Debt

Debt: (n) something that is owed or that one is bound to pay to or perform for another

I am trying to determine if I remember if there was any measurable amount of sincerity in me at all.

I’m talking about that first moment, when I was nineteen years old and sat down in a car dealership to buy a five-hundred-dollar, old, beat-up van that formerly was used by the telephone company.

I was so anxious to get this vehicle that I probably would have sacrificed four days in heaven.

I know there was a salesman who was explaining payments, rates of interest—and also that the green-monster-wagon was being sold “As Is.”

I vaguely recall seeing his lips move as my glazed eyes peered over his shoulder at the prize.

I think maybe I was somewhat aware that since I put no money down, that my payments were going to be sixty dollars or so a month for the next year-and-a-half.

Yet I cannot swear to you that any awareness of these factors was actually registered by me, but instead, were later thrown up to me by the collection agency when it taunted me about my promise to make monthly payments.

I think there was a part of me that really thought I was going to try to make good on the debt.

I don’t know how.

I had no visible income.

I was negotiating my quarters and nickels to buy a pound of bologna a day with a loaf of bread and an apple.

I drove fifteen miles every other day to get free day-old doughnuts from my buddy who worked at the “Dunkin’ Something-or-Other.”

But there must have been some little piece of hopeful legitimacy that envisioned sixty dollars being made available for a monthly installment—even if I believed that a bird was going to fly it in from the Bank of Heaven.

Of course, it’s also possible that I was just an irresponsible teenager who couldn’t look beyond the temptation and couldn’t care less about my responsibilities.

Yet I sure do like that bird idea.

 

Dealership

Dealership: (n) a sales agency or distributor

I was a full-grown man, but when our family car blew up, I was feeling a great need to do something powerful. I needed to restore my position of respect with my children.

I had three thousand dollars. It was enough to buy another car if I had shopped well and hadn’t been in a huge hurry to convey a message to my offspring that I was in control.

I wasn’t in control.

I was still reeling a bit from my all-time favorite car giving up—and also way to eager to replace it without missing a beat.

I located the place in our town where car dealerships congregated to practice their “religion on wheels.” Driving among them, I immediately saw a Grand Marquis that was just stunning.

So I stopped in and talked to Bob. I don’t know whether his name actually was Bob, but it seemed reassuring displayed on his nametag. Bob told me the Grand Marquis was thirty-five hundred dollars.

My two oldest sons were with me on the trip.

They still thought I hung the moon after God displayed the stars.

I wanted to appear omnipotent. I needed to negotiate Bob down to the mat and pin him with a price of my choosing instead of his.

So I told Bob all I had was twenty-nine hundred dollars. He rolled his eyes. He said it was “impossible.” He even walked away to talk to a boss to see if something could be done.

In the process of all this negotiating, I actually cracked through Bob’s sales pitch to a real person. I didn’t know it. I thought I was dominating and was gradually getting what I wanted.

When he finally and reluctantly agreed to sell me the car for twenty-nine hundred flat and we were in the last stages of the paperwork, Bob looked up at me and smiled.

I don’t know why. Maybe it was seeing a father with his sons, or maybe he was tired of overstating the quality of the vehicles he sold just to make a buck.

Then he did something I believe he probably had never done before.

He tried to talk me out of it.

Not aggressively. He just said, “Now, you do know the odometer reads 162,000 miles. Right?”

I was drunk on my own cleverness. I just nodded my head.

Now, Bob wasn’t a saint. He wasn’t going to push it further. He wasn’t going to be totally forthcoming. Matter of fact, it probably gave him an aching pain in the head to offer the odometer number.

But I was determined.

My sons were smiling at me. They thought the car was cool. So I drove it off the lot, pridefully believing I had struck the best deal of my life.

We had immediate problems with it.

I called Bob back. He had forgotten how wonderful our interaction had been and was back to being “Bob the Car Dealer” at his dealership.

I took the car in to have it checked out and found out the vehicle had been in a flood, and therefore the electrical system was contorted, and the engine had water in the oil.

I drove that car for exactly three months. It was a classic case of being beautiful on the outside and ugly on the inside.

One night, coming home on the freeway, it caught fire and burned up a goodly portion of the engine.

My complete stupidity and arrogance had played out.

But I always gave Bob from the dealership, grace points because some creeping spider of conscience forced him to offer a kind, but unheeded, warning.

Credentials

funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

Credentials: (n) evidence of authority, status, rights, entitlement to privileges, or the like, usually in written form

 I suppose if you removed my driver’s license from my wallet, I would possess no credentials whatsoever. My state has authorized that I am entitled to drive a vehicle.

I have never received credentials from a music school, though I have persisted in making music.

I have no credentials whatsoever to write books, blogs and screenplays—yet again, I pursue.

I certainly had no credentials to be a dad, but the kids kept showing up.

I had no credentials as a lover, but that didn’t stop me from trying.

I am not licensed or approved to be a philosopher, a teacher, an instructor or a motivator—but these things have come up and in the absence of real talent, I have stepped in, acting as the best substitute I could.

