Invisible Fingers in Our Minds

Whether it’s on social media or in a blog, I’m constantly surprised by the eternal nature and reach of the internet. We all see to travel a similar trajectory of recognition when we discover music, words, or content which move us. When people find and identify with things I’ve written, it’s a fulfiling sensation.

The video below is something I did last year, after brawling with people who insist on editing history or controlling the content of their friends and family social media. This tendency is especially evident after someone passes from this world.  All those stories and truths which might wound get buried with that person, too, if we aren’t careful. I’ve long fought the battle against censoring anyone’s full story.

I’m a big believer in sharing the content of our lives as it unfolds. It’s true that our perspective will change even toward the facts of our lives as we grow older. We tend to either blossom outwardly, taking our secrets out there with us, or contract and hide within an ever-narrowing caccoon.

In this case, someone else happened upon my blog, and out of the hundreds of blog posts that still remain, watched this video. It sparked a renewal to write their story, no matter who liked it or not, and regardless of whether it was well-done by any objective standard.

 

 

The Monster Is Always There

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Do you want to read some words which will take you in a different direction?

No matter where I live, invariably there is a neighbor behind me with an apparent need to recreate the jungle and underbrush of some faraway land. It’s never the landscape featured in tourism photos, either. It’s the type of terrain which tends to appear in crime scene photos or as seen in a disturbing documentary about abducted people.

The house where I now live is new, but the subdivision it’s in abuts the rear of Green Acres Road in Springdale, a much older spur of Springdale.  Unlike the tv show with a similar name, this ‘Green Acres’ heyday has long since faded away, leaving the footprint but stealing the foot.

There are days when I peer through the extra bedroom window, where I just know that some fantastical monstrous face is going to return my curious gaze, eyes blazing with danger.

Or so I hope.

So far, though, my expectations of interesting mayhem have clashed with reality.

I have sun catchers in the window facing west. These power the illusion of things unseen coming in and out of focus as I watch. Most days, these prisms cast out intricate webs of color. As with most such things, though, it is precisely through this sort of misdirection that things also take advantage of in order to slink from the shadows.

Optimist that I am, though, I peer out and draw in a breath, especially on those majestic evenings when dusk approaches and the sky is already darkening from impending rain.

Many people may not be aware of this, but dusk cleverly invites such monsters and rain makes them feel welcome. It’s a truth that most of us as human, frail and subject to disconcerting biology, feel in our bones but rarely utter. Such utterances bring the reality into focus. Rain tends to cluster people inside, where human nature boils in a slow cauldron.

There are days in which I identify the monster as the reality, the one so hell-bent on hiding its kaleidoscope of truly deep shadows from me. I know that most of our universe is empty space, even as I reassure myself by leaning in against the horizontal slats of the blinds and looking more closely at the underbrush facing my house. It’s precisely the empty spaces and the dark where we cower with the most silent vigilance.

On such a day when the monster materializes, I think instead of drawing away from the rush, I will lean in for an embrace of the unknown, even if its salutation comes teeth first.

I can only wonder at spilled paint cans which not only surround you but hide in plain sight, waiting for eyes to focus on them.

Jim & His Produce Stand

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Looking for something good? Go see Jim at his produce stand over by Don Tyson Parkway. He’s there most days early and until 6 p.m. His place is near the intersection of Ivey and George Anderson. If you’re coming off Don Tyson, it’s toward the eastern end of Don Tyson Parkway, near Butterfield Coach. There’s a balloon-laden sign where George Anderson Road intersects to catch your eye. East Springdale is truly bereft of many of the benefits of the other side of our town, without a doubt, but I sometimes speculate that the new parkway was built just so that people could get to Jim’s with less delay.

This morning, when I pulled up, Jim was out, busily arranging his array of fruits of vegetables: okra, tomatoes, corn, watermelon, cantaloupe, peaches, blackberries, blueberries, potatoes, and several other things. He guarantees the quality of his produce. His stand is deceptively spartan; trust me, you’ll find much more than you expected to when you walk up to see for yourself. It’s a trick older people seem to have mastered.

In case I forget to mention it, he also keeps some of the produce in a refrigerated trailer, as well as stocking it with both seeded and unseeded watermelon. In this day of political unrest, I recommend the seeded variety, both for the better taste and for the excuse to spit frequently.

