Dam

Dam: (n) a barrier constructed to hold back water and raise its level

I am often surprised at my own conceit.

Perhaps some folks would not consider it conceit—to relate every word, subject and category in life to one’s own limited experience. Even though I know there is a great Hoover Dam, and these barriers are often constructed by busy beavers, and without the concrete which holds water where we want it, many human beings would never get a drink of water, I persist.

Yes, I am fully aware of all this information.

But when I hear the word “dam,” I think of necking.

Making out.

Parking.

Or coming as close as possible to “going all the way.”

In my small village, one had to be careful on Friday or Saturday night to choose where to make out with your girlfriend or boyfriend.

There were eyes everywhere.

And even though all the grownups in the town knew, on good authority, that boys and girls did things that made them become men and women, they still chose to put off that metamorphosis for as long as possible, for their particular caterpillars.

So we had to have someplace to go, to find out how far we could go before falling off the edge of the Earth.

The spot favored by nearly everyone was a little dam outside our town. It was about eight miles away, located on what we referred to as the Hoover Reservoir. (As I write this article, I have no idea why they named it Hoover or how it “reservoired.”)

It was an amazing place.

There was a little roadside park, and right next to it was another road that careened down into another large parking area, which overlooked the overflow to the dam. (Forgive me if I overused the word “over.”)

On Friday and Saturday nights—and for brave souls who could slip away any night of the week, for that matter—the very young drove to the location just as nightfall was peeking around the corner. There they parked their cars and commenced to give one another tonsillectomies, followed by physical exams and searches for moles and blemishes.

Now, let me explain that there were two types of people—those who were dating, who went to the dam to do things which might make them end up damned, and those who had no significant other and chose, because of their insignificance, to go to that parking spot near the water, and flash headlights, honk horns and even get out of the car to pound on the hood of smoochers, disrupting their pleasure.

It was a nasty practice.

We called it “bushwacking.”

Truthfully, the only people in the world who thought it was humorous or clever were the few pathetic souls that found themselves doing the ugly deed out of frustration for not being able to participate in the competition.

Many a day I defended bushwackers for their light-hearted effort to have fun.

That is, until I met someone who was willing to go to the dam place and kiss me until I couldn’t breathe. Then I was infuriated for the interruption.

Now, I realize, as I warned you at the beginning, that this outlook on the word “dam” is very myopic and certainly foretells of an egocentric mindset.

Yet since I have not lied to you up to this point, I cannot do so on this day.

The word “dam” does and always will remind me of either the pursuit of happiness with my nimble fingers or being a loser, honking my horn with a giddy revenge.

Chasm

Chasm: (n) a deep fissure in the earth, rock, or another surface

The three-step process is as follows:

  1. It’s a problem.
  2. It seems unfixable.
  3. Therefore it’s normal.

This is the present way our society handles difficulties. In doing this, we’ve opened the door of our home to many a stray racoon, thinking the creature is not that
different from our domesticated pets. When the racoon ends up being wild, untamed and unwilling to accept human domination of the household, we have to make a decision.

Do we shoo it out the door? Do we kill it? Or do we find a way to live in the home with a racoon, pretending we’re equals?

I know it sounds silly. Thus the point.

Nearly fifty years ago, our country was concerned about a generation gap–a chasm that existed between parents and teenagers, causing conflict and a lack of communication.

Move ahead fifty years and the same chasm still exists. We have just decided it’s normal. In deciding it’s normal, the racoon of rebellion wanders the hallways, throwing its attitude and therefore dominating the climate of our American Dream.

We defend the racoon by saying it has a right to free speech.

Or to own a gun.

Or to be anything it wants to be.

Or to interfere in the lives of others as long as it doesn’t totally destroy.

We’re afraid of chasms, but instead of admitting there’s a gap in understanding, we pretend it’s a cultural difference, an ethnic preference, a doctrinal dispute or a political stumping point.

Somewhere along the line we will have to agree on the three things that will allow the human race to survive:

  • Creativity
  • Tolerance
  • A challenge

We will have to stop being afraid of the chasm, and instead, be prepared to make some giant leaps for mankind.

