Burlap

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Burlap: (n) coarse canvas woven from jute or hemp, used especially for sacking.

I once was young enough that a hostess offered me accommodations in a barn. (You have to look like you’re brave and strong, able to survive the elements and sleep on hay.)

I was grateful. She explained that she had so many guests in the house that she had run out of blankets and pillows, but I was more than welcome to draw from a huge stack of burlap bags in the corner of the barn to use for such purposes.

Upon entering the barn, I first found a collection of hay that was dry enough, without suspicious damp portions. That was pretty successful, although I will tell you, a bed of hay gets thinner and thinner as the night goes on and you crush the straws.

As she noted, there were innumerable burlap bags, which I grabbed and pieced together to form a blanket and a pillow. I would not consider myself to be a woodsman or an individual given to outdoorsy experiences, but I’ve had my share. Yet on this particular night, it was impossible for me to sleep.

The burlap was so coarse, so itchy, that I was convinced I had thousands of ants crawling all over my body, which was further reinforced by the knowledge that I was lying on a bed of straw.

I tried to throw the makeshift burlap blanket off, but then I got too cold–but every time I covered with it, I got too itchy.

So I faced a perplexing situation in the morning when I stumbled out of the barn and headed to the house for breakfast.

I knew my hostess was going to ask me how I fared amongst the animals, so I quickly grabbed two biscuits, stuffed them in my mouth, took a big swig of milk, and kept my orifice filled the entire meal– so I was only able to communicate with nods and grunts.

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Akron

Words from Dic(tionary)

dictionary with letter A

Akron: (n) a city in northeastern Ohio; population 217,074. Noted as a center for the rubber industry, the first rubber factory was established there in 1870 by B. F. Goodrich.

It was a process called “vulcanization,” which had absolutely nothing to do with Mr. Spock or mind melding. I know very little about it–except that tires for cars are the blessed by-product.

But for me, Akron has a very different association.

On a Tuesday night, I drove the 116 miles from my home to a little coffeehouse in Akron called The Avalon. I was young, foolish, energetic and very viable, which was cancelled out by my penchant for stupid decisions.

I had just started a music group and we were looking for anywhere to perform, where people would listen for a few moments and hopefully praise us for our efforts instead of giving us the benefit of needful critique.

The Avalon coffeehouse agreed to let us come and sing a couple of songs, so we were ecstatic. I knew nothing about this venue. As it turned out, it was one of those spiritual youth hostels, where people under the age of thirty gathered to teeter in an existence in spirituality would not totally disrupt their carnal pursuits.

On the other hand, my little group consisted of small-town-America high school graduates who had all the travel sensibilities of Christopher Columbus heading for the West Indies but settling for the Caribbean.

So the first thing we did was dress up for the occasion. All I owned was a fancy dress coat with a shirt and tie. The two girls traveling with me had their prom dresses from the previous year, and felt they shouldn’t go to waste, so why not wear them to the Avalon?We also traveled with a young hobbit-looking oboe player, who wore glasses which resembled goggles from a steel mill.

So you can imagine the surprise of the young hippies at The Avalon, dressed in blue jeans and hemp blouses and shirts, with bare feet, when the prom king and his two queens showed up.

Even though there was a pending snicker in the air, to their credit, the patrons set aside their bigotry and gave an ear to “Goober and the two Gooberettes.”

We sang a song called Jesus Generation,” which was about the corniest thing I’ve ever written, and a rendition of the Beatitudes calledBlessed,” which had a prelude played on the oboe suitable for chamber orchestras in the Mozart era.

We survived.

Matter of fact, there was a level of appreciation–perhaps mainly for our courage in showing up–which warmed my heart.

And to top the evening off, for the first time in my life, the hat was passed and we left that small gathering with $33.25, believing we were successful prospectors from Sutter’s Mill.

I don’t know what they said about us after we left. It doesn’t matter. But for one night, cultures clashed without the need for violence, ridicule or debate.

It is how I will always remember Akron.

It is the blessing I received at The Avalon.

 

Abaca

by J. R. Practix

dictionary with letter AAbaca: n. a large, herbaceous Philippine plant of the banana family that yields Manila hemp.

Have you ever wondered what would happen if you sat too near a fire at a church camp, wearing a shirt made out of hemp? It might give a whole new meaning to a “kum-bah-yah moment.”

I do think that for a few days, I’m going to walk around saying repeatedly, ” …large herbaceous….”  Now, I certainly am going to find reasons for such a proclamation, but I’m comfortable with the fact that no one knows what it means and most of us are too embarrassed to admit it, so I can probably get by with using it in some bizarre ways, and people will just nod their heads, feeling they are in the presence of true genius.

“Excuse me, ma’am. Do you offer any large herbaceous side orders with that Big Mac?”

How about this one? The next time I go to the swimming pool and an attractive young woman arrives, I will turn to my friends and say, “Well. That is certainly large and herbaceous.”

I will bet you that no one will even flinch–as long as I don’t do it in front of people under the age of fifteen, who are still innocent enough to admit they are verbally challenged.

Is anybody else trying to imagine a banana which is large and herbaceous, by the way, which is truly a Manila hemp plant?

                    “They call me Mellow Yellow, that’s right, Slim…”

Also gives a whole new meaning to “banana split.” Think about it.

I don’t know what use I will have for knowing what abaca is (aside from the prolonged usage of “large and herbaceous”) but I have a feeling that after writing this, I am going to be attacked in my dreams by a six-foot-tall banana smoking a bong, with Jimmy Hendrix music in the background.

I’ll let you know.