Deal With

Deal with: (v) to take action regarding a person or situation

If you will permit me, I shall refer to this as the “Brock principle.”

When I was in high school, we had a fellow in our class named Brock.

Brock was annoying.

No one wanted him around.

Yet at the same time, there wasn’t one of us that wished to come off as “the bully”—to chase him from our presence. So often, we kept Brock around so long that we ended up being crude, if not rude in our comments, requiring his exit.

You couldn’t win with Brock:

  • If you ignored him, you felt like a big, fat, stupid bigot.
  • If you accepted him, you felt like a big, fat, stupid idiot.
  • If you tried to tolerate him, you just felt big, fat and stupid.

I feel much the same way about arrogance.

Unlike Brock, arrogance will try to change its name to get into your life, your party or your fellowship.

Sometimes it arrives under the name “confidence.”

Other times, “knowledgeable.”

And on occasion, even “considerate to a fault.”

But it cannot hide.

Arrogance is the human emotion coming from other people that we have absolutely no capacity to deal with, because our own arrogance becomes jealous, throws a tantrum and runs out of the room.

Dave

Dave: (n) a male given name.

 Realization: it is the goal of life.

To come to some sort of conclusion that fits both the circumstances and the purity of truth.

Sometimes a realization is a couple of steps away; sometimes so it sits on top of you.

But there are times that a realization seems so uncertain that it may take many years for the brain, the soul and the heart to have a decent meeting and come to common ground.

I knew a fellow named Dave.

Dave was four years older than me.

Dave loved music.

Dave loved gospel music.

He was one of those classically attractive men of bygone days—with long, dark, straight hair, which he wore in bangs coming down to his eyebrows, making him appear much younger than he actually was.

Even though Dave had graduated from high school, was married and had a baby, he wanted to sing so much that he lobbied to join our group of high school friends.

What helped us make the decision was that Dave had a van and went out and bought a bunch of sound equipment, causing his entrance into our organization to be much more likely.

I didn’t like Dave.

Dave didn’t like me.

I was a precocious young man, who my enemies would have called “arrogant.”

It was my group. It sure wasn’t Dave’s.

As I look back on it now, I realize that Dave was unpopular with people his own age. Dave felt trapped in a marriage and was completely uncertain of fatherhood.

Dave wanted to be a professional gospel singer, traveling around the country wearing fancy suits and new patent-leather shoes.

Well, that didn’t fit in with our group—but he was so desperate to stay in the cattle call that he just decided to be one of our steers.

I probably didn’t like him because he was good-looking.

But Dave was one of those guys who had enough insecurity that attractive women were a bit put off by his tentative nature.

So even though he didn’t want to hang around a bunch of high school punks, he needed us to have a band. We needed him to have a van and a sound system.

It was all very nasty.

But recently, as I’ve thought back on this arrangement, I’ve realized that Dave was the greater loser from interacting with us. Well, especially with me.

I had lots of friends, I talked a good game and I was fortunate enough to have plenty of musical talent.

I undercut Dave, I made him angry and was so unsure of myself that I nearly gave him a nervous breakdown.

And even after I graduated from high school and he still wanted to work with me, I treated him like my neighbor’s dog’s poop.

Eventually, at the end of a singing engagement one night, he went his way and I went mine.

I never saw Dave again.

I’ve tried to locate him but had little success.

Or maybe I know that if Dave wanted to get in contact with me, he probably would have done so by now.

Here’s the thing about realizations:

Be prepared.

Because they’re pretty damn real.

Cypher

Cypher: (v) to calculate numerically; figure

We live in a generation that touts its tolerance while simultaneously maintaining a tiny regional dialect.

Nowadays, folks are not only ignorant of words and terms, but proud that they were born long after said phrase was uttered.

I suppose I felt that way when I was younger, too.

I was guilty of looking for words and slogans from former decades so I could make fun of them.

Yet in the process of this alienation, a lot of good words get crucified on the “cross of cool.”

So today when I saw our word—cypher—it brought back one single memory.

When I was in high school, there was a young guy who moved to our town from Bowtown, West Virginia. We thought he talked funny. He certainly dressed poorly. He was shy. And he always told us when he was discussing his algebra homework that he was “workin’ on his cypherin’.”

