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

Curdled

Curdled: (adj) spoiled, soured

They put us up in a barn.

That night, I became convinced that everyone in the world would have hay fever if they found themselves lying on hay. I do believe it’s a proximity issue.

It was chilly. We had just performed at a coffee house. We were hungry.

Our host, feeling magnanimous, had offered his barn for lodging and even allowed us to pull our old van inside, just in case we needed to access our “stuff.”

We finally were able to communicate that we had not eaten.

He and his wife appeared about five minutes later, to our barn layout, holding a carton of milk and a box of cereal.

I mustered the courage to ask for bowls and spoons so we could partake of the cereal. They agreed, even though they were a bit disappointed that they had left something out and we exposed them.

They both ran back to the house and only she returned five minutes later with some old bowls and some spoons. We expressed our appreciation.

We were so thankful for the cereal and milk.

We poured out huge bowls—all the way to the top—and figured out how much milk was in the carton, dividing it evenly among the three bowls waiting to be baptized. We also ended up using exactly the amount of cereal left in the box.

It didn’t matter. We were gonna eat.

That is…

Until one of my friends put her spoon in and…spit out the first bite.

Because, she said, the milk was curdled.

(Actually, she used the word “sour.” But since my word today is “curdled,” I’ll go for the original.)

My other friend and I took bites—and she was absolutely right. The milk had long ago lost its vintage.

Sitting in the mostly dark barn with the smell of hay everywhere, with grumbling tummies, we were presented with an interesting dilemma.

Since we had already doused the cereal, there was no way to eat it without the milk. And since the milk was already in the bowls, there was no way to remove it without having tainted flavor on the cereal.

We sat for at least five minutes, just staring at each other, hoping to draw wisdom from our neighbor.

Finally, one of my friends piped up. “I hear that in Denmark they eat their cold cereal with buttermilk.”

We frowned at her. She continued.

“Well, if you think about it, buttermilk is really just spoiled milk that’s been promoted.”

Finishing, she took a big bite of cereal, stating, “Really. The Lucky Charms are so sweet that you can barely taste the curdled milk.”

There were so many things wrong with that statement. But we weren’t going to throw it away, which meant we were certainly going to eat our cereal that night with a Danish flair.

 

funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

Cove

Cove: (n) a small indentation or recess in the shoreline of a sea, lake, or river

 Clever will only take you so far.

This is true in any occupation, but certainly must be observed faithfully by the writer.

For you see, I am going to tell a story today about when I was sixteen. The temptation is to preface this story with an introductory sentence funny wisdom on words that begin with a C
which sounds cool, or what they might refer to as “off-the-top-of-the-head-ish.”

For instance:

  • when I young
  • back when pimples were my major problem
  • long before anybody called me Dad
  • in an era when I languished in my teens

You see what I mean?

Although at times these little scribbled affrontations are passable, they can get old very quickly, even if you’re talking about being young.

So suffice it to say, at one time in my life I decided to start a coffeehouse for the fellow-students at my high school. This was back when such an idea seemed expansive and other-worldly rather than old-timey and really out of it.

I found a small house—so tiny it was difficult to believe anybody had ever lived in it. But you could stuff about thirty-five people in, on the ground floor, if everybody agreed to inhale and exhale in unison.

It was perfect.

I covered the windows so no external lighting could come in, installed black lights and put colored bulbs around to give it a spooky effect.

We could not decide what to call the place, but one night, as we pulled up, we noticed it looked like an old fisherman’s cabin. So someone suggested we call it, “The Cove.” Actually, the suggestion was “The Fisherman’s Cove,” but as the weeks went by, the adjective was dropped, and it became known as “The Cove.”

All the students at the school jockeyed for the right to be one of the holy thirty-five to come to The Cove on a Saturday night, to sit around and eat bologna sandwiches and listen to the rock music our parents were sure would lead us to hell.

As it turned out, the rock and roll music did not take us to hell, but unfortunately, the bologna sandwiches gave us cholesterol problems.

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Chilblain

Chilblain: (n) a painful, itching swelling on the skin, typically on a hand or foot, caused by poor circulation in the skin when exposed to cold.

A series of the number 24:

I was 24 years old.

It was 24 miles.

It was 24 degrees.

And I had been up for 24 hours.

I was desperately trying to start a music group that possessed enough solvency that the aggravated adults around me would stop bitching about my lack of a job.

I was failing.

Every time I got twelve dollars at a coffeehouse gig, I had fifteen dollars of bills.

I also had begun a family–mainly because my wife and I had not yet figured out the intricacies of birth control. Delaying this education led to two very quick
pregnancies.

I had not been home for five days, and even though there was a blizzard going on, I decided to take my old beat-up 1958 Chevy, with bald tires, and drive the 24 miles from Westerville, Ohio, to Centerburg, my home.

As I drove north, the weather got worse and I couldn’t see the road, which had disappeared under a blanket of white-carpeting ice.

Suddenly I felt a pain in my chest, then in my head, an itching in my leg (could have been a chilblain, right?) and the deep abiding notion that I was in trouble. Yes, I was only 24 years old, but thought I was having a heart attack, a stroke and a physical collapse, all at the same moment.

There was no place to stop, no houses to drive up to, seeking help–just more road and more and more snow bullets bouncing off my windshield.

I was scared.

I didn’t want to die.