Most people take a casual glance at me and don’t recognize the vegetable fiend that I am. You’d think 75% of my meals are comprised of pork rinds washed down with Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. As I often boast, I look exactly like you’d imagine a bowling pro would look like, or the ‘before’ picture in the back of most magazines. Most of my problem is that I’m a lazy eater. Even though vegetables can’t run from me, they do require effort. (I often eat a can of spicy tomatoes directly from the can for breakfast, a fact which causes more than a few wrinkled brows.)

This morning was a fresh 65 degrees, the dew still on the grass, and the produce stand cloaked in the shade of the trees behind it. More importantly, though, the smell of ‘fresh’ slapped me. I wanted to run over and take a bite out of one of the tomatoes on the far end. (He had green tomatoes, too, which made my mouth water and remember Cotham’s and the other kitchens of good cooks.)

It’s not just the produce that’s good. It’s the moments you can stand and talk to the owner, a 78-year-old man with some interesting stories. He might tell you about that fateful day back in ’94 when a drunk driver slammed into him doing 80 mph; his face still carries the scars of the misery, but his voice and laughter erase any misgivings which might accompany them.

I admit I went a little crazy today with my selections. Jim ignored me and insisted that he help carry my purchases to the car. I left with cucumbers, watermelon, cantaloupe, tomatoes, corn on the cob (he has shucked and unshucked), and peaches. I stopped short of filling the car because it’s just two of us most days at my house, although I tend to eat for three myself, just in case the zombie plague hits us without warning – it never hurts to have a small blubber reserve for those contingencies.

But, if you’re looking for something beyond the store produce, beyond even the busy farmer’s markets in NWA, I recommend a visit to Jim’s. It’s hard for me to pinpoint how pleasing it is to drive up to his stand on an early Saturday morning, anticipating not only the delicious variety of food but also seeing the owner standing there, appreciating the words and the business.

PS: I always tip him, which catches him off-guard. Just tell him to pass it along as a gift to his grandson and he’ll smile as he accepts it.

 
You’ll leave with more than you arrived with, even if by some miracle you don’t buy any produce.

A Mixed Bag of Thoughts

“You have a way with words, and I’m surprised words haven’t pressed charges.” – X

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A reminder that we don’t share the same outlook on time or of ‘priority,’ a modern word distorted to fool us into thinking whatever we are doing is necessary.

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Recently, I wrote the following on another friend’s social media. A big argument had developed, as it always seems to, about privilege. I wrote it almost involuntarily and although it’s imperfect, it caused the imagined reaction.

“Too much protesting these days,” the man said, wiping his already reddened neck, heated by the overhead sun. Behind him, I could see his immense house shimmering, his two vehicles sitting in the driveway.

“If you ask me, these colored folks need to learn their place. All this protesting is just going to make it worse for them. Can’t they see that? Why can’t they just appreciate how good they have it?” The man paused for a second, thinking. “We gave them their freedom and they just can’t see the forest for the trees.”

“This ain’t no better than them out in the streets protesting the Vietnam thing. The president wouldn’t send our boys there unless there was a good reason. Communism is the devil! We shouldn’t be letting folks disrespect our boys over there fighting.”

And so it goes, privilege blinded by its own image.
-X

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“One of life’s greatest pleasures is to be patient enough to feel like you’ve been underestimated.”

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I watched a movie based on the Nat Turner rebellion recently; it’s a tough choice when you want the underdog to win, especially when the necks of your own ancestors would have been affected.

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As another round of young people embark on their nascent voyage into the ‘real world,’ I would like to first remind them there is no universal reality, at least not that we can commonly agree upon. You should always listen to anyone giving advice, but always bear reluctance toward those who command you to ‘be realistic.’ Even if they mean well, it is their reality, warts and beautiful moments alike, which guides them. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for this vast world.

The wondrous things in life might often require years of preparation, yet remind yourself that the things you will regard as miraculous and those people who radiate the essence of what we admire – each of them frequently laughs in the face of expectation. It is damned near impossible to joyously walk through life unless you are confident about stepping off the path when you need to. If you trip and fall and then pretend it was your intention to stumble, to begin with, change course – for so much of our lives is adapting ourselves to the lives we discover ourselves to be in.

The membrane which separates the years of your life is a thick, impenetrable entity unto itself.

You won’t truly know how colorful youth was until you’ve lived these thousands of days, put on trial by both trivial and tragedy.

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Paris Climate Deal is Not Mentioned In This Post

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Tired of politics?

After careful consultation with esteemed political consultants, my wife and I are proud to announce that our cat, Güino, will soon announce his candidacy for political office.

