Clap

Clap: (v) to applaud

I have spent much of my human journey with two little toes in heaven and the rest of my footage on Earth.

Those two little toes did not go to market. They went to church.

It’s where I sang my first song.

It’s where I met my first girlfriend.

And it’s still one of my favorite spots for spontaneous dozing.

One of the things I discovered about the experience of “church attendance ” is that there is a wide range of opinions on many subjects.

Clapping would be one.

Some churches believe it’s sacrilegious to express appreciation, worship or excitement by striking palms. They find it Biblically and spiritually unsound.

Other churches clap so much that you can’t hear anything else going on. They clap for everything. It’s kind of a “clapping without ceasing.”

As a person who shares his talent in a church, I have to admit to myself that I am also a performer and an artist. (Although I think the word “artist” is overused–even by me.)

As a performer, I do have an ego. Ego is not a bad thing–it’s that little “Nancy-cheerleader” who keeps us from jumping off a cliff just because we had a bad day. (“It might get better tomorrow. Yea, team!”)

When you perform a song, come to the end, and receive silence, it is not golden.

It’s rather moldy.

Ashen.

Empty.

I’m told I’m supposed to sing to the glory of God. But it was God who said, “Clap your hands, all ye people.”

If you’re afraid I’ll get the big-head if you applaud my efforts, then you should pray for me. Don’t snub me.

Until we understand that the Universe pushes energy one direction and there is supposed to be a push coming back from the other way, or else something is afoul, we may just continue to believe that God is so insecure that He is frustrated with anyone else receiving adequate appreciation for his efforts.

Since I wouldn’t even have lunch with someone who’s cantankerous, I choose to believe that when I perform, God applauds, the angels screech…and the congregation should follow suit.

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Cellar

Cellar: (n) a room below ground level in a house

I could probably write a large volume of underground stories about cellars. Many things come to my mind.

One particular fascinating and disgusting example happened the Thanksgiving of my senior year in high school.

I had a girlfriend. That in itself was momentous. We had begun our highschool affair and had progressed beyond light petting to flirting with
some heavy petting, moving quickly towards petting at will.

So I picked her up on Thanksgiving evening and brought her over to my home. We stood around for a few minutes, talking with parents, though my mind was on bringing her down to the cellar, where we could make out on a couch normally reserved for the dog. (I wasn’t terribly concerned about comfort nor fragrance–really just availability.)

We had agreed not to have sex in the same fashion that teenagers promise their parents that they won’t ride the roller coaster at Disney World.

Trying to stay loyal to our promise of no intercourse, for which we would have no recourse, we just kind of laid there on the couch, rubbing up against each other ferociously. (I realize that such movement has a street name, but it sounds so coarse and really doesn’t capture the full energy and excitement of the event.)

Suddenly, in the midst of a back–or perhaps it was a forth–she pushed me away, leaped to her feet, jumped on her hands and knees and threw up all over the cellar floor.

I was surprised.

Apparently, the gyrations had disagreed with the turkey and dressing or angered some cranberry sauce.

But I learned something about myself. First, I would never be able to keep my promise to not have sex. But secondly, I found out that I cared very deeply for this young friend, because I got down on my hands and knees and cleaned up her throw-up.

I didn’t enjoy it. It felt sacrificial. But I did it.

She was embarrassed, impressed and touched. I was relieved it was in the cellar instead of the dining room.

I don’t think anybody ever knew about the event that night, when my girlfriend threw up…because apparently she was sick of me.

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Bouquet

Bouquet: (n) an attractively arranged bunch of flowers

When you live in a small town, there is usually only one of everything:Dictionary B

  • One drugstore
  • One grocery outlet
  • And one florist

When I was a young boy beginning to dabble in the witchery of romance, I decided, on the arrival of my third date with a young lady, to purchase some flowers. My parents, in an attempt to be supportive, told me I could charge them down at the Bellgrade Floral Shop.

So I walked in, a complete novice, intimidated, and fell victim to a helpful clerk.

She pitied me. She thought it was cute that I was going to buy flowers for my girlfriend. She immediately began to make suggestions. Not wanting to discourage her or come across as a rube, I nodded and agreed to each one of her many considerations.

