Dab

Dab (v): to pat or tap gently, as with something soft or moist:

I have written about him before.

But let me not be so foolish as to think that my readership is poring over each and every article, as if trying to discover the secrets of the Dead Sea Scrolls or the true intention of the Magna Carta.

His name was Mr. Wintermute and he was the town barber.

He was a small man, did not have a wife and possessed a very high voice.

dab, Brylcreem, Dead Sea Scrolls, Magna Carta, gay, hermit, hermit crab, haircut, barber, small town, a little dab’ll do ya, haircuts, community theater, Hostess Snowballs, tricks, bratty, fat boy,

Nowadays, we would joyfully proclaim him gay, but in that season, he was soft and sweet.

He also was a hermit. But he was a cheery hermit—in other words, not a hermit crab.

He always tried to relate to the young people who were forced to sit in his chair to get their monthly haircuts. (For some reason, our parents were extraordinarily concerned that hair not be given the chance to become wild and wooly.)

At the same time, on television, Brylcreem had begun an ad campaign with the slogan, “A little dab will do ya.”

It was an accurate statement, since Brylcreem had the consistency of toothpaste mingled with glue.

So Mr. Wintermute would come to the end of a very uncomfortable hair-cutting session—where in ten minutes he would have asked twelve questions and received no answers. And right before he let you out of the chair, he always said, “Would you like some good stuff? I mean, for the girls, remember—a little dab’ll do ya’.”

Honestly—it was well-rehearsed. Certainly up to the quality of community theater. But I was only eleven years old. I was not thinking about girls. I was more concerned with raising the funds to buy some Hostess Snowballs and how to relieve some of the galding between my chubby legs.

So I whimpered some sort of “no” in his direction, and he always countered, “You’re good-lookin’. You don’t need tricks.”

I never treated that man well.

I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anybody work so hard for seventy-five cents and the approval of a bratty, small-town fat boy.

It was years before I realized that I could use Brylcreem on my hair and it would hold it up and in place—so it wouldn’t fall down on my ears, causing my parents to insist that I get it cut.

Yes, Mr. Wintermute—a little dab actually does do you.

Czechoslovakia

Czechoslovakia (Prop Noun): a former republic in central Europe formed after World War I

It was usually right before lunch in our fifth-grade class that the teacher asked us to open up our geography books.

I grew up in a small town.

In our tiny burg, the state capital, which was only twenty miles away, seemed a world apart from us in culture, problems and of course, interaction.

So when my teacher talked about places like Mississippi, Switzerland, Utah and Czechoslovakia, the names began to mingle. The relevance gradually disappeared.

I didn’t know anything about the countries.

Sometimes I confused the states of the Union with places far, far away—in Europe and Asia.

(It was a different time, filled with much prejudice—so we rarely talked about Africa. I knew there were jungles there. There were whisperings about cannibals, and my understanding of the lion was that it was man-eating.)

I didn’t feel ignorant.

I just didn’t think all of these nations and names and locales were of any value to me.

I didn’t see anybody from England coming over to try to understand me—so why was I sitting, opening a book, looking at flat maps representing a round world?

Then I grew up and took my first trip to Mississippi. Although some of its landscape was different from my home, most trees carry a family resemblance, no matter where you go. What opened up Mississippi to me was meeting someone and putting a face to a place.

As I traveled more, learned more, wrote more and created, I met more faces. They were tied to places.

One day I received an email from a young man from Czechoslovakia. He had read one of my books. I was astounded. How did it get there? Apparently, my books were not nearly as timid as I. They felt free to journey and be handled; they welcomed the inspection by people from all cultures.

By the way, his note to me was so nice.

He was so intelligent.

He was so appreciative.

It made me like Czechoslovakia.

It could be a short-sighted way of looking at life, but if I can put a face to a place, then the place begins to mean so much more to me.

For instance, I no longer think that Africa is filled with cannibals or that the lions wish to munch on human flesh.

