Crouching

Crouching: (v) stooping or bending low.

After all my years of human travel, experiences, lifestyle changes, enlightenments and detriments, I still can find reasons—new ones every day—to hate baseball.

You would think I would run out of possibilities and begin to repeat myself, but even now, as I looked at the word, “crouching,” a new manifestation of my disdain for “America’s pastime” has surfaced.

I must be candid with you.

The reason I hate baseball is because I never took the time to learn to like it. When I was young, kids divided into categories:

Kids who like to fish and kids who hated the smell of fish

There were kids who liked girls and kids who held tightly to the conspiracy theory about the “cootie” thing.

There were kids who liked baseball and kids who liked football. I was part of the latter group.

But every once in a while, I would find myself caught on a hot summer afternoon, when everyone thought it was stupid to play football, squeezed into a corner with a bat and glove, to play with my fellow-warriors.

Matter of fact, I even tried out for Little League because my friends thought I would be great, I was kind of funny and would be a thousand laughs in the dugout.

So when I arrived at the ball diamond and the coach met me, I didn’t even get a word out of my mouth before he ran over, patted me on the shoulders, looked into my face and said:

“You’re chubby. You’ll make a great catcher.”

I didn’t like being called chubby. Chubby was not a manly term. And God and John Wayne both knew—I was manly.

But I was willing to listen.

He presented me with some sort of padded vest which didn’t fit—well, because I was chubby. So he taped it onto me, gave me the catcher’s mask, the big catcher’s mitt, and led me behind home plate. I stood there as he waited for me to assume the correct position.

At length he said, “No, no. You’ve got to crouch.”

Did I mention earlier that I was chubby? When you have a few extra pounds, crouching is not a given.

But again, I was willing to try.

What I didn’t realize was that this crouching thing was not a one-time event. As a catcher, you not only need to crouch, but you need to stay that way through the entire half-inning and be able to get up on your feet quickly from that descended position so you can make plays.

Without going into a lot of painful detail, I didn’t have any of the aforementioned qualifications.

My knees kept hurting.

I got a cramp in my thigh.

I was always falling over onto my side.

And every time I tried to stand up from the crouch, I felt like Atlas with the world on his shoulders.

I lasted through two innings before the coach took me into the outfield, handed me a glove, said, “It’s quieter back here”—and relieved me of my misery.

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Bronze

j-r-practix-with-border-2

Bronze: (v) to make a person or part of the body suntanned.

I’ve often missed out on conventional wisdom because I could not afford to go to the convention.

So I frequently found myself going against the common thread of understanding and sewing up my own solutions.Dictionary B

On one such occasion, I scheduled our music group to perform in Miami, Florida, in the month of July.

Nobody does that.

Miami becomes a glowing hot rock, to be avoided by any living creature which does not wish to swelter. But our group wasn’t that popular–we were certainly never going to be able to be in Miami in January.

So we went in July.

It was very reasonably priced (since nobody was there) and really no hotter than the rest of the country, which was also experiencing summer.

But my achievement during those two weeks was something I had never experienced before and haven’t since. For you see, I worked up the courage to put on a pair of shorts, go shirtless, and walk around the beach until my skin turned bronze.

God, I loved it.

At night, I stood in front of the mirror and stared at my brown hide, realizing that I had never before enjoyed my body–because it was the color of pewter.

I was bronzed.

I wasn’t intimidated to step along the sidewalks near the ocean in my cutoff blue jeans and just act like I was one of the locals.

In the midst of those two weeks, a friend of mine debuted her new book and invited me to come to Nashville, Tennessee, for the signing. When I arrived I was the talk of the town.

“Where’d you get that tan?”

“Must be nice to lay on the beach all day long…”

Never in my life had I felt physically valuable to the world around me.

  • Spiritually–yes.
  • Emotionally–certainly.
  • Creatively–I hope so.

But for the first time, my “bronze” covered up some of my obesity, puffiness and, shall we say, “whitey-white-white.”

Now, I know you’re not supposed to get too much sun. I know there’s a danger of cancer.

But I am so grateful that on at least one occasion in my life, I got to walk around, for a little while… as a bronze Greek god.

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Bell

Bell: (n) a hollow object, typically made of metal, that sounds a clear musical note when struck by means of a clapper inside.

Dictionary B

I was sitting in my car on a hot, summer’s day, becoming more frustrated with each moment of sizzling waiting. I can’t recall what was keeping me from progress, but I was totally disgusted.

