Cuyahoga Falls

Cuyahoga Falls: (n) a city in Northeast Ohio, near Akron

 The reason essays are often long is because the author feels compelled to place the reader in the exact moment and space of a given time.

Suffice it to say, today I am talking about a season in our history when boys were dying in Vietnam, hippies were walking the streets and young lads and lasses from the Midwest were desperately trying to be neither.

I grew up in Ohio.

Ohio insists it’s a single state, but anyone who lives there knows differently.

If you lived in Columbus, you might as well be from Iowa, or any other Midwest hold-out to social progress.

If you lived in Cincinnati, you were more like Dixie, with grits in your teeth.

And to the far north was Cleveland, which desperately tried to imitate New York City, complete with crime and a filthy Lake Erie to mirror the polluted Hudson.

I lived right in the center.

No, it’s true. My hometown was exactly ten miles from the geographical center of Ohio. That in itself should have afforded me great honor, but I was stuck, like everyone else, trying to prove myself and do the best with the talent shoveled in my direction.

Mine was music.

But my music was not quite suited to the genre that was rattling and reeling in the time capsule of hippies and soldiers.

So one day, I wiggled my way into scheduling a coffee house in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio—very near Akron. I didn’t know much about the place and they didn’t know much about me.

So my little band, excited about actually going somewhere to play a road gig, dressed up.

For the guys, that was pants and a long-sleeved shirt with a tie.

And for the ladies—well, they basically wore their prom dresses.

We arrived at the coffee house, which was called Avalon, and everybody there was in bell-bottom blue jeans, t-shirts, with long hair and sneers.

It was a long night.

Every song we tried was met with chuckles and everything we said was ignored, as they turned to one another and carried on conversations.

I became angry, mainly because I was young, foolish and felt it was my right to be offended.

I told them they were a bunch of snobs. I also told them they didn’t have the wardrobe for it.

This was my first and only laugh of the night.

The proprietor of the coffeehouse stood to his feet and said, “Be cool, fool. You just don’t fit in here.”

He was right—while simultaneously being wrong.

Because if we’re waiting for everyone to mature or expand to be welcomed into our little utopia, we’ve missed the whole point of having one.

A utopia is meant to be a place where anyone is welcome without fear.

 

funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

Cutup

Cutup: (n) a prankster or show-off.

 This simple, humble author lands somewhere between a prankster and a showoff.

My brain has just always thought with a twist of funny.

Usually, this is just fine—unless I’m at a funeral or around people who think the measure of the human race is in the quality of the frown.

But I do know there is a great danger with humor.

Having spoken to many audiences over the years, I have learned that the worst thing you can promote is that you are a comedian.

Matter of fact, I have insisted that the sponsors who have brought me in to perform never, ever place the words “funny, humorous” or especially “side-splitting laughter” in my promo.

Once people are aware that you’re trying to make them laugh—attempting to be tonight’s official cutup—they will do everything in their power to analyze what you’re saying and convince themselves that you’re not clever at all. For I will tell you:

Humor must surprise.

It must come from the least-expected place and land in a region of dullness.

That’s when it’s at its best.

I have offered eulogies and recited an embarrassing incident the deceased performed in my presence, and the room was enlightened with hilarity and a deep sense of gratitude at escaping the doldrums.

No, you can’t advertise yourself as a cutup.

If you do, your hearers will unconsciously cut you up–and put your words, expressions and punchlines under a microscope.

We laugh best when we laugh astonished.

funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

Cutting Edge

Cutting Edge: (n) at the forefront or lead

I am guilty of taking my brain on field trips to boring conversations with people who try to turn very old ideas into new concepts.

Or worse, they take something proven to be ineffective and merely rename it.

My brain gets very upset.

My emotions threaten to abandon in protest.

And during the process, my spirit slithers over into a corner and goes to sleep.

I don’t want to hear the phrase “cutting edge” until we’re actually willing to do something that cuts away the unnecessary, the unrighteous and the unworthy from our human paradox.

After all, you can’t have a cutting edge without some severing.

So what should we cut ourselves off from?

Here’s one:

The more highly we think of ourselves, the more elevated our consciousness will become. (Actually, we just become lofty assholes.)

I must give you a second:

Loving people is often impossible. (We adore this assertion—because then we can determine how quickly “impossible” arrives on the scene.)

And finally, a third:

Discovering our cultural differences helps us appreciate our diversity. (Actually, the more we talk about things being different for one another, the less unity we create.)

There is only one cutting edge: Love your neighbor as yourself.

So let us stop making so many goddamn excuses for why it won’t work.

 

funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

Cutter

Cutter: (n) a person who repeatedly inflicts self-injury by cutting the skin, as to cope with negative emotions.

Her mother told me that Denise was “a cutter.”

Mother asked me if I knew what that meant. I did.

But it didn’t deter her from continuing to explain—vividly—the numerous times that knife went to flesh, carving out a hideous landscape of despair.

She tried to explain the diagnosis and the opinions the psychiatrist had for the source of the grief felt by Denice.

I listened. Well, no. I actually didn’t.

I was polite.

The reason I didn’t give much heed to the conversation was that I have learned a valuable lesson:

The power of “I don’t.”

  • I don’t know what I’m doing.
  • I don’t understand, even though I’ve been educated.
  • I don’t have the power to save people.
  • I don’t have sure-fire solutions to motivate change.

I don’t know what to do to stop a lovely young girl from defacing the beauty of her earthly canvas.

She likes to cut herself. She says it relieves tension and guilt.

