Happy Valentines Day

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There isn’t much to write about on my end. So I decided to try an exercise where you take an opening sentence from a story and run with it.

So I grabbed an opening line from one of William Faulkner’s stories and wrote about a couple I saw on a recent retreat with my wife.

Through the [concrete noun], between the [adjective] [concrete noun], I could see them [verb ending in
“ing”].

Through the mirror, between the soft kisses, I could see them touching. She looked to be twenty years his junior. He enjoyed her company. He liked the way she made him feel. He was on vacation, even if only for a weekend. She was slightly more reserved than him, but not enough to see without studying her actions. His chair turned so that he faced her, and he could not keep his hands off her. Gently he would rub her arm or her thigh. He spoke low and often leaned in to whisper to her. She could not defend herself from being flattered.

Only one seat separated me from him. He asked the bartender for a menu. I said, “You can have mine. I’m through looking.” A thirty dollar salad was not appetizing. I slid it over toward him. He took it without as much as a glance to me. He said something to the effect as “very good” or “very nice.” Not a thank you, nor an acknowledgment. He swiveled his chair to face her again, and they both hovered over it, heads inches apart.

I saw them again the next morning at the pool. In the middle of the water, they bobbed together, head and shoulders sticking out of the water, like two solitary islands in an ocean. He held her close. He thought the pool hid his hands, but they were visible, magnified by the water as they both rested and moved over the curves of her buttocks. Again and again they would kiss. Again he would whisper to her. And yet again, like the evening before, he could not keep his hands off her. And yet again, like the evening before, she could not defend herself from being flattered.

I am sure he was married, only not to her.

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On Revealed Religions

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It’s Monday so why the heck not. You are free to read without agreeing with a word of it.

To believe firmly in something, one must have tangible evidence of proof that the object of belief exists. Therefore, the object must be observable, seen, or experienced. For example, that the process of life begins at conception, and the tiny life matures in its mother’s womb, develops its sex, and then enters the world nine months later is a fact of nature through observation. Our early ancestors did not need to know the science behind this fact to prove this was true. Much in the way they did not have to understand the necessities of minerals, vitamins, protein, etc., to know they must eat and drink to live. They ate and felt healthy and well without knowing how their organs broke down the food into tiny chemical molecules and fed their bodies.

Similarly, modern people believe an ancient power existed in Rome and that its empire spanned across much of Europe, stretched west to Great Britain, south to North Africa and east to the borders of Iran (Persia). We believe the Roman Empire existed from the observations of others who lived during the centuries of its existence. There is a high probability that such a place and empire existed without the benefit of observing it. We have tangible evidence from historical accounts and physical proof of ruins that we can observe even if the empire no longer exists today. Moreover, we know that such an event in history is highly probable because the thing itself is not unthinkable.

When it comes to forces such as gravity, no one at any time has ever seen it, touched it, smelled it or tasted it. We can, however, observe its effects. It is what we call self-evident. Proof of its existence is its effects. To defy its law, a special set of mathematical circumstances is needed. A system of propulsion can defy its threshold, and an object can force its way through its clutches into space, but anything beneath its threshold and the object will be pushed down to its point of origination. There are no exceptions to its law.

What of religion then? Billions around the world believe in hundreds of different religions; with Christianity claiming the most adherents. Religion, especially where the big three, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are concerned, have relied on revelation from God, and the revelation is shared by prophets and spread by converts. Where the three are concerned, this where the similarities end. Despite their claims in sharing the same “one true God,” their messages are demostratively different. This immediately creates a contradiction with the thing itself: the one true God. If God is true and one, then there cannot be room for three interpretations, and certainly not three which make mutually exclusive claims. That would create the possibilities of three Gods, poor communication or duplicity on the part of God. In any case, that would leave us with an untruthful God or a fraudulent human enterprise.

This is where revealed religion breaks down and shows a very human aspect to its construction. In all three cases, man delivered the word of God either revealed to him directly by God or indirectly through angels on behalf of God. Unlike the previous examples given, these claims remain unverifiable. The man whom it was revealed to can only hope to convince others he is telling the truth. Those who believe the man’s account, then, do so, not on proof of revelation, and not of God either since he did not share his revelation publically, but in the belief of the man making the claim.

