. Where looking at horseradish once evoked an intense physical need to vomit, now you feel euphoric and joyous and the chance to eat yet more of this stuff.

Advice: if you don’t like something anymore, stop: stop eating it, watching it, doing it. Like a band-aid, rip it off, so to speak. Be honest, the sooner the better. If your tastes have changed and you like something that was previously hideous, start eating it, watching it, doing it. Without apology – unless it’s illegal or stupid. If unsure, you can ask me. : )

If your wife likes opera and you honestly hate it, go every great once in a while to show your wife that you love her – but don’t pretend to like any aspect of opera just because your wife does. If Seinfeld is like a show about vomit to you, don’t pretend it’s funny. Your friends will be buying you boxed sets for Xmas. Don’t like family members buying you clothes? Tell them nicely to stop. If they persist, set them on fire – the clothes, not the family members – unless they don’t understand the subtle hint of burning clothes.

So, pay attention to your real likes and dislikes. And be prepared to change them as your tastes do.

05212014 Car Conceitedness

Faith In Humanity:   1 point
Car Conceitedness:   0 point

Two or three mornings ago, I was exiting the grocery store. Evidently, I had just missed witnessing an accident in the parking lot. A younger female employee from the store had backed into the side and rear end of an elderly gentleman’s car as he drove through.

Although the gentleman’s car was already scratched and dented some, the woman’s car was less damaged. There was slight damage to both cars from bumping. Both drivers exited their vehicles. Much to my pleasure and hopes, after a few exchanged pleasantries, both got back into their respective vehicles and went about their business. 

This is exactly how many of these encounters should end – but we’ve seen most of them morph into tedious bureaucratic wastes of time.

I wish that we weren’t so focused on the small stuff about our vehicles. They should be primarily to transport us safely and comfortably from place to place, rather than be worried about so much. A few dents and scratches are normal for a car well used.

Not only would our insurance be lower if more people stopped worrying about the lesser cosmetic defects on their vehicles, but it might make some people happier.

01012014 Disco Inferno and Please Cremate Me

Although not considered a joyous topic, everyone who knows me should know that I want to be cremated. Preferably once I’m dead, in case someone wants to get things out of their proper order. Like most people, I have a few detractors who would gladly reverse the order. Were I born a few centuries ago, I would have been one of those heretics burned at the stake, saving several intermediary steps.

Somewhere around 100,000,000,000 people have lived and died on the planet, with around 7 billion now walking gleefully about. Imagine all those graves! Imagine our population growth and the future acreage that would be needed if we were to continue to bury people individually in plots, as we do now. There are websites you can visit which will visually demonstrate the size of cemeteries for one billion people – it is surprising. Assuming no other alterations to our world population, it is a certainty that burial will not be possible at some point in the future.  Being buried is another one of those bizarre things to me. Taking up valuable real estate when I die is not my idea of sensible. Even being buried in an allegedly impenetrable concrete (or steel) vault only slows the inevitable fact that one’s body will turn into sludge and decompose.

If you want to amuse yourself when I’m gone, definitely bury me intact. If there is the remotest chance of me haunting you after death, such a decision will guarantee that I visit you with evil intent after my passing.

Paying for all the extra pomp and circumstance is eliminated with cremation as well. The cost is not the bigger issue to me – it’s the attempt to conserve what must decompose. No matter how much effort we expend to memorialize someone we love, time will erase all of our vestiges of honor. I think it’s more important to celebrate our time here while we can and preserve the memories and mementos of the people we love. If we are careful and do it in a loving way, such archived memories can easily survive forever. Human flesh and even stone all succumb to time.No matter how mammoth your memorial, it will disappear in time.

Once cremated, place the ashes in a simple box and scatter the ashes. Putting ashes of a loved one in an urn is better than burial but still strange for me. Spending lavish amounts of money on an eye-catching urn doesn’t indicate a greater love for your lost loved one, just a larger bank account. No matter how much you treasure the ashes, you will then worry about who will care for the ashes once you’ve passed. Each thing that must be treasured weighs down those who follow us.

Embalming is another anachronistic relic leftover from earlier times. By avoiding burial, embalming is eliminated as well. Less chemicals, contamination, etc. Even if I were okay with being buried, I could care less about being embalmed. Wrap the body in a sheet and plant it, without all the intermediate materials, processes, chemicals and hassle.

That custom here dictates that we almost must use a casket is another weird thing to me. The casket, too, will decompose. Its alleged beauty is for the brief interlude between your death and burial. Putting a perfectly good quantity of metal, wood, and artwork in the dirt for no good reason is just weird to me. Paying thousands of dollars for the privilege of seeing it for a couple of days is absurd. Save your money and leave it to a friend or family member – or a charity. Or give it to the IRS – anyone other than planting it in the dirt.

I’ve found that a lot of people have never had a comfortable conversation with anyone about this type of topic. True, they might have had a quick, inadvertent talk with someone at a funeral, or done so while making funeral arrangements, but most people simply haven’t examined why they do things the way they do in relation to death.Many people will only look at death through the squinted corners of their eyes, as if contemplation of its shadow in their own lives will hasten its arrival. It’s an anachronistic viewpoint. This tendency leads to much family discord and financial issues that should easily be sidestepped.

From a very early age, burial seemed bizarre to me. When my grandpa Cook died is the when it really hit me that pretty much everyone else didn’t mind going along with tradition. His death was the first that clicked with me mentally and that we were putting people’s bodies in the ground. I had walked around the White Cemetery in Monroe County when I was young. Grandpa showed me several graves and told me stories – none of which do I remember. I do remember him reminding me that there was nothing to fear there. It was a common theme for him when he was talking to me, that men were the problem in most cases, not unseen ghosts or forces.

(Sidenote: my dad did not want to be buried. But he was. The well-meaning family members exacted their revenge by doing the opposite of what he wanted. They justified their decision in several ways, not the least of which was their views on cremation versus burial and the resurrection. Despite his constant reminders about not wanting to be planted in the ground, his desire to never be buried was wiped away with the idea that “he didn’t mean it.” While it is true that a lot of dad’s insistence about his views on burial happened while he was drinking, I would argue that much of his life in general was spent that way. Again, though, their revisions to history have been so constant that even they fight any mention of the truth. The problem is, though, that I know they they did the wrong thing in this regard. The month before Dad died when I visited him, he asked me about how I felt about church, god, and things like that. These were not normal topics of conversation for dad and me. He was pretty clear about what he believed – and what he didn’t. But each of us holds our own ideas who people are – sometimes these perceptions and filters cloud our judgement. They affect me, too, as much as I would like to believe otherwise.)

As far as I’m concerned, regardless of the circumstances of my death, if you would rather wrap me in dynamite and detonate it, that too would be okay with me. Especially if it’s on the internet. And you can sell the fuse lighting privilege to one of my detractors. Make even more money from the event.