 

 

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Cellar

Cellar: (n) a room below ground level in a house

I could probably write a large volume of underground stories about cellars. Many things come to my mind.

One particular fascinating and disgusting example happened the Thanksgiving of my senior year in high school.

I had a girlfriend. That in itself was momentous. We had begun our highschool affair and had progressed beyond light petting to flirting with
some heavy petting, moving quickly towards petting at will.

So I picked her up on Thanksgiving evening and brought her over to my home. We stood around for a few minutes, talking with parents, though my mind was on bringing her down to the cellar, where we could make out on a couch normally reserved for the dog. (I wasn’t terribly concerned about comfort nor fragrance–really just availability.)

We had agreed not to have sex in the same fashion that teenagers promise their parents that they won’t ride the roller coaster at Disney World.

Trying to stay loyal to our promise of no intercourse, for which we would have no recourse, we just kind of laid there on the couch, rubbing up against each other ferociously. (I realize that such movement has a street name, but it sounds so coarse and really doesn’t capture the full energy and excitement of the event.)

Suddenly, in the midst of a back–or perhaps it was a forth–she pushed me away, leaped to her feet, jumped on her hands and knees and threw up all over the cellar floor.

I was surprised.

Apparently, the gyrations had disagreed with the turkey and dressing or angered some cranberry sauce.

But I learned something about myself. First, I would never be able to keep my promise to not have sex. But secondly, I found out that I cared very deeply for this young friend, because I got down on my hands and knees and cleaned up her throw-up.

I didn’t enjoy it. It felt sacrificial. But I did it.

She was embarrassed, impressed and touched. I was relieved it was in the cellar instead of the dining room.

I don’t think anybody ever knew about the event that night, when my girlfriend threw up…because apparently she was sick of me.

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Calamine

Calamine: (n) a soothing lotion or ointment consisting primarily of zinc oxide

It is not that teenagers believe themselves to be invincible, but rather, they have not traveled to see enough road kill to know when to avoid
the vultures.

Such was my case at age fourteen.

I found myself in the wilderness of Oklahoma, which literally had no civilization other than a few locals, who believed that God had placed them on top of this mountain because they were “The Chosen People.”

The solitude and seclusion opened the door to the possibility of skinny dipping. I would never skinny dip anywhere other than an ice-cold stream in the Oklahoma wilderness, around a bunch of friends who were equally as intimidated by the whole experience and so desperately tried not to look at one another’s peckers.

The bank descending to the creek was very steep, so unless you planned on leaping into the water (which as my friend, Bill, found out, was like breaking ice) you had to ease your way down–or as I found out, just slide.

There was vegetation everywhere, so I used that greenery as a moistening agent for my backside, to make the slip to the water more pleasant.

Now, moving ahead: it was two days later, on the drive back from Oklahoma, that I noticed that my rear end was extremely hot and itchy. When I arrived home, after rubbing my butt on the back seat the entire trip, I discovered that from the middle of my back to my ankles, I was covered with poison something.

The doctor couldn’t identify it. He said it was a little like poison oak, sumac and ivy all mixed together.

It would not go away. I was thoroughly convinced that I was going to have to explain the condition to my future wife on our wedding night.

Then somebody suggested calamine lotion. It’s not that the calamine healed this poison condition, but it covered up all the sores and seeping places, and eventually they just dried up and went away.

My mother, who loved to keep track of such thing, maintained that I went through 81 bottles of calamine lotion.

Since that day I have never used calamine again.

But I am very grateful that they came up with the product, and I hope they are equally as satisfied with me purchasing 81 bottles.

 

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Bricklayer

j-r-practix-with-border-2

Bricklayer: a person whose job is to build structures with bricks

Conventional wisdom suggests that each of us should try everything once, to be able to say we did it.

Not only is this philosophy dangerous, but the only benefit from it is to develop a sense of humor about your own limitations.

Because most things I have tried in my life I’ve really sucked at.Dictionary B

For instance, a friend from high school was building a small enclosure for his mailbox using bricks. It looked like a really simple job–so much so that he felt confident to ask me to help him lay the bricks and mortar around this mailbox, to protect it from those teenagers who thought it was clever to take a baseball bat and destroy the receptacle.