When she was done, adding in all the baby’s breath (which she explained to me) I had a huge bouquet of flowers. It was impressive.

She asked the question. “How would you like to pay for this?”

Obedient son that I was, I told her that it was to go on my parents’ account. I was thrilled, and my girlfriend was over the moon about her array of garden beauties.

Two weeks later I was called in to my mother and father’s presence because they had received the bill from the Bellgrade Floral Shop.

Fifty-three dollars.

And keep in mind, this was in an era when my dad made seventy-five dollars a week. So he was red with rage and my mother could barely breathe. They asked me, “Why did you spend so much money on those flowers?”

I had no real answer.

I did not know how to explain how the combination of the fragrant greenhouse, the happiness of my girlfriend and the salesmanship of the lady … had swept me away.

 

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Anomaly

dictionary with letter A

Anomaly: (n) something that deviates from the normal, standard or expected

I liked music.

At eighteen years of age, I’m not so sure that I was totally devoted to a career in the field or whether there was a bit of laziness tied into the equation, because playing piano sounded easier than punching a time-clock. (After all, we get ourselves in the most trouble when we try to purify our motives instead of accepting them a trifle sullied.)

One afternoon during that eighteenth year, I took my girlfriend, who was soon to become my wife, into a back room of a loan company owned by my parents and sat down at a piano which had been given to our family, but because we had no room in our house, ended up stuck in the back corner of this lending institution.

I had never written a song before.

As a teenager, I sang in choir, a quartet and for nursing homes, pretending like it was a big gig at Madison Square Garden.

Yet on this day, I suddenly got this urge to compose. It was not stimulated by a professor at a college asking for an assignment, nor was it motivated by my ancestors, wishing that I would abandon all normal courses of occupation and pursue a musical path.

It was truly an anomaly.

  • It was contrary to what everybody wanted me to do.
  • It was an open, seething contradiction to my cultural training.
  • I sat down at that piano, and in the course of the next ninety-four minutes, wrote two original songs. I didn’t know if they were good and certainly was not confident they were great.

But something came out of me that wasn’t a conditioned response or a well-studied answer for a final exam.

It was mine.

Whether it was good or bland, it came from me. It excited me. It encouraged me to muster the perseverance to survive the critique of my society and even overcome my own fits of lethargy to pursue it.

It still excites me today.

Hundreds of songs later, I still feel as thrilled when pen goes to paper, words appear and musical notes cuddle up next to them.

No one in my family ever took the course of action which I chased, beginning with that afternoon in the back room behind that piano.

But it is the selection of that odyssey that has made me who I am.

There are two things you have to remember about an anomaly:

  1. It is never immediately accepted.
  2. It always takes more work than you expected.

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Align

Words from Dic(tionary)

dictionary with letter A

Align: (v) 1. place or arrange in a straight line. 2. to give support to a person or cause

The technician was frustrated.

He could not for the life of him get my 1957 beat-up Chevy to align its wheels so that they were balanced and equal.

I had brought the car in for the process because it was bumpy and the tires were wearing out very quickly. Unfortunately, the uneven treat wear was on the inside of the tire, where I couldn’t see it so I always thought my tires looked like they had tread–right before they blew out.

But try as he might, he could not get the tires to align.

I’m sure he was curious why my car was in such bad shape. You see, I was a teenager who had inherited this piece of junk, and treated it as if it were a WWII surplus tank instead of a more fragile mobile.

Case in point: I’d heard about an unpaved road that ran alongside a local river, which was great fun to drive on, and also park with your girlfriend. So without doing any reconnaissance whatsoever, I picked up my lady and we drove down there in the dark, found the bumpy road, and before we realized it, came face-to-face with what appeared to be about three-and-a-half feet of water, which had come over the trail due to recent heavy rains.

Well, there was no way to go backward in the dark. After all, there was no actual road.

So pulling together all the elements of my immaturity, I drove through the huge puddle, rocking and spinning, until after about ten minutes, I freed myself to the other shore, only to discover there was an embankment that went straight up a gravel hillside, to meet up with a highway above.

The climb seemed impossible. Yet what was more unlikely was me calling my parents to tell them that my car was stuck on a non-road somewhere near a piece of over-run river.

