Covered-Dish Supper

Covered-dish supper: (n) meal to which guests contribute food, as casseroles.

 When I was nineteen years old I had no job, but I had a music group.

It was constantly brought to my attention that I could have a job and still sing and play with my combo on weekends.

I did not favor that idea.funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

I thought the only way to be a professional musician was to insist it was your profession, long before your bank account confirmed it. Money was infrequent and when it arrived, we were so hungry for it that often we blew it on a desire rather than what the bills might require.

Because music groups were plentiful in that time, no one wanted to offer hard, cold cash for playing songs—even if it stimulated great enthusiasm, joy and clapping. What was offered—and may I say, even touted by a sponsor desiring to schedule our musical abilities—was a covered-dish supper.

In other words, after we got done singing, we would go down into the basement of the church and eat the food that had been brought by the concert attendees for just such an occasion.

Certain dishes were pretty well guaranteed:

There was always fried chicken (even if you were sure it came out of a bucket instead of a frying pan.)

Macaroni and potato salads were plentiful.

Someone always experimented with a rice dish, putting in some teriyaki sauce to give it “flare.”

Brownies, cakes of all sorts, pies, garlic bread, four or five concoctions with spaghetti, and once in a while some grilled hot dogs or hamburgers would appear.

By the time we got done singing, we were hungry. Also, we were starved because during the week we had not necessarily been able to procure grocery money to satisfy our growling innards.

So we learned two very important procedures:

First of all, you get more food when you compliment the food. If we found out who cooked what, we could center our appreciation in on that person and pretty soon they would bring their pot over and dump the contents onto our plates to “make sure we got our share.”

The second thing we put into practice, which took some trial and error, was to ask the smallest (and usually feminine) member of our band to walk over and chat with the ladies, asking for recipes. Well, these fine women looked at the dainty, somewhat underfed waif of a girl and loaded her down—not only with index cards containing the ingredients for their delicacies, but also boxes of leftover everything.

So even though nobody ever gave us money, we walked out of covered dish suppers with full bellies and enough food to last for two or three days thereafter.

Now, some people might think this is a terrible way to live, and I certainly can appreciate their point of view.

But I, for one, think it is quite charming to have a remembrance in my life when I literally did live hand to mouth.

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Cooperstown

Cooperstown: (n) location of the Baseball Hall of Fame

Never was a big baseball fan.

The point should be made that I never was a little baseball fan.

But I admire baseball.

Baseball is a sport that I would have come up with to justify being involved in athletics without actually breaking a sweat very often.funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

It offers the perfect balance of exercise: one minute of exertion for five minutes of sitting, standing, contemplating, waiting and practice-swinging the bat.

It’s genius.

It has all the other elements that other sports possess. I’m talking about uniforms, equipment, scoring, players, cheerleaders, hot dogs, peanuts and cracker jacks.

But if, for some reason, you forgot to show up for spring training, or your gym equipment broke down over the winter, you could still appear and participate in the game.

It truly is the Great American Pastime.

And for those who made it to Cooperstown, to the Hall of Fame, they have taught us well:

The best way to pass time is to do as little as possible.


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Caddie

j-r-practix-with-border-2

Caddie: (n) a person who carries a golfer’s clubs

Mike was always trying to figure out ways to make money. He was a fifteen-year-old entrepreneur before anybody was prepared to spell or
pronounce the word.

He liked me.

Now, Mike weighed about 122 pounds. I also weighed 122 pounds–but stored 150 more as a backup. So Mike had a lot of stamina. I just had a lot.

Mike had the brilliant idea of going to the new golf course just outside our town and offering his service as a caddie to our limited supply of financially successful people. He did it for two or three weekends, and came back with… cash.

At fifteen years of age, I so infrequently saw money that it seemed almost mystical and certainly magical.

Mike convinced me that I should take my 270-plus pounds and go out with him the next weekend to caddie at the golf center. He explained that it was nothing more than going on a long walk. (I should have realized at that point that it had been many years since I had been on a long walk. My personal preference was a long drive.)

