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.

 

funny wisdom on words that begin with a C


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Bunk Bed

j-r-practix-with-border-2

Bunk bed: (n) a piece of furniture consisting of two beds, one above the other, that form a unit.

Ralph had a good job and therefore had some money.

This was rare in our hometown area, where the local gospel singers who aspired to be superstars in the cavalcade of heavenly tunes were normally poor, with dreams the only stuffing in their heads.

I was one of those poor ones.

But Ralph had some money. So his quartet went out and bought a bus, and Ralphie Boy signed for it. It was a 4104 Greyhound, which I’m sure will mean nothing to you unless you can conjure the image of the transportation of that era. If you can muster a picture of a Greyhound, it more than likely is a 4104.

Did I mention that Ralph was also a carpenter? So he ripped the seats out and built the insides to look like a little home, complete with four bunk beds for traveling nights, which might require some sleeping.

Everybody who had a pitch pipe and desired to sing four-part harmony bounced between admiring Ralph and his bus and being envious that they were not in his quartet.

But he was generous and let people come along on little trips so they could say they had been in the magic chariot.

I went on one such trip. It was an “overnighter,” so I got to sleep in the bunk.

It was at that precise moment in that particular location, with my chubby frame wedged into a tiny bunk, that I realized I was claustrophobic. What started out as a night of dreams and new opportunities left me terrorized that the bunk just above me was going to suddenly give way, come crashing down and suffocate me, probably to death.

When we finished the trip, Ralph asked me how I enjoyed it, and being a polite Midwestern boy, I said it was absolutely amazing–but that I was a little scared of the bunk beds.

Ralph thought that was hilarious–so funny that he decided to share it with everybody he ever came in contact with.

So from that point on, no matter what the activity, people would walk up, pat me on the shoulder and say, “By the way, you can relax. There won’t be any bunks.”

 

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Bass

Bass: (n) a voice, instrument, or sound of the lowest rangeDictionary B

Tom was my friend.

I think that’s why we hated each other so much.

There are people we meet that we were never meant to be linked with, but because of projects, proximity and maybe even personality, we get slammed together with them in an uncomfortable relationship of tension. Unwilling to call them adversaries, we resort to the generic term, “friend.”

Tom and I sang together in a quartet. It was a group of our own making, and considering the fact that we were just teenagers, we did a good job of holding it together and doing more than practicing–on occasion actually performing in front of living people.

Tom wanted to be in charge of the group, but unfortunately, I already held that position–with accompanying diadem. So there was always friction about every decision and every musical composition we selected to mutilate in our inimitable style.

When Tom joined the group, I sang bass. There were many reasons for this.

First of all, I was the only one who could sing a Bb below middle C, which is mandatory for those with testosterone tones.

I also thought the girls really dug guys who sang low, feeling confident they were masculine simply by hearing them warm up on scales.

Tom didn’t think I was a good bass singer. He was always trying to undermine my efforts.

One day, he brought in a record to introduce us to a song that had a very low bass note, which was showcased in the middle of the tune as a solo without accompaniment. He coyly asked me if I could hit the note, and being young of years and mostly insane, I insisted it was within my range.

It wasn’t.

Honestly, it wasn’t within anybody’s range unless they were in a recording studio with the help of knobs and buttons.

So the first time we sang the song in public, Tom waited for that part to come along, where I was supposed to growl something in the basement of human vocals, and when the music stopped and it came my turn to lay in the part–well, let us say that I didn’t even come close.

Tom was ecstatic.

No one could really say that I missed the note, since I was not even able to frog out anything near its pond.

Tom later convinced the other members of the group that I was not a bass singer, and shortly thereafter, I left.

It was only a few weeks later that Tom and the boys returned to me, asking me to sing again–since I was the only one who knew how to read music, play piano and arrange vocals.

They now wanted me to sing lead instead of bass, and we launched the group again.

A few days passed of peace and tranquility.

And then Tom decided I couldn’t sing lead …

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Anti-establishment

dictionary with letter A

 

Anti-establishment (adj): against the establishment or established authority.

There is no good idea that wasn’t once anti-establishment.

Why?

Because it’s just too easy to establish something.

All you have to do is get enough people to agree with you, fund it, develop a slogan, and set up a network of cantankerous and often contradictory committees.

We have to realize that the United States is not an established idea. Actually, it’s a rather rag-tag collection of opinions which are still being ironed out because there are so many wrinkles from the initial roll-out.

We are a mess–and damn proud of it, by the way.

So it becomes quite comical to me when anyone suggests that anything in this country is anti-establishment. For after all, everything in this country is actually anti-establishment, struggling to get the nod of the 51%.

Democracy is such a dog show it’s no wonder we occasionally end up with a dog.

So before we become self-righteous about some cause, or believe that the entire heavens have inhabited our earthly philosophy to be distributed to the masses, let us realize that our country has fought every nationality that has ever tried to emigrate here, has imprisoned and enslaved several colors, and continues to fearfully try to protect principles which have already screamed for some touch-up and repair.

Therefore, how can you be on the safe end of all the ruckus going on as we jockey for position and stump for votes?

Always remember three things. It will help you to determine where to stand:

  1. God gave people free will and He won’t let you take it away.
  2. Anything that helps people find themselves at least opens the door to them becoming better.
  3. No one is better than anyone else. In other words, we’re all more alike than different.

Yes, if you add your fourth part to that trio that sings the song of freedom, forming your own quartet, you will find that most of the time you won’t need to sing off-key.

 

 

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Anomaly

dictionary with letter A

Anomaly: (n) something that deviates from the normal, standard or expected

I liked music.

At eighteen years of age, I’m not so sure that I was totally devoted to a career in the field or whether there was a bit of laziness tied into the equation, because playing piano sounded easier than punching a time-clock. (After all, we get ourselves in the most trouble when we try to purify our motives instead of accepting them a trifle sullied.)

One afternoon during that eighteenth year, I took my girlfriend, who was soon to become my wife, into a back room of a loan company owned by my parents and sat down at a piano which had been given to our family, but because we had no room in our house, ended up stuck in the back corner of this lending institution.

I had never written a song before.

As a teenager, I sang in choir, a quartet and for nursing homes, pretending like it was a big gig at Madison Square Garden.

Yet on this day, I suddenly got this urge to compose. It was not stimulated by a professor at a college asking for an assignment, nor was it motivated by my ancestors, wishing that I would abandon all normal courses of occupation and pursue a musical path.

It was truly an anomaly.

  • It was contrary to what everybody wanted me to do.
  • It was an open, seething contradiction to my cultural training.
  • I sat down at that piano, and in the course of the next ninety-four minutes, wrote two original songs. I didn’t know if they were good and certainly was not confident they were great.

But something came out of me that wasn’t a conditioned response or a well-studied answer for a final exam.

It was mine.

Whether it was good or bland, it came from me. It excited me. It encouraged me to muster the perseverance to survive the critique of my society and even overcome my own fits of lethargy to pursue it.

It still excites me today.

Hundreds of songs later, I still feel as thrilled when pen goes to paper, words appear and musical notes cuddle up next to them.

No one in my family ever took the course of action which I chased, beginning with that afternoon in the back room behind that piano.

But it is the selection of that odyssey that has made me who I am.

There are two things you have to remember about an anomaly:

  1. It is never immediately accepted.
  2. It always takes more work than you expected.

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