Chilly

Chilly: (adj) uncomfortably cool or cold.

Three-and-a-half minutes.

Sometimes I pity those in South Florida who are unfamiliar with this precious expanse.

It’s the length of time it takes to step out into a frigid night, tiptoe across the ice, climb in your car, start it up–and for the heater to gradually
surround you with toasted air.

Watching the ice melt on your windshield as you sense you are safe, sound, warmed and relaxed, staring out your window at the glorious winterscape.

You can put your car in reverse, back out of the driveway, and carefully slip-slide your way down the road, feeling that you’re encompassed by a fire of contentment, permitted, from your cuddled position, to look at the arctic surroundings.

It is amazing.

Sometimes the three-and-a-half minutes feels like three-and-a-half hours because it’s so cold–but when the heat finally arrives, it is so comforting, so tender and so forgiving of the icy world around you that you could just sit in there for the rest of your life.

As we enter the winter season, this scene comes to my mind, as I am a native of Central Ohio.

Heated air in a car on a winter’s night is a confirmation that if we’re patient and start up the engine, a little warmth will come our way.

 

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Chalice

Chalice: (n) a large cup or goblet

Every once in a while, I fancy myself a flitting twit of noble extraction who was accidentally birthed in Central Ohio due to a curse of a witch
with an axe to grind.

This doesn’t happen very often or my communiques would be coming from a sanitarium.

But there is a nasty part of my soul that wants to be superior.

I want to be a king instead of a serf.

I want to drink out of a chalice instead of a cup.

I want to have whole cooked birds placed in front of me so I can peruse where to dive in to the crunchy brown skin and begin to gorge myself.

I want to have the fanciest car in the parking lot.

I want to have an outfit that someone recognizes as an “original” from Italy.

I want to be viewed as a “cut above”–the rib-eye, soft and moist, near the heart of the beast.

I desire that the focus be placed upon me and all spotlights trained in my direction.

I find myself in a twist of obnoxious pretense, grabbing my chalice, bedecked with jewels, and sipping wine that was pressed only by the feet of virgin maidens.

I want to be special.

I want to be revered.

I want my glorious chalice of appreciation.

And then…

My friend walks in the door and tells me I have my shirt on backwards.

I realize God has placed me where I need be.

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Butcher

j-r-practix-with-border-2

Butcher: (adj.) a person whose trade is cutting up and selling meat in a shop

Growing up in Central Ohio, it never occurred to me that I was surrounded by German immigrants. The last names of my friends should have been tell-tale–Steinmetz, Moodesbaugh, Ristine–but I took it in stride, as normal.

So when our local butcher was named O’Dell (which was his first name) it didn’t even register on my young mind that this was unusual.

First of all the whole idea of having a butcher is relatively uncommon–except I guess some large grocery stores have sections where somebody dons a white cap and does a good imitation.

But O’Dell was a character. He hawked his meat to everyone who came into the little shop with great aplomb and grace. He was famous for his ham loaves. The ingredients were, of course, a secret. (I don’t know whether that’s because there were mysterious spices or perhaps unknown meats.)

But what he was most famous for was grinding his own hamburger–and then to prove it was really fresh, he would reach in, grab a small pinch, roll it into a ball, throw it in the air and let it land in his mouth, consuming it raw.

I don’t know how many times a day O’Dell did this. But certainly enough that he got a gut full of raw cow.

Unfortunately, about twenty years later, O’Dell got stomach cancer and died. Now I’m not saying this happened because he ate raw hamburger.

But it does give me pause … and has prevented me from ever indulging in uncooked meat of any type.

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Boo

Boo: (exclam) said suddenly to surprise someone.

Halloween–many years ago in Central Ohio, driving around with one of my buddies and three cheerleaders from the high school who came with us because we Dictionary Btold them that we knew where there was a ghost.

We had no idea what we were talking about.

But we realized the only way we could pull this off and get the lovely young ladies so scared that they would grab us around the neck and hug us for comfort was to come up with an unbelievably creative story and weave it in such a way that terror would fill the interior of my Chevy Impala.

There was an old house outside our town which had been abandoned for a long time–so long that moss was growing up the exterior walls, and also bats flying in and out of broken windows. We decided this was the best place to go to establish the foundation for our tale.

When we arrived in the pitch-black surroundings, we noticed in the upper left-hand corner window, there was a faint glow, as if someone had placed a candle. It was so eerie that I knew the god of story-telling, wherever he or she may be, had prepared it just for us.

I began my fable.

“In this house an old man killed himself up in that very left corner window, by hanging from a nearby rafter, swinging in the breeze.”

As I pointed to the window, there was suddenly a shadow that swept across the faint glow, floating back and forth.

It was damn spooky–so much so that the girls went absolutely stark-raving nuts, screaming–and I nearly eked out one myself. We huddled together in the car, staring up at the mysterious phantom illumination.

After a few minutes I got so freaked out that I started the car and took off, much to the chagrin of my friend, who still wanted to continue the fear-mongering (perhaps to the point of turning it into a make-out session.)

