The Least Shareable Post of 2017

I’ve said this one million times, but waking up at 4:30AM on Friday, tip-toeing to the office to get the laptop, then tip-toeing to the kitchen, and sitting on a cold stool at the breakfast bar to write for 30-45 minutes is a relatively easy habit to break. I wasn’t going to do it this morning – it’s a work day for me, but it’s the Friday before a long weekend and I really didn’t have a topic in mind, so I was going to sleep-in, which is to say sleep until 5:30AM – but I woke up without the alarm on my phone going off and, without looking at the clock, decided that I would write if the clock said 4:30.

4:30 it said, so here I am. I try to be a man of my word. That’s why I’m a man of few words.

As inconsistent as I was with posting this year, you guys were consistently amazing. You responded to posts, you liked posts, you shared posts, and you commented on posts – even the ones that weren’t any good.

I know a guy who knows a lot about website analytics. It’s his career, so I don’t ask him to look at mine because he wouldn’t charge me for the work, and I don’t think that’s fair. He should get paid for his work and I don’t like the feeling that I owe someone something. Thanks Dave Ramsey. So, I looked at the analytics the way that I look people – looks familiar, and I know it’s English, but I don’t feel confident that I understand what you’re telling me – but I understand it enough to know that It Was a Small Town was the most read post of the year and the most read post EVER on this little site. It did 6 times the volume of the previous leader, The Kiffin Hire: I Like It!. People commented on the post, they commented on Facebook, they responded on Twitter. It was fantastic to see the response. That was a fun couple of days.

I believe that 2018 will be year 6 of this site (domain and hosting renewal year! Yea!), and year 20 of inconsistent writing for me. From the More of Less blogspot, which was mostly pop culture lessedness (that’s not a word) to The Conch Shack (which is still up) to the Kiva Cup (which has been transferred to a participating member of the event). I guess I should focus, but that’s not any fun. That’s probably one of the reasons that my book on self-awareness, based on Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall”, is still in outline form…and not even a good outline.

Thank you very much for another incredible year. I hope that you have a wonderful Christmas and I will endeavor to be more consistent, and entertaining in 2018, but that’s not a legally-binding promise.

Merry Christmas!

All Heart

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.John 13:34

My grandfather, who I called PawPaw, passed away last Thursday. He was my mom’s dad and, since my dad’s dad died when I was 3, the only granddad that I really remember. So many of my childhood memories include him and my grandmother, Nana. We spent Thanksgiving Day at their house or with them in the mountains. We spent every Christmas at their house. Most Sundays we’d end up at their house without even trying.

One of my favorite weeks of the summer was the week that I got to spend at their house. The whole week, Sunday to Saturday! Most years, my cousin Tony would be there too. PawPaw went to work early, so Nana would see him off and then cook us breakfast. Biscuits, gravy, eggs, gravy, sausage, gravy. It was the best! Later in the week, when she was out of eggs and flour, she would take us to Uncle Mort’s Restaurant in Jasper to show us the George Lindsey and Polly Holiday signed photographs and expose us to redeye gravy. I liked her gravy better. I liked the whole breakfast that she cooked better, but seeing a signed photograph of Goober and Flo was pretty fun.

Every day of the week we had to be home by 3:00 and we had to behave because, if we did those two things, PawPaw might take us fishing.

PawPaw and Jack

If Nana said that we had behaved – or even if we hadn’t and Nana needed a break – PawPaw would load me and Tony and about 6 fishing rods in a red VW Beetle and away we would go. Some days we’d end up at the Black Warrior River, some days we’d end up at the deep part of a creek, but he and Tony always caught a fish. I usually didn’t catch any fish, but I got pretty good at tying new hooks on my line after my previous one got caught on a rock, or a sunken log, or a tree branch 20 feet up a tree.

We were in that red VW, fishing hooks dangling too close to our eyes and ears probably, in search of water one day when ‘Baby’s Got Her Blue Jeans On’ came on the radio. PawPaw just laughed and laughed at the lyrics. “Those must be some more blue jeans”, he cackled. I don’t know if we caught any fish, or even found water, but we laughed all afternoon about that woman and her blue jeans causing a traffic jam.

