Dagwood Sandwich

Dagwood Sandwich (n): a thick sandwich filled with a variety of meats, cheeses, dressings, and condiments.

His name was Chic Young.

I just wanted to see that in print—because as an author, I am fully aware that most of the things I write will be lost in obscurity or rendered meaningless.

Being a creative person is similar to manufacturing clouds. Brief vapor that they are, they soon will pass away and need to be replaced by new clouds.

Chic Young is the cartoonist who came up with the idea for Dagwood and Blondie. The strip began in 1930, when the assumption of the times was that men are lazy, always looking for a way of getting out of work and never doing what their wives wanted them to—and that women are interfering, nosy and a bit inept.

That particular line of reasoning is still alive in our entertainment today.

Yes—although it’s been ninety years, we persist in believing that men and women are destined to be at odds with one another, except when sexual arousal temporarily interrupts the warfare for a copulation treat.

I shall not comment further on that. You can probably tell by my emphasis that I find such thinking to be self-indulgent and counter-intuitive.

But back to Chic.

Let’s just take a moment and salute a fellow who came up with a character—Dagwood Bumstead—who loved to make huge sandwiches, usually with a sardine sticking out on the side—and because of that, to this day we name such concoctions and compilations Dagwoods.

How many of us can say that something we came up with led to having a sandwich named after it?

By the way, the name Dagwood is legitimate.

It actually comes from England and is translated as “shiny forest.” Although I do not know what a shiny forest would be, I assume it could only be viewed following the ingestion of some hallucinogenic drug.

So on this fine day, we want to thank you, Chic, for giving us Dagwood and Blondie.

And for all you writers, composers, thinkers, reasoners, poets and musers—keep going.

Someday something you concocted might be ordered at a Subway–with extra pickles.

 

Cross-Examine

Cross-examine: (legal) to examine a witness called by the opposing side

I often hear authors explain how they stumble into what they call “writer’s block.”

It’s a condition in which they progress the story, but for some reason or another, they don’t know where to take the tale from this point going forward.

Many of these writers express great exasperation, nervousness and frustration over this uneasy stall.

But the truth is, every one of us suffers from writer’s block. Except it’s actually our real lives.

What halts us is the introduction of deception.

Once we’ve convinced ourselves that it’s impossible to proceed on with what we want to accomplish and still be truthful and above-board in doing it, we might just make a selection that is dishonest, and then find ourselves, like the authors, completely at a standstill.

Why?

Because if we go forward, somebody might come along, notice our deception and cross-examine us in an attempt to get to the truth.

Of course, we certainly don’t want to go backward and look like a loser.

I dare to say, there are people who have lived in the middle of what we shall call “a living block” for years, because they have such a fear of being exposed that they practically have to stay absolutely still to keep from drawing attention to themselves.

Cross-examination is a part of life.

I will agree with you—people who pursue it are annoying and worthy of being avoided.

But there’s always going to be someone who wants to know how we got to where we are. What is the extent of our involvement or guilt in some matter?

Of course, trying to hide only amplifies the interest of the interrogator.

Talking too much and making too many excuses also certainly rings the bell foretelling of great deceit.

So you see, once again, we find out that telling the truth is the only way to escape ‘living block’—allowing us to go forward without being nervous concerning the cross-examination that comes from those who believe it is their job to be the prosecuting attorney, the jury and our judge.

 

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Constellation

Constellation: (n) a group of stars forming a recognizable pattern

Christmas: when the nays and yeas get together to discuss a baby born in the hay.

To me, It is the only wearisome part of the season. One group tries to convince the other group that the Christmas story from the gospels of Matthew and Luke is not only possible, but also historical.

The other contingency works really hard to dismiss the whole, ridiculous notion of a virgin birth, a Star of David and “angels we have heard on high.”funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

I take a different approach.

I like to consider what the world needs and what the Earth craves, and then find things in the perimeter which feed that urgency.

The world desperately needs all of us to become human instead of men, women, gay, straight, family, country and culture.

So I flip to Christmas: “We bring you tidings of great joy. Peace on Earth, goodwill toward men.”

