Country

Country: (n) a state or nation

I just downright don’t like the premise.

For you see, a quick look at the map of the world certainly does not distinguish insurmountable barriers that would dictate as many funny wisdom on words that begin with a Ccountries as we have conjured through our typography.

After all, most rivers don’t forbid people from crossing.

Mountains have been known to be climbed.

And nowadays, oceans are crossed with barely enough time on the airplane to serve soft drinks and peanuts.

Why do we need a country?

Why is it necessary to isolate this land mass as having this particular group of people, which follows a predetermined philosophy or form of government, and declare their sovereignty to such a degree that they are willing to go to war over violations of air space?

Perhaps it’s wise that the only way to truly cure insanity is to voraciously point it out whenever you encounter it. Otherwise, pretty soon it starts making sense to you—and by that time, you’ve hopelessly lost your ability to change the world.

I love my country.

But not because it’s located in the continental United States.

Not because I think Americans are exceptional and better than other people in the world.

No, I love my country because we espouse the principles of equality and freedom, which were hatched in the mind of the Creator when He first sat down and considered His opening line:

“Let there be light.”


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Cliffhanger

Cliffhanger: (n) an ending that leaves the audience in suspense.

I can’t watch the movie.

I’m talking about “Cliffhanger,” with Sylvester Stallone.

There’s one scene that is just not able to be viewed. Suspended on a single rope, Stallone tries to lift a women up to him so that he can take
them both to safety on the edge of the cliff. It goes badly. Her glove slips off and she tumbles–thousands of feet?–to the ground below. The camera follows the face of a very disappointed Stallone.

Not me. I’m wondering what it’s like to fall three thousand feet to your death.

It’s why I could never jump out of an airplane. I would have to convince myself that I’m prepared to die, just in case everything fails. Because the sensation of falling is not one that is acceptable to the human psyche.

Of course, I feel that way about all deaths.

I think the old song, “The Gambler,” says it well. “The best you can hope for is to die in your sleep.”

Of course, that’s kind of creepy, too. You nod off and the next thing you know, well…is nothing you know.

Death truly is the greatest cliffhanger in our human journey. We’re not going to know what it’s really like until we get there, and by the time we get there, it’s much too late to build up the courage and spunk to “do it well.”

Sometimes I think about what the worst deaths would be, as compared to a more tolerable demise. But in the end, you’re either getting smashed or being forbidden air.

Great choice.

We’re all heading for the cliffhanger. Matter of fact, some of you reading this essay are already uncomfortable, wishing I would get to a final sentence and stop talking about this crazy shit.

So I will do…

 

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Chore

Chore: (n) a routine task, especially a household one.

I suddenly realized that there is no happy word to describe work.

“Labor.” That sucks.

“Effort.” Well, that takes effort

“Struggle.”

Even the word “employment” is constricting, brings a frown to one’s face.

How do we expect to ever move forward in our consciousness when everything seems to be a chore? We didn’t like chores when we were children, so are we going
to wake up one morning having accumulated enough birthdays that we will become intrigued with doing repetitious tasks?

And if we don’t like doing these “events,” what’s to guarantee that the mechanic who’s repairing the airplane doesn’t get bored and take a shortcut?

If we don’t like doing the things we’re supposed to accomplish, won’t we eventually just do them poorly?

And once mediocre becomes normal, normal is certainly dangerous.

How can we re-train ourselves to believe that work is not a chore and that chores do not need to be repetitious, but rather, gain glamor and gleam by being enhanced with new possibilities?

This is not the season to insist on tradition. The work force in America needs a revolution–a revival, if you will–of the passion that originally made us believe we wanted to do what offered us a paycheck.

Don’t ask me to do my chores.

I will rebel, go to my room and listen to the music you don’t like.

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Chloroform

Chloroform: (n) a sweet-smelling anesthetic.

I am a phony.

I’m hoping that if I admit it, I won’t have to be accosted by the critics who discover it.

Here is where my phoniness comes to the forefront: I often think about matters which I insist would be intriguing, but if offered the opportunity, I’d turn it down.

This came to my mind this morning when I looked at the word “chloroform.” I have watched television shows where a character has placed this chemical on a
handkerchief, covering the nose of an enemy, putting him or her into a deep sleep.

While viewing this I have thought to myself, I wonder what that’s like? Is there any pain, discomfort, hangover or headache that would accompany the experience? I am intrigued.

Yet if somebody walked into the room and asked, “Would you like to find out what it’s like to go under?” I would pass.

Any number of situations would fall into this pattern.