I suppose I should have given more thought to gaining credentials. They do look good when writing a bio. Getting places or people of note to qualify you is much better than jotting down, “Have no fear. I am here.”

And I am certainly not one of those who feels self-righteous about lacking credentials, as if I were showing some sort of superiority by sheer grit and force.

It’s just that everything in my life started about one year earlier than it probably should have.

When I possibly could have gone to college, I was having my first son. And since I had that little family, when I might have wanted to garner some sort of degree or certificate, I was trying to put pizza and animal crackers on the table.

What I had to learn was that the absence of credentials demanded an honest presentation of oneself rather than lying or becoming defensive or saying something stupid like, “I have graduated from the school of hard knocks.”

I think it is absolutely delightful, if not essential, for people to gain credentials. I certainly do like to know that my plumber has plumbed before, and somebody knows that he’s not “plumb crazy.”

But in the absence of credentials, I will humbly offer myself, candidly share my value and do the best goddamn job I possibly can.

 

Donate Button


Subscribe to Jonathan’s Weekly Podcast

Good News and Better News

 

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.

Donate Button

Checkup

Checkup: (n) a thorough examination

A writer certainly knows, when he submits his material to an editor, that he or she needs to prepare for critique. You can’t keep your job as an editor if you read stuff, smile and say, “Looks good to me.”

I’ve never taken my car to a mechanic without this technician finding something wrong with the vehicle. There’s no money, work or future for a mechanic who admires your car.

If you go to an investment banker, he or she will certainly explain to you why your present rate of consumption and your lack of a retirement plan is jeopardizing
life and limb.

Likewise, arriving at a doctor’s office is an invitation to be dissected–sometimes literally. Although you may insist to yourself that you’re merely going in for a checkup, after they have fully analyzed all your numbers, they will most assuredly recommend some sort of tune-up.

Sometimes if you don’t take them seriously, they will foretell your doom and gloom if you ignore the diagnosis.

Between you, me and the fencepost (and I’m not so sure I trust that piece of wood stickin’ out of the ground) it’s a racket. The American health system is in the business of putting us through tests that we most certainly will fail.

Because without us failing, medication cannot be prescribed, drug companies will lose their profit margins, and financial institutions–where we have invested our money–will not make much dividend.

So in a strange sense, we give $100 to the medical field so that the drug companies and Wall Street can prosper through ailments, and at the end we receive $2.20 of our original money back in dividends in our IRAs.

Is this a good deal?

Of course not.

But welcome to the glories of capitalism.

Thank you for enjoying Words from Dic(tionary) —  J.R. Practix 

Donate Button

Cab

j-r-practix-with-border-2

Cab: (n)  short for taxicab.

Even though we contend that honesty is the best policy, sometimes the dividends are questionable.

Often I will admit my weakness or even ignorance in an attempt to create empathy with an audience–only to have someone come up to me afterwards, shaking their head and saying, “You really feel that way?”

So with that in mind, with some trepidation, I offer the confession that I have only been in a taxicab four times.

I don’t live in New York City.

I have never been without some sort of vehicle for my own personal use.

So the idea of climbing into the back of a car and telling a driver where to take me, as a meter continues to remind me of how much I’m going to have to pay for the opportunity, is a little unnerving.

I also have this flaw of wanting to converse with everyone I meet. During my taxi drives, this became problematic. All four of my drivers were apparently advocates of maintaining their language of birth instead of pursuing the local dialect. So they did talk to me, and I tried to catch a word here or there, but I am sure I nodded my head at the wrong places and remained silent during awkward intervals.

I also remember that I was always surprised at how much it cost. Matter of fact, when I watch a TV show based in New York City and see them taking all those cabs, I always wonder how they can afford it–unless they don’t have an apartment and sleep in a box somewhere near a subway grate.

So it is difficult for me to talk about cabs.

Does it help that I like the game show where the driver asks the passengers questions– Cash Cab?

Pretty lame, huh?

Donate ButtonThank you for enjoying Words from Dic(tionary) —  J.R. Practix 

 

 

Brake

j-r-practix-with-border-2

Brake: (n) a device for slowing or stopping a moving vehicle

Oblivion is the condition we find ourselves in just prior to the tragedy we refer to as “an accident.”

This was my situation many years ago when I was driving through the Sierra Mountains in California, completely enraptured in the scenery and infatuated with a gorgeous waterfall.Dictionary B

I had a car with a trailer attached to it. There’s nothing particularly unusual about that. But when you pull such a trailer, you require additional brakes placed on the rear, so that when you want to stop, it helps you instead of mocking you.

So having ascended a high peak, it was time to come down the other side. I remember thinking to myself, how fun this will be–just placing the car in neutral and coasting down the side of the cliff.

The immediate problem was that the trailer I was hauling was actually heavier than the car I was driving. As I was coasting down the mountain, I noticed I was picking up a little too much speed.

I tried to slow down by hitting the brakes. I quickly discovered that my brakes were no longer willing to brake.There was too much weight from the rear.

