Declare

Declare: (v) to make known or state clearly

Rolling up to the border crossing in Detroit, between Canada and the United States, the agent behind the glass window said:

“Anything to declare?”

I didn’t know what he meant.

I was twenty-one years old, driving a beat-up brown van, with long hair laying on my shoulders. I felt completely normal. I think he feared I was less-than-average.

I said, “What do you mean?”

The simple asking of that question caused him to leave his booth, come out and demand that I open the rear end of my van.

I did.

I innocently thought, “What’s the big deal?”

But what he saw, as a Canadian official, were two young girls, resting in sleeping bags, some electronic equipment, and brown boxes. He was suspicious.

I think he thought I was hauling the trifecta: kidnapping women, stealing stereos, and shipping drugs.

We were required to open everything.

When it was discovered there was nothing of interest, he found a reason to object. You see, in the boxes were the record albums we sold at our gigs. I was ignorant of the fact that Canada wanted to put a surcharge on any record album coming across their border, that was going to be sold at a live concert.

Worse was the fact that the surcharge for each album was $2.85.

Not only did we not have the money for the surcharge, but none of us had seen that sum of money for a long time.

I begged.

I gave my full lineage and testimony.

I even tried to declare things he didn’t ask me to declare.

He was not interested.

We were rejected at the Canadian border.

Yet we were supposed to do a Canadian tour.

Leaving that station, we stopped at a coffee shop about two miles down the road, still itchy and bitchy from our encounter. Our waiter explained that the Detroit crossing was very difficult—asking you to declare every little thing. But if we drove up the road about eighty miles, there was a crossing that was much easier.

I thanked him.

We got in the van and decided to take the chance that our food-getter knew what he was talking about.

Arriving at the gate, we pulled up slowly. There was nobody around. It was just a little building—big enough to hold ten toy soldiers.

When we stopped the van, though, a man came running up from a nearby grove of trees with his dog in tow.

“Ay!” he said. “Sorry I wasn’t at my post. Had to go take a piss.”

He looked at me. I looked at him.

I was waiting for him to ask me to declare.

He didn’t.

I got out, petted his dog, told him I was a musician—and he said he was a budding songwriter himself.

He patted me on the shoulder, I got back in the van, he waved his hand, and said, “Go on through—hope you enjoy us.”

Now, I have two thoughts about this story:

Sometimes a music group is just a music group and you should leave them the hell alone.

But sometimes people in vans in the middle of the night need to do more than just pet your dog.

 

Declaration

Declaration: (n) an announcement

It is virtually impossible to think about the word “declaration” without completing it with “of Independence.”

You know why?

They lucked out.

In other words, if they had declared independence and lost the war, we would be looking for a declaration of something else.

And keep in mind, our forefathers tried real hard to lose.

If you study history, their habits, prejudices and analyze their whining, it’s a wonder they were able to actually put together the document itself.

If there is a possible way to do it wrong, the Continental Congress, George Washington and all the colonists found it.

They didn’t know what they were doing.

Mistakes were made.

Maybe before starting a war, you could have an army. And in the process of gathering that army, you could make sure they had guns, food to eat, and refrained from shooting each other.

The thirteen colonies did not agree on anything.

Except all of them hated King George.

King George III has been documented by history to be certifiably insane.

If there had been a nicer or better king in England, we all would be eating a helluva lot more fish and chips.

So in the pursuit of a declaration, keep in mind that someone might come along and stick a musket up your nose and say, “Prove it.”

When this happens?

Be prepared to fumble, falter and fail your way to freedom.

 

Decked Out

Decked out: (adj) decorated or dressed up

Nothing makes me giggle more than remembering something I did and trying to grasp what caused me to do it.

The truth of the matter is, life refuses to match up with itself.

What I mean by that is:

  • When you need to look your best, you have your least money.
  • When you need to perform your best, you’re too inexperienced.
  • And when you need to be making really quality decisions, you find yourself completely uncertain, staring down at your shoes.

I think life enjoys this.

I think life relishes offering us opportunity when it knows we can’t possibly take it.

I am sure life thinks it’s funny—giving us rare glimpses into success when we’re so dopey that we couldn’t possibly muster the reasoning to pull it off.

When I was young, I traveled on the road with a music group. We were pretty good—but we were very poor.

Even though it’s very important to dress up for a performance—or at least look clean and well-laundered—it is difficult to achieve this when you’re dressing out of the back end of an old, brown Econoline van.

I remember arriving at a performance one night and discovered that it was going to be much bigger than I  thought.

I had two outfits to wear onstage. The first was a leisure suit—powder blue and white snow.

The second outfit was a gold shirt with a pair of plaid pants, which, for some reason or another, were considered cool for that season.

I wanted to be decked out for this show.

I should have thought of that two days earlier—because the leisure suit had a two-inch stain on the right leg. The gold shirt and plaid pants were wrinkled. And I couldn’t find my belt.