Since he doesn’t talk, he won’t be lying like so many others. Additionally, we can interpret his meows to mean anything that appeals to us – thus solving the biggest problem in politics today.

Finally, Güino has all 9 of his lives remaining and he has pledged to use them all to improve this great country of ours.

Given the shenanigans of the last election, Güino has decided to reach across the aisle (unlike current politicians) and choose a dog to-be-named-later as his Vice President, thus healing the divide of this country.

Please remit funds for his candidacy to your local Humane Society.

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I think I’m fixated on food: when I taught the children how to tie their shoes, I demonstrated the garlic knot.

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As I walked the winding decline of the parking deck, I felt as if I were being watched by a dozen pairs of unseen eyes. When I had walked down to the next level I realized my error. Above the steps going both up and down was a sign: “STARES ONLY.”

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Ignore This Post

Trump lowered the bar for the Presidency. Kathy Griffin lowered the bar for comedy. I’m going to the bar to come up with a better analogy.

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A new brand of popcorn (I created) if you are sitting around waiting for the president-for-now to blow the place up: Orb-ille Redenbacher Popcorn.

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Tenacity is one of those things which I’ve found people to woefully misjudge.

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Forget Notre Dame ‘insulting’ Pence. Today’s footage of Trump expanding his library of ignorant speeches was priceless. Many of the leaders of the free world were openly mocking him, snickering, and otherwise demonstrating how important his opinion is to…anyone.

Toward the end of the video, an older white-haired man walked briskly along the background, adjacent to the wall. I imagined that it was Bernie Sanders, impatiently pacing back and forth, vainly trying to control his impulse to blast an air horn toward DJ Trump. I added an arrow so you can spot him.

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In a first for politics, the newest model Hoover vacuum cleaner was appointed to be the next Attorney General, after it was determined that it sucks less than current appointee Jeff Sessions.

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When I performed my recital at Walton Arts Center, the audience gave its first ever Standing Negation.

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In the future, vehicles which can fly will be great: if you own a dog and take it with you in the car, you will have a ‘flying car pet,’ just like Aladdin.

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My arrest was a big misunderstanding. I advertised on Craigslist as a ‘Ford Escort Service,’ and only because that’s the car I’m gonna drive for Über. I had 11 middle-aged guys in the backseat before I exited the driveway.

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Often slowly; eventually, though, people always talk because that’s what we do. If you are counting on secrecy to protect your accumulated reputation, you’re gonna have a bad time.

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We age the most not in the lines of our face but in the depths of our hearts. – x

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I’m not saying he’s not a nice person, but I know for a fact that he goes to the proctologist daily: not for an appointment, but so that he can be around other assholes.

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CrouchingTiger Woods

A quick, snarky note from a non-sports fan…
3 a.m. on a Monday morning. Two flats, damage to the driver side, bumper, taillight out, the car was running, and right turn signal was flashing. When they woke him up, his speech was slurred and he didn’t know where he was at.

At first, police thought he was Sean Spicer.

If that had been me, Johnson Police would have used my small intestine to tow me to the jail and then charged me with at least 5 misdemeanors.

Tiger didn’t hurt anyone, so they shouldn’t kick him too hard. On the other hand, he got into a car he obviously wasn’t able to drive safely and hit something. Unfortunately, he wasn’t driving anywhere near Congress.

I vote that we let him off with a warning and sentence him to WATCH five hundred hours of golf. He’ll be begging for mercy at that point.

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PS: If you’ve never watched golf, it is exactly as bad as LISTENING to people talk about baseball, the earwax of sports.

Lion (Saroo)

Sunny Pawar stars in LION
Photo: Mark Rogers

Recommendation…
Although all my friends are of considerable taste and have undoubtedly already seen the movie “Lion,” I can only tell you that it will take a hammer to your heart if you watch this movie. It’s set in both India and Australia; India steals the show.

Because it’s based on a true story, it will dawn on you as you watch that the little boy in the movie’s beginning experienced the things as portrayed. All of us imagine that we have a good idea of what constitutes tenacity and heartache but Saroo teaches us that whatever image floats in our mind’s eye is woefully short of reality.

There are a couple of moments in the movie where the sheer size of the world zooms with dizzying speed. Each change in orientation reminds us of that billions of stories unfold here each day. Among them are stories so exotic that we can’t help but feel loss at not knowing these people.