We just stared at him, having no idea what he meant. Exasperated, he explained that all reasoning, all math problems, all puzzles and all dilemmas back where he grew up had to be “cyphered.”

He described the process—you study the problem, look off in the distance seeking an answer, and then lick your pencil and “get to figurin’.”

We called him a hillbilly.

It was not a compliment.

It was our way of saying that we were better than him because he had a weird word for mathematics.

Whatever his terminology may have been, his test scores were excellent. Matter of fact, he was so good at cyphering that he ended up with a scholarship to The Ohio State University, where he studied to be an engineer and ended up traveling the world, building stuff and benefitting poorer countries with better ideas.

I suppose one might consider that in these journeys he gained a certain amount of sophistication—and didn’t cypher anymore.

But I can still envision this alien to our community standing over a set of blueprints, looking off in the distance before licking his pencil…

And solving the present problem.

 

funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

Cute

Cute: (adj) attractive, appealing and delightful

There are many foolish things a man can do—like trying to shave while driving down the highway.

But perhaps chief among the ridiculous is espousing a great understanding of women.

I’m not saying they’re mysterious.

But women do not always share a lingo with men when it comes to certain subjects.

I’m talking about sexuality.

I dare say that most women don’t use the word “sexy” unless they’re referring to their boyfriend or husband. Men, on the other hand, award the word “sexy” like certificates of participation at a third-grade class assembly.

Women are much more diverse. For instance:

“He’s nice.”

A kind comment—but also carries the heavier realization of, “I will never sleep with him.”

“He’s funny.”

This is a positive comment from a woman, but if she begins to believe that you’re ONLY funny, how could she ever get serious?

“He’s hard-working.”

Something she admires, but to her detriment, doesn’t always pursue.

But “he’s sexy,” in the female kingdom, is usually reserved for her romantic partner or—oh, yes—some Hollywood star.

So what word will tell you that a woman could consider you viable—not just a friend?

“He’s cute.”

Believe it or not, it’s the same word she might have used when she was in high school. But it opens a door in her brain which allows you, as a man, to become more than a chum to watch Netflix with on a Tuesday night.

In the realm of the female, I think you can pretty well take it to the bank:

“Cute” is a general nod of affection and a quiet proclamation of possibilities.

funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

Custodian

Custodian: (n) a person entrusted with maintaining a property; janitor.

No one is born a goddamn brat, but we are quick studies.

It’s because of what that position—brat—affords us:

  • We can claim to be superior without having to offer evidence.
  • We can hold our breath until we get what we want.
  • We can become the most important person in the room by making other folks jump and beg.

Unfortunately, the buckets of puke that accompany “brat” make it a tad obnoxious.

I have been a brat.

I did more than play it on television. I took my experience with the role and incorporated it into my personal life.

When I was about to graduate from high school and my classmates wanted to dedicate the yearbook to our school custodian (it was that kind of era—championing the underdog and a search to lift up the obscure) I was against it.

I thought it was stupid.

I could not imagine giving an award to anyone who wore a matching shirt and pants.

The worst part of it was, they asked me to interview this custodian and write the blurb that would appear under his picture in our annual.

I was pissed off.

Worse than that, I was rude to this aging gentleman, who worked very hard to clean up all the snot from the noses of the brats who walked his hallways.

Another problem immediately came to the forefront: trying to get this servant to speak.

He didn’t want to talk about himself.

He didn’t want to elaborate on his past.

So finally, to meet the deadline, I wrote my impressions about him. For you see, over the half-hour encounter, they had changed.

Managing to get a few words from him about his daily activities, immediately I realized that I would be unwilling to do what he performed. But what struck me was his final statement, which I inserted into the prose of my piece.

I’ve never forgotten it, and it remains in my mind even today as a true pearl of wisdom. He said, “I think what I do is important, because it’s what I’ve been given to do.”

It was a brilliant axiom.

One that I wish our national leaders would take into consideration.

One which daily haunts my soul.

funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

Cummerbund

Cummerbund: (n) a wide sash worn at the waist

Tears of anguish flow to my eyes frequently when I consider all the various ways that the makers of cloth and the producers of clothing have found to take their products and pinch me at the waist, constantly reminding me of how goddamn fat I am.