But I agreed and arrived at the gold course at 8:00 A. M. sharp to carry the bags for Mr. Fundergetz. Now, I’m sure that’s not his real name, but he said it with a German accent so quickly that the best I could ascertain was “Fundergetz.” Most of the morning I opted to call him “sir.”

I had not realized that golf courses were measured in yards–and this was before anyone had thought about using a golf cart. By the time I reached the third hole, carrying the bags and trying to keep up with Fundergetz, I was panting, sweating down the insides of my legs and so flushed in the face that he became concerned for me and asked me to sit down while he ran and got some ice for my forehead.

After a few moments of recuperation, I said, “I’m fine now, and it won’t be too much longer, right?”

At this point, Fundergetz explained to me that it was an eighteen-hole golf course and we were only one-sixth of the way through.

Noting the fear on my face, my trembling brow and a tear coming to the corner of my eye, he showed mercy on me, handed me two dollars and asked if I could make it back to the clubhouse on my own.

I was so humiliated.

Mike was so disappointed.

I was completely emasculated by the whole experience.

So when I arrived back at the clubhouse to complete my restoration, I got two hot dogs, a coke and a Baby Ruth candy bar.

It is amazing how good they made me feel.

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Basic

Basic: (adj) forming an essential foundation or starting point; fundamental.Dictionary B

Occasionally I make the brave journey onto the Web to look at what people are saying, thinking and doing.

I discovered an interesting trend.

We have become a nation which is obsessed with complicating and bitching. Sometimes we blend the two.

We bitch about how complicated things are, or we go into complicated explanations about the source of our bad attitude and bitching.

I saw a blog advertising an article entitled, “28 Ways to Make Your Life Better.”

28??

If someone gave you a recipe and told you there were 28 ingredients, would you prepare it?

Thus the popularity of hot dogs: put dogs in sauce pan with water, turn on heat, boil on high for three minutes, take off the stove, bon appetit!

Perhaps we’re just afraid of going back to the basics.

  • Do people think it makes them look shallow or stupid?
  • Do we fear we will be perceived as old-fashioned?

But since I fear that complexity will make me look like a simpleton, and simplicity has the potential of graduating me to genius, let me tell you the three basics of life that will get you through almost every situation. (I must apologize–there are not 28.)

But here we go:

  1. Try to be nice to people. And if you can’t, leave the room.
  2. Don’t lead with bragging. Humbly lead with your talent, taking a lower seat so that people can call you up to a higher place.
  3. Don’t buy, eat or pursue anything just because it’s popular. Stand back for a moment, wait, and see if it explodes, gives indigestion or suddenly plummets in following.

Basic.

It’s not called “basic” because it’s less–it’s called “basic” because it’s been around for a long time, and has proven its quality to be more.

 

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Baseball

Baseball: (n) a ball game played between two teams of nine on a field with a diamond-shaped circuit of four basesDictionary B

From my youth, baseball was pitched my way but I never caught on.

I don’t know exactly why.

I’m not so sure I’ve ever watched an entire baseball game on TV, and the two times I attended a game at a park, I survived it by consuming enormous amounts of hot dogs.

So when I read the word today, I thought to myself, what is it I don’t like about baseball?

Before I answer, please understand that my conclusions are arbitrary and certainly cemented in a tomb of my own misunderstanding. Nevertheless:

1. It’s slow.

By the time the follow-up play responds to the previous action, I have forgotten what has been accomplished.

2. It’s a team sport.

Even though we extol team sports, I think we actually enjoy competitions that have fewer participants and more heroes.

3. It demands proficiency in a variety of activities.

It is difficult to praise singular action. In other words, you have to catch, throw, hit, run, slide and steal. Any one of these should be enough.

4. There is so much space between actions that it should be filled in with background movie music.

Maybe the tunes could even be complementary and generate excitement in the performance.