I sat for a good fifteen minutes trying to measure whether it was better to be stained or wrinkled and beltless.

Then I quickly slipped on my plaid pants and gold shirt and went out to finish the setup of our equipment.

It was a fiasco.

The pants refused to stay up.

Finally, to my embarrassment, they dropped down to my thighs before I could grab them and yank them back up to the border of decency.

I looked around the room to see who might have caught a glimpse, and there, in the back of the auditorium was a little girl about eight years old, shocked and ready to scream, who beat a trail to Mommy.

The pants and shirt were not going to work.

I went backstage and changed into my leisure suit and spent the whole night trying to lay my arm over the stain so nobody would notice.

But it, too, was a little wrinkled, so I never really felt like I achieved “decked out.”

I was nervous about my stain all night.

And lo and behold, my left shoe picked that night to break a lace.

I thought I did adequately until one of the girls in our band walked up and patted me on the shoulder and said, “Nice stain.”

 

Deck Chair

Deck chair: (n) a folding chair, usually with arms and a full-length leg rest, commonly used for lounging on decks

  • Cheap rate.
  • Cheap room.
  • Cheap pool.
  • Cheap chair.

That would surmise my experience with motels as I traveled across the country.

So I remember quite well one sunny Wednesday afternoon, when I arrived at the swimming pool of our motel, and noticed that they only offered the white, plastic resin chairs that one would find aplenty at Wal-Mart.

They are really quite remarkable, considering how cheaply they’re made. Looking at them, it’s hard to imagine they would hold anyone of any weight—but they do.

Coming to the pool, I discovered a small crowd of humanity. There was a brief stoppage of time as I became the new stranger, figuring out the gate and getting inside. There was an additional length of time while several of the occupants gawked at me because of my large size.

I was used to this. You can’t walk around being obese and think someone’s not going to notice it. Maybe you wish they would ignore your status or be more merciful, but people see what they want to see and have already judged what they think about it.

The problem that arose on this day was that apparently it occurred to those in the pool that I was going to have to go over and sit down in one of the plastic deck chairs.

They were right.

I wasn’t going to stand around.

And to a small degree, it became an issue of pride.

So I chose to take it on with gusto.

I strolled over, placed my towel on the table, stepped toward one of the chairs, attempted to aim my butt to land in the center, and sat down—only to have the chair give way, with four legs going in four different directions.

I landed flat on my butt, with a broken chair beneath me.

The gathered audience could not help themselves. They laughed.

There was one person who moved toward me to see if I was okay—but overall, I provided the levity for the afternoon.

But you see, it’s always about what happens next.

It’s not about getting in the chair.

It’s not about falling.

It’s about whether you absorb the humiliation or bounce off it like a rubber ball against a wall.

I wiggled my legs, waggled my butt, and rose to my feet as well as I could. Once upright, I turned to those in the pool, did a quick bow and pretended to tap dance. This brought more laughter.

I then picked up the chair with its dangling legs and spoke to the gathered.

“You might want to stay away from this chair–it seems to have a bad leg.”

They all laughed.

This time, they felt like they were allowed to laugh—because I set up the pins and rolled the ball in their direction. After doing my little routine, I quickly made my way down the steps, into the pool, splashing as the folks giggled.

The rest of the day, there was no soul who didn’t smile and nod at me every time I swam by. I don’t think they admired my obesity, nor condoned it, for that matter.

But they had enough human juice in them to realize that the only thing we can do as people on our way to becoming better, is keep a good attitude about it.

 

Decisive

Decisive: (adj) characterized by displaying no hesitation; resolute

Did you ever notice that we never characterize someone as being decisive if they end up being wrong?

Somewhere in the process of mulling over choices, enough time needs to be taken to increase the possibility of a successful conclusion. On the other hand, if too much time is taken, the juncture of greatest possibility may pass, and the person who failed to step into the historical hook-up ends up not being decisive.

It all depends on three words:

  • Power
  • Purpose
  • Pounce

First, you have to have the power to make the decision.

If you don’t, it’s called an opinion. If you’re not allowed to have an opinion, it’s viewed as an annoyance.

The purpose is the rational common sense that makes the insight viable and necessary for this time.

Without the purpose, we are not just purposeless—we actually end up merely “less.”

And finally, pounce.

The pounce is the exact moment to move on an idea—when to step out and make things happen, doing it with such enthusiasm that there’s no doubt that you and all your teammates have full confidence in the determination.

Without these three working in harmony—like an aging women’s trio from a Southern Baptist choir—the destiny of any project is going to be flawed, leaving the participants wondering why they were so enthusiastic and what in the hell happened.

So don’t favor your power if you can’t generate a purpose.

And don’t over-talk your purpose unless you’re prepared to pounce.

Decision

Decision: (n) the act of making up one’s mind

The most important question:

Is there a need for a decision?

