Coshocton

Coshocton: (n) a city in E central Ohio.

My body was twenty years old, my heart, fifteen, my soul, sixty-five, and my mind, ten.

Yeah. That’s about right.

I had started a music group and was convinced it was just a matter of time until we would have a record contract, dazzling the airwaves, and in the process also impress my family members who thought I should get a job at a local department store called Buckeye Mart.funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

Gigs were hard to come by. We were performing contemporary music with a rock edge, but it had a Christian message. In that season, those elements were not allowed to combine.

So I was absolutely thrilled when there was a Bible college in Coshocton, Ohio, which contacted us and said they wanted us to come and play for their morning chapel.

I had long hair, and our group dressed like hippies who had put together their wardrobe with an Ohio mindset. We headed off to the college—which was rather conservative, and upon arriving, immediately ran into trouble.

The dean of students did not think it was appropriate to place us on a “platform of importance” when they had a dress code at the school which included that all men must wear their hair off their ears.

I kept my cool. This was the “old soul” part of me. I explained to them, in a comical way, that I was going to use part of the twenty-five-dollar honorarium check to get a haircut, because up to this point, I had not been able to afford one.

They looked at me with sympathetic eyes and actually bought the story—so much so that I was embarrassed that I lied to them.

Nevertheless, the Dean of Students included that part of our interchange in the introduction before we came up to sing our two songs.

I should say “prepared to sing our two songs,” because when we began, the bass guitar and drums were so foreign that the teaching staff came forward, objected and stopped the program.

The students were alarmed and perhaps offended that we were not able to continue but had drunk enough of the Kool-Aid to remain silent.

The ten-year-old mind and the fifteen-year-old emotions got together—and I threw a shit fit right there in front of everyone. I quoted Bible, Bill of Rights, Constitution and even something I had read in their school charter about “allowing the Spirit to move.”

It didn’t make any difference.

But apparently, I was eloquent enough that they decided to give us the twenty-five dollar check anyway, so it wouldn’t look like they were welchers and had cheated us.

So having only sung a half of a chorus on one song, we packed up our equipment and headed down the road.

By the way—I never got the haircut.


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Coat

Coat: (n) an outer garment worn for warmth

Is it possible I was allergic? No–that’s not the word.

I certainly couldn’t stand to have a coat on until… well, very recently.

All through my teen years, my mother insisted I wear one to school, and I always removed it within ten feet from the door of our home, convinced, I think, that I would break out in a rash if I continued to wear it.

I don’t know whether it was a case of macho, or whether there was a part of me that believed that only wimps and Mama’s boys wore such outer protection.

In the winter months in Ohio, I went with short sleeves.

I once found a sweater I liked for a while–but then my older brother claimed it as his own and I never saw it again.

There was something powerful about remaining chilly. Even as a man, in the wintertime I would find a sunshiny day and play tennis in shorts and a tank top.

I always loved the question, “Aren’t you cold?”

Hell, no. I’m hot, Mama.

I guess that was the thing. I suppose I was trying to communicate to the females around me that I was a furnace. A blazing fire of love.

Or maybe it wasn’t that at all.

Maybe I hated the confinement. Because I was chubby, coats always fit me like a straight jacket–especially if I zipped them up. They were so tight I felt the garment was holding my organs in.

But of late I have changed my mind. The feeling of warmth coming on your skin, suddenly protecting it from chill and frost–it’s very comforting.

I enjoy it.

But, while wearing a coat, I still feel like Wimpy Boy Billy.

 

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Coast

Coast: (n) the part of the land near the sea; the edge of the land.

It was a Thursday afternoon. (Actually it probably wasn’t a Thursday afternoon, but I needed someplace to start this essay.)

I was twenty years old, had a music group and was gradually starving my way to success. The definition of that process, by the way, is that there may be visible signs of progress in your career, but you’re also about ready to be evicted.

I had spent all of my youth and the beginnings of my adult life living in the midwest and visiting the mid-south. I had no complaints about the region–just felt deprived of the opportunity to go to the coast and see the ocean. Any coast would have been fine, although I did not favor Northern Canada and the Arctic Ocean.