Centuries later, proof that God revealed anything to man is still scant. The event, whether real, imagined, or made up, is available to us only in religious scripture. Ironically, we are no closer to the revelation of God than the man whom heard it first from the mouth of the so-called prophet. Like him, the only way to believe that these revelations happened is to believe the one who spoke the revelation or the accounts given from those who documented it. It leaves no room for proof or verification outside of those two options. In either case, we leave the concrete realm of possibility and enter into the sandy realm of hearsay. As a consequence, we are left with believing the most fickle creature the world has known: Man.

Insofar as to what kind of God exists is debatable, but the fact that the universe exists with order, laws, and design is not. Might these things prove the existence of a master intellect, a Great Creator that was the first cause? I think so. Perhaps then, that is the real revelation from God. There is no need for earthy spokesmen and temples and cathedrals. Nature speaks on His behalf and creation is His cathedral.

News of the Pope inspired this long stream of thought.

‘Why Don’t You Crawl Back Under the Bridge You Came From’

That sounds like an ugly thing to say doesn’t it? Yeah, I think so too but it was said yesterday. Let me explain.

I stopped off at Dick’s Sporting Good to pick up a few things I needed for my gym. Specifically, a new jump rope and a cushioned pad so that the hard cement doesn’t continue to wreck my knees and ankles. If you want to stay conditioned enough to move around the ring, jump roping is a must. But I’ve digressed.

I walk into the place and immediately hear yelling from a man with a gruff voice using every profanity he could recall; and made up other ones to use in place when his recollection failed. This isn’t something you see every day. Unfortunately — or fortunately, I haven’t decided yet, I had to swing a right at the door in order to get back to the area I needed to shop. This man was going on and on about a damaged sleeping bag and how “they” sold him a “shitty product” and plenty more of those kind of things. He dropped f-bombs at least a dozen times that I heard, and I had not been in there longer than just 30 seconds.

As I get to the front of the counters, I notice that he is saying all of this to a woman. This lady’s voice was cracking whenever he gave her a moment for a response, her chin was quivering, and she was visibly nervous. Well, that set me off some kind of good. If I can speak plainly, it pissed me off. So I slowed my pace just in case. She told the bum that she had to go speak with her manager. As she was walking off he continued his rant and even called her a f—— b—-.

He pissed me off. The way he looked pissed me off. The way he dressed pissed me off. The way his gruff, throaty, ruined voice sounded pissed me off. The way he was standing there pissed me off. He saw me watching, and propped his elbow on the counter and took to staring at me with a pair of walleyes.

I asked if I could help him. He said, “I don’t know, can you?”

I told him that depends, I reckon. He said, “on what?”

“If  you want a real fixing or not.” I told him I thought he had a loud obnoxious mouth and I thought he was a coward for talking to a woman like that.

He responded that he didn’t give a f—- and would cuss whoever he f—— wanted.

I told him he wouldn’t cuss me like that. And he didn’t. He just continued to stare at me with those large marbles of his.

I told him when he got his sleeping bag back to do everyone a favor and crawl back under the bridge he came from. That’s when the manager came and he asked us to stop. So I did.

But it got me to thinking. Let’s say he would have cussed me or gotten aggressive with me. There is little doubt in my mind that I would have whipped circles around his tubby butt. I mean I could have wrecked him inside of two seconds. I would have enjoyed it too. But I probably would have been arrested along with him, booked along with him, and fined along with him. Would all of that had been worth it? Probably not.

Sometimes I wish I still lived back in that country town where I would have been given a medal and day off from work for whipping such a man as that.

A Sentence I Came Across

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It grabbed me. There is nothing special or brave about it I don’t suppose. I liked its construction is all. I think it is a useful model. At first glance it may appear ambiguous, dangling out there on its end and would probably be marked down as a fragment, but I like it. Sometimes, and even more rarely than that, language and thought supersedes grammar in my opinion.

“Without night or day, and the sun spinning slowly in a cold sky.”

The Battle on Billy Goat Hill

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When I was a boy, I wanted a goat. I know from where this interest came. I will do my best to explain to you the story.

When I was little, I would sometimes go with my dad to work. My dad was self-employed and so worked at the homes of his customers. Since I was too young to work, and far too interested in the new surroundings to be of much use, I was free to roam.