Besides fishing and biscuits & gravy, other staples of an overnight trip to Nana and PawPaw’s were ice cream and The Dukes of Hazzard on Friday night. One of my favorite treats was banana ice cream with Frosted Flakes. Some times Nana would even let us have it for breakfast, because it was cereal and milk, and banana is a fruit. It’s a healthy bowl of goodness, really.

After dinner one Friday evening, we realized that there was no banana ice cream in the freezer, so PawPaw and I went to the store to get some. We were in a hurry, so PawPaw and I split up – him to the cereal aisle and me to the freezer aisle – then we met back up at the cashier. We were standing in line, waiting our turn, when the lady in the checkout lane beside our lane lost her mind. I mean lost her mind. Lost it.

I turned around to see a lady with hair dark as night, dressed in a muumuu shirt, shouting at the young cashier girl.

“You owe me change! You owe me change! The coins! You didn’t give me all my coins,” muumuu lady screamed at the cashier.

“You’re just stupid. They shouldn’t let people stupid as you who can’t do math work with money!” muumuu lady continued.

I, and almost everyone else, stood staring at the sight. The cashier girl opened the drawer to her cash register and took out some coins – COINS! –  not more than two or three of them, and handed them to muumuu lady.

“I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” the cashier girl said through her embarrassment and burgeoning tears.

“Don’t be sorry, it’s not your fault you’re stupid. You’re just not good enough to work here!”

The cashier girl was probably trying to run and hide when she turned around and away from muumuu lady and ran right in to PawPaw, who had stepped away from our spot in line and walked over to her.

She turned around and walked right in to him, and when she did he just wrapped his arms around her and said, “Don’t listen to that. Don’t listen to that. You are good enough. You are good enough.”

The cashier girl buried her face in her hands and cried on his chest.

“You are good enough”, he repeated. “You are good enough.” Over and over.

Muumuu lady put the coins in her purse, gave a hmmmpff to the whole situation and left the store.

When the cashier girl settled down, after what seemed like minutes, PawPaw whispered something to her and she nodded to him as she wiped tears from her face. He gave her another hug, and then he returned to pay for our cereal and ice cream. The cashier girl took a deep breath and began ringing up the next person in her line.

Through tears of her own, our cashier said “thank you” to PawPaw and rang up our purchase. PawPaw and I walked out of the store, got in the car, and went back to the house to watch ‘The Dukes of Hazzard’.

We never talked about that night, what happened in that store, but I think about it a lot.

I think about it when other people are acting like muumuu lady.

I think about it when I’m acting like muumuu lady.

I think about it when I read Jesus’ commandment to the disciples – and to us – to love other people not as we want to be loved or as the other person deserves to be loved, but as Jesus loved us. With everything that he had.

PawPaw was never concerned with the things that we use as excuses for not stepping toward people who are hurting. That night he wasn’t concerned with holding up our line. Being in a hurry for some TV show wasn’t as important to him as taking a few minutes to be there for the cashier girl. He didn’t wrap his arms around the cashier and encourage her so that he could cast a negative light on muumuu lady, because he wasn’t concerned about how his actions reflected on muumuu lady. He didn’t do it to be an example for his grandson or so I would have something to write about almost 35 years later. He did it because he loved, just truly loved, other people. Especially people who were hurting. He was all heart.

I’m concerned today for those hurting who may have found themselves in PawPaw’s arms for comfort and encouragement. Who is going to take his place with them?

You. And me. Or no one. Please, let’s not let it be no one.

Ninety years of age and in health that had slowed him down recently, he was mentally strong but he just hadn’t felt like himself lately. I’m sad that PawPaw has passed, but I know that he’s in a better place, fishing with Tony probably.

Go. Be kind.

Don’t Call It a Comeback, But Call It Something

Children of the 70s, like myself, really are quite unique. We’re old enough to remember rabbit ear antennas, but young enough to understand technology (at least at the 30,000 foot level). We’ve seen the evolution from albums (a/k/a records) to 8-tracks to cassettes to CDs to WalkMans to MP3 players to just having a catalog of songs on your phone. A song is still a record to my mom, and I don’t correct her because I miss them a little too.

