Crutch

Crutch: (n) a staff to assist a lame person in walking

Granted sexual energy, stamina and maybe the best physical appearance one ever sports…

The age of sixteen might seem to be the highlight of one’s life.

That is, if it were not accompanied by such stupidity.

I liked Kevin. I think Kevin liked me. We had been friends since elementary school.

But when he was sixteen years old, he broke his leg.

He was out with a bunch of friends, sledding on a snowy day, and failed to notice that his sleigh was going particularly fast and he was unable to stop from crashing into a wall.

It was a clean break.

Matter of fact, he went right to the doctor and had a cast put on (back in the day when such contraptions were humongous, resembling modern art).

Kevin was not part of the very popular crowd–but on any Friday night when a party was being planned, he was also not on the “don’t invite at any cost” list.

Then something strange happened.

His accident occurred on a Saturday, so he showed up at school on Monday, his leg in a cast, on crutches.

At first there was an outpouring of sympathy.

But then, a strange anthropology sprouted in our herd. All the other sixteen-year-old kids began acting aloof to Kevin. Maybe it was because he was always trailing us, hopping along on his crutches. (Or because we grew up in a small, provincial community and the kids thought the broken leg might be contagious.)

Whatever the cause, by the time Kevin completed his seven-week rehabilitation and returned to us wearing two shoes, he had become an outcast.

He tried desperately to return to his normal acceptable position, but invitations to parties went away.

I tried to befriend him–but suffering in the throes of adolescent insanity myself, I also retreated.

It didn’t get better when he was seventeen and it didn’t get better when he was eighteen.

That seven-week period when our comrade had a broken leg, giving us a visual of himself on crutches, sealed his image for the balance of high school.

It was so bizarre.

Kevin tried everything possible to re-establish himself. He tried out for the football team, chorus and the school play. It didn’t make any difference.

Yet I thought it was a phenomenon of being a shortsighted teenager until I grew up and realized that expressing weakness or needing a crutch of any type in the presence of your fellow-humans traps you in a box that is very difficult to escape.

So what is the best advice?

Stay away from a crutch.

Which probably means you should stop breaking your legs.

 

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Crouching

Crouching: (v) stooping or bending low.

After all my years of human travel, experiences, lifestyle changes, enlightenments and detriments, I still can find reasons—new ones every day—to hate baseball.

You would think I would run out of possibilities and begin to repeat myself, but even now, as I looked at the word, “crouching,” a new manifestation of my disdain for “America’s pastime” has surfaced.

I must be candid with you.

The reason I hate baseball is because I never took the time to learn to like it. When I was young, kids divided into categories:

Kids who like to fish and kids who hated the smell of fish

There were kids who liked girls and kids who held tightly to the conspiracy theory about the “cootie” thing.

There were kids who liked baseball and kids who liked football. I was part of the latter group.

But every once in a while, I would find myself caught on a hot summer afternoon, when everyone thought it was stupid to play football, squeezed into a corner with a bat and glove, to play with my fellow-warriors.

Matter of fact, I even tried out for Little League because my friends thought I would be great, I was kind of funny and would be a thousand laughs in the dugout.

So when I arrived at the ball diamond and the coach met me, I didn’t even get a word out of my mouth before he ran over, patted me on the shoulders, looked into my face and said:

“You’re chubby. You’ll make a great catcher.”

I didn’t like being called chubby. Chubby was not a manly term. And God and John Wayne both knew—I was manly.

But I was willing to listen.

He presented me with some sort of padded vest which didn’t fit—well, because I was chubby. So he taped it onto me, gave me the catcher’s mask, the big catcher’s mitt, and led me behind home plate. I stood there as he waited for me to assume the correct position.

At length he said, “No, no. You’ve got to crouch.”

Did I mention earlier that I was chubby? When you have a few extra pounds, crouching is not a given.

But again, I was willing to try.

What I didn’t realize was that this crouching thing was not a one-time event. As a catcher, you not only need to crouch, but you need to stay that way through the entire half-inning and be able to get up on your feet quickly from that descended position so you can make plays.

Without going into a lot of painful detail, I didn’t have any of the aforementioned qualifications.

