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

Custard Pie

Custard pie: (n) a pie made with custard

Some time ago, back when the only thing open in the middle of the night on a freeway was a truck stop, I was traveling—so sleepy that I decided I should stop at one of these establishments with my friends and get something to eat.

We were in the middle of Dixie.

Apparently had not received the notification that the Civil War had ended—because when we walked in with our long hair—a bit grimy and road-weary—the whole place fell silent.

Just in case you do not understand my meaning, this profile was not selected out of respect, but rather, to communicate shock at seeing “a bunch of hippies,” as they would have called us, stroll into the restaurant.

When I have encountered this kind of prejudice, I’ve always found that the best choice is to stay positive, don’t frown back at them, and keep your conversation within your group. Pretty soon, everybody is eager to get back to their own grits and corn beef hash.

This night was no different.

Except all I really wanted to have was just a piece of pie.

When I think of pie, I have visions of blueberry, cherry, maybe apple—but none of these were available because it was the middle of the night at a truck stop, when most people have turned off all their pie-eating instincts.

The waitress explained that all they had left was “custard pie,” which she said remained because “nobody ever orders it.”

I did. I wanted a piece of pie.

It came, and it was a rather feckless confection—a creamy, white color with just a bit of cinnamon dancing on the top.

I ate it and I loved it.

I treasured it so much that for the next several weeks, I ordered custard pie everywhere I went.

I bought one at a store. It was delicious. Some of these pies were not as good as others, but such is the travail of life. But overall, they had that gentle custard taste, with a hint of vanilla and great sweetness.

I was so enamored with custard pie, I decided to study up on how to make one for myself. I got all the ingredients, put them together, did everything according to the recipe, and ended up with a pie pan that never became solid. It still tasted all right, but it was runny.

I was so disappointed.

I never made nor did I really ever eat custard pie again.

Perhaps that’s a formula for life I should consider.

If I have a vice or if I know of a vice, if I try to do it myself and end up doing it poorly, maybe it will cure me of desiring the vice.

 

funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

Curtsy

Curtsy: (n) a respectful bow made by women and girls

I cannot officially report that the stigma ever went away.

I think it passed after a couple of years—but Glenn certainly carried the sniff of it all through his general education days in our small town.

It all happened quite innocently.

For some reason, our high school decided to have a square dance for homecoming.

One of the teachers, our Spanish instructor, was quite the proponent of square dancing, and apparently made a case to the other teachers—how “cute it would be” for a bunch of high school students to participate in the old form of hoofing.

I remember that learning the square dancing was particularly mind-numbing, partly because it was so abstract to my adolescent mind, and also because I thought it looked like some of the stupidest shit I’d ever seen.

But the worst part was when we took one whole day—yes, an entire school period—to learn how to bow and curtsy.

Because somewhere in the process of doing this ridiculous dance (that should have been killed off with the rest of Dixie) there is a lot of this bowing and curtsying nonsense.

So each one of us had to come forward and show off our best bow, if you were a boy, or best curtsy, if you were a girl.

At first, the reluctance in the room hung like moss from trees.

But when the threat of extending the lesson into yet another day was put forth, we all realized we needed to get through this quickly and efficiently, so we became filled with (fake) enthusiasm, which nearly brought our Spanish teacher/square dance aficionado to tears.

Because we were trying to be exuberant, and even a little madcap, when Glenn took his turn–because the girl in front of him had just curtsied–his brain apparently froze and he did a curtsy also.

The room grew still.

Our teacher/instructor was so offended that Glenn was “mocking” her that he ended up being sent to the principal’s office.

But that wasn’t the worst of it.

Being teenage boys, we made the assumption that unbeknownst to Glenn, his body was screaming from some homosexual prison to be free.

And in doing the curtsy, he was manifesting his real desire, which was to be a fag. (This was long before “gay.”)

Even as I write this, I realize how ridiculous it sounds. But so did everything else I thought when I was fifteen.

Glenn later went out for the football team–probably to prove he was a man.

I think he expressed disdain for girls (like the rest of the macho locker-room gang) just so nobody would think he was “overly sensitive.”

Glenn had to be careful when we showered after gym class—not to cast his eyes in the direction of any fellow. So normally he sat on the bench, quietly dressing and staring into his locker.

This is why I can tell you of a certainty, through this tragic story of Glenn, that the curtsy is mighty dangerous.

 

funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

Crouch

Crouch: (v) to stoop or bend low.

I’m going to do what I don’t normally do—but when I do it, I feel free to do it at will.

I’m going to abandon this definition and tell you a story about a man named Andre Crouch.

It’s spelled the same.

Many, many years ago, when the United States was recovering from a war and an egotistical President who was a tyrant, and crooked (pause)…

Hmm.

Anyway, it was a while back.

There was a young, black soul and Gospel singer named Andre Crouch who came on the scene for a season and did his part to open up the United States to racial harmony and integration—taking the land of Dixie and the world of Southern music, and twirling it on its head.

For these old church singers did not want to accept a black man into the inner circle (which could not be broken) but also could not deny that this gentleman was one helluva songwriter, and an even greater performer.

Arguably, it could be stated that he was the father, or at least uncle, of contemporary Christian music.

He was my friend.

I had a puny little group from Central Ohio. We were desperately seeking some attention from the marketplace when I met Andre Crouch. He did something he should never have done. He took us in—pale though we were—and allowed us to be the warmup group for his large concerts.

Even though he was gradually integrating, most of his audience was of a darker skin color. Why he thought he could get away with having a white warmup group when there were probably hundreds of black brothers and sisters in the audience who sang a “choir’s-full” better than us, is a mystery.