When the junior prom came around back in high school, I was intimidated by many the aspects rising up to demolish my already fragile ego.

First—it was terrifying to invite a girl to a dance, knowing that the possibility of “no” was likely and then having to calm my ego by believing that maybe she just didn’t like dancing.

Then there’s the planning, the procuring of funds for things like corsages. And finally, the rental of the tuxedo—which immediately became problematic (because I long ago ceased to be comfortable in a thirty-eight regular suit jacket).

The coat was a problem.

The pants, an even tighter twist.

The shirt pinched me at the top of my belly and refused to let go.

And then, the introduction of a cummerbund to go around my waist, to more or less act as a spotlight, informing people that my belly was due to arrive soon.

It left me completely befuddled and nervous beyond all reason.

I finally discovered how to place it around my waist and smoothed down. Then I went to the car, got in, and upon sitting, it sling-shot its way off of my tummy, striking the front windshield.

Realizing this was going to be a problem, I had my friend pull it really tight around my stomach—and then, instead of hooking it with the available brackets, I had him tie it in a knot.

It had no place to go.

Of course, all night long, it kept trying to slide up (several times coming very near my throat).

It was a mess.

Humiliating.

At no time did it ever look good—not even when the photographer tried to re-situate it for picture-time.

So my prom picture looks like I was dressed up in a tuxedo too small for me, held prisoner, and tied up with a cummerbund.

funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

Cornhusker

Cornhusker: (n) a Nebraskan

It would be much easier to claim that you’re a cow if you’re able to chew your cud and moo. Producing milk would also be a positive.

When I graduated from high school and opted not to go to college because my wife and I were pregnant with possibilities, I realized that I did funny wisdom on words that begin with a C
not want to be the kind of guy who didn’t go to college and worked at the kind of job this kind of guy is forced to take.

I liked music. I thought I had some talent.

No one ever actually sat down with me and made suggestions on how to use my ability or guided me in a direction of turning my existing efforts into some sort of cash flow.

I was told that I was not allowed to do anything but get a job and take care of my family.

I didn’t want to do that.

Now, I’m not asking you to side with me on this issue, nor am I desiring your cultural rebuke. I’m just explaining that if I were claiming to be a singer and a musician, I needed to go “music” somewhere.

So discovering in a very obscure newspaper a notice that there was a coffeehouse opening up in Kearney, Nebraska, I contacted the fellow beginning it on the phone, told him about my little group, and said that we would love to come and share at his new venue. He was thrilled (since we were from Ohio and he was all the way in Nebraska.)

It didn’t even cross my mind to look at a map. Before I knew it, the gentleman invited us to come and sing at the coffeehouse with the promise that he would “help out with gas.”

At that point in my life I had a van which creaked and squeaked just driving around town, threatening to break down at a moment’s notice. I didn’t care. Nor did my three other comrades.

We set out for Kearney, Nebraska. Matter of fact, when I began this essay today, I had to look up how far it was from Columbus, Ohio, to Kearney, Nebraska. I am so glad I didn’t have the Internet back then, because the distance one way is 968.4 miles.

We packed in some soft drinks, made some sandwiches, gathered as much money as we could borrow and pull out of couch cushions, and took off. We joked about “touring to the Cornhusker State,” never realizing that it would be many, many hours—twelve to be exact—before we would be anywhere near those who were traditionally proclaimed “huskers of corn.”

I’m happy to report that we actually made it there.

As is often the case, the opportunity was even smaller than I could have imagined. But the fourteen people who showed up said they were really impressed with our songs and happy we had made the trip. They gave us thirty dollars for our gasoline, a bushel of sweet corn and a peck of apples.

It was my first payday.

The round trip, as you can imagine, ended up being nearly two thousand miles.

But I was young, looking for an adventure, and especially trying to find a way to escape—for one week—from hearing all the town cronies telling me what a deadbeat I was.


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Concert

Concert: (n) a musical performance given in public

At a very early age I convinced myself I could sing. Growing up in a small village, there was not much competition–and since I was willing to intone and offer my voice as a possibility, folks around my community had no reason to doubt my prowess.