  • “I am interested.”
  • “Here you are.”
  • “No, thanks.”

It’s not that I’m a coward. I actually consider myself to be very adventurous. But it’s much easier to envision myself brave than it is to prove it in the courtroom of human events.

I occasionally watch people jumping out of an airplane and wonder if I would actually do it.

It’s ridiculous. Unless the plane was on fire and twelve feet from the ground, I would remain within.

I have avoided friendships, romantic encounters and probably passed up on a good deal or two simply because I could not pull the trigger at the right moment.

I don’t lack experience; I am not a novice. It’s just that in selected moments, I was a coward.

Or maybe I should call myself an “over-stater.”

Yes. That sounds better: “That fellow really over-states his interest level.”

And since I have grown weary of being quite this vulnerable, I shall stop my typing and chloroform this article.

 

 

 

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Cauldron

Cauldron: (n) a situation characterized by instability and strong emotions.

Putting together sentences, or even the art of making sense, is not the most difficult thing about writing. Also not writer’s block, unless you get too silly about constructing the perfect paragraph.

Actually the most difficult matter is making sure that your writing hasn’t “aged out.” In other words, do people know what the hell you’re talking about?

It happened to me several weeks ago when I was working on a passage in a novel, and decided to insert the word “cauldron”–as referring to a problem that was simmering inside my plot, without people knowing how dangerous it truly was.

The dear lady who does my typing stopped and looked at me with a quizzical face and asked, “Cauldron?”

She does this from time to time. It’s her way of saying I’ve come up with some obscure word that no one will understand and therefore they will assume that my awareness of pop culture ceased somewhere between Charles Dickens and Mark Twain.

It raises the question, when are we being sensitive to the market and when are we joining into the universal “dumbing down” of our society?

Is it too much to ask a reader to look up a word or search for context clues? Are we a generation that is just going to squint and opine, “I don’t know that word…”

Some words should die. Maybe they represented something evil or there’s a better replacement for them in today’s language.

But sometimes a word needs to be toted from the Conestoga wagon, onto the bicycle, into the Model T Ford, placed carefully on the airplane and finally situated safely in the rocket to outer space.

 

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Aviation

Aviation: (n) the flying or operating of aircraft.dictionary with letter A

Although I am surrounded by the mob which extols the beauty and intelligence of innovation, my perspective is much more cautious. Here’s what I have discovered.

Innovation has a very short shelf life before it is interrupted by human inconsistency, selfishness and ineptness.

I am positive that Wilbur and Orville Wright, when they flew their little contraption on the beach at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, were overjoyed with the sheer brilliance of invention–breaking through a barrier to birth the beginnings of flight.

Never did they envision or comprehend that it all would eventually come down to inconvenience, stale peanuts and cramped seats.

I remember the first time I ever flew in an airplane. I thought I was a god. But in typical human style, over the years we have succeeded in taking something truly remarkable and making it miserable.

Here is the reason:

All the bratty, stupid kids who sucked up to the teachers in high school grew up and ended up in middle management, where the only power they have in their lives is to usurp authority over other people and create obstacles.

They aren’t smart enough to become CEOs. And they’re just a little too smart to be menial laborers.

So the only joy they get in their lives is exactly what they had in school: being the tattle-tales and the jerks who really insisted that you weren’t allowed to take more than one milk in the cafeteria.

So when you go to the airport you are immediately greeted by these soulless authoritarians who want to make your experience as painful as possible.

This is true whether it’s the baggage handler who is convinced that your satchel is over seventy pounds, the TSA agent who thinks your shoes look suspicious, or the flight attendant who wants to argue with you about whether your I-Pad will be suitable for use on the journey through the sky.

Add the fact that some cranky manufacturers created seats more suited to the buttocks of an 8-year-old and you have a torture chamber of inefficient nastiness.

Even though most people realize this to be true, no change is introduced because it is all glossed over with the well-rehearsed statement: “Well, it’s still the best and safest way to travel.”

I still think flying is amazing.

I just wish all the former hall monitors and teacher-ass-kissers would be permanently grounded.

 

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Aisle

Words from Dic(tionary)

dictionary with letter A

Aisle: (n) a passage between rows of seats in a building such as a church or theater, an airplane or a train: e.g. the show had the audience dancing in the aisle.

I shall use the airplane as my example. It happens in three phases.

As an adult male, I have approximately a forty-five pound ratio of wiggle in my room. What I mean by that is that sometimes my girth will soar–if that’s possible–to forty-five pounds heavier. And on other occasions I will drop that forty-five pounds, reaching my more svelte.