The Earth also desires respect. Yes, we are a bratty species which thinks the environment is our personal roll of toilet paper.

And then we have the story of the Star of Bethlehem. Somewhere out there in the constellations there emerged a star. The popular belief is that this would have to be a huge star–not necessarily true since the people who followed it were star-gazers, and would not need to be “star-struck” in order to be intrigued with a particular heavenly body.

The elements of the Christmas story are concepts that we, as humans, would have to pursue even if there was no God. For example:

  1. Be prepared to do what is unusual, or expect the usual results.
  2. Don’t expect everything to come the way you predicted it. Maybe a woman will be the hero of the tale.
  3. Look to the stars. Look for some light. Look for some hope. Follow it.
  4. Listen for the better angels, who tell us to try to get along.

My only regret at Christmas time, as an author, is that Matthew and Luke beat me to the publisher.

Because I’ll tell ya’–I would write that story any day of the week, knowing that it was not only needful, but destined to be a hit.

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Mr. Kringle's Tales...26 Stories 'Til Christmas

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Collate

Collate: (v) to collect and combine in proper order

I do not judge my life by my successes, but rather, by the ease involved in achieving them.

I will tell you quite bluntly that success loses much of its excitement and is greatly diminished by finding yourself bogged down in chores. 

I had an idea.

I was in my early twenties and had written a book. I was so damned impressed with myself. I struggled to let people know that I had written a book, so they could grant me adequate praise.

I was impatient. I didn’t want to just write a book, I wanted to print a book and put it in people’s hands, observing them gasp with amazement.

This was before desktop publishing was a common practice. At my disposal were printed sheets which had been typed–and a Xerox machine.

I decided to ask one of my friends to retype the document so it would be as clean and crisp-looking as possible (though I don’t know what clean and crisp
means.)

This was my first mistake.

This lovely lady was obviously going through some sort of mental disruption, and ended up misspelling hundreds of words, which I did not catch because I decided it would be petty to proofread it.

So not only did I have a faulty original, I used a Xerox printer which probably belonged in a college dorm room, and demanded it do the job of an industrial one.

Not only did it refuse, it was rather snotty about it.

Mistake two: after the first fifty pages, the ink cartridge started to fade.

And finally, making sure that I had three mistakes to “uncharm” me, I collated by myself.

So when it came time to have the book fastened together (with staples) and I handed it off to a friend, within three seconds she was giggling.

On page five alone, the word “the” had been misspelled four times in five different ways. (I don’t know how that’s even possible.)

It was also humorous to her that the pages were so faded that she needed a magnifying glass to read them.

And to add insult to depravity, I collated incorrectly, so page 7 followed 5, then 10, then 17…

So I decided that the only way I would be able to offer this book was to put a disclaimer sheet with each and every sale:

  • See how many mistakes you can find!
  • Did you need a magnifying glass to read this, or are your eyes really good?
  • Even though it was an experiment, did you like jumping all over the book to find out what the next page was going to be?

It was one of the saddest days in my life when I had to take all the project–all the paper–all the effort–and toss it in a trashcan.

There is a reason that we leave it to the experts to collate.

After all, it isn’t just some Random House…

 

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Cadence

 

j-r-practix-with-border-2
Cadence:
(n) the flow or rhythm of events

I remember the first time I heard the phrase. I was a young man sitting in a church with a white shirt collar that was too small for me, wearing a colorful tie which
had to be tucked into my pants because it was perniciously uneven.

The phrase was “decency and order.”

The minister was pretty sure he knew understood. He preached a sermon offering a cadence of commitment to form and reason. He contended that Godly ways had to be morally correct and follow a sequence which left no doubt of the purity of the intention.

For instance: sin–but not too much, to where it leaves a lasting mark. Come to your senses, find God, repent, get a job, marry, have children and donate adequate sums to your local congregation.

I hated it.

It’s not that I favored immorality nor was an anarchist. Even though I had an immature young mind, I understood that this was not the true cadence of life. Life arrives in chaos and requires triage.

What do I take care of first? How can I keep this together? What can I seek out to keep from freaking out?