One of my favorite Christmas presents EVER was a tape recorder. The big, rectangular kind that held a cassette tape. Anyone remember? I loved that thing. I would sit in front of the TV and record the audio from The Dukes of Hazzard, and then I’d listen to the show again the next day. I’d jump up and pause the recording during commercial breaks, then start recording again when the show resumed. It’s how I developed my keen sense of when commercial breaks will be over, a sense that no one in my family trusts today, but it is still as strong as ever.

A couple of years after we moved in to my childhood home on Damon Circle, we “got” cable – all 3 channels of it. Through the wonder of that black coaxial cord, we received WWOR out of New York City, WTBS out of Atlanta, and WGN out of Chicago. WGN always confused me, because it only had three letters. I heard promos for The Space Giants on WTBS that shortened the call sign to just “TBS”, so could I shorten WGN to just “GN”? Always in search of efficiency, but wanting to do things right, I spent time considering this, but there was no Google and really no one to ask. The wonder just had to swirl around inside of my head so, Leah, the kids come about it honest. I slowly let it fade and it doesn’t bother me near as much as it used to, but I’d still like to know the answer.

Having WOR, TBS, and WGN meant that we could watch the Mets, Braves, and Cubs any time they were on TV. Since I was only 8 years old, I could control the TV in the afternoon when my mom was at work and my dad was asleep (he worked nights). Almost everyday, because Wrigley Field had no lights and games started around 1:30, I watched the Cubs play. Dave Kingman, Bill Buckner, Ivan de Jesus – those were my guys! I was a catcher when I was younger, so I watched Barry Foote setup and send signals to the pitcher. I wanted to launch balls in to space like Dave Kingman. I wanted to glide across the infield like Ivan de Jesus. I just wanted to be clutch like Bill Buckner. I wanted to lose a ball in the ivy of Wrigley Field and stand on second base while the fans cheered and hot dog wrappers swirled through the air of that old stadium. It seemed like nirvana to me. I’d watch the Cubs play while I got dressed for my own baseball practice or game. It was my ritual.

I kind of fell off the Cubs wagon as I grew older, but I’m not sure why. Dave Kingman moved to the Mets and, while I could have watched him on WWOR, I never acquired a taste for those blue and orange uniforms. Also, the Mets played at 6:00PM Central, which was the Pam Huff hour in our house. Then Kingman went to the Oakland Athletics, and even the magic of cable television couldn’t make their games come on before my bedtime. Billy Buck went to the Red Sox, and we all know how that ended.

Eventually the old guard left Chicago, and I grew older and just never really connected with Ryan Sandberg (I know, I know, save your hate mail) or Andre Dawson or Steve Stone. Plus, the Cubs couldn’t win a coin flip back then, let alone a 9 inning baseball game.

My mom went to Chicago once for work. I asked her to get me a Cubs batting helmet while she was there. This was before the internet, and before teams sold merchandise outside of their market, so you had to actually GO to Chicago to get Cubs gear – except, the Cubs were so bad that there wasn’t a market for their gear. “I asked where I could buy a helmet, but the guy told me that the Cubs are so bad, no one in Chicago claims them”, my mom told me. “NOT EVEN BILL BUCKNER?!?!” I exclaimed.

I don’t like bandwagon fans. I don’t, but I find myself pulling for the Cubs this postseason like my 8 year old self pulled to Kingman and Buckner. Maybe it is a comeback, or a homecoming. Either way, I hope you Cubs fans of the 90s through today will allow me to dust off my seat on the wagon.

The series goes back to Chicago for game 6 this Saturday.

Hey, Chicago, what do you say!!!

I intended to write about the third debate and the election this morning, but what an absolute dumpster fire. Jack and I watched a little of the debate this past Wednesday night during a commercial break in the baseball game. Jack said, “So, you can vote for a lady who is okay with pulling babies out of their mommas the day before they’re born, or a guy who wants to blow up the world? Those aren’t very good options. I bet a lot of people just don’t vote this year.”

Look, I will pray for whoever wins this election to be the greatest president this country has ever seen. I’ll pray for them to have strength and wisdom and the courage to walk in that wisdom, but wow, what a couple of options we have before us. Just wow.