All of a sudden, there were bells.

Apparently a church in the middle of town had a ritual of ringing bells at noonday from its belfry.

I was suddenly translated to a simpler mindset.

I had the feeling that I was in the middle of a Normal Rockwell painting, sucking in a bit of Americana through my nostrils and allowing my eyeballs to be transformed to see something other than my aggravation.

The bells did it.

They harkened to a better part of me which remembered, from somewhere in my youth, such clanging–to stimulate a sense of celebration or an inkling of hope.

I don’t know who came up with the idea of putting bells in a church and what committee decided to ring them to inform the community of the presence of a house of worship, but damn…it works.

There’s no doubt about it.

A religious system that is beleaguered by too much tradition and obtuse theology is actually much better represented by the chiming of the bells … than the rhetoric of its ding-dongs.

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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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Anthropology

dictionary with letter A

Anthropology: (n) the comparative study of human societies and cultures

There is an abiding, if not persistent, inclination to believe that intelligence invokes individuality.

In other words, because the human race possesses greater brain power than, let’s say, the duck, we are segregated into a multitude of clumps that not only differentiate us from one another, creating chasms of separation, sprouting suspicion.

Anthropology would do a great service to humankind if it pursued the premise that we are much more like the duck. No one sits around and discusses how ducks from the south are different from ducks from the north. (Maybe it’s because they fly south for the winter and north for the summer. Of course, most of our aging human population has similar travel plans.)

It is ironic to me that a scientific community which fastidiously places us within the animal kingdom as brother and sister to our jungle family suddenly decides to separate us from that kingdom when it comes to matters of race and culture.

Is it possible that we would be better off if we punctuated our similarities instead of showcasing our differences?

  • For instance, does someone born in Siberia who is transplanted right after birth to Southern California still prefer to wear parkas?
  • Would a native of Africa, born in the Serengeti, if translated to London-town, constantly find him or herself pining to hunt with a spear?

Can we really continue to take the attributes that are engrained and nearly beaten into us by our families and pretend that they’re a part of our natural desire?

Very few people ever consider the personality profile of an individual chimpanzee. Yet in some sort of “Homo sapien silliness,” we think that each and every one of us is a snowflake falling from the heavens, with our own particular jagged edges.

Yes, I believe anthropology would provide a salvation to humans if the science explained how much we share in common.

We would certainly be more like the duck, and realize that our particular quack … is not that special. 

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Al fresco

Words from Dic(tionary)

dictionary with letter A

Al fresco: (adj) in the open air: e.g. an al fresco luncheon.

Much as I enjoy the arrival of spring with the promise of coming summer, and the warmth of that experience, I also become fully aware that I am about to be inundated by many different individuals who want to take advantage of the beauty of the season … to do everything outside.

Especially difficult for me is when they suggest that I take my sound equipment and music and array it on some sort of makeshift flat-bed trailer to perform in a park situation, surrounded by so many distractions that it’s nearly impossible to get the attention of a dead squirrel.

Let me tell you what bothers me about it:

1. Good sound needs walls. Otherwise it floats out and joins with other distracting molecules and becomes distorted or dispelled.

2. Even though I work very hard to be interesting, birds and trees, supersonic jets flying overhead and children briskly running and tripping to fall and scrape their noses do tend the eliminate the possibility of an ongoing attention span.

3. Bugs. If you are a normal person who showers, uses deodorant, or God forbid, aftershave, bugs seem to approach you as if you were a saloon and they are determined to get drunk on your elixir. I’ve had them fly in my mouth, buzz my bald head and perch themselves inside my ear.

I think I’ve just described the definition of “distracting.”

It happened to me recently when some friends invited me out to dinner, and asked if I wanted to sit at a table near the lake. It was a beautiful evening, about 6:15 P.M., and apparently the exact time when the local bees come out for an evening fellowship and what appeared to be church service. They huddled together, gathering around our food, and at times it appeared they were saying grace for the bounty set before them.

We eventually (being more intelligent than the buzzers) found ways to cover up our food, our bodies and the surrounding table with napkins, plates–and I think one lady used a scarf. It was not exactly what I would call a favorable dining experience.

I think going camping is an al fresco event. When you do so, you plan on roughing it, taking on nature and trying to get away from the delicacies of life.

But every other time you go al fresco, you must realize that it’s going to turn out to be a campout–and as soon as you arrive outside, you have departed your home … and entered Nature’s back yard.