No opportunity came my way to go and view the glorious blue. So finally I just decided to make an opportunity. I scheduled a little coffee-house gig for us in Sarasota, Florida. Matter of fact, I ended up being able to procure three such opportunities on our way down there. This trifecta of bookings was certainly not going to be enough to cover expenses. I didn’t care. I was going to the coast to see the ocean.

Our vehicle was in terrible shape, so on the way there we broke down–once mechanically and twice from bald tires, which finally exhaled all air.

Yet we finally arrived in Sarasota. Breathlessly, with my hand shaking on the steering wheel, I headed off to see the beauty of the ocean, the waves crashing onto the shore.

It was mind-altering, as all new experiences should be. I just sat there with the members of my group, and we stared at it for two hours. I was so excited that I went to a nearby cafe to order some lunch, which considering our budget, consisted of sharing a muffin, a hot dog and a cup of coffee among three people.

All of us were bubbling over with enthusiasm, as we shared with our waitress that we had come all the way from Ohio to Sarasota to see the ocean. Each one of us had a brief testimonial of how much the experience had impacted our life.

The waitress stood and listened patiently, and when we finally fell silent, having completed all of our praise, she quietly deadpanned, “That’s not the ocean. That’s the Gulf of Mexico.”

She walked away, confident of her geography.

I looked at my two comrades. They were just as distressed as I.

Staring out in the distance at the waves, it suddenly seemed meaningless.

Me wept.

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Breeze

j-r-practix-with-border-2

Breeze: (n) a gentle wind.

I had absolutely no right or wisdom in hopping into a brown Dodge van and heading off from Ohio to Oregon.Dictionary B

I was twenty-one years old, had a music group and was convinced that the only way to prove to myself or anyone else that this was a viable occupational choice was to go out and try to make money doing it.

In my not-yet-formed brain, the logical step was to drive to Oregon, where two people had promised us a place to perform–as long as we understood there would not be much money.

Who could pass up such a bonanza?

I have mercifully had most of the trip wiped from my memory and relegated to oblivion–but I do remember driving through South Dakota, where the temperature had soared well over 100 degrees, and being so hot in our un-air-conditioned confines that we stopped in a small town at a public pool to cool off.

Even though the sun was blistering and scorched our skin, the water was ice cold, so we were a little deceived by the fact that we were actually being poached.

I got the worst sunburn of my life.

It was so bad that when we went to the drug store and bought one of those spray treatments, my hot skin turned the liquid into little scraps of paper.

I was miserable.

On top of that we had no money–procuring lodging in a motel was completely impossible.

So we found a park just outside that little town, pulled the van over, opened up all the doors, perched on some bean bag chairs we carried with us, and lay there, broiling in our burnt flesh, surrounded by humid air.

I was so miserable that I prayed.

I didn’t know if I wanted God to kill me or peel me like an orange.

About twenty minutes after I finished my little supplication, a breeze came up.

I will never forget it.

Because my skin was ablaze, the air was chilly–and felt so good. That breeze stayed with us all night long, so we didn’t swelter in our van or die of sunburn.

Now, some people probably would say that wind was a natural phenomenon of the South Dakota wilderness.

Others might insist there were three exhausted angels blowing in our direction all night long.

It doesn’t really matter what you believe, because God made the breeze … just as surely as He made the angels.

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Boycott

j-r-practix-with-border-2

Boycott: (v) to withdraw from commercial or social relations

“Don’t make waves.”

I heard this all the time as a young person. Since I was raised in land-locked Ohio, it was very simple to comply.

It was also made easier by the fact that anyone who stepped beyond the boundaries of acceptability was quickly ostracized from the general flow. Yet issues always arrived which demanded immediate attention, consideration, deliberation and action.

Sometimes we must boycott stupidity. Otherwise, it grows faster than weeds.Dictionary B

Growing up in my town, prejudice was accepted, gossip was honored, chauvinism was the household norm and music was deemed raucous and evil until it gained a great respectability through financial solvency.