But it’s what Andre wanted to do—his way of integrating his race—by using us.

He was an unpredictable, never-on-time, kind, flakey and humorously fussy individual.

He helped me.

I got to see firsthand how an audience is to be gently handled—loved to life.

I got to climb onto his tour bus and drive around with him, seeking good barbecue in Toledo, Ohio. (We failed).

And I was shocked one Saturday morning when he arrived at a tiny gig I had—a breakfast for about forty people. Andre decided to drive up some 150 miles from Detroit, where he’d been in concert the night before, and surprise us.

Needless to say, that itsy-bitsy audience came alive once Mr. Crouch entered the room, and soon forgot I was even there once he walked over to my Wurlitzer electric piano and banged out some tunes.

Andre died several years ago.

But as is the case with all of us, he lives on because one of the people he loved and helped is here to tell a good story.

funny wisdom on words that begin with a C


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Corduroy

Corduroy: (adj) a cotton-filling pile fabric with lengthwise cords or ridges.

As a young man–being a chubby threatening to be a tubby–I was always looking for an advantage that would open the door to girls whom my basic features had failed fail to attract.funny wisdom on words that begin with a C
I
noticed that women liked to touch soft things, so at a thrift store I found a really plush, thick turtleneck sweater. Girls loved to run their hands up and down it. My thesis was, once they got accustomed to feeling my sweater, touching me might not seem so repugnant.

I found the same thing to be true with corduroy pants—what they referred to as the wide-wale ones. The ladies loved to reach over and stoke my leg, feeling the material.

I had no objection.

I was young—a simple touch on the knee was like an express train with the destination “Ecstasy.”

Here was the problem, though, with my corduroy pants: I had plump thighs, so when I walked my legs rubbed together and wore out the corduroy on the inside. In no time at all, I had the top of my legs covered with corduroy and the inside of my thighs looking like the cheapest cotton ever picked in Dixie.

Pretty soon it became noticeable that my pants were two different textures. Even more obvious was what caused the loss of the corduroy.

So what began as a grand plan to make connection with dear women ended up only pointing out to them that my portly limbs had totally destroyed my corduroy appeal.


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Commandment

Commandment: (n) a divine rule, especially one of the Ten Commandments

Sometimes it baffles me.

If God is our Creator, and He knows that we have a strong streak of asshole right in the middle of our attitude, why would He think presenting us with Ten Commandments was a cherry idea?

I’m not saying He should have made it “suggestions” or “insights,” but if you tell anybody that sprouts human skin that there’s something they must do to acquire approval, they will not only do the opposite, but will also insist that you applaud them for doing it.

So I’ve never been clear on what a Commandment does.

For instance, I never understood why a bunch of old people in Dixie want to put the Ten Commandments out on the front lawns of courthouses all over the county. What do they expect? Do they think children are going to walk up, read them and say, “My God, if I knew what ‘bear false witness’ meant, I might consider it…”

And also–those Commandments have not done a lot to prevent screwing, stealing and murder.

What is the correct approach?

After all, we have another old saying, which concludes that merely leading a horse to water does not guarantee that it will drink, let alone bathe.

So how do we impact ourselves, other people and the world around us with great ideas?

Everyone knows the answer to this:

Just do them yourself until you start a fad and sell t-shirts.

 

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Centrist

Centrist: (n) a person who holds moderate political views.

I see your point.

I see his point.

I see her point.

Ain’t I neat?

Not necessarily. A certain amount of diplomacy is demanded to make for good politics. But often, life requires a definitive choice. Otherwise, heinous results will
be endured.

Henry Clay is the most famous centrist of all time. Matter of fact, he was given the name, “The Great Compromiser.”

All during his time of being the senator from Kentucky, he fought to keep the Union together by being a centrist on the issue of slavery. He proudly took the Quakers and abolitionists on one side, and the plantation and slave owners from Dixie on the other side, and sat them down to come up with a way to continue slavery while also guaranteeing that certain states in the Union would be slave free.

In doing so, he ended up stealing the freedom of more black men, women and children than any other person in the United States.

A Civil War that should have been fought twenty years earlier was further enraged by years and years of unrelenting and unfulfilling compromise.

Sometimes there is no centrist position.

There is no arena for the propagation of the idea that “all men are kind of created equal.”

There’s no room for “freedom of most speech.”

And there is no possibility that rights are only given to those who presently have enough lawyers to wrangle them.

Henry Clay was a centrist. Because he kept us from dealing with a national tragedy, he will always be known as the person who managed to delay the inevitable Civil War that killed hundreds of thousands.

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Center

Center: (v) to place in the middle

It’s an old joke, but since there are so many young folks around, I will venture to share it, with the aspiration that it might fall on fresh ears.

The story is that a gentleman from Kentucky found himself in a quandary when the Civil War broke out. He did not want to choose sides. He
discovered that the Union Army was clad in blue and those from Dixie had selected gray. Thinking himself a genius and desiring to place himself in the center, free of conflict, he put on blue pants for the Union, and a gray jacket as a tribute to the South.

When the two armies converged at his doorstep to determine his allegiance, the Union Army shot him in the shoulder and the Confederates shot him in the leg.

There is a belief that a center–a compromise or moderation–can be found in everything. It is an interesting theory which over the years has proven to be flawed.

There are some issues that cannot be mollified. They’re just too important.

  • There can be no “Great Compromise” when it comes to slavery.
  • There cannot be a “don’t ask, don’t tell” in the military for the gay servicemen and women.

Sometimes we have to come down on one side or another.

Because sometimes a center is not a solution, but rather, an attempt to avoid one.

 

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