Faster and faster I careened, descending the precipice.

To my left were rock formations and to my right was the end of the road and a really big fall. Straight ahead were twisty roads which promised to send me into the rocks or over the edge.

I kept pumping the brakes, hoping they would at least consider a bit of grace to cover my stupidity.

To this day, short of divine intervention, I do not know how I finally got that trailer to slow down so I could pull off and stop.

There was a horrible smell of burnt rubber–and pee-pee in my pants.

Ever since then I have been a great believer in brakes, especially when they’re well taken care of … and you don’t ask them to move mountains.

 

Donate ButtonThank you for enjoying Words from Dic(tionary) —  J.R. Practix 


 Don’t let another Christmas season go by without owning Jonathan’s book of Christmas stories

Mr. Kringle’s Tales …26 Stories ‘Til Christmas

Only $5.99 plus $1.25 shipping and handling!

An advent calendar of stories, designed to enchant readers of all ages

“Quite literally the best Christmas stories I have ever read.” — Arthur Holland, Shelby, North Carolina

Only $5.99 plus $1.25 shipping and handling.

"Buy

 

 

 

Beam

Beam: (n) a ray or shaft of light.Dictionary B

I don’t like to break down in my car. It is especially annoying in the middle of the night along the side of the road.

Unfortunately, I did it quite a bit in my younger years since I made crappy money and could only afford crappy vehicles.

I have a distinct memory of traveling one night with another friend to a concert–he in his car and I in mine.

Suddenly my engine decided to…well, do something other than “engine me along.”

I pulled over, fairly relaxed because I knew my friend was behind me and thought that together we would be able to solve the problem. I did not have a flashlight, so I asked my buddy to turn his car around and shine his headlights on the engine area of my car, so I could see if there was something obvious I could correct (or at least stand around in a macho profile in front of the grill of the car, pretending I was contemplating how to fix it.)

He agreed.

Here was the problem: about the time I started to figure out what the various shapes were in my engine chamber based upon the beams of light from his car, he turned them off.

I asked him why, and he explained, “I don’t want to run down my battery.”

I was very perturbed.

So I asked him to turn them on again, and to please leave them on. This time he left them on a little bit longer, and I was just about to mess around with my carburetor when suddenly they went off again. When I confronted him, he said, “I don’t care what you say–I don’t want to run down my battery.”

Somehow or another, through the intermittent use of his headlights, we were able night to get my car started.

Would it have been faster if he had kept the beam on?

I contend yes.

He insisted he was being prudent.

He felt self-righteous because everything worked out well.

But that incident does make me stop and think about the value of light in our world.

Sometimes we turn it on. Sometimes we turn it off, trying to save it for ourselves.

But here’s the situation:

You don’t ever know when the light will be needed … to help get things started.

 

 

Donate Button

Thank you for enjoying Words from Dic(tionary) —  J.R. Practix

*******************
Don’t let another Christmas go by without purchasing Jonathan’s bestselling Christmas book!

Mr. Kringle’s Tales … 26 Stories ‘Til Christmas

Click here to read all about Mr. Kringle's Tales...26 Stories Til Christmas! Only $5.99 plus $1.25 shipping and handling.

Click here to read all about Mr. Kringle’s Tales…26 Stories Til Christmas! Only $5.99 plus $1.25 shipping and handling.

 

“The best Christmas stories I’ve ever read!”

From the toy shop to the manger, an advent calendar of Christmas stories, beginning on November 30th and ending on Christmas morning.

We need a good Christmas this year.

Mr. Kringle’s Tales will help you make it so.

Buy today.

"Buy

 

 

 

Anathema

dictionary with letter A

Anathema: (n) something or someone which one vehemently dislikes.

I wonder if that’s what’s necessary? I mean, I’m curious if there is a requirement for a certain amount of vehemence, anger, intensity and frustration to well up in the human soul before we actually decide to change anything.

Let’s take the old-fashioned word repentance.

It’s not old-fashioned because it’s out-dated. but like many valuable words, it’s lost some of the frequency of use because it’s not quite as pleasant to current thinking.

But I’m not sure repentance is possible until we become totally disgusted with where we are. In other words:

  • Will racism ever leave our world until it becomes anathema to our lives and even our breathing?
  • Can I lose weight without, in some way, shape or form, despising my way, shape and form?
  • Do we ever become free of our addictions until we nearly literally vomit them from our existence?

Are there really only two gears in the human vehicle–drive and reverse?

I don’t know.

But without anger and protests, most wars tend to go on indefinitely. Without some teaching of abstinence, promiscuity, disease and unwanted pregnancy begin to creep into society.

And without constantly reminding ourselves of our ancestors owning people as slaves, we just might forget to think about how we’re enslaving people today.

What is an anathema?

It is whatever we decide to do that takes away the power of other folks to do what they decide.

Yes, I guess that’s worth a few minutes … of uncomfortable reflection.

 

Donate Button

Thank you for enjoying Words from Dic(tionary) —  J.R. Practix