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Wordless Eulogy

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I would not dare utter a single syllable in a vain attempt to express the breadth, depth, or width of a life well-lived. If you were lucky enough to have shared her presence, look inward, to find that memory, and embrace it. Our days are numbered, our friends but few.

 

Jackie Lou Dorman

Where The Crawdads Sing

“Writing a book demands so much specificity, in disagreement with the obvious truth that our most profound moments and memories call to us from inside the gauzy shrines of cheap childhood blankets, our tiny, unlearned hands clutching portals to the world disguised as books. We remember the creeping heat of a wood stove in the middle of a room, the silence before grandmother could shout at us for slamming the screendoor, or the interval between day and night when the fields slowly darkened as lightning bugs began to dance, granting us momentary amnesia from the remembered itch of an army of mosquitoes. And yet, we ran outside to greet them, no matter how hot the air or tired our bones. Another moment awaited, even if the moment drummed its fateful fingers to get to us. If you find a book that effortlessly draws you into another state of feeling, you should add it to your list of gratitude. If it does so while not shying away from the lesser of our human failings, it is okay to weep for the time when the book will be finished and its last page revealed.” – X

I see no need to mention the plot of the confines of the book I’ve mentioned.

These words speak, as did the words of the book.

 

Looking To The Left

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During my last visit to Crystal Bridges, all I could see in Carroll Cloar’s “Charlie Mae Practicing for the Baptizing” painting was Post Malone, inexplicably standing in a river.

I can’t unsee it, no matter how much I read about the painting.
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Contrary Opinion Rationality Rule:
How you respond to contradictory and reciprocal opinion offered without malice is one of the best indicators of your temperament and ability to think rationally. Emotional or disproportionate responses to an opinion so offered are indicators of cognitive dissonance or in recognition of the frailty inherent in the arguments you choose to employ.

“That’s what he was telling me, anyway, right before I hit him with a pillowcase full of rocks.” – X

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Social Media Exclusion Observation

If you say, “I can’t be on Facebook,” you have one of 4 problems: you despise seeing contrary opinion due to the precarious and unmeasured depth of your own, your view of the world is fundamentally unhappy, you aren’t pruning your social tree to weed out those motivated by values which demean, or you don’t strive to put out into the world that which you wish to reflect back.

Facebook gives you magnificent control to decide whose content you see. It gives you the ability to ignore, block, hide, or scroll past meaningless content. It can’t give you peace if you’re not generally peaceful in your heart. It can’t grant wisdom if you can’t use it for personal and heartfelt content that you value. It can’t make the people you chose to include in your social media circle speak and behave in a manner that you feel they should. You can’t either, for that matter. Stop trying to make people align with your internal idea of how they should mold their opinions. You have permission to release them to be friends in the real world without also needlessly struggling to reconcile them to your life on social media. Let’s face it – some people simply aren’t capable of silence or the solace the scrolling past without throwing a cup of mud into your face.

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Just Enough Truth To This

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It was a hot Saturday late afternoon. Though the clouds were piled high in the west, no one actually expected the sky to bless us with any rain. That part of the state hadn’t received any real rain in over ten days. Uncle Charles went through the screendoor and outside a few minutes ago. As he left, he shouted, “Get your behind moving,” already whistling. He taught me to whistle, too, and I knew I’d be mimicking him in a few minutes. He had also taught me how to whistle while inhaling, a valuable trait, albeit annoying to anyone who disliked whistling. “Assholes” was the endearing name Uncle Charles had for people who disagreed with him, especially if he was whistling or enjoying a bit of humor.

I was busily shoving as many homemade pickles in my mouth as I could, chewing like a man who just left a hunger strike. My Aunt Margie didn’t think much of her efforts at pickle-making. She couldn’t have been more wrong, though. On more than one occasion, I had devoured an entire jar without any assistance. Unlike most people, I accidentally discovered that I liked the pickles most people found to be less flavorful, especially if they were bitter.