But you see, even though I made up the lie, and knew it was not true, I had convinced myself of its validity, to the point that I was thoroughly prepared for that old ghost, at any moment, to descend upon us with a big, old-fashioned “boo!”

Let me see: I generated a lie which I began to believe and because I was convinced of it, acted as if it was the truth.

Hell … I became a politician.

 

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Jonathan’s Latest Book Release!

PoHymn: A Rustling in the Stagnant

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Atlantic

Atlantic: (n) short for Atlantic Oceandictionary with letter A

I was 22 years old before I ever got the opportunity to see an ocean. Living in Central Ohio, there were not many nearby.

When I asked my parents about whether they would take me so I could see…well, the sea…they told me it was no different from Hoover Lake down the road, where we fished.

“It’s just water, with shorelines, and maybe a little bit more sandy.”

Being a kid, I bought into their version and settled for my nearby body of water.

But when I was 22 years of age and arrived in Jacksonville, Florida, I had a couple of extra hours on my hands. I drove down to the beach, parked my car, got out and started to trudge across the sand. In a matter of seconds I came up over a rise and there it was.

The Atlantic Ocean in all of its glory.

Not only were the beaches much more than mere piles of sand, but the ocean was magnificent–nearly angry. It pelted the land with its waves, foaming at its mouth, eager to express its supremacy. And when I kicked my shoes off and went down into the water, I was astounded at the vigor and energy with which the waves struck my body.

As I found out with many things during my life, my parents’ definitions and interpretations were often flawed.

The Atlantic Ocean was much more interesting than Hoover Lake.

 

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Arab

dictionary with letter A

Arab: (adj) of or relating to Arabia or the people of Arabia

I grew up in Ohio.

My formative years were spent in a small village in the Buckeye Nation, surrounded by bigoted people.

They did not like black people–not because of proximity or personal contact. It was simply a tradition that had been passed down from one generation to another, and even though some of their ancestors fought to free the slaves, they didn’t especially want these “freed men” to live in the same neighborhood.

I was surrounded by intolerance. My family would probably argue the point, but only because we love to rewrite history once it’s been corrected.

But truthfully, the average person living in Central Ohio in 1965 believed many erroneous things about “colored folk,” including that they smelled differently, they were less intelligent, and they certainly should not date sons, let alone daughters.

Here’s an interesting fact: that isn’t true today.

The reason it isn’t true is that gradually the minority of the people who were more loving and giving wore down the intolerant, or else they buried them in the cemetery or changed their minds.

But as long as we believed that there were more “good Buckeyes” who were color blind than “bad Buckeyes” who were not, no progress was made.

The same thing is true for the Arabs.

They are experiencing a very strong backlash to extreme fundamentalism in the religion that they hold dear.

Here’s a fact: until the good ones who love people outlast and eventually outnumber the ones who don’t, and take the words of their holy book and punctuate the verses that are more inclusive, they will be characterized, universally, as dangerous.

There’s no way around it. If my close neighbor who shares my mosque flies airplanes into buildings, I become a suspect.

In my community of 1,500 people, having 60 folks who were open to having black people living in the town was not sufficient to warrant referring to our citizens as open-minded.

Truth had to win out.

So here’s the conclusion, and I speak this joyfully and hopefully to my Arab brothers and sisters:

Wear down your bigots and outnumber them.

It’s the only way to regain the beauty of your cause and an acceptance of your true mission.

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Ann Arbor

dictionary with letter A

Ann Arbor: a city in southeastern Michigan; home of the University of Michigan.

It was a gray, overcast day–a bit of chill in the air, threatening some sort of storm, whether the precipitation would be merely wet or partially frozen.

But I was sweating.

I had literally broken a surface sweat around my temples and under my armpits. I was nineteen years old, and for the first time in my life, I was about to cross the border into Michigan.

I know it sounds ridiculous, but being from Central Ohio and a fan of the Buckeyes since birth, I had not only been infused with a competitive spirit toward the University of Michigan, but had basically been convinced that north of Toledo lay the barbarian horde.

So intense was this training that upon entering the state, a mere forty miles from the seat of hell in Ann Arbor, I not only found fault with the scenery, but in my mind, generated sinister proportions to every ditch and tree.

There were things I knew about Michigan just from the passing conversations of my friends and family:

  1. They were all mean and hated their children.
  2. They wanted to do harm to all Ohio women.
  3. They weren’t really Americans.
  4. They despised God.
  5. And of course, they cheated at football.

My problem was that I was on my way to Ann Arbor to do a gig, and somehow or another, I would have to muster the courage and professionalism to treat them as humans instead of creatures from the Black Lagoon, the source of their power.

What was particularly annoying was that the concert where I performed was very enjoyable, the audience generous, and I walked out with more money than I had made in weeks.

Damn those tricky Wolverines–trying to seduce me with filthy lucre.

But I maintained my loyalty to the great Ohio, and as I retreated back to the safe haven of my home, on those forty miles to the border, I held my breath half the time … so as to make sure that I didn’t inhale the Michigan spirit.

 

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