I don’t think all people from California are “fruits and nuts,” like my Uncle Raymond claimed.

And I no longer believe that all French folk wear berets and do nothing but eat croissants and kiss with their tongues.

I guess the best way to learn geography is to first travel the width and breadth of your own heart, and make sure that you’re prepared to receive what you will discover.

The world is only twenty-six thousand miles—all the way around. Not very much. And within that twenty-six thousand miles are nearly eight billion people.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful for us all to believe that we would really like most of them?

 

funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

Curtain

Curtain: (n) a hanging piece of fabric

I can’t think of an occasion when the word “addicted” can be used in a positive way.

Yet I will tell you, there are certain things to which I am addicted.

One of those revolves around a curtain.

I couldn’t have been more than twelve years old the first time I stood backstage at a theater, right next to the beautiful velvet curtain that swept its way across the stage to close the production or open up to new story possibilities, encouraging the audience to use its imagination.

No matter where you are, there’s always that small space where the dressing rooms and the gathering areas empty out onto holy ground, where the actors, singers and musicians stand and wait to enter the stage and share their best.

I remember at age twelve, putting together a song with three other guys to sing at the school talent show. We had searched all over Columbus, Ohio for just the right ties. We all went to the same barber shop to get our hair cut two days earlier. My singing buddies had come to my house to dress and prepare for the evening. We had rehearsed our song over and over again, trying to fine-tune the musical excellence to the greatest extent of our pre-adolescent acuity.

There we were.

The small-town audience sat waiting, as we stood nervously backstage.

I remember being so close to that beautiful red velvet curtain that I laid my head over, resting it on the soft fabric. It was comforting.

Yes, it was at that point I knew I was addicted.

I wanted to spend the rest of my life backstage somewhere, waiting for the curtain to open so I could come and share the better parts of myself, hoping that the audience could find the better parts of their hearts.

funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

Crepe Paper

funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

Crepe paper: thin, densely wrinkled paper used for decoration

Imagine my shock.

All through my growing up years (which apparently are still continuing) I thought that crepe paper was cool.

Matter of fact, in my small-town-ism, it was the symbol of a party—the true essence of decorations, and proof that something special was about to happen.

It was never bought for common meals or everyday opportunities.

Crepe paper was festive

It could be strewn about a room, and in no time at all, depending on the color scheme, you had a thematic flow in your pavilion.

I loved crepe paper.

Don’t get me wrong—I was still a guy. I didn’t hang it around my bedroom. But I remember that if I walked into a hall and crepe paper was hanging everywhere, or for instance, on July 4th, when the windows of the town stores would be decorated with red, white and blue crepe paper, I got get a chill down my spine. Patriotic goose bumps.

So imagine my shock when I got much older and we were planning a very special party. A committee was meeting to discuss decorations, and I mentioned the purchase of crepe paper. Two of the members immediately scoffed, one saying, “We can certainly do better than that,” and the other retorting, “What do you think this is? A kid’s birthday party?”

I was simultaneously baffled, heartbroken, offended, and at a loss for words.

I quickly glanced around the room for a supporter or two, and although I suspected there were a couple of silent crepe paper lovers, no one piped up to its defense.

So plans were made minus the use of foolish, meaningless and childish crepe paper.

Matter of fact, later on in the evening, there were a couple of times when I was sure people were having a laugh behind my back at my backwoods suggestion.

Yet when it came time for the actual extravaganza, and all the flower arrangements were placed and the cloth bunting was put around the room, everyone was dissatisfied.

“It doesn’t look like anything’s going on,” said one fellow.

A half an hour later, they walked in, carrying big bags filled with crepe paper of every color. We all took one roll, went to our own selected space and decorated it.

It was amazing how nice the crepe paper made the other decorations look.

 


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Copyright

Copyright: (n) the exclusive right to make copies in music

I had just turned nineteen years of age when I was sitting in the back area of my mother and father’s loan company which they had opened in our small town, and for some inexplicable reason, there was a piano situated in one of the corners.