I felt I was conjuring many of the symptoms due to my fatigue, loneliness and apprehension. Still, that didn’t make them go away.

As if on cue, the heater in my car, which had been offering some comfort, stopped working. Now all it was doing was blowing cold air on my frigid body.

Was I going to succumb on the 3-C Highway somewhere between Westerville and Centerburg, to be discovered tomorrow by a snow plow driver?

At that point, I did something I have done thousands of time since. I talked to myself.

“Buck up. If you’re gonna die, make it overtake you. Don’t give into it. Keep your eyes on the road. Be grateful that nobody else is traveling, so you can swerve around a little bit. And get yourself home.”

When I finished my little speech–my soliloquy, if you will–I immediately felt better.

I had calmed the storm in my own soul.

I had rested my own anxieties by admitting I was scared shitless.

A half hour later I pulled up in front of our old apartment, cautiously inched my way up the stairs, took off my clothes and climbed into bed with my wife, who had not seem me for some time.

I was so grateful.

Even my chilblain was gone.

I was humbled.

I never want to forget that sensation.

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Button

j-r-practix-with-border-2

Button: (n) a small disk sewn onto a garment for closure

When I was younger, I asked my wife to sew me a pair of pants.

I did so because the slacks that were able to cover my blubbery frame were ugly and made me look like I was always on my way to a construction site.

So she bought the cloth and laid out the pattern so I could have a pair of bell-bottom trousers. She was ready to put a zipper in when I stopped her.

I said, “No. I want buttons on the front.”

She gave me a little frown, but then she smiled, apparently catching a vision for my cavalier choice.

I put on the pants. They were kind of tight. But I was able to button them up and I headed off to a local coffeehouse where I planned on doing some singing.

Before I went over to the piano, I decided to perch on a stool to chat with the audience. When I did so, two of the buttons on my pants popped off with such ferocity that they flew into the audience, striking a couple of unsuspecting maidens, causing them to shriek.

I’ve always been proud of the fact that I possess a good comeback for almost every situation.

But on this occasion, I did not know what to communicate about my flying buttons.

 

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Bongo

Bongo: (n) a pair of drums held between the knees

One of the more annoying aspects of pursuing a Christian philosophy of life is the need to at least attempt to treat every person kindly. Even though it works out Dictionary Bin the end, the journey to get to the destination is often arduous, if not exhausting.

Randy was a tag-along.

When I was in high school, our church youth group decided to start a coffeehouse, and Randy volunteered his services to assure his place in the historical moment.

Here was the problem: Randy had no vices–just faults.

A fault is a difficulty someone possesses which you really can’t harp on too much because it doesn’t do any harm–it’s just mind-numbingly frustrating.

  • Randy talked too much
  • Randy had really bad ideas
  • Randy’s breath smelled like he had been licking the bottom of a birdcage.
  • And as it turns out, Randy played bongos.

This came out when we were discussing musical possibilities for our newfound venture.

We had located our guitarist, a piano player and some singers, and were ready to close our discussion when Randy suggested that what we lacked was a “bongoist.”

Quite certain there was no such word as “bongoist,” I explained that not every song needed rhythm. He agreed–and promised to only play the bongo when it was warranted.

On opening night Randy sat with the bongo between his knees, and determined in the moment’s anointing, to play on every song, including a very confusing interpretation of Kum ba yah.

He was oblivious to his intrusiveness and lack of timing.

Everybody expected me to tell Randy to “de-bongo.” I couldn’t. He was so enthusiastic. Matter of fact, after our first meeting, he explained, with tears in his eyes, that he thought he had found his calling.

I’m happy to report: fortunately he became an accountant.

 

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Bisexual

Bisexual: (n) possessing attributes of both male and female within oneself

Sitting in a coffeehouse when I was only sixteen years old, a long-haired young college student with a cerebral profile and an air of Dictionary Bself-importance asked me, “Are you bisexual?”

Innocently, from my Midwestern naiveté, I replied, “No. I would never pay for a woman.”

Surviving that gentleman’s laughter and growing up in a society where such terms became more prevalently spoken, I now know that “bisexual” refers to a willingness, openness, or even yearning to have sexual relationships with people of both genders.

The opinion on this possibility has changed, even in the gay community.

In the past, those who had a predilection toward sharing romantic interests with the same sex were often annoyed with the concept of bisexuality. And I suppose the case could be made that if you are born heterosexual, or born homosexual, where is the evidence that you could be born bisexual?

But setting aside the nonsense of conflict, let us go back to the purity of the definition: “possessing attributes of both male and female within oneself.”

I personally think that’s a positive.

Even men who insist their masculinity is incapable of being penetrated by any feminine aspect whatsoever will eventually sprout some sort of fear of an “icky-poo” or a threatening spider.

And women, who would appear to be the fairy dust of heaven and the dew on the morning rose, will fart at will, and pull off the most amazing physical feats.

Maybe in the sense of human sexuality there is a great depth of mutuality which we’re all just afraid to consider–because it might make us appear to be too weak or too strong.

I don’t know.

But I will advance the theory that when either men or women are sexually aroused, what has aroused them is not nearly as important as culminating the action.

So what can we learn?

If by bisexual you are referring only to physically desiring carnal pleasure with other people of either gender–well, I will leave that to your imagination.

But if by bisexual you might be inkling to the notion that men and women have more in common than difference, then I would say you have just made a sharp right turn … back to Eden.

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