At one particular home, I remember, the owner had several goats. I had never seen one in person. There were a half-dozen or so. The ladies, as most ladies are, were kind and welcoming. They allowed me to pet them and would dance around me. I examined their eyes, and their strange square-shaped pupils. I gave their beards a tug and this they didn’t mind. However, one drew the line when I tried to ride her.

Then I met him — the brown and white patriarch of the herd. He stood a distance away observing the activity. He was a magnificently arrogant fellow, with a long beard, and one could tell immediately he cherished his position as the head. I’m not sure if he was jealous or if curiosity got the better of him, but he strolled toward the fun and was serious about ending it.

Here he was — a Billy-goat, with a pair of foot-long horns. These he showed me. So I did what I was supposed to do. I grabbed them with both hands. In the absence of a well thought out idea, I reckoned this was a good one at the time. I pushed him back a few steps, and then I twisted his head side to side. I was having a blast. He barely offered a protest. I continued with the fun – pushing, twisting, and turning him. Then he stopped. His neck stiffened, and his legs locked.

He said, “Young man, I know not who you are nor from where you came, but this is my hill and none of my ladies take a liking to anyone, not even a boy, without my permission. And now you are daring me in front of my lovely concubines. This is a dare, I am afraid for you, I have to take.”

He reared up his front legs, and lunged with his spare ones. On my butt I tumbled, and over the top of me he stepped. Even as a boy, I could see that things were serious.

My pride was hurt. I was embarrassed, outdone, and on my butt in front of a group of nice ladies. The Billy-goat stood there proud, half turned, and eying me with the left one. I’m sure I heard him laugh. I spat, flashed my teeth, stood and gave him a shove in the ribs. He straightened and we stood face to face. He showed me his horns. I grabbed them. The tussle began again.

We were locked in combat. Both of us were keenly aware the ladies were watching. This time I leaned in hard and walked him back several feet and when he lunged, I let go, moved out of the way, gave him a passing shove, then grabbed his horns again, and twisted and turned his head some more. This we repeated for some time — neither side winning, neither side losing but tearing up all of God’s creation. The ladies cheered, gasped, one fainted.  Then he quit. I tried to entice him for more combat, feeling robbed of a proper victory, a chance to settle it for good. It was of no use, he’d met his match.

I did what any victor would do. I returned to the company of the nice ladies and danced with all of them. I should have been wiser. Though I won our contest, the Billy-goat was far from defeated. He did not appreciate me adding insult to injury by dancing with his women. I did not see the horned devil coming. I just felt an incredible thud on my right side. He sent my little body flying and tumbling end over end over the ground. (It is a record distance in that town to this day by any goat in a boy throwing contest).

The Billy-goat and I’m afraid to say, even the ladies, thought I cried. That is a lie. During my fall, I got dirt in my eyes, which made my eyes water profusely. I would like to state that clearly and end the matter. I did not cry.

I faced my foe.

“You do not fight fair, sir!” I protested.

“I am a Billy-goat.” He responded.

There is not room here for me to explain the reaction of my father. He was not pleased and I had to stay by his side the rest of the day. Before we left, I pleaded and begged for him to buy me that Billy-goat. He told me no that I would have it so mean in a week’s time  “it wouldn’t be worth shoot’n!”

I’ve never owned a goat but neither have I forgotten that day, and neither have I stopped wanting to own one since.

Writer’s Block

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If there were one among us who could have written the greatest poem or the most significant novel, it was him. He promised he would accomplish a great work many times. With ease, he rolled out ideas for lines, plots, and descriptions of emotionally deep characters. His satchel never far from his body was full of crumpled, blank pieces of paper. For the inspiration, he reached down to pull up a handful. Laid out in front of him delicately on the desk, he spent time smoothing out the wrinkles, and pressing down the creased edges. He placed the blank shreds in order. With his long fingers rested on his chin, he leaned back to consider. “No, that cannot go there. The thought is wrong.” Then set about to rearrange the blank shreds into another order he preferred. A time would pass.