I poured myself a huge glass of Coke from the 2-quart bottle as I struggled to get the pickles all consumed.

I went outside as quickly as possible to conserve as much of the cool air as possible. Grandma didn’t cotton to people dilly-dallying at the door in the summer. She was ecstatic for company to come to visit. She would, however, let anyone who took too long going in or out know that the air conditioning wasn’t free. In the South, it was common to hear shouts of “Get in or out!” or “Close the door!” fifty times a day. For those without air conditioning, the same shout was offered in response to the endless squadrons of mosquitoes circling every living creature.

Grandma didn’t have any foolishness such as chairs on her long front porch. Grandma didn’t understand why someone would sit outside in the heat if air conditioning was available. There was a porch swing on the opposite end of the porch, and it invitingly faced the field adjacent to her old house. You could sit on the edge of the porch, too, or on the creosote-soaked steps made from railroad ties. I sometimes forget how artfully so many men practiced the art of crouching and leaning.

Uncle Charles was leaning against the far end of the porch, near the porch swing. He was drinking a glass of water, a fact that seemed strange to me, given that Grandma kept a well-stocked supply of Coke in the house.

He and my Uncle Harry were arguing about the weather. It was a free hobby, so they tended to participate as if their livelihoods depended on it. Neither were farmers, so it seemed a bit odd to me that the matter managed to lasso so much of their attention.

Uncle Charles took my glass of Coke for a second as I clambered up onto the swing. He handed it back when I was situated. I nodded and said, “Thanks.” He winked at me and then clicked the side of his mouth to let me know it was okay. He lit a cigarette and handed it to me. Just as Uncle Harry was about to protest, Uncle Charles reached back over and took the cigarette from me. “You’re too old to smoke. And you don’t want to sound like your Aunt Helen.” He winked again.

As the yellow jackets flew by, we sweated. In the distance, loud cracks of thunder would occasionally echo, causing the wall of unseen insects to momentarily suspend their buzzing.

I finished my Coke after fifteen minutes. I remained on the swing, watching the wind blow against the bean plants. Both Uncle Charles and Harry sat on the edge of the porch with their backs turned to me. Uncle Charles had lit at least four more cigarettes. Their conversation had turned to baseball at some point, a subject I found to be as interesting as licking a hot stove.

Even though the wind had picked up speed, I hadn’t noticed that the sky had dimmed considerably. As Uncle Charles flicked his cigarette to knock loose the ashes on the tip, a massive lightning bolt struck the ground about fifty yards away, near the small board bridge along Clark Road. The clap of thunder that normally follows after a delay boomed immediately. We could all see where the lightning hit the field. All of us were seeing the afterglow of lightning in our eyes.

“Holy crap!” shouted Uncle Harry as he jumped down off the edge of the porch.

Behind us, someone threw open the front door and shouted, “Get your butts inside. Yes, Nannie, I’ll unplug the television!” The first part of Aunt Helen’s shout was for us. The second was for Grandma, who believed that unplugging everything prevented lightning from hitting. I always looked up at the tall television antennae wired to the side of the house when she mentioned it.

Uncle Harry quickly walked around the edge of the porch, up the railroad-tie steps, and inside the house. He worked outside a lot. Being around lightning didn’t inspire him to be closer to nature.

“Are you coming or what?” shouted Aunt Helen to Uncle Charles.

“Naw, we’ll come inside in a bit.” Uncle Charles jumped off the porch and onto the grass below. “Come on,” he said, turning to me. Even though I was short, fat, and barefoot, I ran and jumped off the porch and onto the ground. Such delights are long behind me. More than most things, the absence of such abandon ails my soul.

Uncle Charles removed his shoes and tossed them onto the planks of the porch. “It’s going to rain,” he said and laughed. He was wearing black socks. As a lover of all things barefoot, socks seemed ridiculous. Black socks made less sense to me than keeping a snake in the underwear drawer.