The backstory to this movie being made is another story to itself. How Nicole Kidman and Dev Patel came to it is yet another surprise. Nicole got the chance to play a mother with two adopted children, exactly as is the case in real life. The young boy who portrays Saroo as a small child is about the most endearing kid you’d care to meet. As remarkable as the movie is, so many things swirling around it make it even more spectacular.

Because the story is true, there is a moment near the end of the film where your heart collapses in on itself. Even if I tell you the surprise, it won’t prepare you for the tragic loss. It will, however, make you appreciate the moment of triumph, decades in the making, as people reconnect.

You will be jealous of those impossible moments, the ones these people waited so long to share.

It’s “just” a movie, you might say. Using that logic, though, means that our lives are “just” moments in passing. There are a finite number of possibilities for our lives. Sometimes we can share a life like the one in “Lion” and rejoice in the loss and in the triumph. This movie is not your typical movie, based on an atypical life.

I would hope that anyone who hasn’t seen it will pause their lives for a bit and give it a try. I don’t normally recommend movies because of the wide spectrum of opinions we all have. “Lion” is a movie that will connect everyone.

Mike Pence & Notre Dame – Thoughts

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Warning: Political and/or Social Commentary

Isn’t it strange that people howl for empathy for the Vice President, a wealthy man with access to the world and everything in it? Even as he continues to misuse conviction to preach to all that some are not his equals, he has one of the world’s biggest pulpits from which he can pontificate to people. We owe him no tears. His vocation is one he campaigned for. He is not immune to rebuke. In fact, rebuke is as much a part of public life as adulation is. We are paying him to fulfill his duties and he works for all of us, not just those which conform to his brand of fear and distrust masquerading as politics. Perhaps if Pence spent more time representing the totality of this inclusive country and less time pandering to those who agree with his ideology, he might have more ears tuned toward compassion when he’s talking.

Whether it’s climate change, immigration, LGBTQ issues, evolution, or any of the other issues which he has planted his feet firmly in the past over, Pence is not where this country is headed, especially for the younger generation. It is the natural progression of things for those threatened by new or better ideas to angrily point accusatory fingers at those who want us all to be standing on a level playing field.

Students at Notre Dame opted to use their right to peacefully protest against this man’s policies and therefore this is not an indictment on the mindset of young people: it’s a refutation of the man’s ideas. Whether they protest at school or in public, they are adults, given the ability to reason and to demonstrate against things which violate their beliefs. They didn’t attack Pence as he has so often attacked the weaker and unvoiced masses. They didn’t take away any of his rights, limit his healthcare, reduce his wages, interfere in his appearance at the podium, or in any way harm him; they merely objected to his ideology and expressed their displeasure with their feet. This is exactly how things are supposed to work. Surely no one is to suggest that an adult must feel compelled to be complicit and present in the display and conspiracy of ideas woven by such a man as Pence.

To say that students have blemished the school, themselves or this country by exercising their right to object is a greater misstep than 1,000 such peaceful demonstrations. Regardless of how their tuition was paid, these adults protested in a manner befitting our country, at a university which itself is in the education business. Those students earned the right to their degree and they reiterated their right to protest. It’s interesting for politicians to deride students and universities for protest. Perhaps feeling rejected will provide some glimmer of recognition in their hearts as to how deeply inhumane many of their policies and beliefs come across.

The idea that people shouldn’t protest simply because it makes another segment uncomfortable is precisely why the protest is necessary. Just because you are privileged or wealthy enough to turn your head away and to expend no effort is in no way an indicator of what motivates much of the rest of the country. If they choose to peacefully protest, you can shake your head in disagreement with the content of the protest but never against the idea of protesting itself.

It is only through resistance have any of our major social changes flourished. Change requires stress to whatever prevailing ideas and traditions live in the moment. If you are sitting on the side entrenched in the past, you are going to experience turmoil as the world changes without you.

Notre Dame is a cross-section of the brightest young adults in our country. We indeed should start worrying only when they STOP resisting things which no longer represent our country.

Lastly, someone should explain to Pence and people like him that the 1st amendment right of free expression pertains to the relationship between government and individual citizens. Thus, it is Pence’s job to ensure that he understands that his role as VP requires him to welcome debate and dissent even when it’s directed to or at him specifically. Angrily rebuking those who choose to exercise their right not only demonstrates a dangerous demagoguery but also an ignorance of one of the most fundamental means of letting our government know they are going astray.

PS: Protest at a school or university carries the same validity as does protest exercised anywhere else. You sound ignorant when you draw a distinction.