It gives her a sense of temporary redemption from the screaming demons in her soul.

I don’t have the cosmic energy to take this damaged child of God and lift her out of her anguish.

What I have is “I do.”

I do have the possibility of screwing her up even further.

So I sat down and talked to her for about five minutes—mainly about myself. She even seemed somewhat interested. She was perplexed—because I’m sure she thought I was just another “healer” who had come to try to rescue her from herself.

I wasn’t.

You see, I do care. But I don’t have miracles.

I do love Denice as my fellow-traveler. But I don’t have magical potions or mysterious words to break the spell.

Sometimes it’s just good to know how limited we are so we can avoid the need to prove a point, and instead, emotionally embrace those who are hurting and hope—yes, hope—that some of the virtue of affection transfuses.

funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

Cutlet

Cutlet: (n) a slice of meat, especially of veal, for broiling or frying.

One of the more shocking aspects of life is when you escape your childhood home and begin to mingle with the pilgrims on the way to the Promised Land, discovering that all the things you heard in your house did not translate into the lives of other beings.

For instance, my mother used to say, “Don’t freeze your typooker.”

As a child, I assumed there were typookers from sea to shining sea.

But the first time I spoke it aloud in front of friends, post-high-school graduation, they laughed voraciously, and hee-hawed even more when I became defensive. No one had heard of typooker (though one girl thought it was something naughty.)

So I was surprised when I realized that the pressed-together hamburger/ground round patties I was familiar with as a child were universally referred to as “cutlets.”

During my growing up years, we called them “cube steaks.”

I don’t know whether this was wishful thinking in the minds of my impoverished parents—musing that referring to them as steak translated them during dinner time—or if they had run across a cult of “cubers,” which they immediately  joined, touting fake steak.

But it was embarrassing.

I was on a date with a girl and asked the waiter if they had some sort of cube steak. He looked at me, much more bewildered than necessary, and humiliatingly asked, “Could you draw a picture of it?”

My date for the evening, instantaneously sure she would never go out with me again, mercifully stepped in and said:

“I think you’re talking about a cutlet.”

Prideful and unwilling to sacrifice the turf, I responded, “No. I’m talking about cube steaks.”

At an impasse, the waiter suggested the beef stew (if I had ever heard of beef or stew). I was bruised.

Language is so powerful, yet so personal.

And it is so easy to convince ourselves that the words in our mouths are much more sacred than those lodged deep in the throats of our brothers and sisters.

funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

Cutlery

Cutlery: (n) utensils for eating, esp. knives, forks, and spoons

I have much experience at making an ass of myself.

In deference to this article, I will rephrase:

My derriere is often exposed.

Throughout my life, in an attempt to appear more educated, prominent or opulent, I have used certain phrases in front of certain people I thought would certainly require the best of the King’s English.

I have gone so far as to seek out more sophisticated terminology in both dictionary and thesaurus, anticipating the arrival of some individual I deemed my superior. (Even the young woman who works with me now and takes my dictation, when she first arrived—since she was a classical musician—I felt the need to bone up on my knowledge of the Old Masters who composed the symphonies which are now the relics of orchestras across the world.)

Now, I have garnered that this process is not only foolish, but futile.

Eventually I always popped off with some little piece of verbiage which was so obscure that the target I hoped to impress would turn to me in frustration and say, “What is it you’re trying to say?”

To which I would reply, “I was merely inquiring what kind of cutlery you desired for the evening repast…”

Bewildered, the guest would stare and say something like:

“You mean fork, knife and spoon?”

Embarrassed, I had to acknowledge that this was exactly what I meant.

I quickly discovered that even if people are used to working in high-minded climates with qualified technicians, when they escape that environment, they like to leave the King’s English with the King.

funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

Cuticle

Cuticle (n) the epidermis that surrounds the edges of the fingernail or toenail.

Being healthy is a good thing.

There’s nothing particularly insightful in that statement. But may I follow with this thought?

Being worried about your health is the Suck Master of Life.

This is why I am careful not to watch too many shows on Discovery Channel or programs about bizarre medical procedures—because in no time at all, I am perfectly capable of sprouting some of the symptoms, with actual visual evidence.

I’m not normally paranoid but am willing to be flexible.

In other words, I can go pretty nuts wondering if I’m nuts.

I can get a queasy stomach just thinking about indigestion.

And I can sprout a headache at the mere mention of a brain tumor.

Yet, knowing this about myself, I accidentally watched a program on the danger signs of disease that can be found in our cuticles and fingernails.

  • What happens when they’re yellow?
  • Should we run to the doctor if they’re brittle?
  • Do white spots on your nails mean you have a calcium deficiency?

After all, human beings and other primates are the only animals who have nails.

Watching this particular documentary, I learned that men’s nails grow faster than women’s. Worse, the nail on one finger grow at a different speed than another. (It’s a little unnerving to realize that even my fingernails are competitive with each other.)

It was reassuring to learn that typing is good for your nails—except that I don’t do typing anymore. I have someone who takes my dictation and achieves the job in one-tenth the time.

Water is very helpful for healthy nails, and cuticles are there because they protect the tips of our fingers from infection.

One of the things that made me giggle was that they had a two-minute expose about the danger of cutting your nails in the dark.

Yet, when it was all said and done—and I calmed down my internal gag reflex—I realized one thing:

My nails probably won’t kill me.

And, as Kelly Clarkson once said, what doesn’t kill you helps you open packages.

funny wisdom on words that begin with a C