I don’t know how it got in there. I don’t know whether someone was unable to pay their loan and offered their piano as penance—but it was there.funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

I was also present—with my new wife, whom I had only been married to for about seven months, but we already had a first son. (You do the math.)

Long story apparently being made longer, I decided to walk over to that piano and write a song. I had sung songs for years. I had done my karaoke versions of popular tunes long before the “Kary” came from “Okie.”

I don’t know what gave me the idea that I could write a song. Maybe it was because I was nineteen and pretty convinced I could do anything. Somewhere in the expanse of the next hundred and eighteen minutes, I wrote two songs. I had no idea if anybody would think they were good—I was so damn impressed with them that the notion of seeking another opinion seemed redundant.

I did not know if I would ever write another song, so I immediately wanted to make sure these two songs were not only recorded, but copyrighted—to make sure that no less-talented individuals would steal them, attaining great notice and gain.

There were two ways to copyright my songs. I could make original copies of the lead sheet and words, and mail them to myself, and never open that envelope because it would have the stamped date on the outside from the official Post Office.

This did not sound dramatic enough to me.

So instead, I pursued the other avenue, which was to contact the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C, and receive innumerable forms, which I filled out, paying a small price for each composition. From that point on, once it was cleared that my songs were indeed original, I would have a copyright for all time.

My God. Who could resist such majestic red tape?

I went through the entire process, and even today, somewhere buried deep in a box in one of my closets, is a certificate informing the whole world that my two songs made a visit to the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., and returned home again—sanctified.


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Commute

Commute: (v) to travel some distance between one’s home and place of work on a regular basis.

Sitting around the room at a party last night with a bunch of friends and family, a young man piped up and said, “I evaluate people on whether they voted for this President. If they did I know they’re stupid.”

Well, truthfully, this article could be read forty years from now and it would still apply to someone who felt that way because “their” person did not make the White House.

I did not condemn the young man for his judgmental attitude. I didn’t try to convince him that he was wrong.funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

I did explain to him that he didn’t understand the mindset, simplicity and utter joy of small-town people all over America–who don’t have to commute an hour-and-a-half to go to work.

If they want a loaf of bread, they climb into their truck, drive down to the local market, where they spend much more time jabbering with their neighbors than getting their purchase. The trip back home takes no more than two minutes. There are no frayed nerves from traffic jams. There are no attitudes that the human race is full of assholes because they got cut off at the one stoplight in town.

It is much easier for them to be genteel.

But it’s also easier for them to be suspicious of the “big city ideas” trying to come in and take over.

When you live in a city where there’s a commute, you, yourself, develop a different pathway to sanity.

You may be more defensive.

You may be more interested in the government taking over matters of social order, since you don’t grow your own corn and soybeans.

You are not worse than the man or woman who lives in Iowa and only needs five minutes to get to their job or their barn.

You’re just different. Your perspective varies from theirs.

Wise is the soul who understands the simplicity of the village folk, and the struggle of those who commute.

 

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Census

Census: (n) an official count or survey of a population

Every census is shortly thereafter followed by a tax. This began with Caesar Augustus in the Christmas story and continues today.

We want to find out how many people there are so we have some idea on how we should divide up the horrific amount of expense that’s involved in the process of us being people.

It’s a fussy way of reminding small towns that they’re shrinking and becoming less important.

The government can also determine where to send its money, and where the census tells them there aren’t as many voters, so no need to be nice.

It begins at an early age, when you plan a party at your house. The following Monday morning, after the party, the normal question is, how many people showed up?

Did you do a head count? Was the party successful because people had nothing else to do so they came to it?

No one asks if the chip dip turned out tasty. What flavors of pizza did you select? Was the discussion lively?

No. It all has to do with numbers.

We are a society obsessed with proving the value of our concept by collecting statistics on how many people are aware that we had a concept in the first place. We fear obscurity.

Yet no one enters the tomb with a companion–no census in the grave.

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