My knees kept hurting.

I got a cramp in my thigh.

I was always falling over onto my side.

And every time I tried to stand up from the crouch, I felt like Atlas with the world on his shoulders.

I lasted through two innings before the coach took me into the outfield, handed me a glove, said, “It’s quieter back here”—and relieved me of my misery.

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Croquet

Croquet: (n) a game played by knocking wooden balls through metal wickets with mallets.

I was totally astounded that somehow or another, with the passing of years and obvious wrangling of internal forgetfulness, I had wiped the word “croquet” from my mind as a therapeutic solution.

Because when I suddenly heard it, some horrible memories flooded my mind.

Yes, when I was a boy—a young boy—my parents decided to buy me a croquet set to play in our back yard.

I am not dedicated enough to the writing of this essay to gamble my fragile psyche by going into too much detail about the game.

Let me put it this way:

Croquet was obviously conceived by someone who only had two or three distinct abilities, and wanted to showcase them in a single gaming effort, knowing that others might certainly not have any of the predispositions to survive the damn game at all.

A wooden mallet hitting wooden balls, which must travel on grass and go through little wire tunnels called wickets that are suspended in the soil, and in doing so, step by step reaching the holy peg you must hit with your ball to make you the winner.

With football you get a touchdown.

Baseball, a home run or at least a hit.

Basketball? Swish. Two points.

Croquet? A wooden ball that barely rolls over grass through a wire container several times over to end up supposedly victoriously banging against a wood rod.

Not only is there no payoff, but the amount of frustration that goes into the process is downright demeaning.

I played with it two times—once because my parents stood over me on my birthday and made me, and the second time was when a younger cousin came to visit who thought he was so smart, and I thought surely I could defeat him at this ridiculous endeavor.

I was so pitiful at it that he beat me.

I will now try to retreat back into my sanctuary of disremembering, hoping that the word “croquet” never comes up again, and I won’t have to relive the horror of wooden mallets, wooden balls, metal frameworks and a winning peg.

I just want you all to appreciate that I went through this today just for you.

You are loved.

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County

County: (n) a part of a state

Sometimes I’m baffled, and even amused, by the things I remember.

For some reason my brain favors certain topics or bits and pieces of trifle that float by, to retain, as if memorizing a secret code during wartime.

For instance, the other day, I realized I could sing my entire high school Alma Mater. So you will know that I’m not some sort of sentimental weirdo, I had funny wisdom on words that begin with a Cnot thought about that song since I was sitting in the bleachers after the last football game we lost.

But there it was—word-for-word, tone-for-tone, syllable-for-syllable, and would you believe?—concluding with a burst of emotion.

It was bizarre.

I also can remember my telephone number from when I was a young boy (but have to look on my cell phone to recite my present one.)

My social security number is embroiled in my brain as if terrified to leave, under fear of governmental punishment.

And for some reason unknown to me, I remember that I grew up in Delaware County.

I don’t know why I remember that.

Maybe it’s because the county seat of Delaware County was a town called Delaware. (Now, isn’t that so original?)

And I probably only traveled to Delaware a half-a-dozen times in my youthful life, but I can tell you the names of the two high schools that served the community.

It is so wacky.

I now need a woman with a British accent to give me directions on where to go, while simultaneously my brain protects the trivial that has no pursuit.


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Concession

Concession: (n) something that is granted

A few obvious but still needfully shared concessions:

  1. I am not nearly as smart as I think, nor even as you project.
  2. I am not a stud. I don’t know a stud. What is a stud?
  3. Diets don’t work, but when I eat less I weigh less.
  4. Talent is overrated, leaving creativity orphaned.
  5. I am not the best at anything but in a pinch can pass.
  6. There is no difference between a Republican and a Democrat when they are both blind to real human need.
  7. Church does not make people better. Just pious.
  8. As long as men are trying to be superior, women will never be able to pull themselves up to equality.
  9. Even though I like to watch it, football is a dangerous sport.
  10. I can’t taste the beer in my bratwurst.funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

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

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Clef

Clef: (n) a sign placed at the beginning of a musical staff to determine the pitch of the notes.