I agreed.

After all, nothing ventured, no chance for humiliation.

He took about five minutes to explain to me how to lay the bricks so they were even, with just enough mortar to hold them in place, and how to situate them in a pattern.

It looked so obvious that I have to admit that I felt a bit offended when he went into such detail.

Then he walked away.

I was left with bricks, mortar, and my Swiss cheese memory of what to do. Honest to God–I did my best.

But sometimes I used too much mortar.

Sometimes I got the bricks on crooked.

About an hour later, he came back and found that I had laid about twenty-two bricks. They were all wrong.

As I was suggesting to him that my efforts may have been flawed, and that he might want to correct them, he took a nearby sledgehammer and brought it down on my work, smashing it to smithereens.

He turned, looked at me without malice, and said, “It would take me longer to fix it than to start over again.”

As I have often done in my life pursuing various adventures, I was alerted that day to the fact… that I was not a bricklayer.

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Biological Clock

Biological clock: (n) an innate mechanism that controls the physiological activities

Dictionary B

Some years ago, a friend asked me to come and stay at his house. He showed me my room and when I noticed that the alarm clock sitting next to the bed had the incorrect time, he explained that I was welcome to try to change it, but that he had found that the clock always reverted to being exactly fifty-two minutes fast.

So rather than throwing it away, he had decided to adjust.

I squinted at him, a bit perturbed, but during my week-long stay, found myself becoming quite adept at time-transfer.

I bring this little story up because to a large degree, we have done this with the human race.

We have totally ignored the natural biological time schedule of human growth, and instead have inserted a social structure which has nothing to do with the reality of our personal timetable.

In other words, puberty begins in the early teens–but we strongly suggest that people refrain from marriage until their early thirties.

A woman’s primal time for having babies is 14-35, but if we don’t marry until we are thirty, then there has to be a real rush if we’re going to squeeze in our 1.8 children into the statistical anomaly.

I suppose we could try to become more sensitive to the natural order of human activity, but that would require that we ask our children to skip being rebellious, foolish and slackered teenagers and instead, take on the mantle of adulthood much earlier.

This would be ridiculous.

What would we ever do with video games, juvenile detention centers, drug rehabilitation facilities and over-expenditure on trendy clothes? We might actually infuse premature emotional stability and spirituality into our offspring before they have a chance to sow wild oats–which, by the way, are rarely usable for making bread.Donate Button

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Beguile

Beguile: (v) to charm or enchant, sometimes in a deceptive way.

Dictionary B

Subtlety seems to have been abandoned by our generation, which runs away from cleverness like teenagers escaping the responsibility of a joyride.

We just don’t understand that brashness is no replacement for cajoling.

So boldly, we strike out with our opinions, and are somewhat astounded that others do not find them endearing or enlightening. So then it becomes necessary for us to attack these unbelievers with further brash retorts, comments and tweets.

Even though the word “beguile” has a dark tinge to it, the human race has never been brought to its senses by direct confrontation or merely the presentation of knowledge.

We need truth to flirt with us.

We need to be romanced into the discovery of goodness.

We need the chilling sensation of the first date to gain first insight.

Without this, we become commonplace, boring and eventually, stubborn.

Yes, if I were to describe the worst condition of humanity, it would be the sedimentary accumulation of beliefs which neither bring passion nor innovation.

Come, Spirit of God.

Beguile me with your creativity.

Entice me to yearn for the intimacy of a good idea.

And make me hunger and thirst … for righteousness.

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Beau

Beau: (n) a boyfriend or male admirer.Dictionary B

Although I don’t want to be considered a curmudgeon, there are certain words that rile me up.

One of them is “boyfriend.” And honestly, I am not any more enamored with the use of “beau.”

It is my discovery that to be a friend to a female, the last thing I need to be is a boy. Equally disappointing to the average woman is when we don the persona of man.