So when I graduated from high school, rather than heading off to college and finding out if anyone outside of Delaware County thought I funny wisdom on words that begin with a C
could sing, I put together a music group, started writing some of my own songs and planned concerts.

I immediately learned the difficulty in concert promotion.

  1. Just because you think you can sing does not mean anybody wants to hear you.
  2. And if you can convince them to come to your concert, it may require that you offer some other stimulus, like refreshments. Or prizes.
  3. If anything else comes up before the concert, or even on concert day, which is more alluring, chances are that promise to attend, even by your friends, is quickly forsaken.
  4. People’s patience in hearing you sing is based upon how well you can take them to a happier (or sad) place and make them glad they went there.
  5. Just because you can sing doesn’t mean anybody wants to buy a recording of you doing it, so they can play it in their free time.

These were tough lessons.

So ferocious was my training during this period that I often found it difficult to supply food for my family and was only able to lodge as long as I could dodge coming face-to-face with the landlord.

It was actually many years before anyone, of their own volition, walked up to me and said, “Hey! When’s your next concert?”

I froze the moment in my mind… and replay it frequently.

 

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Classroom

Classroom: (n) a room, typically in a school

I wish they would have told us the truth.

I suppose they were afraid if we knew the truth, we might get discouraged. Maybe we’d give up.

For some reason, our teachers and school administrators thought it was best to dangle the possibility of growing up to be adults someday
instead of letting us know that “who we are now” is pretty much who we would end up being.

We might have spent more time trying to do better instead of sitting in the back of the classroom hiding, hoping no one would call on us, refusing to emerge from our turtle shell to become lions and tigers, yet knowing that such a position would be impossible unless there were evolutionary stages in between.

Yes, somewhere along the line, in that classroom, we needed to transition from single-cell organisms into a more complex species.

They didn’t tell us.

Maybe they were hoping that high school, church, tests, our first sexual encounters or even college would stir us to new awakenings.

But since we carried the same personality and fears into each opportunity, we came out almost every time with identical conclusions.

So the fourteen-year-old kid who’s insecure becomes the eighty-four-year-old woman who still wonders if she’s pretty.

It is a bucket of shit.

I know that sounds gross, but it is the only description I can give for thinking that you can “leave well enough alone,” and well enough will give you anything…but being alone.

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City

City: (n) a large town.

The fear of the unknown is the beginning of bigotry. (I just came up with that. What do you think??)

This was clearly expressed to me growing up as a boy. (I started out as a lad and decided to stick with it.)

I lived in a Village of 1,500 people. This is the crowd size for a medium-famous rock band.

It’s small enough that you can eyeball everybody, size them up and make ridiculously quick decisions on who they are and who they aren’t. It’s not so much that everybody knows everybody–it’s the fact that nobody really knows anybody, but because we’re so close together, we draw conclusions anyway.

You had to drive ten miles to get to the Town. We hated them. They were our arch-rivals–because they had about 25,000 people. They beat our high school teams in every sport, and we were convinced they were all brats, strutting around their houses smirking at each other and sneering at our little Village.

Sometimes the boys from our Village would go down to the Dairy Queen and pick fights with the Town guys. We always lost. But at least we tried, right?

Now–another twelve miles from the Town was the City. Even though the Village was only twenty miles away, the City was the “Dark Side of the Moon.”

There were only certain reasons to go there.

Movies. There was only one theater in the Town, and it usually just showed Disney flicks. If you wanted to see a movie, you had to go to the City, which meant you had to listen to a fifteen-minute lecture from your mom and dad about the dangers lurking in the metropolis, which had several hundred thousand folks.

They also had restaurants instead of “Mom and Pop food.” When I went to the City, I always thought I was going to be robbed, raped or killed–maybe all three.

As a youngster, it caused me to believe that the smaller things are, the more pure they stay–that it was impossible to live in the Town and do good works, and certainly beyond imagination to dwell in the City and find favor with God.

The fear of big things caused the young people of our Village to pick up on the vices of the City without ever receiving the benefits of culture, convenience and camaraderie.

It took me years to overcome the little box that lived in my head, which was supposed to contain everything I needed–yes, a long time to go into the City, bringing what I had learned in the Town, while maintaining the heart and soul of my Village.

 

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