Back in the day when Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue, if a young man wanted to be a seafaring fellow, he had to sign up on one of the boats and stay on it throughout its journey, so at the end of the process, if he survived all the perils and diseases, he could be
considered a grizzled, rugged seaman.

Although the analogy may be a poor fit, such a journey was mine with music.

I signed up to travel the sea of notes and time signatures, but after three years of practicing my piano, I decided it was “girly-girl” and I quit in favor of a football helmet and a mouthpiece.

Yet I never lost interest in the instrument. I especially found it conducive to wooing young ladies, who were more impressed with someone who was tuneful than someone who could tackle.

Here was my problem: since I didn’t complete the journey on the “Good Ship Music” and learn all the information and comprehend the significance of each and every clef, I sometimes found myself temporarily appearing inadequate. I learned to exaggerate and lie.

So when my musical companion showed up twenty-two years ago, to join me in the construction of original compositions, I was quickly exposed by this lady with a Master’s in Music, to be less-than-adept at both terminology and technology.

I had to come clean.

I had to explain to her that I could read the notes, but when my right hand and right eye tried to join with my left hand and left eye to play both bass and treble clefs, I suddenly developed a severe case of “fumbleitis.”

Because I was honest, she was very merciful. She let me pace myself at a realistic rate based upon my true ability.

And like the young man who got on the ship to sail the Seven Seas, who decided to stay on at the first port because he favored the local rum over the ocean run, I, too, have to admit my lack of tenacity.

But because I hung around, listened, observed and learned–and was blessed to be in the presence of a really patient partner–it now appears that I have a good understanding of the working end of a clef.

 

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Clean

Clean: (adj) uncontaminated and pure; innocent.

I didn’t take my first shower until I was in junior high school.

Our house had a bathtub. I remember, as a boy, sitting in that tub until my skin started to prune up. This told me two things: first, I had been in the water too long. But secondly, there was a chance I was clean.

But the first time I stepped into that shower after junior high school football practice, I realized I had never gotten the back of my neck clean sitting in that tub.

Matter of fact, a friend standing nearby, who should have been minding his own business, saw that there were little streams of dirt flowing down my backside.

He thought this was hilarious.

Being one who liked to share his joy, he pointed it out to all the nearby fellows showering. I was embarrassed.

I tried to explain that I was a bather, not a “shower-er,” but that sounded even worse.

I scrubbed the back of my neck the very best I could, went out, changed clothes and left as quickly as possible.

I grew up a lot that one afternoon, because I realized that just because we think we’re clean doesn’t mean that every place on us–or in us–has been cleansed.

Sometimes it takes a shower hitting us at just the right place to expose hidden dirt.

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Choir

Choir: (n) an organized group of singers

I found that being in a choir squashed my desire to be heard. Yes, you have to be willing to blend.

Matter of fact, they talk about “the blend”–that particular sound that a group of singers makes which is supposedly unique unto them.

It is fairly restrictive. Even the names are:

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir: “To sing, I have to be Mormon, get directions to the tabernacle, and then hide my voice among other song birds. I am en-caged.”

I felt this in high school.

When I quit the football team because I discovered they made fat boys run, I realized that my second-greatest interest other than tackling running backs was singing. It seemed logical to join the choir, since that was the avenue afforded to me on the thoroughfare of musical expression.

I hated choir. Nobody could hear me sing. They commented on “the blend,” or applauded the musical director, or noted how the robes looked so good.

It drove me nuts.

So in rehearsal one day, in a fit of rebellion and pending insanity, I just started singing another song from my standing position in the choir, while the rest of the parakeets tweeted out the prepared number.

My voice was strong, but certainly not powerful enough to overcome the mass musical. But it was annoying enough that the director kept tilting her head, leaning in with squinting eyes, trying to determine what was disrupting her “blend.” I just kept singing a different song–a little quieter, but with enough volume to create frustration on the face of the conductor.

After a few moments, she took her baton and tapped it violently against the music stand, stopping the proceedings.

“Is everybody singing the same song?” she bellowed to the gathered.