A few random pops sounded from the galvanized tin roof. They came more quickly. The air temperature dropped several degrees. Then came the deluge. The drops were so heavy that they pounded against us. Uncle Charles walked the few feet over to the edge of the bean field and stood in the perimeter of dirt there. The dirt quickly became soaked and muddy. I followed him. The mud between my toes was a sublime pleasure.

As Uncle Charles stood next to the bean field with me, we both quietly watched as the edge of the rainstorm enveloped us, the adjacent road, then race away. The rain pummeled the metal roof behind us and everything in its path.

Uncle Charles put his hand on my left shoulder and smiled.

I witnessed the possibility of a life filled with small joys in the wrinkles of his face.

We stood there, even as Aunt Helen shouted from the porch for us to get our fool heads inside before the Lord could come to take us.

The rain. Us.

I don’t know for certain that I’m not still standing there.

 

 

Richard Jewell – A Movie By Clint Eastwood

I know it’s weird to be excited to see a movie about someone who was utterly annihilated by the media and law enforcement.

I’m thankful that Clint Eastwood is making the Richard Jewell movie. Movies like this, of course, cause my blood pressure to jump, but they always remind me that people can go amazingly wrong, especially when the are righteously convinced of the inerrancy of their conclusions and motives. People are accused of all manner of things for which they might not be guilty. We’d like to think that some imaginary justice will prevail to help anyone wrongfully accused. Our system doesn’t function that way.

If you’ve forgotten the mess that the 1996 Summer Olympics bombing in Atlanta created, I recommend that you start with the Wikipedia page for Richard Jewell, the man whose life was ruined by law enforcement and the media. Follow it by reading about the wacko anti-abortionist/ anti-gay Eric Rudolph, who was actually the culprit for the Olympic bombings – and others.

It’s challenging to fault Clint Eastwood when he narrows his focus on a subject. Some of his films have been both sublime and amazing. The movie, “Richard Jewell,” is supposed to be in theaters sometime in mid-December. I’ll make sure to take a double-dose of my blood pressure medication when I go see it.

If the movie is 1/4 as good as the trailer, we’re all going to be fuming.

 

Richard Jewell – A Movie By Clint Eastwood

Regarding Bathrooms and Other Trickery

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Because I have entered the wrong restroom many more times than I’d care to admit, I present this proof that I’m still an idiot.

My wife and I went to Crystal Bridges with people who’d never seen its mysteries. I worked hard to avoid tripping over the displays or falling on top of babies in strollers. I’m not a great driver and I’m equally prone to stupidity merely walking around. Whether it is symptomatic of Imposter Syndrome or merely an indication of my self-awareness of my own ability to do stupid things, nice venues like the museum sometimes trigger my survival instincts.

I’d rather not be on the nightly news for falling through a famous art display.

It’s going to happen, though. Seriously. I know it is. I’m going to be one of those dolts who walk into a fountain or back up over a railing into the Grand Canyon. Or hit the gas and hurl myself through a store window. It’s a question of when.

I waited a bit too long to use the restroom. The coffee, soda, water, and other beverages I’d downed sat in my gullet like a gallon of water.

I went around the corner and just as I was about to hit the magical “door open” square on the wall, I heard water inside. I froze. Was it one of those segregated restrooms with floor-to-ceiling stalls, or was it a devilish trick? The family restroom was on the opposite side of the vestibule inset, so I knew that I was going to run into some weirdness regardless of my choice. Because of my uncertainty, I stood, immobile, proving my idiocy to the stream of people passing by. My friend took a second to capture my indecision in the picture. My wife finally told me to go inside. I did. Luckily, there were no unprepared victims inside as I entered. Even so, I found myself to be in a huge hurry as if the door was about to burst inward with a swarm of chatting ladies.

My restroom visit was otherwise without surprise.

Yes, I know the emblem on the bathroom door is simple.

The problem? I’m simple, too.