As you can imagine, in most intervals, I hover between.

I can tell where I am in the various phases of my evolution by walking down the aisle in an airplane. If I am peaking, I must perform the task sliding completely sideways. If I am in my lean and keen phase, I can stand and walk completely upright, facing forward, without carrying other people’s newspapers with me along the way. If I land between the two conditions, I can move forward a few feet before a buttock will catch on a seat, demanding that I shake and rattle my way free before proceeding forward.

It is a marvelous test to determine my progress or regression–perhaps even more effective than weighing on a scale.

It is the “aisle test.”

And I’ll say … preferable.

Airport

Words from Dic(tionary)

dictionary with letter A

Airport: (n) a complex of runways and buildings for the takeoff, landing and maintenance of civil aircraft with facilities for passengers.

My first visit to the airport was when I was eighteen years old, flying off to Arizona to retrieve my girlfriend from exile by her parents to a status of once again being my partner and eventually, wife.

The airport was deliciously frightening and glorious at the same time.

It was many years later before I flew in an airplane again. I was twenty-four years old, jetting off to Nashville to work on a musical project with a famous female country songwriter, and I felt like I had the wings of Mercury, surrounded by the gods of Olympus.

Much later I went to airports with my traveling companion to tour the country, sharing from one of my books and cruising through the air with the greatest of ease.

And then came 9/11.

Now, I don’t know exactly what Osama bin Laden envisioned to be the result of his vicious and treacherous plan. Certainly he ended up killing three thousand human souls. But I do feel he also put to death the great American love affair with airports, traveling and zooming through the atmosphere from one destination to another.

For the casualties of 9/11 continue:

  • It’s in our economy
  • It’s in our mistrust
  • It’s in our bungling of foreign affairs
  • It is the chip on our shoulder–proclaiming ourselves “great” without providing the goods and services to confirm the assertion

The American airport today has all the appeal of a Middle-Eastern open market on a hot desert day. It is inconvenient, pushy and unapologetic for both its prices and its surroundings.

Because I believe in my country, I think eventually we will grow tired of restrictions, anxiety and succumbing to the whims of a madman who planned our defeat in his cave in Afghanistan.

Bin Laden is dead and buried in the deep blue sea.

Maybe we can muster the courage to make traveling a commercial and private pleasure again instead of a gauntlet of endurance, athletic and patient perseverance.

 

Abdul-Jabbar

by J. R. Practixdictionary with letter A

Abdul-Jabbar, Kareem: (1947-    ) U.S. basketball player; former name Lewis Ferdinand Alcindor. He played professionally for the Milwaukee Bucks from 1969-75 and the Los Angeles Lakers from 1975-89 and holds several records.

He was a thing of beauty.

I know men are not supposed to say that about other men. In today’s society we disguise our homophobia by silently being suspicious of any close contact or admiration expressed between folks of the same gender.

But Kareem (who was also an Abdul) was a fabulous basketball player. He did something called the “sky-hook,” which was really just a huge toss of the basketball high in the air over his head, which for the normal person would have had about a 3.3% chance of sinking the hole, but for him was in the high 60’s.Abdul Jabbar

But he sealed his immortality in my soul when he appeared in the movie Airplane as the humongously over-sized pilot who was hiding out from his real occupation, pretending he was NOT a famous athlete. I remember watching the movie, thinking how brave it was for him to step off the court into this new arena of acting, realizing that he would be a huge target for criticism, but took the risk anyway.

Yes, Abdul going into the movie industry was like the ultimate sky-hook. He just tossed it off, over his head, high into the air, confident that it would split the cords. He played with great players and still looked great. That’s pretty remarkable.

Most of us choose to hang around inferiors so that our work will appear to be stellar. Not Mr. K. A. J. He shared the glory with his teammates, but when their expertise failed to pull off the miracle of the win, he took his seven-foot-plus frame, and leaped in to save the day.

You know what else is interesting? He seems to be a really nice guy. I mean, it’s special when someone is humble because they decide to select humility–but upon careful gazing at their record, you are not surprised they have chosen that profile. But when somebody has set benchmarks in excellence, but still chooses simplicity and humility, it is a reminder that struggling to put oneself into the spotlight is an invitation to get bumped from the stage by someone on the A list.

I guess he’s a Muslim. If all Muslims were like Kareem, most of their public relations problems would be alleviated. So along about the same time that Cassius Clay became Mohammed Ali, Lou Alcindor became Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Here’s the beauty: they didn’t turn into religious fanatics who blew up mosques.

They used their talents to become better people and create a more enjoyable world.