The reason we contend there’s a battle of the sexes is because we posture in our gender and insist on our uniqueness, making us a goddam threat. We don’t tolerate such an exclusive approach in other situations:

We don’t allow butchers to cut up our pets because they’re off work and miss the job.

We don’t permit teenagers to insist they don’t need to be part of the social structure because they’re too busy dealing with the angst of their acne.

Yet for some reason, it appears to be acceptable to hide behind the “guise of the guys” and the “mystique of the feminine.”

It’s hilarious–especially when you get around people in their senior years, who find themselves ingloriously dating, introducing their male partner as a “boyfriend.”

I have just found that the best way to get along with a woman is to make it clear that you do not consider her an acquisition, but rather, a confidante.

Adding the word “boy” inserts way to much testosterone.

And if you insist on being called “beau” in order to avoid boyfriend… then you add too much grits and gravy.

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Anything

dictionary with letter A

Anything: (pron) used to refer to a thing, no matter what

If you’ve ever parented teenagers, this response is probably one of your pet peeves.

If you ask them a question of any sort, they will either ignore you or reply, “I guess anything’s OK.”

I grew weary of this.

So one night when I asked my teenage sons what they wanted to have for dinner, and they replied, “anything,” I complied.

I went out to a neighbor’s trash can and pulled out the cast-aside leftovers of their previous lunch–some half-eaten sandwiches already drawing the interest of a couple of ants, the skeleton of a fish, and believe it or not, some broken pieces of pumpkin shell.

I found two bottles of partially consumed Coca-Cola, put it all on a platter, set plates, silverware and called them to dinner.

At first they were in such a state of oblivion that they didn’t recognize the placement set before them as being basically inedible, but perched in their chairs and reached for their cell phones.

So adding to the comedy of the moment, I asked one of them to offer grace. It was at this point that the child felt the need to look at the food, in order to determine the length and intensity of the prayer. Amazingly, he did not gaze at me in horror, but rather, looked at the spread before him, perplexed, shook his heads, and began to pray:

“Thanks for the food and the hands that prepared it, and for this day. In Jesus name, amen.”

Finishing the prayer, they both stared at the food–or shall I say, the “remains of the day”–and then looked at me quizzically, asking, “What is it?”

I smiled, grabbed my fork and spoon and touted, “It’s anything. Dig in.”

 

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Angst

dictionary with letter A

Angst: (n) a feeling of deep anxiety or dread, typically unfocused, about the human condition or the state of the world in general.

I don’t want to be one of those people who pursue so much optimistic hopefulness that I fail to recognize what is necessary in order to maintain our present integrity.

Yet I have to wonder if it’s possible for the human race, in this season, to acquire both of the necessary portions that make us worthy of continuation.

For I feel it takes progress and process.

Yes, I think technology is wonderful, and I do not want to go back to a time when we had no computers, racism was extolled as normal, and antibiotics were not available for sickness.

I am not nostalgic for backward times.

However, by the same token, making progress without honoring the process of human character which honors the feelings of others, makes the world a dangerous place and certainly volatile.

It produces angst.

We become afraid that we will lose our progress if we honor the process. Or we preach the process and become “anti-progress,” making ourselves appear Neanderthal.

Is it possible to be a human being who realizes that progress needs to be made emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically, without ignoring the values which make the process of living so much sweeter, and ripe with goodness?

We always attach the word “angst” to teenagers, but I am not convinced that a fourteen-year-old riding in a Conestoga Wagon with his parents, crossing the Great Plains in 1850, had much time to reflect on his or her misgivings.

If progress gives us too much free time to bitch and complain, robbing from the process of busying ourselves about becoming better people, then are we really moving forward?

Yet if the process of maintaining civility causes us to be suspicious of every facet of progress, then the foolishness we maintain makes our belief system appear to be shortsighted.

What would it take to mingle progress with process?

  1. I will put to use anything at all that makes life easier, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else.
  2. I will acknowledge that there is no replacement for personal contact, love and gentleness with my fellow-travelers.
  3. I am ready to go forward if it doesn’t push someone else backward.

I think in considering this trio of principles, we can merge progress and process, to generate a climate of mutual benefit, drenched in compassion.

 

 

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