It just seemed to me that sometimes there isn’t enough time and space available to consider the ultimate morality or the best way to stack up possibilities.

I don’t know what the original author of these words was trying to convey, but human beings are rarely “decent” and never “in order.”

If God Almighty is waiting for us to transform into a dutiful and meticulous creation, He certainly failed to provide the raw material. We are erratic. We are uncertain. And our greatest mission in life is to make sure we’re not afraid of who we are.

Sometimes the best we can do is slow things down and use what we’ve got. I suppose that doesn’t sound quite as officious as “decency and order,” but it is more accurate.

Over the years I have tried to become more adept at organization and goodness–but when I fail, I have chosen to laugh at the frailty instead of weeping over my insufficiency.

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Buster

j-r-practix-with-border-2

Buster: (n) a mildly disrespectful or humorous form of address, especially to a man or boy.

Beware of an aunt who doesn’t have children of her own, and insists that she “really loves kids,” who comes to visit and in no time at all is so irritated that she starts referring to you as “buster.”

I had one.

I will not mention her name out of deference to her feelings, even though she has since passed away. We always have hope for people when they go to a proposed afterlife. For my aunt, my hope is that it is an adult-living condominium with no children allowed.

I will have to admit to you–she tried. Each time she arrived at our home, she came with a fresh, energetic approach, to relate to us kids as human beings.

She always brought books instead of toys. And these were books that were at least five years too old for us. There were no pictures, and she would always take at least ten minutes explaining the history, background and mission of the author.

She would also bring a casserole with her, ablaze with color and all kinds of ingredients, but for some reason, the taste and texture of it always reminded me of asparagus snot. (Now, I don’t personally know what asparagus snot is, but I thought it was a very descriptive way to relate my feelings about the dish.) More annoying, she stood over me and waited for me to taste it before I got the chance to scrape it into the trash can or slide it under the table for my hapless dog to slurp.

Also, this particular aunt was always on the verge of tears. Now, it didn’t take much. One day I was yelling at my little brother because he wouldn’t help me with the trash cans, and she came over to hug him in the most exorbitant way, looking up at me as she did, scolding me for failing to be sensitive to one of God’s precious creatures.

Interestingly though, it didn’t seem to bother her that when she talked to me, she was always suggesting that I lose weight, tuck in my shirt, or, on several occasions, remarking on how bad my breath was. I guess you had to be a little kid to be one of God’s creatures.

My aunt was a woman who married once, got a divorce, never had children–but was sure she would have been the best mother in the world.

Whenever I was out of line, she looked at me with her fiery eyes and said, “Buster, you should be glad I’m not your mother!”

She was right.

I was.

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Browse

j-r-practix-with-border-2

Browse: (v) to survey goods for sale in a leisurely and casual way.

Several years back, when I had just released a new book, my dear daughter-in-law set me up with a booth at a book-sellers convention in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.Dictionary B

I was excited about my new writings, so I leaped at the chance to go and share with others the stories I had put together, which in this particular case, had a Christmas theme.

I had never been at a book sellers convention before. So I was a little taken aback when I was just one of several hundred tables set up in rows, where people could amble by, peer at my book cover and then at me, to determine if they had any level of interest.

Yes. They referred to it as browsing.

I quickly learned that there were three different kinds of browsers:

There were a few souls who came to the convention legitimately interested in books–even possibly to the point of purchasing one.

There were many more authors, who came by my table to try to talk to me about their book, hoping that I would abandon my foolish cause of self-promotion and become enamored with their endeavor.

And then there were the professional browsers. These were people who hung around for a while. They picked up my book. They scanned it for a few minutes. Sometimes they even giggled, connoting that they had enjoyed something.

I foolishly tried to interject my feelings to engage them in conversation.

It was at that point that I realized they were hoping I would solicit their opinion, so they could calmly set my book down, smile at me, turn on their heel and walk away.

I fell for this about ten times, until I realized it was a game.

After that, when people came up to my table, unless they were determined to get my attention, I sat very still…acting like I was recovering from a stroke.