Always by the window – for he liked its view — he sat in deep concentration. His face contorted in agony; the sign of a deep thinker, no doubt. Mumbling to himself things about rhymes and meter, he became uncontrollably excited. He would sit, stand, pace and sit again. The manic actions promised a flurry of creative activity. Then the words came like wind. He bolted to his chair with purpose, grasped tightly in his pale boney hand, the pen stayed still, afraid to touch the paper. A time would pass.

Finally, he exclaimed, “I’ve got it!” and slump over his paper, poor in posture, pen grasped. The paper prepared for the dictates of its master. The paper lay innocently and undisturbed. A time would pass.

“No, it is not right! It cannot end like that.” We heard him say. He grasped the pen again and pulled the paper under his chin. We watched intently with breathless anticipation as he traced the air the words running through his mind, the pen only a few precious inches from the paper, finally the pen stilled, ready to write, slowly closer it descended in his hand until there was but the slightest hint of light between paper and pen! — but gave up to exclaim, “It is no use. I cannot write in such a dreary place!”

He stood and placed his greatcoat over his scrawny and sunken frame. Never did someone resemble a turtle as he did standing there, but we were prepared to claim it a capable turtle. He marched out of the room hurriedly. Saying aloud, his finger raised, “A genius must be free! A genius needs his space!”

A wave of blank shreds of paper circled behind in his wake, and fell to a rest on the floor.

I Played Hooky Today! And It was Everything I Thought It Could Be.

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Boy oh boy, have I had an exciting day. It snowed a little last night and stayed below freezing all through the morning, which meant there was ice on the road, which means that is when the worst drivers decide this is the day when they will make it to work free of incident, which means that guarantees an incident, actually three of them, which backed up every lane of the highway, which consists of three.

Do you know what I did? I hit the first exit and circled back around to my house. I ain’t messing with that crap. The heck with it. I came home, drank some coffee, went downstairs to my gym, and got in an early morning workout. After I covered myself in sweat, I quit and took a shower.

Here’s where the actual fun begins.

First, I went down to the boxing gym where I got knocked out last week. I told everyone in there, even the coaches, that they didn’t run me off just because I got a little bump on the head. I told them that I wasn’t that easy to run off. That I had been working and correcting my mistakes. I’d be back.

A man has to save face even if he doesn’t mean it!

After my declaration and threats to all who were in there, I trekked down to Barnes & Noble and picked up a couple of beauties. “The Alchemist” and the “Count of Monte Cristo.” In addition, I bought a couple of “How To” books on writing and creative writing.

I don’t know. I’m actually enjoying this writing thing. I like to tell stories. I come from a great story telling culture — that being the rural South. Everyone there has a story. It may not be told exactly the same each time, it may even be borrowed from someone else, but that practice is accepted so long as one can make it entertaining and memorable. Maybe I can get focused enough to put a few stories down.

I used to be so dull — when I say “used to be” I’m speaking all of about a month ago — in that I never considered there was any value to literature or fiction. If you saw my library you would wonder if I had an imagination or personality at all. But you sure as hell wouldn’t want to tangle with me in a game of trivia!

At any rate, about literature, I thought, if it is not true, “Why bother?” I’m learning fiction is very true despite what it says about itself. I can see clearly now that writers bleed when they write. I respect them. 

So anyway, I stepped out of Barnes & Noble and made my way over to Total Wine. Here’s what I did.

I demanded a 5-minute course on how to choose wine. I told the lady there that I was tired of being the dumb kid in class.

I started by, “Look, I like wine. The red kind. Made from grapes, not tobacco, spice, roots, yams, or whatever else is crammed in the bottle and corked just because it happens to grow. So let me explain to you my taste.”

Which I did.

She looked confused. Her response was, “Okay. So you like wine. The Red kind. Made from grapes.”

“Exactly!”

She took my angry discharge well. I believe she even had sympathy for me. She wrote me down a few rules to follow and wrote down a few grapes I would probably like. The cheat-sheet is in my wallet. She had wonderful handwriting.

We both decided I like cabernet and pinot wines. There, I’m satisfied with that. Corner me; color me even. Label me all you like. But I can now make a beeline to my section, grab my bottles, be at home and uncorked faster than you can figure out how long a wine should be *aeratored.

*Okay, in all honesty I just learned about that today. It was part of the 5-minute course. I just really wanted to work that part in there.