Crooked

Crooked: (adj) dishonest, not straightforward

 

There are certain things you remember:

The first time you rode a rollercoaster.

Your initial encounter with peanut butter.

How about the premiere kiss?

An award given in front of an applauding audience.

An orgasm.

An amount of money that crosses your hands that’s more than y you can imagine.

But I also clearly remember the first time somebody called me “crooked.”

I was so pissed. I didn’t consider myself crooked. I thought I was being thrifty. I viewed my efforts as ingenious.

For you see, I checked into a motel room with three other friends. We could only afford the single rate, so I purchased it for me alone. Then the other three arrived, scurrying around the back of the establishment to my front door, laughing that we had pulled off our little decoy.

Matter of fact, I think we were still giggling, high-fiving each other, when there was a knock at the door. I quickly silenced everyone in the room and motioned for them to go into the bathroom. I would handle whatever the intrusion happened to be.

When I opened the door, there was the front desk clerk. He demanded entrance. I acted offended. “What do you want?” I asked.

In broken English, he clearly exclaimed, “You bring more people in room! You lie! You cheat!”

Not sure what else to do, I invited him in, thinking he would walk around the beds, and see nobody else in the space—never believing he would actually open up the bathroom. So when he headed in that direction, I had to decide whether to deter him or just let it play out.

He was too fast for me. He was already opening the door. The bathroom was empty. But he was a persistent young man. He quickly pulled back the shower curtain. There were my three friends, standing in the tub, trying desperately to imitate invisibility. Finally one of my buddies burst out laughing—frightened nerves.

The young desk clerk exclaimed, “You must leave room now!”

I reached for my wallet to offer him the extra funds that would cover the four of us, but he would have none of it.

“No money,” he said, pushing my wallet away. “You lie. You cheat. You go.”

He headed toward the door, and I spoke, hoping to rationalize my actions. “Listen, man,” I said, “we were just trying to save money. We’re just kids. We’re broke. You know?”

He turned, looked me right in the eyes and said:

“You not kids. You not broke. You crooked.”

He immediately stepped out of the room and disappeared, coming back five minutes later to stand next to our van, to make sure we loaded up and left.

As is often the case with a quartet of individuals, there were four different takes on the event: one scared, one acting like he wasn’t part of it from the start, one indignant—wanting to go buy a dozen eggs and pelt the place.

And then there was me.

I was quiet, chilled to my soul.

I was bruised by being called “crooked.”

I didn’t view myself as deceitful, just clever.

But I learned that night that clever is crooked if it’s not honest.

 

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Cord

Cord: (n) (Electricity) a small, flexible, insulated cable used to transfer electrical power

Unpacking all the paraphernalia we decided to bring along to the cabin for a camping trip, we discovered that the waffle iron we had borrowed was minus the electrical cord to plug into the wall so the waffles could be toasted.

I remember saying to my friends who had gathered for this little excursion, “Don’t worry about it. We’ll figure something out.”funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

I really believed it in that moment. Somehow or another I failed to recognize that the distance between my waffle iron and the electricity in the wall needed to be covered by some sort of cord that would make them compatible to one another.

When it was discovered that we had no cord or connection, or that an extension cord could not be plugged into it and work, on the third day of staring at the apparatus which was so promising of the possibility of delicious golden-brown waffles, I decided to tear into it and find a way to take a piece of my extension cord and wire it up, using the connectors from the machine to plug it into the wall.

I was convinced I could do it. Matter of fact, I was so confident that I was already considering various ways to humbly deflect the praise from my companions for being so ingenious.

I worked on it for two-and-a-half hours.

I don’t know why I worked on it for two-and-a-half hours, because within the first ten minutes it was obvious to me that I didn’t know one damn thing about what I was doing.

But that didn’t seem to make any difference. After all, there may be very little in life that is worse than a waffle iron without a cord.

Finally, I found two connections in the waffle iron that I hooked the wires onto, and then I took the plug—the end that goes into the wall—and stuck it in the outlet.

It sparked and nearly exploded the waffle machine. A burning electrical smell filled the cabin as a tiny cloud of bluish-gray smoke drifted through the air.

No one was killed. Really, that’s the best I can say.

But then, not only did not have waffles, but needed to come up with a real good excuse to tell the people we borrowed it from for why we decided to sabotage and blow up their machine.


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Cobweb

Cobweb: a spider’s web, especially when old and covered with dust

I have watched with some nervous curiosity as a confident individual handles a snake.

They always seem to feel it is hilarious to offer the snake in my direction, waiting for me to step back in horror to ​provide​ them a hideous giggle. But everyone has small “somethings” that turn us into nutty little girls, running away in terror from a bee.

The other night I was sitting in the living room with my son, who is a large, burly man, when he suddenly winced and shimmied in his chair because a fly had come close to his ear. He was adequately embarrassed so I did not tease him, though greatly tempted.

​Yet ​I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone walk through cobwebs with​out​ getting an icky face and batting with their hands in all directions to rid themselves of the sticky strings.

I once owned a house near a lake. I built a beautiful porch. Every morning there was a spider web in one corner. I took a broom and swept it away, but the next day it would be back again. I asked a friend about it and he said, “Well, the only way to get rid of the cobweb is to kill the spider. Otherwise, ​it​ will just continue to do ​its job faithfully.”