5. And finally, I didn’t do it very well.

 

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Amusement Park

dictionary with letter A

Amusement Park: (n) a large outdoor park with fairground rides and shows.

A magical time and a magical result.

Being the father of several sons, I had the opportunity to instill into them the most important virtue available in the human arsenal of emotions: trustworthy.

After all, eventually you have to reach a point as a parent, where you trust your children to do something–because if you trust them to do nothing, you not only taint their self-worth but also turn them into little scavengers always looking for a way to cheat without getting caught.

One of the tools I used to create this trustworthiness in my children was the local amusement park.

When they reached preteen, I purchased a yearly pass for them at this establishment, which was not more than a few miles from our house. It became the means by which we communicated with each other concerning the importance of chores, truthfulness and family obligation.

Quite bluntly, I was fully aware that my children would love to live at this amusement park with their sleeping bags, two weeks worth of potato chips and candy bars. Since this was out of the question, instead I afforded them the opportunity to attend the amusement park frequently if they showed me that their work ethic and honesty were up to the challenge.

Proving this to me long before they entered the amusement park, I could go in with them, sit on a bench and eat really cheap, delicious hot dogs and send them off on their own, telling them to return in exactly an hour and a half, and know with great confidence, that they would honor this commitment i order to maintain an ongoing passage to this magic world.

  • It was magnificent.
  • It was illuminating.
  • It was one of the greatest teaching tools I ever used in my years of fatherhood.

Some people would call it a bribe. These are the folks who have bratty children but insist they always tell them the exact truth and never deviate from the facts.

I am a parent. Like the New York City police, I am allowed to be deceptive if it stops a crime.

So those yearly passes to the local amusement park was one of the best investments I ever made to ensure that my sons would grow up with some understanding of responsibility … which lends itself to the righteous position of tapping pleasure.

 

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Amish

dictionary with letter A

Amish: (n) the members of a strict Mennonite sect that established major settlements in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and elsewhere in North America from 1720 onward.

I grew up around the Amish.

Which in turn, means they also grew up around me. But you see, there’s the problem. They really didn’t.

They came into town to buy groceries. They were civil. They were kind. They were gentle.

It didn’t bother me that they dressed differently or that they all wore beards. (I guess the women didn’t…)

I wasn’t particularly upset about them living without electricity or the comforts of the modern world. After all, I went to a church camp or two where such restrictions were levied for a week to get us all mindful of things non-electronic.

It’s just that I have grown weary of all human attempts of separation, much to the chagrin of my family and friends who would like to hold on to a nice big slice of the popular culture, so as not to abandon existing relationships with friends who have reserved a lane on the broad path. I just don’t understand how we expect to co-exist–(Oh my dear Lord, forget that. Survive!) if we continue to build smaller and smaller boxes wherein to place those we consider to be more valuable–from our strain of DNA.

I, for one, am tired of the word “culture.” Has anyone noticed that the root of the word is cult? Normally we look down on cults. We consider them to be limiting, segregating and self-righteous. But I guess if you put a u-r-e on the end it’s ok, because it denotes some kind of honor of your ancestors.

I watched a show on PBS about the Cambodian community. Many of the young transplants from Cambodia have begun to hold weekly barbeques, eating only the food of their former land. It makes for a rather bizarre bit of recipes and diet, including cow intestines, bugs and various broths. The young people are very proud of it.

But here’s what I thought: there’s a bunch of people in their graves who would like to tell these youthful adherents that they would gladly have eaten hot dogs, hamburgers and chicken, but could only afford cow intestines. They would like to encourage their offspring to upgrade.

Much of what we call culture were merely survival practices of our forefathers and mothers, who struggled to get us where we are–so we wouldn’t have to partake of their pain.

So be careful.

If you want to live on a farm somewhere, turn off the lights, grow a beard and wear plain clothes, it is America and you are free to do so. But when you include the name of God in it, who claims to be no respecter of persons, and insist that there is some special holiness in doing without, I have to shake my head.

It won’t keep me from buying your food products, though. They’re really quite good.