I had to make decisions:

What did I think about civil rights?

What did I think about the war in Viet Nam?

What did I think about the notion that “a woman’s place was in the home?”

These were dangerous questions. If they were posed in public, you were viewed as a troublemaker. If you offered an opinion other than the standard fare, you were basically dubbed “anti-American.”

It took me many years to learn how to boycott the inhibiting doctrines and platitudes which permeated my little town.

Today it’s easier for me. Matter of fact, I can suggest several things we should boycott immediately:

  • The word “bitch”
  • “Baby Mama”
  • Disinformation
  • Racial stubbornness
  • Too much violence
  • Chauvinism in all its forms
  • Gender wars
  • Talk of “culture”

For after all, culture is just another way to introduce stereotypes, which invite prejudice.

I wish I had been more brave when I was a “Buckeye Boy.”

But I guess I can do my penance … by learning what to boycott around me today.

 

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Bonfire

Bonfire: (n) a large open-air fire

As the president of my Junior Class in high school, I was constantly being challenged by the adult advisors to be “more active” or come up with creative ideas.Dictionary B

I was perplexed.

After all, I thought I had done quite a bit in succeeding to get the majority of the votes from a bunch of fickle sixteen-year-old classmates.

But the grownup dictators didn’t see it that way. They expected results. One of their favorite words was “initiative.” (To this day, I refuse to use it.)

So during football season I brainstormed and decided that before our homecoming game, we would have a bonfire out near the football field, and cheer, celebrate and do whatever one does in front of such a blaze.

My thought was, “You just burn stuff.”

Well, it became problematic. What were we gonna burn? I had a chemistry book I was willing to donate, but others thought it would be better to take some of the leaves which were freshly fallen, pine needles prevalent in the area, and branches, and pile them up together to ignite the inferno.

But it was difficult to get started.

So since I was the leader of the Junior Class, I suggested gasoline. Before it could be approved by an adult, we doused all of our flammables in the fluid and lit it.

It was three hours before the bonfire was supposed to take place, and basically we burned up all of our stuff in about twenty minutes. What we had left might be referred to as a bon-ash.

Realizing this would not have much appeal, we scurried around town to find more stuff to put on the second fire and finally accumulated enough trash that when the student body arrived, we lit it once again (this time without gasoline) and everybody gathered around.

Well, considering this was Ohio in September, it was a little chilly. People were already in coats. So when a hundred folks gathered around a blazing fire in their coats, the sweat began to flow, and what was intended to be a pleasurable or intriguing experience turned into a journey to the sauna of hell.

Everybody started to complain, backing away from the fire. Some girls were crying, and all the adults turned to me, seeking my leadership on what to do next.

I shall always remember the experience as a perfect example of over-reaching.

I can truthfully tell you, it was nothing more than the bonfire of my vanity.

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Blonde

Blonde: (adj) fair or pale yellow hair.

Dictionary B

I’ve always insisted on being a blonde.

Blonde is a word that is usually associated with feminine mystique. For instance, “gentlemen prefer blondes.”

It does not say, “gentlemen prefer being blonde.”

I once was very proud of my hair. I grew it long, nearly to my shoulders, washed it and spent a lot of time in the sun, hoping to bleach it out to that glorious, Beach Boys, bushy hairdo. I especially enjoyed the tug of the hairbrush as it labored through the luscious locks.

It wasn’t that I believed that women liked blonde-haired men. After all, the classic line is “tall, dark and handsome.” I was kind of medium, chubby and blonde.

I liked it, though. I liked the way it looked, I liked the way it felt, and I sensed it translated me from being an Ohio-born, rural ruffian to a transplanted California cavalier.

I nurtured it, I flipped it, I let it blow in the wind. It became my friend. Although blonde hair does not offer much conversation, my hope was that it would solicit some.

I kept it blonde, I insisted on blonde.

Until one day I woke up and it changed colors.

Scalp.

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