After all, a spider web is just a home for a spider, which doubles as a trap for flies so he can get good eats. It’s a rather ingenious ​invention​.

If I could figure out how to turn my house into a trap for hamburgers, steaks and fried chicken, I’d do it, too.​

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Chutzpah

Chutzpah: (n) shameless audacity; impudence.

One man’s impudence is another man’s courage.

I’m sure the bus driver thought Rosa Parks was very impudent when she refused to move to the back of the bus during the civil rights
conflict in Alabama.

Many of my teachers thought I was impudent when I questioned practices I felt were faulty, but were still part of the “scholastic logic.”

We live in a generation where your cause is meaningless to me and my cause is sanctioned by the will of God.

Yet I would never use the word “chutzpah.” It’s not because I’m anti-Semetic (which most people under the age of twenty would define as having something against cement.)

It’s just that I find the introduction of impudence, strife or vanity only complicate my possibilities instead of enhancing them. We are a race that promotes self-esteem while greatly enamored with humility.

I realize it is possible to be too humble, but it’s a risk each one of us should take.

Because when two impudent people stand on the field of play, hurling insults at one another, boasting of their prowess, the whistle does eventually blow, beginning the game. At that point, it becomes obvious who is better trained, who has a more ingenious plan and who will endure.

One great gift you can give to yourself is to shut up, impart your gift, and see how it rates amidst the cascading efforts of others.

 

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Buckwheat

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Buckwheat: (n) an Asian plant milled into flour

The first black person I ever saw was on a television screen, watching “The Little Rascals.”

His name was Buckwheat.

He looked really weird to me. And of course, the producers of the show did little to play down his ethnicity.Dictionary B

No–that was the goal. The purpose was to establish that even though this crazy group of kids had invited in a snooty rich girl–Darla–and a black bug-eyed little boy named Buckwheat, that it was completely normal because these were all children of the neighborhood.

From that experience, I learned the power of imperfection.

While some people may scream about injustice in the world, there are those who quietly and perhaps awkwardly introduce ingenious concepts into our lives, and by doing so, gradually contribute to the common good.

Even though Buckwheat was a very stereotypical “tar-baby” type of character, the mere fact that he was in the gang and included with all the white kids, rich kids, Italian kids and kids with cowlicks, caused me to deal with the possibility that the races might just possibly be comfortable mixing together.

Without that, I don’t know how long it would have been before I ever saw what we then referred to as a “Negro.” And by that time I would not have been six years old and pliable to the notion of accepting another race.

Even when ideas are not perfect, if within their imperfection they are moving toward social justice, we should certainly support them.

 

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Brain

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Brain: (n) intellectual capacity

A friend of mine bought a German shepherd. He did so as a means of protecting his house.

He named the dog Rugby.Dictionary B

Rugby was probably one of the sweetest animals I’ve ever encountered in my life. I was absolutely enthralled with the kindness of this creature, but certainly convinced that Rugby was incapable of guarding anything. He was even patient with the four-year-old child who lived in the house, who was enamored with the animal’s nose, and continually tried to pluck it from his face.

I laughed at my friend when he insisted that Rugby was a replacement for a burglar alarm.

Then one day we went off on a brief shopping trip. As we returned, pulling into the driveway, we heard barking and growling. It sounded very aggressive–frightening to the ears.

Stepping into the house, we discovered a terrified gentleman penned in the corner, held prisoner by a very intimidating Rugby.

Apparently the man had decided to come into the house to steal some items to sell at the pawn shop–only to discover that the house was well protected by a deceptively dutiful German shepherd.

The man begged to have the dog called off.

As soon as my friend called the police, he motioned to Rugby to come to his side, and the family pet returned–with a wagging tail and a panting tongue.

You may ask me what this story has to do with the brain. Here it is:

The brain is like Rugby.

It doesn’t have any natural inclinations of its own, but only brings forth its training when the situation arises.

  • If you think being smart makes you generous, you are sadly mistaken.
  • If you believe that a formal education causes you to be ingenious, you will be disappointed.

A brain is merely a “thing” until something breaks in, and it does what it was trained to do.

 

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Bear

Bear: (n) a heavy wild animal with thick fur and sharp claws which has many varietiesDictionary B

Is the key in knowing what, and then when, or is it more accurate to pursue when, while acquiring what?

Please pardon the philosophical approach.

Is when more important than what, or does what take primary position over when?

Let’s study the bear.

Because even though this creature is known as a lumbering mammoth of fur and flesh with a ravenous appetite, which can be quite dangerous if aggravated, it does spend much of its time sleeping in a cave.

The bear has simply discovered when to be industrious and what to do. The bear has also learned when to be lazy, and what is the best slumber.

I think we are either lazy when we need to be industrious, or industrious when it might be better for us to lay back and hibernate.

Think of it from the bear’s perspective:

  • Spring and summer come along, which have pleasant weather, lots of fish to eat and picnic baskets to poach.
  • Then there’s winter. Even though you have a coat, why use it?

So crawling into a cave, relaxing, realizing that most things are not blooming and that picnic baskets have been put into the closet for better days, you choose to survive this down period by resting instead of fretting.

It’s very ingenious.

It’s probably why the bear has survived the post-dinosaur era until now, with very little sign of disappearing.

So I guess to capsulize this into an easily remembered slogan:

Learn from the bear … and don’t do what you can’t bear.

 

 

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