So I gassed it up, climbed, and after about the fourth or fifth attempt, banging and crashing my car into the hillside, I made it to the top as my girlfriend cheered my mighty virility.

So even though the technician was baffled by his inability to get the car straightened out, it seemed completely logical to me. After a while, I just told him to do the best he could to align the wheels.

“Just try not to make it too bumpy, so I won’t kill too many tires.” He rolled his eyes but quietly went to perform the task.

Aligning things is tricky business. Especially if you’ve done your best to bust things up.

 

Ajar

Words from Dic(tionary)

dictionary with letter A

 

Ajar: (adj and adv) a door or other opening left slightly open

“Keep the door ajar.”

We all know what that means.

It’s our way of communicating that what is happening, beyond that which is inside the enclosure, is not private, segregated or secret.

It is also what we were told to do as teenagers when we were in a room with our girlfriend or boyfriend. It was a reminder that at any time, our seclusion could be interrupted by the inclusion of others.

I made a decision a long time ago to keep my life ajar. To think that any of us can get by with hiding our mistakes or foibles is a ridiculous notion. In an age of super-information available at super-speed, it is doubtful that privacy can be attained, so the only thing open to us is to select speed of revelation.

I’ve been silly about it in the past.

  • At one time I was embarrassed that I didn’t go to college, but began a family immediately due to my rising hormones, which preceded declining grades.
  • I used to be afraid to admit to others how unknown my efforts were and attempted to name-drop to procure respect, which only, in the long run, drew further attention to those mightier than me, whose names I was invoking.
  • I used to avoid questions by changing the subject or offering answers I thought were cleverly ambiguous, but actually just sounded evasive and stupid.

You can feel free to attempt to delude the public, keeping your door tightly shut, in hopes of avoiding interference from strangers. But as the Good Book says, there is nothing “whispered in the ear which is not eventually shouted from the housetops.” (By the way, a statement spoken by a fellow who didn’t even have to deal with the Internetor the NSA.)

So I can sum up my philosophy about “keeping my life ajar” in three quick statements:

  1. If I’m ashamed of it, change it enough to where the shame is gone.
  2. If I’m the first one to bring it up, nobody can act like they “got me.”
  3. Honesty is the best way to keep people off your back, because they relax and then you can actually be more like yourself.

Keep the door ajar. Pretty good philosophy.

Keep your life ajar. Genius.

Airport

Words from Dic(tionary)

dictionary with letter A

Airport: (n) a complex of runways and buildings for the takeoff, landing and maintenance of civil aircraft with facilities for passengers.

My first visit to the airport was when I was eighteen years old, flying off to Arizona to retrieve my girlfriend from exile by her parents to a status of once again being my partner and eventually, wife.

The airport was deliciously frightening and glorious at the same time.

It was many years later before I flew in an airplane again. I was twenty-four years old, jetting off to Nashville to work on a musical project with a famous female country songwriter, and I felt like I had the wings of Mercury, surrounded by the gods of Olympus.

Much later I went to airports with my traveling companion to tour the country, sharing from one of my books and cruising through the air with the greatest of ease.

And then came 9/11.

Now, I don’t know exactly what Osama bin Laden envisioned to be the result of his vicious and treacherous plan. Certainly he ended up killing three thousand human souls. But I do feel he also put to death the great American love affair with airports, traveling and zooming through the atmosphere from one destination to another.

For the casualties of 9/11 continue:

  • It’s in our economy
  • It’s in our mistrust
  • It’s in our bungling of foreign affairs
  • It is the chip on our shoulder–proclaiming ourselves “great” without providing the goods and services to confirm the assertion

The American airport today has all the appeal of a Middle-Eastern open market on a hot desert day. It is inconvenient, pushy and unapologetic for both its prices and its surroundings.

Because I believe in my country, I think eventually we will grow tired of restrictions, anxiety and succumbing to the whims of a madman who planned our defeat in his cave in Afghanistan.

Bin Laden is dead and buried in the deep blue sea.

Maybe we can muster the courage to make traveling a commercial and private pleasure again instead of a gauntlet of endurance, athletic and patient perseverance.