Those standing closest to me, who heard my little interpretation, turned in unison and gazed in my direction.

I was caught. The director peered at me intensely and said, “Were you singing a different song?”

I paused–not so much to make it seem like I was making up a story, but just to express my alarm. Then I replied, “I thought we were doing Number Eight in the program.”

I don’t think she believed me, but she played along.

“No,” she said. “It’s Number Seven. I’m sorry if I did not make that clear.”

“You’re forgiven,” I replied in my snootiest voice.

She nearly lost all sensibility. Glaring at me, she said tersely, “Thank you.”

We resumed singing, and I couldn’t help myself. Once we had gotten a chorus of the song in, I reverted back to my former tune, which was completely alternative to “the blend.”

This time she stopped and used her baton to point toward the door as she screamed, “Get outta here!”

There were giggles and whispers as I made my way out, escaping the class. Fortunately for me, she was not specific about where I should get–so since I was told to be punished, I just went early to have a leisurely lunch.

 

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Celerity

Celerity: (n) swiftness of movement.

I will risk being considered ignorant or out of touch by telling you that I had absolutely no idea what this word meant when it popped up on my screen. But fortunately for me, the definition was very straight-forward: swift movement.

I admire those who are fleet of foot, due mostly to the ever-lightness of their being. I’ve always been a heavy-set chap (which is what I will
write in this article to escape calling myself “fat,” making you think I have diminished self-esteem).

During my brief stint of playing football, the coach ordered us to do windsprints. For me, it was more “wind” than “sprint.” I was always gasping for air as my lighter brothers glided by me as if propelled by the wings of Mercury.

The advantage of being swift is being able to get a lot of things done, as they say, lickety-split.

So since I do not have celerity, it falls my duty to take my brain and teach it to be “celeritous.” (Perhaps not a word, but willing to adapt.)

I developed a swift mind.

I learned how to abandon bad ideas quickly so they wouldn’t clutter my path.

I tried to rid myself of forlorn, discouraged and upset feelings, which only slow down progress.

I developed a sense of good cheer–which is an understanding that expecting help is the doorway to making sure that nothing gets done.

I found out what I could do, how to do it, and to make it fun–and then did it with celerity.

I have never run fast in my life. I have never won a swimming race in a pool (except against my little three-year-old son, who was wearing water wings).

And now, as I am aging and my legs are seeking a condo for retirement, I realize that metering my movements with a great sense of timing and knowing when to rest, can fool the masses into thinking that I’m really, really swift.

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Busk

j-r-practix-with-border-2

Busk: (v) to play music or perform for voluntary donations in the street or in subways.

What is sacred?

Or for that matter, is there anything sacred?

Is Earth so earthy that everything is earthen?

Is there anything of heavenly quality on a miniscule planet orbiting in the midst of an immense Universe?

We certainly think there are sacred things–and it’s not limited to those who have a religious swing to their club.

No, everyone, in their own way, will make it clear to you what they perceive to be so important that it must never, ever be ignored, criticized or portrayed in an unseemly way.

The Muslims insist Mohammed is sacred. No pictures. No criticisms. No embellishment in any way, shape or form.

Some Christians are still that way about Jesus, but the Nazarene has certainly been allowed to tiptoe through darker halls of speculation.

Some people think money is sacred. Just ask them for some. They will explain in vivid detail how separation from finance is the true definition of being cast into outer darkness.They will walk by a musician busking on the thoroughfare and deem the musical effort to be glorified begging instead of allowing some humanity to dribble from them as they realize that this individual who loves music is merely trying to find a way to subsist while doing it.

The list goes on and on.

Motherhood.

Some people consider their sexuality to be sacred.

On Sundays in the autumn months, football is a sacred rite of passage in the United States. If you don’t believe so, factor this in–it comes complete with wings and fantasy leagues.

When I sat down to write this essay, I asked myself, what do I think is sacred?

I know the answer. But I’m afraid to speak it out loud for fear that people will accuse me of “busking” a foolish idea. Or worse, that I will be expected to revere my own assertion.

Yet I believe the only thing that’s sacred is the way I treat the next person I meet.

 

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