I think we are so intent on pursuing a life of worry that we turn everything into an event, a curse or a challenge.

It’s just not so.

Not everything demands a decision.

For instance, loving your neighbor as yourself is not a religious maneuver or a gesture of mature human interaction. It is Earth 101.

There’s nothing to decide. We’re not awaiting your contemplation on whether you accept the blending of humanity into one single race instead of color-coated. No decision is required. Follow the path and sing in harmony.

It’s not necessary for you to muse your approach in dealing with others on an emotional basis. Smiling, in its varied forms, is the only facial expression that is acceptable when human beings greet one another.

Having a “game face” or insisting that a neutral expression is safer does nothing but confuse the parties, making those you meet feel they have to make a decision about you long before they actually get to know you.

There are a few things that demand a decision. How about this one?

Would you make a decision on your responsibility to decide? That would be nice.

Don’t pass around the ownership of your life to other people like you’re playing tag. Everything that happens in your three-square feet of humanity belongs to you.

No debate—just a decision to protect your parking space.

I contend that we will grow emotionally, spiritually, mentally and physically when we make a decision to nurture our emotions, our spirits, our minds and our bodies.

Decimate

Decimate: (v) to destroy a great number

The horror of eight million dead Jewish folk.

The prospect of millions being killed in a pandemic outbreak.

These are large events that leave us breathless with their destruction and evil.

But there are other ways to decimate.

Perhaps most common is that moment when most assuredly tenderness, kindness, empathy, reflection and mercy are required. But instead of supplying just the right portion of beauty, an extra thought, another consideration or a bit of nervousness forbids the outpouring.

I will not go so far as to say that losing small moments of grace and gentleness eventually cause horror and mayhem, but I do believe that this journey—this life—this expanse of time we’ve been granted—is meant to hone all of our senses to any possibility where sweetness can be added to the sour and deep-rooted, heartfelt appreciation might be inserted with a wish.

Let us not decimate that which brings life.

And life is abundant when joy is full.

Deciduous

Deciduous: (adj) shedding the leaves annually, as certain trees and shrubs.

After years of consideration, mulling it over and wondering, I finally have come to a conclusion. Of all the things I might be on Planet Earth…

Human is the only one I can even come close to handling.

I would certainly hurt my back if I tried to be reptilian, making my way through the dewy morning grass.

I would never outrun the bullets of the NRA if I was a deer, moose or a bear.

I’m afraid I would be tempted too much to go for the hook—the easy prize—if I was a fish.

And then there’s deciduous.

I think I would be scared shitless if I was a tree or a bush, and my leaves fell off once a year. Can you imagine it?

Let’s say you’re just sitting around and it’s early September, and suddenly all your hair, fingernails and portions of your skin just scaled from your body and fell to the earth. You would have to assume this was a serious condition.

It wouldn’t even cross your mind that once the process was done, you would later regain fresh foliage.

No, I’m completely safe, sound, if not content…

Being Homo Sapien.

Decide

Decide: (v) to conclude a question, controversy, or struggle

Shamefully, I am sometimes reluctant to share the mystery and tenderness that faith brings to my heart.

I don’t want you to think I’m religious, so I flirt with blandness.

I’m not proud of this.

But I’m fully aware that fanaticism is the true death of human creativity and the joy that makes this journey reasonable.

So where do you share?

What do you feel?

When I saw the word “decide,” a chill went down my spine.

There are thousands of songs that have moved me over the years, but there’s one that always brings me to tears, even when I just think about it. It might be the gentle breathiness of the atmosphere at the end of a church camp, or the times I was live in concert in front of thousands of folks and the song was sung.

It still gets me.

The music—and especially the lyric—personify the hope that lies within me.

“I have decided to follow Jesus

I have decided to follow Jesus

I have decided to follow Jesus

No turning back

No turning back.”

 

Decibel

Decibel: (n) a unit used to express the intensity of a sound wave

Crossing all generations, cultures, genders, sexual orientations, kingdoms, all religious affiliations, pizza topping preferences, and conjoining into common ground is the international and universal pickiness about sound.

As a musician I’ve dealt with it all my life.

Let me start with three immutable facts.

  1. Music should be heard and not seen.
  2. As volume increases, so does passion.
  3. No composition was ever put together for the sole purpose of remaining in the background.

Even if it was written for a movie scene, the composer dreams that someone will single it out for an Oscar nod.

Yet after years and decades of traveling and performing, I will tell you—there is no setting on a PA system that is low enough to satisfy the tender ears of everyone in the room. Matter of fact, I finally had to forbid sponsors and audience members sensitive to decibels to be anywhere near my sound check—otherwise, all the amateur auditory engineers would be in my ear, telling me how my music was too much for their ears.

Yes, it pissed me off.

If I were a bigger man, it might be better, but also, it means I might have to buy a new wardrobe.

Simply, I like to hear my singing full-throated and my band, full throttle.