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Best-seller

Best-seller: (n) a book or other product that sells in very large numbers.

Dictionary B

I would be a complete charlatan if I told you I did not use words to my own advantage.

I try never to lie and do attempt to avoid excessive exaggeration.

But I have, from time to time, taken advantage of the cloak of ambiguity to leave the impression that something I was promoting had greater attention than it perhaps actually did.

That’s why, as an author, I’ve always loved the term “best-seller.”

As long as you avoid connoting that you’re speaking about one of your books ending up on a list somewhere, displayed in print for the elite to peruse, you can simply tout that your particular sales show that this volume you’ve published has sold more than a previous one.

Now the numbers may be miniscule–certainly not up to the figures accumulated by Stephen King or J. K. Rowling, but nevertheless, the statement “my best-seller” can stand proudly in the columns of all time as truthful.

Even if I only sold four of them.

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Balcony

Balcony: (n) the upstairs seats in a theater, concert hall, or auditorium.Dictionary B

In my youthful years…

Actually, there’s little that’s more disgusting than an aging author reflecting back on earlier times with a slight grimace of regret, but mostly tantalizing details of virility and prowess.

That would not be my intention in this particular article, so let me begin with the less pretentious, “When I was a teenager…”

Yes, when I was a teenager there was an old-fashioned theater near my hometown which showed movies and had a balcony. It was commonly known and notoriously reported by prudish older women that the young folks would go up in the balcony and neck during the movies instead of watching them like critics who had a deadline for the morning news.

So after a while, due to the complaining of these decrepit patrons, they put a velvet rope in front of the balcony entrance, connoting that the area was no longer available to the public.

I do not know why it failed to occur to them how easy it is to ignore a velvet rope. So the young people continued to trail upstairs and do the laboratory portion of their sex education training.

After that they hired someone to stand next to the velvet rope, in a white shirt and black bow tie, attempting to deter the young folks from entering the stairs to the heights of pleasure.

It didn’t take any of us very long to discover a curtain which dangled from the other side of the balcony, which was easily scaled, quietly placing us in the balcony area where we could enjoy ourselves with ferocious kissing and then slide back down the curtain to leave the theater.

The manager, fearing that the curtain would eventually be destroyed through this process, eliminated the guard and velvet rope, and gave in to the primeval nature of the youth.

Even the old ladies decided to ignore the iniquity happening just above their heads.

So my memory of a balcony is a place of escape from the circus and theater of life happening all around, to enjoy more personal pleasures.

Also, it’s a great place to go nowadays, even though I’m older, to sleep if I’m not that interested in the offerings of the silver screen.

 

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Author

Author: (n) a writer of a book, article, or report.

I guess they have to say something about me.dictionary with letter A

I’m talking about those individuals who are assigned the mission of introducing me at concerts or public speaking events.

So I do allow them to call me an author.

In the practical sense, I have written 12 books and pen 3 daily blogs. I guess I am within the boundaries of the definition.

But honestly, an author is someone who has an idea, finds a way of communicating it and presents it in such a way that it causes the reader to be transformed. Up to that point, you are merely practicing penmanship or speculating on paragraph formation.

Here’s what really makes you an author:

Did you have a good idea?

Did you keep it in a vernacular which is understandable?

Were your readers impacted?

Without these three elements you’re just writing.

So I have to be honest:

  • Sometimes I am a writer
  • A paragraph carver
  • A shifter of words
  • A predicate to a nominative

And then there are times when I am inspired by simplicity instead of motivated by complexity–and I put down a few concepts which rattle the heart in the chest and awaken the mind to a new possibility.

If Shakespeare were alive today, he would reject his own material as outdated. He would laugh at those people who revere his syntax and he would learn the street lingo of our time, and author from his heart.

If you’re going to be an author, you have to realize that sometimes you just write. Not everything that comes out of your computer is inspired, nor worth public consumption.

But it is through the error that the trial gains beauty.

So I will continue to write, and on rare occasions, will author something worthy to be considered by my fellow-humans.

This is not a position of false humility, but rather, the realization of the limits of my scope and the tenuous nature of my mortality.

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